Several years ago, after literally years of job hunting, I was finally offered a new job. I was so excited about this opportunity. I was finally able to move away from a position that I had been uncomfortable with for far too long. The new position had tons of potential for career growth and opportunity, it made me feel like I was helping people, and the people I was working for were really great.
I knew there would also be some uphill battles with the new position. I was coming into a mess and it was my job to fix the mess and create a smooth, efficient system that I could replicate in other areas. It would be a challenge, but I fully believed I was up for a good challenge and couldn’t wait to get started.
My husband has always worked long hours at his job, for as long as we’ve been together. At the time that I took this job, we had an 18 month old little girl. We were nervous about how to balance life with both of us having demanding jobs that required a lot of hours for a while, but my new job had the promise of some flexibility with the long hours, so I was confident that we could make it work.
A Valentine’s Day to Forget
It only took a couple weeks on the new job to start panicking. It was Valentine’s day and my husband and I were supposed to be out on our romantic date. We had barely seen each other since I started the new job and I was literally aching for some calm, peaceful time to reconnect with him over dinner. But as we sat down in the restaurant my work phone started going crazy. I was on call 24/7 with this job and had some major issues that needed to be addressed immediately.
I remember sitting at the table in this lovely restaurant with tears streaming down my face as I furiously worked on my phone, trying to fix everything so I could get back to our nice dinner with my husband. I was so tired and so crushed that my big hopes for this great job were not coming true.
For the next three months we continued to struggle to make it work. Many days I worked until 2-3 in the morning, came home and crashed, and then turned back around to get back to work at 8 a.m. the next day. Needless to say, I didn’t see my daughter or my husband very much during this time.
I did make some progress in the job. I was able to learn the ropes and develop some processes and systems to make things easier and more efficient for everyone. But that on call phone, never stopped ringing. The demands and problems never stopped coming. I felt like I was on the verge of drowning nearly everyday, I was exhausted, burnt out, and longed for just one peaceful day without interruptions.
The Breaking Point
A few months into the job, my grandpa passed away. As we crowded around his hospital bed praying and singing hymns as he slowly left this world, the phone in my pocket started buzzing. It was a Sunday afternoon and there were important things I needed to get done for work. People were panicking, needing me to make calls and send messages. But nothing was more important for me, than being right where I was, saying goodbye to my grandpa, and being with my family.
I took a leave of absence the week of his funeral. I handed my on call phone to someone else and insisted that somebody else figure it out while I was gone. Everyone understood and did their best to leave me alone. I sat at my grandpa’s funeral listening as everyone talked about his life. Talked about how much he would be missed. Talked about how important his family and his faith were to him.
I was reminded that life is short and life is blessed and life should be well lived in accordance with what’s important. A thrilling, challenging job with a lot of potential, no matter how well compensated or how noble the work is, should never stand before the things that are most important in life.
I quickly remembered the things that were most important to me were my faith, my husband, my child, my self, and my extended family and friends. Sure, I wanted a job that would help me make a difference in the world. I wanted to achieve success and support my family financially. I wanted to overcome the challenges of my position and help my employer succeed. But none of that was more important to me than my God and my family, which were, at the time, buried in the stress of my exhaustion and mess of a life.
Learning to Trust
Back at home I sat down with my husband and through tears let him know that I needed to quit my job. I didn’t have a backup plan. I didn’t have another job to fall back on. And we had nothing in savings. Financially, this could ruin us. But finances, I learned, were not the most important thing in life. It is only through God’s grace that my husband agreed that this was the right decision and the next week I notified my employer that I was leaving.
Over the next five weeks I tied up all the loose ends at work, trying to leave them in as good a position as I could. I trained several people to do different aspects of my job. And on the home front, I started saving every penny possible. I shuffled some things around financially to give us a tiny little cushion that I hoped would last a month or two until I could figure something else out. It had taken me years to find this job, I was so terrified that I wouldn’t find another job in time.
I prayed more than I had in a long time. I put all hope and trust in God. I knew He had a plan. I knew He was bigger than the mess I had created. And I knew He loved us enough to take care of us.
Back in Balance
I ended up unemployed for two full months. The money I had scraped together lasted until the very day my first paycheck came in from my new job. The timing could not have been more perfect. My new job didn’t have quite the exciting potential as the old one and the pay wasn’t quite as good, but I had realized by this point that money and career success were not my priorities. This new job didn’t have an on call phone, it didn’t have work expectations outside of 8 a.m.-5 p.m, and yet it still involved doing work that I loved, and making a difference in people’s lives.
Being a working mom has challenges. Whether you work because you want to or work because financially you need to in order to support your family, we don’t live in order to work. Our work should supplement our living. Our work should never take the place of our priorities.
For many of us, work isn’t the problem either. Maybe you’ve stretched yourself too thin volunteering for too many events and committees, maybe you’ve said “yes” to your kids too many times regarding their extracurricular activities, maybe you’ve let your smart phone addiction get a little too crazy and you miss out on the life going on right in front of you.
We are all different. We all have different priorities, and we all have different challenges and choices that threaten to pull us away from the most important things in our lives.
Think about what is most important to you. Remember why those things (people) are most important to you. And then take an honest examination of your life. Are there things you need to start saying “no” to? Are there events and activities that you need to pull away from? Do you need to make some changes to your current way of living to make room for a better way of living? Do the people that mean the most to you in this world actually know and feel that they are the most important thing to you? What changes can you make to shift the focus in your life onto what matters most?
It probably won’t be easy to make these changes. You may be nervous, uncomfortable, or downright scared. It may be incredibly difficult, painful, and require even more out of you for a while. But if you want to live a life that matters, you have to focus on what matters the most.