My mid-career crisis.

June 4, 2010 at 7:43 am | Posted in My life | 17 Comments

When I was in college, I swore that I’d never work a job simply for the money. It was much more important to me to have a job that challenged me intellectually.

To that end, I went to school, and ultimately ended up with a college and two master’s degrees.

That’s a lot of school.

(A lot of debt, too.)

But I never really thought about the implications of my decision 5-10 years down the road. What sort of career would be best with a family? What did I want out of my WHOLE life – not just my career?

Right now?

I’m really struggling with a serious amount of disenchantment with my job.

I hate how it takes away from my family during the busy times.

I hate having to cram all our errands and cleaning and laundry and yardwork into the weekends, which puts stress on J and me – and even O on occasion.

I hate that it will be a daycare teacher or other hired help who will be there to get O off the bus when he’s in school. Not me.

I hate the work drama that crops up entirely too much in my group, since we’re managed by two people who probably can’t put “good manager” as one of their strengths.

(Because even *I* know that managing people is entirely different than being a good individual contributor.)

I hate how I struggle with the fact that I’m not, you know, saving LIVES or anything.

So last week I took Friday off and we had a pretty damn good four day weekend. And by the end of that weekend, I felt relaxed, and enjoyed the time I had with O, and we thought up new and fun things to do. We went to the park. Barbecues. Played in the sandbox. Had a playdate with his daycare friend R. Had family dinners.

By Tuesday afternoon, though, the zen was gone.

And since then, the work week has gone from bad to worse.

I can’t help listening to the voice deep down that is screaming at me: it’s time for a change, Serenity!!!

Not a new job, mind you.

I need something completely DIFFERENT.

I desperately want to do something that lights a FIRE in me. Where I get up every morning and know I’m going to spend the day doing something I LOVE.

Which I’m starting to wonder is even POSSIBLE.

It’s sort of like trying to find your soulmate when you’re in the dating scene. You hope there’s one for you, but then you think logically that the chances of ever finding someone who is completely PERFECT for you is pretty damn slim.

Soulmates don’t really exist; it’s some measure of perfection in which NO marriage can attain.

That’s sort of like work. I doubt very much I’m going to find something I will unequivocally love for the rest of my working life.

And unfortunately, I HAVE to work. In fact, I am currently the primary “breadwinner” in my house. (A fact which lately has been starting to feel like a monkey on my back.)

There’s pressure, you see. Pressure to make MORE money. Because, well, if we DO decide to go forward with plans for a sibling for O, then we’ll have to pay for TWO kids in daycare. And J needs a new car and now we need to fly to freaking TEXAS to visit my parents at some point this year and my brother in North Carolina is having a baby in July and then we have to do our yearly trip to my grandparents’ house in Florida. And don’t forget Christmas presents for the extended family, too…

So yeah. Until we’re independently wealthy, I work.

And so I find myself these days, pondering what I want to DO with my career.

Because the problem is. I don’t KNOW what I want to do.

And so I find myself in a position where I am turning into the very thing I didn’t WANT to turn into.

The person who works a job she hates because she needs the money.

Now, mind you. It’s not THAT awful to work for the money. I need to provide for my family, too.

I just wish I could do something different, that’s all.



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  1. I don’t envy you or the decisions ahead. I’m lucky for the moment and have been able to stay home, but I watch my husband struggle with the workload and burden of being the wage earner. I think of going back to ease that burden, but I struggle in so many ways with that decision, too.


  2. I hear you on so many levels. I wish I could go back to school to study something I REALLY want to do. Instead, while I am not the “breadwinner”, financially (and emotionally for my husband–he has enough pressure) I have to work. At the moment, I am o.k. with that…but there are days/weeks/months that I am not. A while back, I did take some courses on web programming…and someday, I think once Willow is in school, I think I will look into some more education.

    The good thing is–time is on our side. There is always a chance to change, we just have to bide our time. (Well, at least that is what I think to get myself motivated)

    Here’s to Winning the Lottery!

  3. I hear you. My husband keeps asking me what I want to do (because sometimes I am disenchanted with my life as a SAHM) and is encouraging me to figure it out. I have no idea. All of my young-life plans have been tossed as something that wouldn’t not work for me. My former “career” is not an option, as I much prefer being home w/ my daughter to EVER setting foot in that situation again, but sometimes I need more than the conversations of a toddler, you know? Often times.

    So the part-time jobs I do are ONLY to make a little extra income. I get NO satisfaction out of them, no pleasure at all. And I have no choice but to continue this, since we can’t afford day care unless I go back to a full-time job that I hate. And I don’t even really want to put her in day care, if I can help it.

    Good post. Thought provoking.

  4. I found (and now find myself again) in a similar position. I went back to work when my son was 13 months to the same company I left in order to focus fully on having him in the first place. I went back in a different capacity and although I excelled in my new role, I hated it. It was not fulfilling or satisfying or life affirming in any way.

    That role was short-lived and I was ousted at the end of May (as was my boss, the COO). I managed to negotiate a 9 month package and now here I am wondering what the future of work holds for me. I enjoyed a fast track 15 year career in a field that I’ve long since lost my passion for, but when my boss lands somewhere next year, I know he’ll want me to join him (and, frankly, I’m grateful to have that as a fall back). But, really, why would I want to do what I no longer have interest in doing? Just because I’m good at it and it will pay me more than decently?

    I am hoping that as I try to enjoy this gift of time off with my 3 year old son, I will find my way, too, to a job or career that will make me proud again.

  5. I don’t hate my job – I actually really like it – but after being off 6 months with D, I’ve realized I don’t care to work. Ever. Yea, I’m a little bored with D sometimes cuz the monotony of butts and feeding gets to be a little much, but working for a living? It ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Yet we need the money, I need the outlet for my brain, and oh yea, we need the money. I’d so love to do something I loved though, but every time I look at something I’d love, it’d mean SIGNIFICANTLY less money, which is hard to swallow when you’re accustomed to certain things, or had dreams of certain things. I’m not good at letting go. Let’s run away together, rob banks, and live on a beach! With the husbands and kids of course…

  6. I WANT to win the lottery and sit with an architect about my plans for the kitchen in my new BIG Fing house…does that count??? Are you smiling???

    you are preaching to the choir in my case, because you know what I am going through and how I am not saving lives or the primary breadwinner but I am also not “Happy” coming here every day…I don’t hate it, but I’d love to be able PT and still make enough $$$ to sustain a living for us.

    I understand and for what it’s worth, I think you’re AMAZING. smart, talented, intelligent, I envy your life and career and RUNNING

    never underestimate yourself ..I know it’s hard to be where you are….so I’m sending hugs and good luck for a good decision FOR YOU.

  7. I am the sole breadwinner for my family and it is a lot of pressure. I really miss a lot with my kids but luckily I have some flexibility in my job and can take time to occassionally go to my oldest son’s games/practices. My DH gets annoyed when I have to work late or go in to the office early but I ever so gently remind him that we do not have a choice in the matter. I agree that finding a job that you LOVE is hard. I have chosen to make a little less than I was making to have the flexibility that I need for my family. Good luck with your decisions.

  8. Can you work in finance in a nonprofit? It is probably easiest to make a transition when you’re using similar skills to your current job, and it would solve the problem of not feeling like you’re doing something useful. My guess is that those jobs pay less than your current job, but I know they pay more than other nonprofit jobs. It would still be full-time, but probably not so much over 40 hours.

    Good luck! I understand how you feel.

  9. I don’t hve any great advice. If i wasn’t laid off and getting unemployment I would be thinking and feeling the exact same thing as you.
    Finding a career or even a job that you enjoy is hard. Hard because if you do change than you are likely to start at the bottom making a lot less money than you are now.
    Once this week is over I hope it gets better for you.

  10. I have been in that situation, though not with a family in the picture. It took me a long time to figure out my next move. I don’t LOVE what I do now, but I really enjoy it and find it satisfying.

    There’s no easy answer, but I know you will find what your looking for. And I agree with Deborah that if you can transfer any existing skills, that will make the financial adjustment easier.

    Good luck, hon.

  11. I know the feeling. I have had it about once every six months since about… forever. I have (in the past) had the luxury of the option to retrain, but after thinking about it deeply, I realise the grass really isn’t greener. The truth is, nothing’s perfect, and my main aversion is to the feeling I *have to* do something that isn’t perfect, that I have no choice.

    A lot has been said on the subject of finding peace and happiness with where you’re at. Celebrating the good, and changing your perspective on the bad. Finding other avenues through which to channel the things that are being denied (such as saving lives, for eg – maybe you could start making donations or organise some sort of mini charity/volunteer project that does save lives). (Actually, helping others in some way is a really big thing in that respect.)

    Maybe there’s a good book out there you will connect with? Because you’re right – few have the luxury of actually changing paths at this stage of family-building, and at any rate – what would you do? It’s no good just running away from something if you’re not running towards something else. I’ve seen that tried, too – years wasted in retraining, only to end up more miserable than before.

    Good luck managing your crisis!


  12. Been there! I would say that if you have a transferable skill like finance or law you can move to a more doing good for the world field and get your work mojo right. I went from corporate litigation to human rights litigation in the public sector. Best thing I ever did. The satisfaction more than makes up for the 60% drop in salary. Yes our house is smaller than we would want and we don’t go on many holidays and our kids won’t go to private school but they have a fulfilled parent who doesn’t hate her job.

  13. It is NEVER too late to reinvent yourself.

    I did it age age 42, by starting my own company doing something I really enjoyed, that allowed me to work from a home office. Being here when my kids were coming home from school was of paramount importance to me.

    Take a day to yourself and make lists of all the things that make you happy, then come up with a way to make money doing one of those things.

    It sounds silly, but it worked for me. Since that time, I have helped several ladies find or create their change.

  14. I’ve been having the same mid-career crisis for years now. I went to school expecting to do one thing and then ended up doing something completely different. For years I’ve thought I’d be much happier had I gone to nursing school (making a difference in peoples’ lives, etc.). But I can’t leave my job for a few years and go back to school (and ultimately make less money than I’m making now). My husband and I make nearly the same amount of money (I make slightly more, but it’s just about even). Just having been out on disability (pregnancy/bed rest/delivery) for the last six months has been hard enough.

    I always swore I wouldn’t have a job just for the money. I swore I would enjoy my job, that I would make a difference to the world, or at least a few people. While one can argue that what I do makes a difference, it’s a big stretch. It’s amazing how things change. One day I had all these aspirations and expectations for my future. The next day I had a house, (huge student loan payments), kids, medical bills (oh the medical bills!), childcare costs, etc.

  15. I’ve always loved my job (well most days) and I do love going to work. I also went to school. That being said I make poor money. I have always admired women who make money and can provide for themselves. It kills me that I make such shit money. I don’t think there is a perfect balance. But if you are feeling like a change why not try career testing? That way you could get an idea of what you would like to do and maybe slowly work towards that?
    Good luck either way!!

  16. You know what. I used to have the same thought as yours too. I will do the job which meets my idealism. But see, people need money. And one day you just wonder how you come to your position right now…

  17. i am only 20 years old and im going to start my career in the world.. any advices as to what i should do in order not to end up confused and broke? thanks

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