Advice for the Lawlorn: Finding a Balance
I'm a lawyer and a parent of two small children. I support the family while the other parent stays home. We like this arrangement and, also, my family comes out ahead financially this way, given the cost of daycare. I have been offered a public sector job would hold great personal meaning to me to perform and is fairly well paid, as public sector jobs go.
Unfortunately, the job would mean a move to a major metropolitan area where costs are high and traffic is heavy. I worry that accepting this job is not the best option for my children, because, if I were to commit to the private sector, I could supposedly make more money and, if I were to commit to staying in a less urban area, I could spend less time in traffic and more with my family. I am simultaneously drawn to this job and afraid to take it. What should I do?
Thanks in advance for any advice.
As far as I can see, there are a number of solutions to your dilemma. Before you can make any decisions, you need to explore several different options.
First of all, it seems as if you really want to accept this public sector job – it holds great personal meaning to you, it sounds as if it is challenging and lastly, the pay is good in terms of public sector jobs.
All of this is so very important. Your reasons for wanting to accept the job are strong and valid. And I think I can help you overcome your concerns. But before I weigh in with my opinions, let’s take a look at your concerns.
It seems as if your major concern is having to bear the cost of living in a major metropolitan area, taking on a long commute to and from work and, consequently, having less time to spend with your family. These are very valid concerns.
I would suggest that you sit down and do my tried and true method for making a decision – one that I have discussed many, many times over in this column throughout the years.
One of the historical figures that I admire the most is Benjamin Franklin, on so many different levels. Whenever Ben was faced with a decision, he always went through the same exercise. He would take a piece of paper, draw a line down the center and then on one side of the paper he would list all the reasons to go forward with his decision – the pros. On the other side of the line he would list all the reasons not to make this decision—the cons. Whichever column turned out to be the longest would be the answer to his query, pro or con.
I suggest you do the same exact exercise. Draw a line down the center of a piece of paper and on the left hand side list all the reasons to accept the public sector job. On the right hand side, list all the reason to turn it down. Then take a second piece of paper and perform the same exercise concerning the private sector job. When you have finished, take a look and see which job has the most "pros," or reasons to take the job and which list is the longest on the "con" side. This should really help you to make a decision.
Let me add a few thoughts although I really am not trying to influence you in either direction. I will say that there are ways to work things out when a job is in a major metropolitan area that help to keep down the costs. First of all, every major metropolitan area has suburbs—some that are ridiculously expensive and some that are much less costly than living directly in the city. Take a look at some of these suburbs and determine if your cost of living would really go up so dramatically if you chose to live outside the city.
Since commuters are such a large part of suburban populations, it might even be possible that your commute to and from work would be shorter than if you lived within the city itself. That is something you would need to find out by trying the commute. I know that for people living in Manhattan and working on Wall Street, it is a much shorter and easier commute for them to move to Brooklyn rather than living on, for example, the Upper East Side. Just a thought...
Spending less time with your family should be a big consideration but is it possible that this public sector job would let you telecommute one or two days per week. I know of many mothers and fathers who have been able to increase the time they spend with their spouses and their children simply by working from home several days per week. This should be one of the first things you check out because this could change the way you are looking at this opportunity.
From what you have told us, it does seem that you would like to accept the public sector job—I hope you will not have to turn down what sounds like a dream job for you because of logistics. I do believe that everything problem has a solution—I may have learned this from Benjamin Franklin!—and I wish you would take a little time out of your busy schedule to try Ben’s method to problem solving. I hope this ends up being the answer to your dilemma! Best wishes!!
Ann M. Israel