Should I stay or should I go?

Sandra ponders whether she, and other parents today, place their personal happiness above financial responsibility in a way our parents would never have dreamed of doing

By Sandra E. Martin
Should I stay or should I go?

Credit: Stefan 1981

I doubt that my dad ever loved his job. Not that he hated it, but as he trudged to his office every day, sometimes driving more than an hour each way, I don't think that his heart ever raced with excitement, or that he ever considered he was pursuing his passion in life. He had a good job that provided for his family, and he felt pretty fortunate.
Now that I've been a parent for nearly a decade (ack — it IS a decade if you count my pregnancy), and I'm beginning to feel the pull of all of my various responsibilities — my kids at home, their school, my job (which I do love), the kids' lessons, their social lives, what's left of my hobbies and my social life — I think about how lucky I am to be doing a job I've always wanted to do. Whether that was ever truly an option for my dad, he never had the chance to "follow his bliss." He had a mortgage and four kids, and he did what he had to do.
Recently, a few of my  friends have left jobs that weren't horrible, but that weren't giving them that thump-in-the-chest feeling of satisfaction. My dad would ask, "Did they have a new job lined up?" None of them did. Yes, these are responsible people with mortgages and families.
Which made me start to wonder: Are we simply more self-focussed than our parents, who likely would not have dreamed of leaving a job without a new one to go to? Or have we figured out how to meet our financial obligations without being obligated to unfulfilling jobs?
Many parents in my circle work in creative fields or other careers where it's possible to freelance and earn a decent living while you're "in between" jobs, or even instead of having a conventional job, so I'm not sure my view of the phenomenon reflects what's really happening in the wide world. Maybe there are still a lot of parents who, like my dad, work OK jobs because it's what they have to do to keep a roof over their families' heads.
So I took the question to the Twitterverse: "Would you stay in a job that made you unhappy just because you needed the money for your family?" Here are some of the responses I got.
Ann B: No, life is too short to be unhappy.
Heather GD: did that once. Not worth it
Carol Gomez: No. I would stay until I find a better job that I enjoy, even if paying me a little less. It's not worth the stress.
Andrea Claire: Yes.
Melissa: Doing it now!
Aurelia Cotta: Everyone does, isn't that pretty common until you get to a higher place on the totem pole?
Natalie Rea: I did exactly that — for too many years, until I was laid off and only then understood what it had done to me.
Andrea Buckett: Yes, but would be looking for a new one.
Clara Power: Unfortunately, yes.
Laura B: How about because you're pregnant and wouldn't be able to go elsewhere?
What about you — would you stay in a job you disliked in order to provide for your family?

Photo by Stefan 1981 via Flickr

This article was originally published on Nov 21, 2011

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