I am a 31-year-old female. I am married and I have a two-year-old. I think I am probably an INFP, but never shelled out for the proper test. My marriage is very strong and satisfying.

I have a job I love. I volunteered for 5 years and have worked there for 5 more. I am a youth worker for an innovative organization whose principles allow me to do very, very good youth work (which is rare – youth work, like education, is mostly terrible).  My mentor/supervisor is a genius and I am incredibly lucky to work with and learn from him every day. Before I had my child I believed I would work at this place for the rest of my life. My work is fantastic, ie I love to do my job. I am also very good at it. I think this is the most important thing to say: my job has become part of my identity. I am a wife, a mother, and a youth worker. Everything else is secondary

My job is not perfect: before maternity leave I made just under 30K a year (working about 50 hours a week plus being on call 24/7/365), usually office relations are good, but every few months something flares up and I spend hours listening to people complain and being recruited to take sides, and my boss has an inconsistent management style that is often frustrating to watch and is occasionally hurtful to me.

As you have probably already predicted, I had a kid and everything changed. I do not want to ever go back to work full-time. I want to have at least one more kid. I would like to homeschool my children. I want to move an hour outside of the city I live in to raise my kids in the country (my husband has already found his dream job there and splits his time between the city and the country). I love being home with my kid. For real.

When my child was 3 months old I went back to work part-time (6 hours a week) and I am now up to about 15 hours a week. As part of my job, I am on call 24/7 to every youth I work with (about 60 kids) so the number of hours I work is a little hard to judge because in one sense I am always working.

I like the current arrangement, but I could stand to work even fewer hours. I only really care about the part of my job that involves the kids, running my twice-a-week three-hour program and being on call. That would take about 8-10 hours a week. Currently, I also run two school-based lunch-time programs a week and I mentor/manage four junior youth workers, plus I have to write reports and go to staff meetings and take calls from disgruntled staff.

Here’s the problem: the things that used to be just shitty parts of the job (low pay, inconsistent and erratic management, often discordant/antagonistic office relations) are now major problems. I resent all the of things I used to cheerfully tolerate (because they are just time/energy away from my family). On top of that, my status has changed: I have gone from being a valued member of a small team to a side note (due to my part-time status). My bonus is smaller, I don’t have a say over things that I used to have a say in, and my boss has allowed a new and junior youth worker to be chronically rude to and disrespectful of me (“he’s rude to everyone if that makes you feel better”). My job satisfaction has swiftly declined. However, my job is such a massive part of who I am. My mentor and the youth I serve mean so much to me. I cannot imagine not doing this job. I can also not justify it – it would feel like a betrayal to people I love.

I COULD imagine leaving to do one of two things: start an alternative school or start a program for young mothers. Two problems there: I lack confidence in my ability to achieve these things (not in my ability to run a excellent school or program, but the actual starting of them) and both of those things would take up more time than 15 hours a week and I DO NOT want to work full-time.

My job allows me to do work I love, it is my community. I can work and be home with my kid most days (ie live the dream). It is even feasible for me to move to the country and do the hour-long commute two or three days a week. I contribute financially to my family, however modestly. The price I pay is frustration at the crap parts of my job and the indignity of a low status despite my high competence and result (I am really good at my job!!).


(What Would Penelope Trunk Do?)

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7 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    You should quit your job and go move to where you want to raise your family. Your husband already has a job there.

    You do not have a good job. It’s not sustainable with two kids because you can’t control the hours. It’s not sustainable with one school-aged kid who would need your time after school.

    A good job is not just one you can do from home, but more importantly it’s one where you can control your hours.

    Also, your time is too valuable to your family to be selling it so cheaply to a job that has uncontrollable hours and does not exist where you want to live.

    It’s time to quit. I’m sorry. You go to great lengths in you email to say why it’s a good job which tells me that deep down you know that it used to be a good job, but your life has changed and it’s not any more.


  2. J
    J says:

    “your time is too valuable to your family to be selling it so cheaply to a job that has uncontrollable hours and does not exist where you want to live.”

    ^ wow. I’m going through the same thing and that completely jumped out at me. Thank you.

  3. Dajana
    Dajana says:

    As an INFP I am going through the same thing, except I’ve anticipated it and am making changes before even getting pregnant.

    I ,as yourself, work with helping people, for a shitty pay/conditions.
    It’s rewarding work but here is the jiff.
    At the end of the day- who will say ‘thanks for your sacrifice’ ?
    No one.
    Who will say “thanks for sacrificing your marriage/children/health” ?
    No one.
    In order to help without ending up resentful you need to look after yourself and your family first.
    You know this, it’s apparent between the lines of your letter.

    You know what you want but you are conflicted since you keep looking to the past. Your not the same person anymore and your priorities have shifted. (As they should.) Accept it.

    You have already contributed to society/people by sacrifice. It’s ok, pass the baton to that junior that’s eager to have it.

    heck, I’ll say it. Thank you for your sacrifice. Just because you’ve decided to give doesn’t mean you have to do it the rest of your life in the exact same way. Your not giving away your own time anymore, you’re giving away family-time.

    You’re not betraying anyone- don’t think you’re that important in the big scheme of things. The world will move on without you, make way for the newcomers instead.

    Society is an ever shifting contribution by its members.
    Contribute elsewhere. Raise two kids that will in their turn contribute and not turn into criminals.

    Kids grow up fast, when they are teenagers and don’t want to hang out with you- you can’t re-evaluate your time.

    In Sweden where I’m from the babies stay home for 1,5 years. How you divide the maternity/paternity leave is up to the parents.
    You’re baby is 3 months old!

    1. Quit.

    2. Move to the country (save your husband the commute) and just breath. You’ll find a way to find work that goes WITH your home-life.
    If you don’t have to do it for the money a while, you can volunteer.

    INFP’s a writers. You’re great at your job, so write about it. Write articles, blog or write a book.

    I’m shifting my work from the grunt part- to the part where I make the grunt work easier/better for the people I passed the baton to. I’m working at making their work better- in the end the same people are helped even if I wasn’t the foot soldier. Be creative when you evaluate new paths.

    Being on call is more stressful than working more hours. You want to turn off work and focus on your family.

    What does your husband want? You’re a team, you can’t divide contribution into exact numbers. He might work for the pay- and you can home-school your kids. What will he be happy with. I doubt he want’s you to stay at your current job.

    You don’t want to be the bread winner anyway, you want to be with your kids. So be grateful for your husband and make his life better by not making him commute. He’ll be happier and perform better at work, maybe earn a raise.

    You’re not a risk-taker. That’s ok, partner up with someone that is one a project closer to your new home, with a job description that fits your new life.

    You need a job where you contribute to others and can be flexibly with hours. But to be happy at work you also need to feel appreciated, this is key for you, not the pay.

    Your baby is just 3 months old, you’ll have the rest of your life to devote to work. He’ll only be a baby for a short while.

    Good luck!

  4. CeeBee
    CeeBee says:

    I agree with Penelope and Dajana. I worked as an admin asst at a small start up in the middle of nowhere but it was so perfect. It was across the street from my husband’s office so we could carpool, the pay was on par with what I would have earned in a city, they were very much about keeping employees happy, I controlled my own workload and even though I was an admin asst., I was a lot more of an executive assistant/office manager. I ran the office day to day and I picked up where the business team left off as we were small and a start up. Then I got pregnant and I had intended on leaving but they convinced me to stay by saying I could work from home and gave me a 30% raise! I couldn’t say no and long story short, I ended up putting my kid in childcare and working part time in the office. That made me a side note and I stopped getting assigned to special projects. I had worked really hard when the new management team was brought on board a few months after my hire to possibly boot strap my way up in the company, and my 12 weeks of maternity leave erased every inch of 2 years of hard work and perseverance. I was exhausted from a colicky baby and never really hit my stride again. Got pregnant shortly after my return and quit before the baby was born. With two kids it was no longer a perfect fit for me even though it was such an awesome job with awesome perks. It was hard to leave but it was the right choice. If you don’t need to work and you’re questioning your happiness, then it’s not the perfect job anymore.

  5. Kate
    Kate says:

    Thanks for all your thoughtful comments. We are moving to the country this week and I renegotiated my work terms (I am no longer on call, I got a raise, and I pared down my responsibilities to the ones I really enjoy). I am much happier.

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