Career Move: Dad

I have just made both the scariest and, I believe, best decision of my professional life.

My wife just returned to the workforce after having parented our daughter full-time since her birth in 2020. Our daughter is enrolled in half-time daycare, so for the immediate future, at least, I am taking care of her from the time she’s not at school until her mom is done with work. This leaves me a limited number of hours overlapping an ordinary workday available for paid work, which I will attempt to fill through my private consulting activities and career coaching.

I am generally risk-averse and not prone to self-marketing, so trading a consistent 6-figure salary (with benefits and a growth trajectory) for project-based, hourly work is hard. There’s a meaningful risk that we have to draw down savings if I’m not able to fill the hours I have available. There’s a non-zero risk that my deliberately taking time away from full-time employment hurts my ability to find great opportunities in the future. But I believe that my daughter’s emotional and educational development will be enhanced by having the extra time with me, and my wife deserves the opportunity to experience growth in her career as I have been able to in mine.

When I was a child, Richard Scarry’s The Bunny Book was one of my favorites. In it, while everyone around him has professional aspirations for a baby bunny, his goal is to be a great dad. In my work with both corporate clients and job-searchers, I try to keep in mind that a major decision is only correct for the client if it is congruent with their values. Considering financial feasibility is important, but if profit or earnings always determine the outcome, any other stated values are just marketing copy.

Whether you would make the same decision or not, I ask that you consider three things:

  1. Would you have the same reaction to a woman opting to reduce time in the workforce?
  2. What do you (or your employer) do to help families thrive, providing child care for employees, enabling flexible schedules, or helping talent return to the workforce after taking time to provide care? (See some ideas here).
  3. If my work could not be done remotely or part-time, this decision might not be possible. The possibility of remote work (and hourly-divisible work) reduces friction in the economy, but unequally. That inequality of parental opportunity or involvement may play out in multigenerational impacts that we can’t even fully predict.

I’m grateful that my family can make this decision and frustrated that we have to. I’m terrified about the risk, but looking forward to deepening our relationship. And if you have consulting work that can be done on a flexible schedule, I’d love to hear about the opportunity!

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