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I once took a nearly 50% pay cut for a better work-life balance. It was worth it.

Melissa Drake   

I once took a nearly 50% pay cut for a better work-life balance. It was worth it.
  • My client service workload required travel and long nights and weekends, which was hard to manage.
  • I made an unthinkable decision to forgo my cushy salary, great benefits, and leadership perks.

Working for a global organization is no joke — particularly as a front-line, "the buck stops here" client service manager.

I recall the interviewing manager telling me I would never be able to keep up with the workload. I passed off the insinuation, thinking, "He has no idea how effective and efficient I am." It turns out no amount of efficiency and effectiveness was sufficient to keep up with domestic travel, schmoozing with clients, leading a remote cross-functional team, and managing all the administrative processes.

Pair that workload with being a single mom and the primary caregiver for aging parents, and it was a recipe for disaster.

I loved my job and was great at it, but something had to give.

My demanding career was affecting all areas of my life

Our team members used to tease, "You're not a true employee until you've forgotten to pick up your kids at day care." The sad thing is, it wasn't a joke. I got caught up and missed the 6:30 final call at day care more than once.

It wasn't just my kid getting the short end of the stick while I traveled and worked late. My physical and mental health dwindled as I tried to pace the never-ending demands of work, parenting, and caregiving. I couldn't keep up, and I felt like I was drowning.

I decided to take a lower-level position with another company

My leader and clients were shocked when I gave my notice. I stayed on past my notice to attend an on-site meeting for one of our largest clients, an international household name. The client leader asked me to name my price to keep me as the service manager on their account. He was dismayed when I replied, "I'm leaving to have a better work-life balance, and that's something you can't provide. No amount of pay is enough to make me stay."

Even though I was taking a step down and finances would be tight, standing firm in my decision was one of the times I've felt most resolute in my life.

The transition was challenging, but it set me up in the best way

I quickly whipped all my tasks into shape when I began working for my new employer. It wasn't long before I was bored as an individual contributor with no team members to lead. I even considered returning to my former employer to initiate more of that fire I'd become accustomed to. When you're used to chaos, a slower, more deliberate pace can feel excruciating. Thankfully, my good friend helped me stay the course.

After a few months on the job, I took another pay cut to work part-time, resulting in a nearly 50% pay cut from my client service salary. This time, the move was to be even more present for my growing son, who was in elementary school, and my mother, who'd recently been diagnosed with cancer.

Losing the money was nothing compared to what I gained

I worked for my last employer for 10 years, receiving several promotions and ultimately becoming a director who reported to the CEO. It wasn't long before I surpassed my original salary. Better yet, during my time there, I was blessed with fantastic leadership, minimal travel requirements, a flexible schedule, ample paid time off, and the ability to put my family first.

It's a good thing, too, because my son was getting older, and I lost both of my parents within five years.

When the demands of the sandwich generation were tough, as they often were, I was supported and even gifted donated PTO from fellow employees. I was able to take my parents to doctor appointments, be with them during frequent hospital stays, and care for them in their dying days at hospice.

I'll never regret leaving the fast-paced hustle that made family time an afterthought in exchange for the ability to really be there for my family when they needed it most.


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