Advice

I see an opportunity for a happier work-life balance in a new job offer; my wife only sees the pay cut

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

Since being back in the office after working remotely during COVID, I’ve been in a real funk. While working remote, I saw my family more and I was healthier than I’ve been in years. I maybe didn’t work a straight 8 hours, but I started my day earlier and ended later and checked in on weekends, too. I focused on more strategic work without frequent social interruptions from colleagues, and I looked forward to virtual meetings with my team.

My company has been pretty firm that we are not going to allow remote or even hybrid work. A competitor is recruiting me pretty hard with the pitch that even though the job pays less, they value work-life balance and would give me complete flexibility in choosing my work location, so long as my performance is maintained.

I want to make this switch but my wife is firmly against it, solely based on the loss of household income. It isn’t small — it would come out to about $25,000 less a year. But the gains to me are huge. Our kids will only be in the house so long. And I loved the flexibility to focus on my health and family. I was just a happier person.

Of note, my wife does not work, but did when we first met, and while qualified to return to the job market, has not. I feel like my exhausting job is subsidizing her freedom and I’m frustrated. I wish she’d support me in this. Advice?

Wanda says:

It’s hard to talk about COVID-19 in past tense these days, with case numbers and hospitalizations soaring. But if we can look back at that period during 2020 that even stretched into 2021 when so many workplaces were closed up and people were working from home, I think we can agree that it made many of us reevaluate our priorities and preferences.

Looking back, I had friends who hated working from home and friends who loved it. I knew those who raced back the moment the locks came off corporate headquarters to those who dragged their feet and pleaded for flexibility. And some got it; many companies still maintain some kind of hybrid or remote option, either because it saves money or makes some people happier or both. Others, like yours, don’t have such wiggle room.

Your wife is correct: $25,000 isn’t spare change. Not knowing if you’re a household with extra savings to spare or one that barely makes ends meet, I can’t quantify and advise on what that loss of income would mean logistically. If you have the breathing room, frame this as a right move for your whole family’s happiness. If you don’t, then get creative and think about what major savings could be realized with lifestyle changes or what new revenue streams could be created with side work — or, with her getting some kind of part-time job.

But give your intuition and interests credit: Like so many others, you’ve realized the things that matter. It’s completely reasonable to strive for a balance where you can do an honest day’s work and also be more near the people and experiences that bring you joy.

Wayne says:

Way to scoop me, Wanda! Wayne likes this: thumbs-up emoticon. What’s the point of even going to work if you’re stressed, unhappy, out of shape, looking for other jobs, bitter about your wife’s demands, while also missing your wife and kids all the time? Is that misery level worth $2,000-and-change a month? Is it worth any amount of money? Especially now that you’ve experienced a work-life balance that made you happy, healthy and connected to your family, while you also maintained your at-work production and performance? You already know the answers, and you don’t need Wanda and I to help get you there.

But since they pay me by the word, let me just poke around on this one a bit.

First, you and your wife created this family and lifestyle with the understanding that you will be the provider and breadwinner. There’s a responsibility that comes with that role. And, well, some might say that you’ve got to live up to that commitment and take one — or 20-plus years — for the team.

Let’s say you did stay at your current job. Could you make the best of it and find ways to create a healthier environment? A nearby gym for lunchtime workouts? Mandatory twice-a-day desk/computer breaks for walks or meditation? Could you convince your boss to let you start your day earlier so you can be home in the afternoons for more quality time with the kids and wife?

Another thought: If wifey is more concerned about your income than your mental health outcome, that’s totally not cool! Did you all skip the “For richer or poorer” part? Why doesn’t she step up and get a side hustle to help out? You’d happily pick up some of her tasks at home since you’d be working there in a job that makes you happier, right?

Finally, one more thought: So, this other company really likes you, eh? Have you negotiated the salary? Think you can squeeze them for another $5,000-$10,000 on the final offer? I know one thing: You won’t get it if you don’t ask. Maybe a decent bump in the starting salary could bridge the gap that makes everyone happy: your new employers, your wife, and you.

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