I Had My Dream Job — And I Gave It Up For My Family

I had an opportunity to take my “dream job” as a magazine editor two years ago. I was in a sweet spot after having three kids, the youngest was weaned and I was feeling like myself again, meaning I could actually kind of sort of button my pants and my boobs didn’t leak milk whenever they darn well felt like it. Yay!

I came across the job while searching for any positions involving writing and editing and discovered that there was a very professional family and career magazine located only four hours away from me and they were in need of an assistant editor. It was a long shot, I was certain, but I applied and crossed my fingers that they would accept me as a remote employee. Incredibly, the editor emailed me back almost right away, but she said that the job had to be in-office only.

I was pretty devastated. I felt certain that this job was meant for me, so I did something I never would have dreamed of doing — I asked if she would consider meeting me and trying the job on a flex basis. I wanted this job so badly, I told her, that I was willing to commute from another state. I researched train schedules and driving times and proposed a schedule that would have me in the office two days a week, staying overnight in a hotel and working from home the other two days. I know, crazy right?

But even crazier was the fact that she took me up on my offer. And just like that, my life became completely different. I felt totally insane for trying something like this, but here’s the thing: I had become pregnant during my senior year of college and had my baby only a week after I graduated. I hadn’t been able to fulfil my dream of becoming a writer because I wasn’t able to change my major after I got pregnant, because our family needed the income. I had been busy working as a nurse and having more kids ever since then and now, this felt like my chance. It felt like a way to see what my life could have been like, all those years ago. It felt like it was meant to be. It was a long-lost dream and it was almost like one of those things I needed to get out of my system.

So I did it. I drove four hours one way and unfortunately, was late my very first day, to be met with a withering gaze from my new boss and a stern lecture that left me quaking in the heels I had just bought for my first “real” job.

I didn’t get off to the best start, but once I got into the work, the job was everything I had ever dreamed that working for a magazine would be — lunches out, cute outfits, an adorable office, all the free coffee in the world, working with smart people on creative projects that we are all passionate about. It was everything I could have asked for and more.

There was just one teeny, tiny problem with it: the job was a disaster for me as a mother.

The very first night, when I got to my budget hotel that I realized was budget for a reason, namely the fact that it was terribly unsafe, full of male truckers with questionable hygiene, and had actual holes in the walls and ceilings, I broke down in uncontrollable sobs to first my husband on the phone, then my parents. I still had two days to go before I could come home and I missed my babies and I was an idiot and selfish and who leaves their kids for lunches out, no matter how delicious the burrito bowls?

I was so incredibly stressed and unfortunately, the arrangement I thought would be ideal, working part-time in the office, did not work out well. I could never get enough done while I was there and I wasn’t able to provide my boss with enough face time either for the office environment. I was failing on all fronts and feeling pulled in 10,000 different directions. I know almost immediately after my first day that I had made a terrible mistake, but I cried again with how unprofessional I would be to quit and how much my boss would hate me and how awful it felt to let go of my dream.

But I sucked it up and talked to her and it still makes me sick to think about. There was tension, of course, because she had taken a huge risk in hiring me, and I had blown it. We worked out an arrangement where I could work from home primarily until I hired my own replacement.

Shortly after that, I got pregnant with our #4 and it cemented my decision to leave the job. I still feel awful about the whole experience and a little embarrassed that my attempts at a “real” job went so horribly wrong. If I’m being honest, however, I’m still glad that I tried it — it gave me the chance to explore my dreams and try out what my “other” life could have been like.

And in the end, I learned that I’m pretty darn happy with the way things turned out after all. Dreams change and that’s OK too.