Career or Family?


Over the past month, I have been grappling with what seems like an impossible decision. I’ve fretted, lost sleep, and created countless pros vs. cons lists. I reached out to friends, family, and mentors to seek advice. The Zen part of me has been seeking a sign. It’s time to make a career decision.

The Past

This time last year, I was working in a job I loved, poised for a promotion, and working with a team of outstanding individuals. Sure, there were politics and it was stressful, but I knew I was making a strong impact on my community. I was known for working hard, being innovative, and bringing others together to achieve success. I was in my prime!

Until I wasn’t. I didn’t get that promotion and the new leader had new thoughts about the direction of the organization. Those thoughts didn’t include me. The career I had built on (what I thought was) a stable foundation had come crashing down. I was devastated.

I spent a good deal of time in deep reflection. And what I realized was that I was letting my career define me more than anything else in my life. I was focused on what I did at the office, rather than what I was doing outside the office. My drive towards world domination caused me to be distracted at home.

Not only was I neglecting my family and friends, I was neglecting myself. I fretted and I lost sleep. I was tired… so, so tired. Some time away from my career allowed me to refocus on what is truly important in my life. Around the kids, I was much more relaxed. I could contribute more to the family by making sure the house was in order. I became much more present, but I still craved meaningful employment.

The Present

Thankfully, my professional network rallied around me. They encouraged me, gave me leads, and even created some contract opportunities for me. Because of this network, amazing employment opportunities presented themselves and I quickly found myself employed again.

I am now in a new career and in a new industry. There is a new team depending on me and new goals to accomplish. I am fortunate that I can make a positive impact in this role, as well.  The work is meaningful and necessary. And I have balance! The job is not so big and crazy (and political) that I can’t be present for my family. I define how I get my work accomplished and I make my own schedule. Although I am the boss, I’m not stressed out because I am in an environment that suits me.

And now, five months into this new role, I received a job offer… for a dream job. From out of nowhere. This is an opportunity I’d have jumped at five months ago. It’s exciting and cutting-edge. It’s innovative and plays to my strengths. I am not sure if I will ever get this type of opportunity again. A position was created specifically for me and the company came directly to me—it’s truly humbling!

I want my children to see me as in a successful career and I want to provide them with opportunities so that they can be successful. Both opportunities will allow me to advance my career, but the new opportunity will likely allow me to advance faster and in a more public way. It would be more demanding and stressful. My balance will be thrown off.

The Future

I wish I had a crystal ball.

My heart and mind are being pulled in both directions. But my gut… My gut tells me I will never get this time back with my kids. I’ve never heard of anyone saying, on their deathbed, “I wish I hadn’t spent so much time with my family!”

And, so I know what I need to do.

I need to use the lessons from the last year and redefine what success looks like to me. For a woman who is career-driven, it’s a tough choice, but I know that by being a more present wife and mother (daughter, friend), I will be most successful.

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Dana has lived in Colorado for the last 17 years. She met her husband, Ben, in Boulder and they made the move to Colorado Springs. Together, they are busy raising two children. Dana is the Director of Meeting the Challenge, Inc., a national disability compliance consulting firm. She is an active community volunteer and has served several boards. When she is not working, Dana can be found cheering on her son and daughter's travel hockey teams at area ice rinks. She enjoys spending time hiking in the mountains with her Vizsla, raising backyard chickens, and cheering on her Alma Mater's Michigan State Spartans!


  1. You are so right that you can never get this time with your kids back. It’s a phase, a chapter and opportunities will also be out there when your kids are older. I’ve struggled with this, as well. I came to the same conclusion. Success has many definitions. Write your own. 😊

  2. I agree that the struggle is real. As a driven career-minded individual, the challenge of taking over the world is too sweet to resist! There is a way to get both a challenging rewarding career, and be there for your family. More often than not, the wife/mother is making these very hard decisions. You can get both, but it’s important to listen to your gut, as you did, and pick the job that supports work/life balance! You will still be awarded with world domination. I have no doubt. Your blogs are insightful and truthful…two great qualities of a leader and mother!

  3. I hear ya girl! The desire to climb the career ladder is both exciting and enticing. I was recently presented a new job opportunity as well and had to really process how this job would effect my life. After talking with several people who have already raised their families, I took their advice and ultimately decided to stay right where I’m at. #familyfirst #worklifebalance

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