Worst Reason To Quit Your Job Is ...

tired working moms

What with the election and all, we're a bit behind on "can't have it all" manifestos. Fortunately, a lawyer (and mother of two young children) threw some grease on the fire recently by quitting her big D.C. law firm with an email to her colleagues that recounted a rather rough day, hour by hour. (That link goes to Lisa Belkin's post about it at The Huffington Post; scroll down to see the time log in all its glorious detail.)

A short recap: She was awakened by her baby in the middle of the night; spent 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. dealing with her kids, and with traffic to daycare and work; worked from 9:20 a.m. to 6 p.m. on various lawyerly things; was late to pick up her kids because she didn't have approval to send an email to a client until 5:50; the kids screamed in traffic on the way home; she fed everyone chicken nuggets; then lost the battle with her husband over who had to do bedtime duty.

After she got the kids down at 9: She again fired up the computer; fell asleep at her desk; woke back up close to midnight to finish her work; took a shower and then went to bed at 1:30 a.m. She wrote to her colleagues that she was leaving because she was unable to simultaneously meet the demands of career and family.

I sympathize with the bad day. I've had a few like that.

There was a particularly ripe one a few weeks ago where I had two big project deadlines hanging over me -- one of which definitely needed a lot more work to be done. After being up until midnight working, I woke up at 5 a.m. with a screaming baby. Because my husband was out of town, I was on kid duty with the baby and then the older two until 9 a.m., when our nanny showed up. I worked rather feverishly from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., when she left. Then I had kid duty from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., at which point it was back to work. On days like that, I resent the time it takes to shower. Fun stuff.

More: Angry Resignation Letter Goes Viral


But I'm not sure that quitting one's job is the obvious answer to a brutal day. In our culture, where we're still not entirely comfortable with women having big careers, it's a narrative that seems to make sense. "Working" is the thing that's out of place, so "working" is always the suspect variable. The narrative goes something like this: "I had a bad day at work and at home. That must be because it's impossible to combine career and family. Therefore, I need to quit one, and I can't really quit the family. So the job has to go."

But to someone with a different perspective (like, perhaps, this woman's husband?!) reacting to a bad day or a string of bad days (note the REPEAT on her email) by quitting one's job might seem like a non sequitur. Here, for instance are some other narratives one could employ:


1. I had a bad day ... and therefore I had a bad day.
Some days are awesome and some suck. Such is the human condition. There is no further lesson to be gleaned from this. This tends to be my feeling on such things. Also, I know for a fact that one has awful days as a stay-at-home parent of two young children, too, even with no paid work to muck things up. The stress is different, but it's very much still there. From 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in her former job, our lawyer heroine could at least go to the bathroom by herself.


2. I had a bad day ... and therefore we need a child care situation that eases my burden.
This lawyer was getting two young kids ready in addition to herself, and driving them to and from daycare. Hiring a full-time nanny could be roughly equivalent, financially, to having two kids in daycare. The difference is that the kids wouldn't have to be ready by the time she left. She could spend time in the morning just hanging out with them, rather than racing to get them ready. She also wouldn't have to spend the time in traffic with them. The nanny could feed the kids and give them a bath, so family evening time could be more relaxed. Good child care is expensive but so, incidentally, is quitting one's job.

More: How To Make A Bad Job Better Without Quitting


3. I had a bad day ... and therefore my husband needs to step up his game.
It seems a little unfair that our heroine was getting the kids ready, bringing them to daycare, picking them up, making dinner and doing the bedtime routine. It's not like her husband was in Paris. It's clear from the time log that he was there. And he was home by 7:45 p.m. when the argument over bed/bath ensued. One never knows what the situation is in a family. (Perhaps he was the "on" parent the entire previous week while she was traveling?) But it is certainly easier to combine career and family if one's partner is doing a reasonable chunk of the work.


4. I had a bad day ... and therefore I need more control of my time.
Maybe she could have negotiated for this in her current role. Maybe she could have been more explicit in her work parameters. Maybe she could have asked to work from home for 1-2 days a week and skip the traffic. After all, if her alternative was to quit, what did she have to lose by asking?

5. I had a bad day ... and the reality is that I didn't like my job anyway.
Our heroine is certainly not the only unhappy lawyer in this world. Some of these unhappy lawyers are moms, and some aren't. If you love what you're doing, it can feel fun to fire the computer back up after the kids go to bed, not like some punishment imposed on you. The work is what you'd want to be doing anyway. If that's not the case, then maybe you're not in the right job. Motherhood provides women with a socially sanctioned reason to quit, but when we use that excuse for what is really a different matter, we just make things harder for women down the road.


On a side note: I love the genre of resignation emails. Some are matter-of-fact (here's where I'm working next; here's how to reach me). But others attempt for eloquence, trying to sum up one's contributions and thanking everyone involved. Others are fascinating passive-aggressive attempts to insult the people at the company one is leaving. I saw one once from a person who was looking forward to leaving because this person could now focus on the priorities of God, family and work -- in that order. Hmmm ...


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103 Comments

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scottee

the worst reason to quit your job is if your union makes you.

November 25 2012 at 7:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dafni

Respectfully, this sounds like more than just a bad day. There could be issues not presented in the article that are impacting this woman's decision. More likely effects from work environment or demands coupled with her current domestic situation and family's stage were boiling for some time. Despite the apparent brevity of her resignation, it was probably a well considered move.

Who knows that she will go on to do; perhaps take a break from working outside the home, find a better part-time position or near-full-time with more flexible hours, or consulting. Better to take a breather than suffer an emotional collapse and miss the life she built and lives created for one job.

November 25 2012 at 7:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
willowreed

The author COULD have decided to work part time or to stay home with kids, god forbid in this day and age a mom actually put her kids before her paycheck.

November 25 2012 at 1:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
elendil3136

I once, when I was a young man, quit a job on principle. The boss wanted me to do my work in a way I deemed improper. Two months later, when I finally got another job, I realized that I had learned an important lesson - my principles don't pay my bills. After that, whatever the boss wanted, he got - as long as I got paid. Remember this the next time you think that you see some company's employees doing what looks like slipshod work. They are almost certainly doing it just as they were told. You also want to keep this lesson in mind the next time that some business owner or CEO is telling you about his company's integrity.

November 24 2012 at 11:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
remcoisp1963

Some people are born whiners.

November 24 2012 at 10:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Heather

I think she quit her job for the best reason not the worst one. She quit her job because instead of enjoying her kids she was just putting fires out all day.

November 24 2012 at 10:16 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Heather's comment
willowreed

yeah... i would never put that crap above my kids. She should have quit far sooner.

November 25 2012 at 1:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
cslinz62

I quit my job because the supervisor over our dept. was young, inexperienced, racist & had her favorites. Don't think about being a whistle blower. HR would tell on you to her. I've never worked before at such a crooked place. She also ran our dept. like a prison. Would set you up on purpose for failure to throw it back in your face. I'm at peace now. I have no money but at least I can eat, sleep, and enjoy life again. My hair is growing back. I'm not looking for another job til after christmas.

November 24 2012 at 9:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to cslinz62's comment
bertnernie229

You should mention who the employer was so others can stay away from them.

November 24 2012 at 10:10 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bertnernie229's comment
cslinz62

Well, I would have but being on here, if someone saw it, I'd probably got sued. I will say I worked for a major oil company in Texas.

November 25 2012 at 12:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
elendil3136

I'm sorry to be the one to tell you, but there is little chance that your next job will be any better. Good luck to you, anyway.

November 24 2012 at 11:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to elendil3136's comment
Dafni

You don't know that. I toiled at a job that was career-related for two and a half years, working six days a week with present, but overwhelmed supervisors who treated other employees in a harsh manor that was in no way normative. Since leaving that position my confidence and physical health are back on track.

As I replied above, the subject was probably experiencing some escalating anxiety over time. It wasn't an impulse, like some have suggested. She has enough education and experience and a family unit for support to venture forward after the new year. Better to look at that as a goal than put some negative organization that taxes her mentally and physically over family.

November 25 2012 at 7:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down
ild1227

I was a single mom from the time my daughter was a year. I had to work 2-4 jobs (because I didn't have a paycheck to match that of a lawyer). I went back to school and juggled a kid on my own, 2-4 jobs and home duties, shopping, laundry, etc. If I could have quit, I would have. Despite what all young women say . . . you can't have it all! Something . . . or someone will pay the price. Ask my grown daughter! I was never home. She had a father that walked away, and then had a mom who was never home because I was working or in school. I could not afford a babysitter, so my kid was dragged all over the place to family, friends and neighbors. Many will disagree with me, but kids need stability and a sense of feeling secure. Again, if I could have quit my job, I would have done it in a heart-beat! Congrats to all the women who put their family first!!!!! (Of course, if you can afford to do to quit, as many of us cannot.)

November 24 2012 at 9:26 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Joebudgie

Now that she has gone public with her problems and gripes good luck with finding a new job.

November 24 2012 at 8:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wmichalek

The writer is clueless. If you are routinely working the type of schedule noted, you are not balancing work and family life. No one is benefiting from this type of schedule except the people making the big bucks in this and every other company. It is plainly obvious that there is too much work for the level of staffing. This is true everywhere these days. And then the braindead scratch their head and wonder why there is chronic unemployment in the middle classes and middle managers in this country.

November 24 2012 at 8:44 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to wmichalek's comment
elendil3136

Not only is all that you say true, but the dunderhead bosses wonder why no one cares about the quality of their work.

November 24 2012 at 11:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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