Men who leave their jobs to spend more time with with their families might seem like an unfeasible option for most people, but there have been several high-profile examples of CEOs and CFOs making public announcements that they are stepping down.
Max Shireson, stepped down from his role as CEO of database giant MongoDB in August, saying that he regretted not being being with his young kids when their puppy was hit by a car or when his son had emergency surgery. “Will that cost me tens of millions of dollars someday? Maybe,” he said, in his blog post on the decision.
Former PIMCO CEO Mohamed El-Erian left his post last year, citing the same reasons. His personal come-to-terms moment came when his 10-year-old daughter handed him a 22-point list of the important life events he’d missed because of work.
Most recently, Google CFO Patrick Pichette announced his resignation on Wednesday, citing the kind of revelation that can only be acted upon by the very rich: While sitting on the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro with his wife, he wondered, why not drop it all and just keep traveling the world?
His choice was publicly smiled upon by Larry Page, but given a skeptical side-eye from others: “Mr. Pichette’s goodbye letter was touching, adventurous and completely outside the experience of 99% of the world’s population,” Conor Dougherty wrote for the New York Times. Is taking an indefinite vacation feasible for most of the country’s working parents? Definitely not. But their goodbyes usually include some call to action for other dads who put work over family.
To bring things back down to earth on the topic, we spoke to Mark and Lauren Greutman, whose family went through a similar decision–minus the millionaire paychecks–when he left his job as an actuary last year to spend more time with their young children. “We were in $40,000 worth of debt and got really resourceful and got ourselves out of it,” Lauren says. They got out from under that burden before Mark quit, and made sure the choice was sustainable. “One of our steps in making it easy for him to quit his job was to be financially secure, be debt free, and have a large savings account set aside with at least six months of expenses in it.”
They’re now running a money management business, and Lauren shares her frugal living tips on her blog. We asked them for their thoughts on the transition to a more balanced work-family life.
When a woman quits her job for more family time, is it met with the same reaction as when a man does?
Lauren: I think as a woman, working and deciding not to be a stay-at-home mom is applauded. When I watched the reaction of friends when told of Mark quitting his job, there was panic and a lot of questions. I don’t think he got the same reception from most people, even though he was doing it for the right reasons. Which was to stay at home with our family.
Mark: I think it’s harder when a man quits his job. In my own experience, telling people the news of me quitting my job was met with surprise and shock. A few people even tried to talk me out of it. I would never expect this kind of reaction to a woman quitting her job to be home for more family time.
Mark: Definitely not. It all has to do with what type of lifestyle you choose to live. If both husband and wife work, but they find frugal ways to live on only one income, then the option for either partner to quit their job is always available.
Lauren: There are so many ways to continue to be successful without working a traditional nine-to-five.
How can people who can’t afford the same security of quitting a job to stay home find ways to still be present parents?
Lauren: Being a present parent involves taking time to go on vacations with your family and really tuning out work. Making time to go to your kids’ sporting events or school plays is also important. Before Mark quit his job, he was still a very involved and present parent. He helped with the kids’ homework, helped on the weekends with sporting events, and was always there for the kids if they needed to talk.
Mark: A small shift in hours can really help. When I was working full time outside the home, I shifted my hours so that I would leave at 4:30 instead of 5 p.m., and that extra half-hour was tremendously helpful. Also, make sure to separate work from family life. Even with a job outside the home, working evenings at home is a fact of life for many professionals. But to be really present with your family, keep that computer closed and the smartphone on a shelf until the kids go to bed.
Is this something more men should do? Are we applauding these cases, or questioning their feasibility, or both?
Mark: More men should consider it. Women have great careers just as men do, and in many cases it might make financial sense for the man to put his career on hold instead of the woman. I think it should be applauded whenever a family makes a financial sacrifice to the benefit of their family . . . regardless of whose career was put on hold.