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Leaving the Pinnacle

Leaving the Pinnacle

Why I left a six-figure job for a no-figure job.


I had it all -- a six-figure job, power, and prestige. I had a wonderful job at a Fortune 300 company with a devoted and intelligent staff. It was the dream job. I traveled both nationally and internationally. For 10 years I climbed up the corporate ladder and filled my house with treasures and padded my bank accounts.

Suddenly everything changed when my mother-in-law, Vera, passed away from cancer. My husband was too grief stricken to go through his mom's remaining dozen boxes cluttering our den. I tackled the job partly to help my grieving husband and partly to see the carpet once again.

Going through her boxes changed my whole perspective and outlook on life. Her 75 years of boxes were filled with resumes, reference letters, wills, death certificates, coupons, family pictures and mementos, mother's day cards and baby cards. Boxes and boxes of stuff. All mixed up. No rhyme or reason. I piled through the items sometimes crying -- sometimes laughing. She also collected a stack of written jokes that had me laughing out loud. Her sense of humor flew through the boxes as I sat on the floor tears streaming down my face surrounded by her love.

I remember when I first got hired for my dream job. My soon-to-be boss said in the interview, “We want to hire someone who can think outside the box.”

I replied, “I don't even have a box.”

The chemistry between us sparkled instantly. He made me a job offer on the spot that I couldn't refuse.

I loved working at this company. I developed global advertising campaigns and worked around the clock during sensitive merger and acquisitions. I was afforded flexibility to telecommute and offered flexible hours when I had my first and then my second child. In five short years my salary and my family grew.

What box did I really want my children to go through 50 years from now?

So did my heart. I panged for my children. My box was quickly filling up with corporate awards, reports, top assignments, committees and meetings. But what box did I really want my children to go through 50 years from now?

I soul searched and agonized and after five months, I finally made my decision. I had just been presented the highest award at the company for developing the Core Values program worldwide. I decided I'd reached the corporate pinnacle. It was time to build my core values at home.

But what were my core values? I was raised in a loving yet secular Jewish home. My father was in international business so I was afforded the wonderful opportunity to live my first 16 years in Australia, Asia and Europe. My best friends were Muslim, Hindu, Chinese and Christian. I didn't know any Jewish people.

Sure I knew a little about Judaism. After all, I pressured my parents into giving my brother and me a bar/bat mitzvah when I was 18. I marched to free Russian Jews at 19, traveled to Israel at 24 and contributed funds and volunteer time to Jewish causes. But it wasn't enough. I wanted to live a life more in line with my values. I longed to learn more about a Torah core set of values.

So I resigned from the corporate world at 34 to nurture my children, my soul and my home.

Everyone was shocked. Some were sad. My staff wept. Others cheered. Others were jealous. I beamed. I never felt so empowered in my whole life. I floated through the air. I just left a six-figure job, after all, for a no-figure job -- literally.

It's been seven months now since I jumped off the cliff and left the corporate scene. I've been hard at work on my no figure job -- building my box of Jewish core values at home. My daughter is enrolled at the Orthodox Day School and we belong to a small Orthodox synagogue. My vision has become a reality as I take two days per week during the school calendar year to work on empowering people to do as I did. I give motivational talks on how to live a more meaningful life, to create a plan, to follow your dreams, to listen to your heart, to watch for coincidences and to let God help you. And most importantly to give of yourself to help others.

Sure I had my doubts! Some days I get crazy and think -- oh what have I done!? But then I just look at my kids and my life and I realize how truly blessed we are. Life is too short. I had to follow my heart -- now.

So now I'm writing inspirational stories. Two books have already been published and I'm working on two sets of children's books on virtues and Jewish rituals. I'm creating lasting memories for my children and family. I'm baking challah from scratch, going to the park, singing and reading to my children.

My ability to make this change came from a very supportive husband, a lifetime of avoiding debt, saving and living below our means. The budget's a little tight. We're eating a lot of pasta these days and I'm now cutting coupons and shopping at discount stores. And we're expecting our third child in May. My box runneth over. Thank you God.

April 12, 2003

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Visitor Comments: 16

(16) Ed, April 11, 2008 12:48 PM

Great to see Im not alone

Unbelievable article. I am currently on the corporate world right now and I was quickly on the rise. However reality hit for me when my 3 year old daughter asked my did I have to go away so much and with tears in her eyes she said " I miss you". I got a job offer that would require for me to travel every month for up to 15 days. It was a lot more money, and in the global economy in would have provided a lot of experience. But I just couldnt bring myself to say goodbye one more time.
I still struggle with this decision each day, as many people think I am crazy. But like you said, I want my box to be filled with memories, and not awards.

(15) Yehuda, February 26, 2008 7:37 AM

You are following your nature-good for you.

First, Judaism supports a wife being home because there is so much to do to take care of a family. There is no problem working but part time or 9-5. Its not good for women's souls/psyches/emotions to be in high stress jobs outside the home. They loose their touch with G-d and themselves. This is per my wife. Men, are more built to be out of the house, competing and external. They get their connections to G-d from learning and prayer , which are also usually out of the home. Good luck

(14) Lilian, January 1, 2004 12:00 AM

I'm there with you!

I made a similar decision -- left the corporate world (at least on a FT basis), 6 figure's, etc. for the sake of prioritizing my children over work. I am grateful to be in a position where I have had that choice! Now I am underemployed, but also grateful that we can still live on my husband's salary and whatever else I can contribute. It is a very difficult balance for any mother -- finances being equal, many who work long to spend more time involved with their children, while many who are primarily mothers during the day (everyone does night duty!) miss the work world. I believe you have to balance financial realities, your true values, and your own knowledge of yourself to make the best decision possible for yourself and your family. Hatzlacha to all! May we make the best choices within our domains to ultimately, successfully, raise Torah-true Jewish children, who help bring this world into proper condition!

(13) Anonymous, May 20, 2003 12:00 AM

What about the other 99 percent?

Nicely written article, but my only real response is "la di dah" .
Only a very small percentage of us make six figure incomes and have husbands who can support entire families so that they can live without worrying about debt.
I wonder what the relevance of your article is to those of us in the "real" world.

I grew up in a single parent household where Mom had to work. The local Jewish private schools were not accessible to us b/c of money. Jewish activities and trips were out of bounds too.

Mom would say, on a daily basis, that she could only dream of a day when she could stay at home and take care of us. She could only dream of being able to give us a nice life without slowly killing herself in the process.

She tried to build our core Jewish values by informing herself about Judaism. She was raised in a communist country so her Jewish education was lax at best. Unfortunately the Jewish Ed classes, espcially those geared at mothers, only occured in the middle of hte day on weekdays. There was no room for working mothers to participate in Jewish Ed or to learn and grow Jewishly. Women who had to work to feed their children were and still are looked down upon those mothers who have the luxury of a choice.
There's not a single article on about increasing the oppurtunity for Jewish Learning among working mothers or making it easier for working mothers to send their children to day school or to Jewish activities which tend to be astronomically priced.

Then again, those mothers don't have time to write articles and give speeches, they are too busy raising children and making ends meet.

(12) Larisa, April 21, 2003 12:00 AM

Nice work if you can get it

I am just wondering if Robin would like it as much if her husband made a similar choice. Shouldn't he, too, have his own box of memories?

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