Career Balance, Money vs Happiness

From a young age I’ve been finding ways to make money for myself. I grew up in a family of four children with my single Mother. She is an amazing Mother and raised us all well. Some of the choices she made to ensure that she could be there to care for us and shape us into the people we are now had the side effect of us living off little income. At one point when I was old enough to realize we were on social assistance but still to young to comprehend I remember being ashamed of it and told her so. Her response to this was perfect and I’ll never forget it. “The government essentially pays me to make sure that you and your sisters grow up to be good, tax paying citizens in the future.”

We never went without, but we didn’t have money for extra things. Extra things I had to figure out how to get for myself. Though she always supported me and helped me with any of my crazy ideas. At a very young age I remember getting the idea that my mothers “Sticky Buns” were the best dessert in the world and I wanted to sell them. So she taught me how to make them, fronted me the first supplies to do so, and I went door to door in my neighbourhood selling them. After people tried them they wanted to order them again. I made enough money that I could pay back my mother for the initial supplies and buy enough for the next batch. It didn’t go on for many rounds before it became too much work for us to sustain though. This was my first taste of making my own money though and I liked it.

As I grew I found lots of other ways to make money even before I was old enough to really enter the work force. I had an evening paper route that I delivered every day after school. Of course I did the usual things as well for some of my neighbours, mowing lawns in the summer time and shoveling driveways in the winter.

From their I moved on to a “personal assistant” position. In reality I had an elderly neighbour who had a hard time doing most things for herself so she paid me to help her. I would do basically anything she needed, from cleaning her house, to doing her banking and grocery shopping. Once a week we would take a taxi together and stop at the bank first. I would go in and cash her cheques. Then transfer the funds to the different accounts and pay her bills. Once we were done I would take the grocery money out and we would move on to the grocery store. She would sit in a dining area and I would go around and get everything on her list and go and pay for it. Looking at some now at some of my children this seems like an awful lot of responsibility for a child, but the experience I gained from this was invaluable.

Since then it seems that I’ve been in a constant back and forth in my jobs trying to find the right balance between money and happiness. Some jobs have paid very well but ended up making me unhappy or incredibly stressed out. While other jobs have not paid enough, or not steady enough, but made me happy.

Currently I’m in a position that is close to being perfect. The work environment is almost ideal. I have a great set of co-workers, they are very understanding when it comes to family things to allow me to take time and make it up later as long as I am getting my work done. Of course within reason. I am supporting the staff and patrons who are there mostly during typical business hours, so that is when I need to be there as well. But for the odd things that come up I have the needed flexibility. Nothing of course is perfect but for the most part I’m very content.

The biggest concern is that I seem to be making just enough money to pay all the bills and let the kids have the extracurricular activities they want to be in, but not really getting ahead when it comes to paying off debt and getting a savings going. Right before I took this position I was unemployed for a short while, but long enough to eat through our savings and build up our credit card debt.

We’re not behind on any payments and just got back from a nice family vacation so we’re not in dire straights. But when anything unexpected comes up, like a few things this week, it really shows how we need to be making better headway on debt and savings.

What I really need to do is find that magical balance where I have a great position doing the things I love, in a very flexible environment, while at the same time getting paid enough to get ahead. Over the years this seems to be very elusive and I realize that to a lot of people I likely have unrealistic expectations. However I know there are opportunities out there and I will work on finding the best fit. My eyes are set on a position with an amazing company and I’m working on showing them I would make an excellent team member, but I realistically know it’s a long shot.

Luckily I’m in a great position. I’m far from desperate to find a job, because I’m happy where I am and we are getting by. This leaves me so I can take the time to work at getting my dream job. Somewhere that I can finally feel both happy and in good financial health.

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