If you had to choose between the job you love and spending time with the ones you love, which would you choose?
It’s a question often faced by career-minded people and one that doesn’t always come with a clear-cut answer. But it’s a question Erin Haynes Reed was forced to answer after two-and-a-half years as evening news anchor at WLKY-TV.
“When I decided to work at WLKY, I knew what I was getting into,” Reed said. “It’s not a typical 9-to-5 job ever. There were a lot of logistical things that had to be worked out, and I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic husband who was supportive and able to take care of the kids.”
As the mother of two young children – Patterson, 5, and Addie, 3 – Reed typically went into work around the same time her children were coming home from school. With a work schedule from 2:30 to 11:30 p.m., she would often arrive at her house to find her family already fast asleep, and after a while, she began to discover the toll it was taking on her son.
“You can’t really plan for some of the emotional changes,” Reed said. “There was a definite difference (with Patterson). He didn’t handle me not being around very well.”
Reed tried to spend time with her son before he went to preschool in the morning, but despite her efforts, he continued to struggle with the lack of time spent with his mother. That’s when Reed decided it was time for a change.
“As hard as it was because I absolutely loved going to work every day, you have to do what’s right (for your kids),” Reed said. “It’s hard and I don’t think it’s something that anyone would take very lightly. I think you just have to sit down and see what’s best for you and your kids. You can’t always prepare for everything, although I’d like to think I can, but you just can’t. You have to regroup and say, ‘What can we do to fix this?’ And when you’ve tried everything you can to fix it, then you have to try something else.”
Reed chose to walk away from WLKY, but she didn’t walk away from the workforce completely. She combined her creative instincts with the baking skills of her mother, Martha Stout, and dove full-time into a business venture as co-founder of Queen of Treats, a boutique bakery.
“I have a flexible enough schedule to be with (the kids) for homework time and dinner time and those times that families realize are some of the most important times of the day,” Reed said. “When you can’t be there, you really know how important that time is. I can tell a huge difference in just six weeks. (Patterson’s) back to being sweet and not having some of the issues he was having because I couldn’t be there. Right now I know this is the right decision because I can see that difference. And yeah, it’s different, but it’s right.”
Nina Eaglin Alcorn faced a similar dilemma after six years at WAVE3 as assignment editor. With a 6-month-old son at home and a husband whose teaching schedule was very different from hers, Alcorn too had to answer that tough question: Should she leave the job she loved to be with the ones she loves?
“I was basically missing out on (my son’s) life,” Alcorn said. “I was working weekends, and I felt like it wasn’t worth it to miss out on him.”
Alcorn decided to leave WAVE3, but has since found a balance between taking care of her son and teaching as an adjunct professor at a community college.
“It worked out really well,” Alcorn said. “I couldn’t stand the idea of paying someone else to do what was supposed to be my job. I don’t regret it at all.”
The decision wasn’t an easy one for Alcorn, nor was it easy for Susan Smith, who left her job as the director of development for Purdue University’s College of Consumer and Family Sciences to move to Louisville after her mother had become ill.
“I worked for Purdue for two years and the position that I had was being eliminated and I had the opportunity to take another position at Purdue, but my mother’s health was deteriorating,” Smith said. “I decided to look for a professional opportunity, so I could be closer to family.”
The first day Smith went out on the job search, she discovered an opening at GuardiaCare for executive director.
“It was hard walking away from my job, but walking away from a community I had lived in for 30 years was very difficult,” Smith said. “To leave a whole life behind in order to start a new life in Louisville again had been harder than I expected.”
But when it comes to regrets, Smith said she has none. As the oldest daughter in the family she believed it was her duty to be there for her mother, and she said it was her faith especially that helped her along the way.
“I feel like I’ve gained a lot of strength from my faith,” Smith said. “I love my job and the people I work with. I know that there are other people who have done the same thing, and the greatest blessing is not only that I’m here to help with my mom’s care but I’m with an agency that helps people who are dealing with the same type of situation.”
Debbie Marr dealt with that similar situation, but twofold. She actually left two jobs in order to be closer to her family.
“I used to be an independent sales rep and sold to large corporations and my son was a senior in high school and my daughter had just had her second little girl,” Marr said. “I found myself traveling nationwide quite a bit, and I decided family time was more important.”
Marr left her job as a sales representative to work at The Heuser Hearing and Language Academy. But she still felt she wasn’t spending enough time with her family.
“I took a job there so I could spend more time with my son and my grandchildren,” Marr said. “I worked there approximately six years and my husband was traveling quite a bit at that time. I just wanted more family time. I quit that job and now I’m kind of doing contract work.”
Despite loving her job, Marr knew her family always came first.
“I think you just have to follow your heart and my heart was with my family,” she said. “The money was great, the cause was good, but none of that overpowered my family.”
By the Numbers
- 65 million: approximate number of U.S. women in the workforce in 2010.
- 59.2: percentage of women in the labor force in 2009. Women’s labor force participation rate peaked at 60 percent in 1999. It was 43 percent in 1970.
- 81.2 percent: the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings, for all occupations, in 2010.
- 53: percentage of women in 2010 who worked in the three industries that employ the most women: education and health services; trade, transportation and utilities; and local government.
- In 2009, only a few countries, notably Canada and Sweden, had labor force participation rates for women that were higher than the U.S. rate.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Category: Cover Stories
About the Author (Author Profile)
Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).