I put my family before my job

I still remember when my wife, Jordon, told me she was pregnant with our first child.

Last May, she asked me to go on a walk with her, an activity that we both enjoy, especially together. We walked around downtown Manhattan, Kansas, for a short while, before sitting down on a wood picnic table outside the Riley County Courthouse. I wasn’t completely comfortable with our resting spot of choice, mostly because it was about 5:30 p.m., about the time when the lawyers I normally only interacted with when covering courts for The Manhattan Mercury were calling it quits for the day.

I ignored my slight discomfort, though, since there’s a nice bench in the courthouse plaza with good shade. It was May in Kansas — not yet hot, necessarily, but warm enough that sitting in the late afternoon sun can quickly becomes uncomfortable.

Not long after we sat down, Jordon reached into her purse and pulled out an edamame bean.

“That’s the size of your baby,” she said, setting the tiny bean on the table.

Now, I am one of those guys who sometimes utters, “What?” without even thinking to buy my mind time to process the words my ears just took in.

This was not one of those times.

I realized right away what she had just said. I could feel the smile stretch across my face, followed by the feeling of absolute joy, which has only been topped by our son, Aiden’s, birth in February.

My son, Aiden, was the size of those edamame beans when my wife told me she was pregnant. (Flickr photo by anokarina. Used underCreative Commons license.)

But then, as I’m prone to do, I started thinking: How can we afford a baby? I was a crime and courts reporter at a small, daily newspaper in Kansas. She is a graduate student at Kansas State University. We weren’t doing bad for ourselves, but with the added costs of a child, we’d soon be swimming in financial troubles.

The course of action was pretty clear. Jordon couldn’t drop out of her master’s degree program, and, because of her coursework, program-related client work (for which she doesn’t get paid a penny) and assistantship, she really didn’t have time to add a part-time job.

I was the one who had to seek a change. A promotion or a raise at a small newspaper was out of the question. That meant looking for a new job. Since Manhattan is a small market, a job that paid more than my current reporter gig meant leaving journalism.

So, that’s what I did. I left journalism, really, without much of a second thought. I’m still surprised by how quickly I made up my mind and took action, eventually finding a better-paying job in October as a content developer at CivicPlus.

Exterior of CivicPlus office building in Manhattan, Kansas — instagram.com

The decision came down to money. The decision came down to what I had to do to support my family. I never thought I’d leave journalism. In the two-and-a-half years I worked for newspapers, I’ve seen people leave and threaten to do so — or both. I never thought I’d be one of them.

Journalism was my dream career. It’s my passion. It still is, actually. But my top priority is to provide for my family. Money has never been that important to me. I wouldn’t have pursued a career in print journalism had it been.

Money puts food on the table and shelter over our heads, though. It’s completely necessary. My hand was forced.

Not a day goes by that I don’t miss journalism. I thought I could tough it out, make it to a higher-paying position. I couldn’t, yet I’m not ashamed. It’s not an easy field to make it in when you’re just paying for yourself, let alone a kid, too.

I had a decision to make. Family came first. It always will.

This was our first family photo. It was taken in the hospital a couple of hours after Aiden’s birth.