Voices: Choosing Between My Child and My Career

About a year ago, I had everything a successful adult could ask for – a lucrative career with fun long-term challenges, marriage to a loving partner and a home with modern conveniences galore.

Being secured in life, my wife and I felt ready to welcome more love into our household and last month, we celebrated the birth of our first child – a healthy, adorable and precious baby boy. We named him Daniel JuEun, which means God’s grace in Korean.

Going through the nine months of pregnancy, enduring the long eight hours of labour and being there in the delivery room as he came out into the world were incredible, emotional and life-changing experiences for both of us.

Parenthood Joy

Source: wallcoo.net
Source: wallcoo.net

Daniel, at just over a month old, is now in full control of our lives. We willingly spend all our money on his clothes, toys, children music CDs and what feels like an infinite number of baby care products.

We sleep only when he allows us, we feed him whenever he demands and we eagerly serve as his diaper changers. He gets a special kick out of it whenever he pees into the air while we put on his new diaper.

To my disappointment, my wife gives me her perplexed look when I proudly cheer him on when he does this. Within another month or so, when he doubles his age, I fully expect his urinary projectile to reach our faces.

In the midst of it all, we are absolutely enjoying and loving every minute of being new parents. Sometimes when we are lucky, our infant, angelic son endears us with his irresistible smile and perhaps even a blabbering sound. Our hearts melt whenever this happens.

We also clap with pure joy when he yawns or raises his faint eyebrows. There is just as much exuberance in our house when he burps. Most of our conversations with each other, our closest family and friends are now about Daniel.

Indeed, these are precious moments and days – once gone, they will never return. Although we often feel overwhelmed and constantly tired, we feel just as blessed to have this opportunity to raise such a precious child.

Time Travels in Only One Direction

Amidst this new focus in our lives, I couldn’t help reflect just how much career challenges had paled in comparison since Daniel had arrived. And without me realising it, my whole adulthood focus had abruptly changed – even as career experiences continued to yield insightful nuggets.

Like how one of my hard-learned life lessons is that time travels in only one direction.

We will never get a chance to relive this very moment. We have all been given the wonderful and miraculous gift of life, but our time on this earth has a definite expiration date.

It is crucial that we spend this one-way gift wisely. I reflect on this simple truth whenever I face a major decision or when I need to reprioritise my life.

Source: wallcoo.net
Source: wallcoo.net

Put to the Test

My own belief was put to the test early last week when I received a call from an executive recruiting agency. The recruiter asked for my interest level for a C-level position at a relatively large, publicly traded US company.

It sounded like a great, “once in a lifetime,” as he described it, opportunity. The company was well known and highly regarded within the industry, the compensation was significantly more than what I was making, and the position also came with several executive perks, most notably a generous stock option.

All in all, this new job’s monetary value was nearly twice of what I was currently receiving. I must admit, it was very tempting. The recruiter continued to inform me the role had global responsibilities, which required approximately 80% to 85% travel. He went through the details, but basically, the job required visiting various regional and branch locations across several continents and returning home for less than one week a month.

Changed Priorities

Towards the end of our phone conversation, the persistent recruiter requested I update and email him my resume. I thanked him for the potential opportunity, but I informed him my current work already required almost 50% time away from home and that was the maximum limit I was willing to take.

This comment surprised the recruiter. He had touted the fast-paced, jetting-setting lifestyle as yet another major selling point. Had I been a single man, this would have been a dream position. Being married and now a new parent, my life priorities had changed drastically.

A few days after our initial discussion, the recruiter called me back on a late Saturday morning. As it happens, my wife and I were quite occupied getting a major booger out of Daniel’s nose in the midst of his screaming protest.

The bigger concern for us at the time was our plan to trim Daniel’s fingernails for the very first time in his life. We both knew there was a bigger challenge waiting ahead immediately after settling the unforeseen booger-in-his nose issue.

The recruiter had spoken with the company on my behalf. He happily and proudly reported that the travel will significantly drop below 50% once a major corporate initiative, which I will be leading, is completed in a couple of years.

I thanked him again for his kindness and the consideration. I also firmly informed him no compromise will be made for time at home for the next several years.

As I hung up the phone, when my wife asked who it was, I simply replied with our son still crying in the background: “A tempting distraction, but no match for our JuEun (God’s grace).”


If you were in Joong H. Hyun’s shoes, would you have taken the job offer? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below or on our Facebook page!


Contributed by Joong (“Joon”) H. Hyun, author of “Outswimming the Sharks: Overcoming Adversities, Naysayers, and Other Obstacles to Lead a Meaningful Life”. For the past two decades, he has worked with many global Fortune 500 companies – which include being a managing director for an international consultancy, as vice president of global strategy and vice president of Asia region for a multibillion-dollar company. Having lived and worked in various countries in the US, Europe and Asia, Joong and his wife Kimmy now spend most of their time either in Seoul or in the northern Virginia area just outside of Washington DC. More information on the author at www.outswimmingthesharks.com.

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