Money vs Mental Health
Money doesn’t grow on trees. How many times did your parents tell you this as a child? Money can be the root of evil or it can absolutely make your life better if you know how to balance it all.
We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but somehow, my brother and I were spoiled. My parents always made sure to put us first. I remember getting gifts I asked for, such as a brand new bike or a hamster. Our family would get together for every celebration possible. I can’t talk for everyone else, but I know I was happy.
My parents wanted to instill a sense of responsibility from a very young age. We had chores to do and when I turned 13, I had a full-time summer job working for the family company. I was treated like any other summer students. I remember spending a week in the old, dusty and hot basement, going through boxes of files to archive. We were there to do what employees didn’t want to do, and that’s ok. That concept served me well throughout my professional life.
My parents made me put aside most of my paychecks to understand the concept of saving money. At the time, I felt it was “boring”. I wanted to spend my money. I deserved it. I worked hard for it. Little did I know, it would be an essential life skill. Saving money for a rainy day.
Later on in life, I bought my first car, my first home in my early 20’s. I never missed a payment, was always earning money through employment or through my own business and projects. I have always worked hard for my money. My daycare is still going strong after 16 years. At the beginning, I spent hours and hours building my reputation and wondering how I would pay the bills. It wasn’t easy, but I was determined to offer a safe place for children.
In 2020, I was offered a government job. Great pay, great benefits. I was ecstatic. I thought that all my years of dedication and hard work finally paid off. Little did I know I would be faced with this dilemma less than 2 years after being hired: Is money more important than my mental health?
The environment I worked in was extremely toxic. We were asked to do more and more, without being paid for the extra hours. Employees would quit here and there. We were understaffed, stretched and working in uncertainties. People were made supervisors with no experience. Teams were frustrated by the lack of support and training. People were left to figure out things on their own. Add Covid to the mix and you had the perfect storm.
Many employees like me were hired on a casual or temporary basis. You had to wait for an opportunity to get your permanency. What if you didn’t get that opportunity? I saw good employees leaving because they ran out of time. I brought a lot of anxiety to me knowing I had an expiry date.
I became unemployed last month. Instead of feeling this fear of not earning money, I felt instant relief. That knot in my stomach was gone. I never realized how much my job was affecting me mentally and physically. No more drama. No more high school gossips. No more of working with people I couldn’t trust. I felt lighter.
My job search started a few days later and that is when I was hit with that existential question: what is more important? Money or Mental Health? I had many interviews. Some offered a lot of money, but did I want to go back to a similar working environment? After doing an inventory of my emotions, my goals and my expectation, I decided to accept a job offer.
I chose a place with less employees. I chose a family business so I could go back to my roots. I chose this employment because I believe I will succeed without feeling like I’m just a number. I want to be treated as a person. I want to be this puzzle piece where together as a team, we support each other to get things done. While speaking with the manager, I came to respect her perspectives and her beliefs of a well oiled business. The way she spoke of her employees showed that they mean a lot to her. I see a lot of potential for growth and advancement.
This job pays less than the previous one. With my daycare still running, I can afford to be paid less if it means I will be happier. I understand not everyone has more than one income. I am blessed and thankful that I can protect my mental health. I have been through a lot in the last years and I came to realize my mental health is not as strong as it used to be. I felt ashamed for a few minutes, but then reminded myself that I am still standing, fought the good fight and I am proud of what I have accomplished.
So Valentine’s Day will be the first day of my new adventure. I chose to be happy. I chose a place where I can thrive, help others to do the same and go home at night feeling proud instead of depleted and emotional. I chose me.