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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 September, 2002, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
Quitting work to get a life
By Mary Gahan
BBC News Online business reporter

Shot of the lake District
Better than working in the City?
Two families explain why they have turned their backs on long working hours to reclaim their lives. (Identity is retained in order to protect them against damaging future career prospects).

Cliff was a successful marketing director working long hours in the City.

He wanted to be a millionaire by the time he got to his early forties.

But when he became a father he suddenly realised that if he carried on with his career ambitions he might miss an important part of his son's life.

At the moment I'm just enjoying family life
"Until recently money and commercial success were the only things I was really interested in," he says.

He worked five days a week for 10 or 11 hours each day with no lunch break. Sometimes he worked until 10.30 at night.

At one point he lived so far away from his office that his journey into work was taking up to three hours.

Redundancy cushion

Cliff's son was born just when his employers were cutting back staff and offering voluntary redundancy.

"I jumped at it," he says.

But giving up work has also meant a sharp drop in earnings.

"Between us we had a six-figure income.

We felt we never saw him and when we did his mind was still at work or he was exhausted
Executive's wife

"Now we are living on my wife's part-time salary. Our income is about a third of what it used to be."

But the redundancy money also provided the couple with a cash cushion.

And although Cliff intends to start doing some freelance work he has not had to think about earning immediately.

"At the moment I'm just enjoying family life."

Conspicuous consumption

A typical day now involves taking the baby swimming, having lunch and going for a long walk in the park.

Cliff says he is certain that he made the right decision but that with hindsight he might have spent longer thinking the whole thing through.

"We would never have described ourselves as conspicuous consumption types.

"Now I realise things like paying for holidays or buying a new car - funds have to be found somehow," he says.

Regaining family life

Cliff's experiences are echoed by the wife of a former senior executive at a hi-tech firm.

She does not want her name used for fear of damaging her husband's future career.

He put in long hours while she stayed at home with their four year old daughter.

The more you have, the more you need and the more you end up working
Executive's wife

"He worked from 6am to 6pm to try and see us and have an evening," she says.

But she adds: "We felt we never saw him and when we did his mind was still at work or he was exhausted."

Her husband has now left his job to try to regain his family life.

He is still working but is freelance and does nine-to-five days for between three and six months a year.

'Keep life simple'

"We downsized our house and trimmed our needs so we don't need the higher income at all," she says.

But she warns: "A high level job is something it is easy to be sucked into and before you know it, it has taken over your life."

She says her advice to others would be to avoid taking on a bigger and bigger mortgage as their incomes grew.

"The more you have, the more you need and the more you end up working.

"Keep life simple."

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