June 6, 2013 at 11:46 AM ET
When people ask me why we up and moved our family from New York to Toronto last year, I like to tell this story: It was the 4th of July 2009 and I was at the hospital in labor with my son. Due to complications that had me in and out of the hospital throughout my pregnancy, it was a planned, induced delivery. My husband left work the day before with his co-workers fully aware his weekend plans involved meeting his second child.
And yet, as the Pitocin dripped into my veins, my husband's phone kept buzzing. As I contracted, he sat there answering work e-mail after work e-mail. While his wife was in labor. On a Saturday. On a FREAKING NATIONAL HOLIDAY.
I was epidural-ed, and the atmosphere relaxed and low-key, so it's not like I was writhing in agony and begging for ice chips as he blithely attended to work matters. Still, I had to wonder: Is nothing sacred in the American workplace, not even the much-fretted-about birth of a child? Also, could his co-workers maybe…get a life? I'm pretty sure no one cc'd was curing cancer.
A full-time working mom since the birth of my first child, I'd been lucky to find work as a digital editor at offices where you could usually leave at 5:15pm, where no one raised an eyebrow if you came in late because it was "reading day" at school. Some days deadlines bumped up against ear infections, but mostly it was manageable. My husband, who made his career in online sales, was another story. He rarely made it home before our younger child's bedtime, and found it hard to ever take a true day off. He was culpable, for sure—e-mails don't answer themselves—and we fought about his workaholic ways bitterly. But I came to understand that working late and being on call was the pervading corporate culture, and one man (especially a mild-mannered, conflict-averse Canadian) wasn't going to change it. If we wanted to escape it, we'd need to do something drastic.
There are millions of families like mine across the US looking for a way to carve out a rich life at home—maybe even a hobby—amidst corporate demand to give the lion's share of your time to your job. The good news is that more and more, people are talking about searching for not just big dollars and the right title, but an elusive "third metric" of success.
"Right now, the two metrics of success that drive the American workplace are money and power, but by themselves, they make a two-legged stool—fine for balancing on for a short time, but after a while, you're headed for a fall," wrote Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post. "So what we need is a more humane and sustainable definition of success that includes well-being, wisdom, wonder, empathy, and the ability to give back."
Our search for the third metric took us to Toronto, where my husband grew up, and where we had a network of friends and family to provide support. Despite a bone-deep love for New York and jobs that we loved, we chose balance, or at least a better attempt at it, for our family.
Toronto's no slow-moving backwater, but for us, the more manageable pace is a revelation. My husband is home for dinner most nights, seeing friends more regularly and is even coaching my daughter's soccer team. We're co-parents in a way we never could be before. I'm in career purgatory as I wait to be legal to work in Canada, so I'm still working on the other two legs of the stool.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.