The 12-13 hour days, weekends, for a non-commensurate salary with essentially no salary growth was just not worth it any more especially with no work/life balance. I never saw my family and me never being home put a huge mental strain on my wife to the point where it was really hurting our marriage and her mental health.
Yes, there's something to be said about pursuing your passions but when it becomes detrimental to your mental health, your wife's mental health, your family, your marriage, or doesn't make financial sense, then you are unfortunately forced to rethink things. For example, aside from the glaring issue of near-stagnant wage growth that we all face, my district didn't pay any extra days on my contract and my stipend amount, for the hours I worked outside my contracted hours, came out to be about $4.16/hr which is less than federal minimum wage. In what other field or industry is this acceptable? What would workers be doing in those fields (especially if they were expected to put in band director hours for that little pay)?
My wife works from home, works 8:00am-4:30pm with an hour paid lunch, gets 5-6 weeks paid vacation, 10 sick days, 5 personal days, a very generous annual bonus (10-20k), lots of incentives to take short PD courses and earn numerous certificates - and each certificate has a $300-$1500+ bonus tied to it, free college to pursue a related degree to her field, and several other incentives. Her 1st year at the company she made the same as me, after 2 years, she made about 33% more than me, after 3 years about 66% more, now after 4 years at her company she makes double what I make in teaching. How can education compete with the compensation growth opportunity or work/life balance? And as others have said, starting salaries for those right out of college with certain degrees in certain fields fields start higher than what a teacher with 20 years of experience is making.
Thankfully, her employer had a position come open doing what she does, and luckily, I have some related additional non-music college education that will allow me to move into this position.
I'll really, really miss making music with kids but our system doesn't compensate or treat us as professionals as other industries do. Plus, work/life balance can be an issue. It's a shame.