When my wife and I were expecting our son, I was out on a job, talking to a coworker. He told a story about his daughter telling her friend what he did for a living. When she did, his daughter's friend said something to the effect of, "Great job. I want to be like your dad." To which his daughter replied, "Don't be like my dad. I don't even really know who my dad is." I could tell it broke his heart. He had been traveling her whole life, supporting her financially, only to have a tentative relationship with her.
I began looking into advertising as soon as my son was born (I had to keep my insurance at least until he was a person in the eyes of the insurance company.) I got my first interview in October, and them immediately went on the road for 3 weeks. My son turned 3 months old while I was out. If I had kept going at that rate, I would have missed a quarter of his life.
I really admire what ErikProulx is doing at Please Feed the Animals. In addition to the site supporting out-of-work ad folks, he's making a movie about how people are taking the lessons they learned in advertising and using them to get the job they really always wanted. Meanwhile I left a job to be in advertising, which is where I really always wanted to be (little did I know). It turns out the grass is always greener on the other side.
In a couple weeks I'll celebrate the 1st anniversary of landing a job as a copywriter. For one year, I've been paid to think. I've been paid to be as smart as I can. My advice: If you're looking to get into advertising, or thinking of getting out of it, don't take for granted that you're being paid to think. In many jobs, including my last job, you get paid NOT to think.
I once heard a saying (and have never been able to figure out who originally said it), "If a man produces great works under external influence, we may admire what he does but abhor what he is." This may sound a lot like the client saying, "I want a print ad, scribblers!" and then you produce it. This is what we do, but in my last job, the designers would say, "We want scenery. It looks like this and moves like that and is exactly this tall. Build it." And we would. So having the freedom to present to a client my vision (or whatever you call the mental version of words) for an ad and having them accept or reject it is tons more liberating.
Advertising keeps me sane and happy. Sane, in that I don't feel like I'm being asked to put my brain in my locker everyday when I come to work, and happy, in that I get to go home to my lovely wife and son every night. That's what keeps me coming back and trying my damnedest. Because if I want to stay in this business, I have to be smarter than all the brilliant minds coming into the job market. I have to be just as hungry. Luckily for me, and unlike most young ad boy and girls out there, I have an extra mouth to feed. And he's ALWAYS hungry.