Marriage, Career, and Children

As I plummet through my latest job search black hole of darkness and doom, I obsess over the idea of children and when to have them and how to plan for them and where I want my career to be in order to have them. And then, since Melissa had some kind of wonkiness going on, she republished all of her old blog posts and I found this article. Which I had never read, but found really interesting.

What really struck me, other than I think the issue of what "order" to prioritize things in is interesting, is the discussion of a good marriage bringing you more happiness than a good career. I don’t know about that. But I do know that in the past year, my marriage has brought me happiness, stability, and a sense of fulfillment when my career has stalled, crashed, burned, and generally not been what I expected it to be. And I’m not alone. On Twitter, most of us spend a significant amount of time griping about our jobs and more specifically, our job searches. It feels like we are all in the same boat, looking for something, under or unemployed, living somewhere that makes us unhappy, but generally satisfied with our partners.

I have made the decision to put my marriage in front of my career for the past year. I have made the decision to stay in the city where my husband is employed and our relationship is at it’s best. I have made the decision to take jobs that make me happy and allow me flexible time to deal with household related issues, rather than taking jobs that make me unhappy, take up all of my time, and leave me stressed out when I get home with no energy for my spouse.

Somebody had posted a quote on Facebook reminding women that when wondering whether to choose between marriage and a career, they should consider whether their career will ever wake up in the morning and leave them for somebody 20 years younger. A few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have found that offensive. Yet suddenly, I felt annoyed by the idea that, especially in this economy, we should be putting our careers in front of our relationships, when there is no guarantee of a career and if you sacrifice your relationship for your career, you might very well end up twice as unhappy.

But I don’t know the answer. Does anyone else know the answer? How do you feel about the "order" to do things? Do you put your relationship ahead of your career? Did you prioritize finding a partner in your twenties as the author suggests?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Marriage, Career, and Children

  1. I don’t have an answer, but I do have a response to the quote about your career leaving you for someone 20 years younger: well, actually, yes, your career might do just that. Your company might promote someone younger than you, jobs you want may hire younger candidates, etc. etc. etc.

    I am sympathetic to the argument that people (especially women) shouldn’t discount the impact on their future earnings and financial security when prioritizing relationships over career, but acting like your career will never betray you or disappoint you is just flat-out stupid.

    • That was exactly my first thought! Your career most certainly could wake up in 20 years and leave you!

      But, for right now, I have been prioritizing mine quite a lot. I’m trying to move up in my current field while studying full-time to get another one. My partner is also trying to do the same, and it has taken a little bit of a toll on our relationship – we don’t see each other as much as we’d like, and I know he sometimes resents how much time I spend doing school-related things without him. I think knowing that it’s temporary is helping us both, and we’re both happy to see the other one do well, and know that it will be better for both of us if we’re happy in our careers, so that’s what we’re focused on now. Aside from the not moving apart from each other, we both give each other a lot of leeway in doing what we have to for our jobs, and I think it has helped us set up strong foundations for both our careers and our partnership. Knowing that we have the freedom to go after what we want, and still be together, is really important to both of us.

  2. Mel

    People who say “at least your career won’t leave you in 20 years” are from a generation before the one that graduated from college, law school, grad school, etc. and found that the working world we were entering is one full of dead ends, disappointments, and unfulfilled potential. Am I feeling a bit bitter today about my long term career goals? Perhaps. But I’m also in a marriage with a partner who supports my decisions and encourages me to grow into the best version of myself. Something my current job doesn’t give me. So I can tell you which of those two things I give more of a damn about at the moment.

  3. Erin

    I think it was actually Lady Gaga who said that…in fact, I might have reposted that a year ago and totally meant it at the time. I don’t anymore.

    I think you are totally right.

    Now having the experience of being in a relationship with an awesome dude – I am starting to appreciate prioritizing my personal life over work and extracurricular things I do. Because while even my good jobs have made me happy, they’ve also made me totally and completely frustrated and upset. Conversely…a successful relationship, even when not functioning at 100%, had made me way happier than a good day at work, and not nearly as sad or exasperated as working in a stressful office environment. In fact, despite my professional frustration, this is probably the most satisfied I’ve ever been in my life that I can remember. You know..except when I was 5 and had no responsbilities and just colored all day.

    I don’t think that relationships and careers are mutually exclusive, but I definitely believe now that a good personal life trumps a good professional life in the happiness department. And I’m surprised that I think that now!

  4. Jo

    I’m not sure about any of this. I am mostly trying to leave myself enough space to be sane and do the things I want to do as well as I can in that iteration.

    I don’t think that there are any “shoulds” or “shouldn’ts” for anyone, because everyone is different and what works for them is different. You pick your priorities and you make those work and you make sure that you pick iterations of the other (career that flexes around your relationship, relationship that can do the career with you, etc.) so it fits. If you’re lucky.

    Now I have a headache. 🙂

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