The title above is mostly snark and bitterness, but there is an element of truth to it. I have been reading about and contemplating work-life balance for many years. It has been a central issue in my life from the day I first became pregnant with my first child in 2002. Before that I would work however many hours I needed to get a job done, regardless of whether I got paid for it. The minute I became pregnant, everything changed for me. A recent article by Anne-Marie Slaughter over at The Atlantic caused such a huge hullabaloo that all kinds of attention has been paid to working women and their issues. In this conversation I have been hearing a common refrain—‘the most important career choice a woman can make is who she chooses for a life partner.’
I can’t emphasize this one enough ladies. If your hubby or sig other isn’t supportive, you can forget about becoming a Fortune 500 CEO or anything of significance in the business world. When my daughter was young I worked full-time as a professor for a major for-profit university. My schedule was flexible but only to a certain degree. I later left that position and tried to work several part-time jobs in order to pay my bills and still have enough free time to take care of my daughter who was becoming increasingly difficult. After that attempt at finding some work life balance failed I took a full-time job that was close to home but paid significantly less than my professorship. It still didn’t work and my marriage unraveled. A huge part of that unraveling was due to the lack of balance in my life. Both my husband and I had an hour and half commute one way when I worked for the university. My commute had multiple stops because of daycare and was extended by at least an extra half hour every day due to this additional distance and tim
When I worked part-time jobs I tried to keep my daughter home with me at least half the day and work at night or on weekends. However, I could not rely on my husband to properly watch our daughter. I will never forget the time when she was about 2 years old and I asked him to watch her for just 20 or 30 minutes one evening. He said okay and disappeared with her downstairs. I noticed after about 15 minutes that my husband was sitting at his computer desk with headphones on playing a computer game. I had to yell at him several times before he heard me and took off his earphones, asking in an exasperated tone, “What?!” By that time I was sprinting downstairs. There she was standing in front of the tv entranced with Dora a snack in one hand, her pants off, a portable potty in the middle of the living room floor and right beside her a large pile of poo. He actually thought that was “watching her”. No matter what I said to him this kind of thing happened over and over again. He simply could not be relied upon to watch her.
Also part of this imbalance had to do with the number of hours we worked. I typically worked 8 to 9 hours a day but only about 4 or 5 hours on campus and the rest scattered at while I was at home trying to balance my child’s needs and grading, grades posting, etc. He was supposed to work 8 hours a day but insisted that he was actually unofficially expected to work 10 hours a day (or so I was told–it certainly increased his pay being overtime, none of that money ever came my way). I was also expected to chauffeur my child around 99% of the time….to and from daycare, doctor’s visits, etc. If my daughter was sick, there was never any discussion it was my job, my career that had to suffer (not my choice, his assumption and inevitably his demand). His reasoning was he made more money so his job was more important. We had the exact same degree from the same University, BTW. He made twice as much as I did and he never helped me pay my bills until the very end when anything he did was too little too late.
I had the chance to improve my career and double my income because there were a lot of new Federal Law Enforcement jobs in the early to mid 2000’s (the exact same position that my husband had). He forbade me to even apply because they all required 8 weeks of training on the East Coast. His question was, “Who is going to take care of the baby?” The answer that he, the father would, never once occurred to him. By the time we had divorced it was too late…I had passed the age at which one could be hired by the Federal Government as a law enforcement officer.
And finally on top of all this, he would take an hour or two every day to work out at a gym. Eventually he stopped doing this because I nagged the crap out of him that he was never home and never interacted with our child. I was, in fact, jealous. I forced him to start rotating bedtime duties with me–every other night, one would give her a bath and the other would put her to sleep. This was his big concession. I was expected to do so much and he was expected to do so little. He was able to focus on his career and I wasn’t. When we divorced, I could not afford an attorney and he could afford the best that money can buy. To this day I am struggling financially and he is sitting pretty, being able to retire by age 50. I will work until the day I die.
And why do women end up having this problem in the first place. If our husbands are non-supportive, what do women do? And why do we feel so shitty no matter what choice we make? We feel bad if we work hard on our career but spend less time with our family. We feel bad if we work less but give more to our family. EVEN IF there is a supportive husband, we feel bad and we feel judged. Is this just an internally driven conflict?
Male leaders are routinely praised for having sacrificed their personal life on the altar of public or corporate service. That sacrifice, of course, typically involves their family.
Not only are men praised for their “sacrifices”, they are rewarded. Our society tells us in so many ways, subtle and not so subtle, that our primary job is to be a mother and it tells men their primary job is to provide–and that says nothing about what really makes a good father. A man who financially provides for his family could, in fact, be a monster. Nothing irritates me more than to hear someone defend a horrible husband and father by saying, “but he’s a good provider”. Do you ever hear that about women? And this double standard will continue to fuel guilt and difficult choices for millions of women until work-life balance is treated as an economic welfare issue that affects everyone. So my warning to you young women out there…You can’t have it all and particularly not if you choose someone who doesn’t respect you and your right to have a career AND who values family as much as you do. And it is why so many successful women never get married or if they do, they never have children. I don’t regret my children and how they affected my career. I DO regret choosing a selfish man who valued his career (and continues to do so) over his family.