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Dual Career Challenges

March 10, 2011

T is exploring career options – the timeline and path are both still uncertain, but we’ve been having some interesting conversations about our future plans.

After so many years of his training/education, I admit that I’m a little impatient.  “I’m tired of making all the money,” I said in conversation the other day.  That is a really not-true statement – we both know that he makes enough to support himself with some savings.  Still, my savings and earnings easily double his, and it’s hard, because his skills and his brilliance probably double mine.  (We’re in relatively similar fields.)  He is a little impatient too, but you can’t rush these things.

There is one mostly certain path where he could find a job fairly quickly and easily make $100k+.  Then there are a bunch of other paths where he could make anywhere from $60k and up, with slower salary growth initially, and maybe more potential overall… and eventually, a much more flexible lifestyle and quite quite good salary.  (Eventually.  Ideally.)   And work he would enjoy MORE – but he’d probably be quite happy on either path.  I’ve put some stipulations on what career paths I consider realistic options.  Moving to a small town with no job opportunities for my career is a no-go, but  I’m trying to be open to most other options.

I’m exploring my feelings about our career paths, and how our two careers will be managed through our lives.  For example, he has a potential opportunity to work in Switzerland for 1-2 years.  I could probably find a way to continue my career there, but it would certainly be most productive for me to build my career here.  What would it mean to alter my career plans for his?  What will we do when we have kids?  Does he understand what I’m sacrificing if we choose certain options?  What can we do to protect me?  T’s always been there for me, but financially, I’ve been taking care of myself for quite some time.  How would I feel if that were no longer true?

Do I want to climb the corporate ladders and make the sacrifices that come with that?  Is he willing to make sacrifices to help me do this?  Can we both have high powered careers without losing out on the other things in life?  What is it that I really want out of my career?

Clearly, I have more questions than answers, and that probably will continue to be true for awhile.

It seems in a lot of marriages, the wife’s career takes a backseat.  This is somewhat due to traditional and cultural norms… but also because woman are the ones who must physically birth children (if children are involved).   Women traditionally are the ones who do the bulk of the child-rearing, and more often than not, the stay at home parent is a woman.  But let’s leave children out of the discussion for the immediate future – it still isn’t all that simple!

In an ideal world, both careers would be weighed equally.  But can that possibly work?   How do you all manage your careers with your spouse/partners?  If you had to choose, would you rather be the leading spouse or the trailing spouse?

19 Comments leave one →
  1. March 10, 2011 2:14 pm

    Lots of questions to ponder! With myself and my boyfriend, we are both career-oriented. I work long hours, and now that he is starting his career, not only will he be working long hours, but most of the time, he will be working out of town.

    We both have careers that are somewhat portable – although he can work in any size city, whereas I would need the opportunities that a larger city would provide. There aren’t many cities that we both would agree on living in, but Vancouver seems to be one of them, so we will stay here – despite my desire to potentially look into options in Toronto or other major cities, or his desire to live in a small town.

    I think, in the end it’s about compromise. I find it hard to believe that both career-oriented people in a relationship can have perfect job equality, accompanied by the perfect life and the perfect relationship. Sacrifices have to be made, and while they don’t have to be major, they do have to happen.

  2. March 10, 2011 2:51 pm

    Tough questions indeed!

    If he had better career and earning potential, I would be happy to take the backseat. My field is not particularly lucrative, and I could probably work in some capacity from various places.

    I can also sympathise with the feeling of making all the money. Your T has been studying, mine has been laid off/trying to figure out what he wants to do.

  3. March 10, 2011 6:54 pm

    Very though questions. Peanut and I have stayed where we are for my career, but for our life choices we’ll eventually have to leave and go somewhere else (we don’t want to raise kids in NYC and so far away from family). His career is more portable than mine, but I’ve had more education to get to my position and if I don’t use it, we’ve wasted all that money.

    In the end, I’m trying to make short-term plans with an eye on the long-term goal of planning the LIFE we want, rather than our careers.

  4. March 10, 2011 7:17 pm

    I often wonder the same thing about Chad and me – am I a good enough wife to leave my job for him if he gets an amazing opportunity? Unfortunately, there are only about 5 places in the country where I could work and do what I want! I’ve been lucky that Chad has been so supportive.

    I wonder if I could ever stop working to be a SAHM. I think the loss of control and personal achievement would be hard for me to stomach…

    • March 13, 2011 10:14 am

      I know – I can’t even comprehend the SAHM life, but I know it will become a serious discussion at some point!

      I wouldn’t leave my job for T ONLY for an amazing opportunity. It would have to be something that was good for us both, professionally and/or personally. He throws out some suggestions of prestigious places that are hiring, but if there is NOTHING there for me, it isn’t really even an option. Well, unless it is abroad, I might make some exceptions. . . 🙂

  5. March 10, 2011 8:37 pm

    Right now, my boyfriend is making more than me. But after I graduate, I’ll be making more than him. His career is not solid, as he is a tradesman. He doesn’t work at one place for more than a year, and I will have my future career forever. So curse being the stable one when your also the woman! Haha, I want kids but I doubt I can rely on boyfriends income when we get married.

    I would jump at the opportunity to live in Switzerland for any amount of time! I think it would be so great for personal growth. Employers also like to see travel and diversity in your resume, so that’s a bonus.

    • March 13, 2011 10:11 am

      I know, right? That is one of my favorite possibilities that he has, but doing so would probably would put my career sort of on hold for a year, or at least divert it. Employers do like to see travel/diversity, but once you have been out of school a few years and have experience, I think they’d rather see another year of on the job experience rather than a jaunt to switzerland!

      But life isn’t all about career, so… we’ll see!

  6. March 11, 2011 7:19 am

    Really interesting post. I haven’t yet had to try and balance the career of a significant other with my own. My career though, is fairly flexible and I could take quite a few paths now that I have a couple years experience working in the field. However, I’m kinda the opposite of you in that I would never consider moving to a city, I’m even hesitant to consider moving into the suburbs of a small town. That would be a deal-breaker for me. Ideally, should I find a partner, we’d be able to live comfortably on both our salaries around here. For me, I would have to think long and hard before I’d leave my current position for a SO’s sake, given I could eventually become a partner. That would be such a tough choice, I don’t even want to think about it! Maybe I’ll just stay single and become a crazy-cat lady. 😉

    • March 13, 2011 10:09 am

      Yeah, the “where do we want to live” question is so important, even aside from careers!

  7. March 11, 2011 6:39 pm

    I can relate a lot to this post… Right now I make more than my guy, but part of that is because I’m a work-a-holic and he’s more of a live in the moment and enjoy life type. I tend to get jealous of his flexible lifestyle and impatient with him because he is ridiculously smart, he’s just really slow at making life decisions and not really into excessive planning (as I am!) It’s hard to balance what we each want and need, and what we need as a couple.

  8. March 12, 2011 12:31 pm

    I would rather be the leading spouse if I could concentrate solely on aspects of my career that I love. However, I think both kids and careers are equally important. One thing you should think about is the amount of time kids take up. If you can live on one salary while either of you stays at home, then I would take it in turns to stay at home with the kids. I know one couple who share childcare and work part-time: one works Monday to Thursday, the other spouse works Thursday to Sunday. But they have careers that they love.

    • March 13, 2011 10:08 am

      The thing that would be so hard about that is you’d have limited husband/wife time for a few years. My aunt and uncle have a similar set-up. But there are a lot of options, and that might be one of them.

  9. Psychsarah permalink
    March 13, 2011 4:11 pm

    These are tough questions. So far, DH has followed me. He came to an isolated city while I completed my training, and then moved again where I matched for residency. Now we’re settled, and I have a job I love that would be heartbreaking to leave. So when he’s offered jobs elsewhere (regularly), he agrees it’s not really an option, though they might be great opportunities. I guess that makes me the leading spouse, though we both have passion for our careers. I guess, like most things in marriage, communication and compromise are the name of the game.

  10. March 14, 2011 3:02 pm

    My DH is the trailing spouse. We moved here for my job. My job helped him find his job. Last year we both took leave and he had a chance to explore starting a company before returning to his regular job. If he doesn’t get to keep his job then we’ll move on to the next stage of our lives.

  11. March 14, 2011 9:07 pm

    Rambo isn’t really the trailing spouse in the income earning department but he is in the making me happy department if that makes any sense. He makes sacrifices because I love my job and he doesn’t. Some of his sacrifces are living in a part of Las Vegas he dislikes because it’s ” too busy”, deciding to work the morning shifts so he can have me time while I’m at work and be free when I get home in the evening and being patient because I can’t take time off to do certain things during certain times of the year ( any time off during the summer is a no no). It’s about sacrifce and comprimise when in a relationship. I don’t think I’ve really answered any questions as to how to balance but sometimes, these things just come to you, as silly as that sounds.

    • March 14, 2011 9:59 pm

      That totally makes sense!

      I “sacrificed” my last job for T’s sake, but it was definitely mutually beneficial in so many ways and i knew it at the time. I hope it is always like that, but i always wonder what is going to happen in the future!


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