Thursday, December 29, 2011

Work, Marriage, Money, and Love

This whole topic is so all-encompassing, I'm not even sure how to begin.  My husband has been on a sabbatical for a few months.  It was not really of our choosing but it was far from a bad thing; he was burned out, the company wasn't making the changes he'd argued for, for his operation.  He was anxious a lot worrying about all the things that could go wrong at work.  It was heartbreaking for me because these were things he could not control.  Acts of God, right?

I just read this article, Instead of Work, Younger Women Go Back to School .  The main example of the story, young woman quits her part-time job at Starbucks to get a graduate degree in communications which will put her in deep debt, was not what was interesting to me.  It was that women are more willing to leave a job (albeit, a low paying one) and go back to school while men will take any job that's available.  Here's a quote from the random "expert":
“There is still this heavy cultural message that men should be out there earning money and supporting themselves, and they feel more distressed by losing their breadwinner role,” said Stephanie Coontz, director of research at the Council on Contemporary Families. “We’ve made much more progress overcoming the ‘feminine mystique’ than this masculine mystique.” 
This is exactly what my husband and I are going through.  He was offered a good job in a community about three hours driving distance from our home.  But it was in the field he's been working in all his life and he's told me many times he doesn't want to do that line of work anymore.  I think his declaration took a lot of courage and I wouldn't ever forgive myself if I dismissed it.  The pressure for men to work at anything that's around is huge.  I'm sure his parents expect him to take the job because Work is King in their minds.  What's been so hard for me and my husband is to stay strong and faithful to God while considering these options.

We (society) talk about how hard life is when we have no choices, but I think it's much more challenging when you have lots of options and it's not very clear what's a better choice.  Option A could be good in the short term but Option B might be better in the long term.  But it's never obvious because, duh, we can't predict the future.  So, lately we've been reminding each other to pray in these times of panic and indecision.

The problems with taking this job were 1) I have a good job which pays well; 2) We'd only be able to see each other on the weekends until I found a job in that area which would have stressed our marriage; 3) We can maintain our lifestyle with my current income, and; 4) He really didn't want to do that work anyway.  There are a lot more factors that go into this but that's really the essence.  And just getting to the point where he could admit to himself that he didn't want to that kind of work, was a long road.  If he really thought that job was good from him and was excited about it, I would definitely support him, but it's just not.

Making the decision to turn the offer down doesn't erase the anxiety.  If fact, I think it increases it.  And it's harder for men maybe, but just people in a different generation.  I feel much more comfortable changing careers (my husband says that's because I'm young but I'm not sure that's it.)  I think this period in our lives is a true adventure and an opportunity to walk the faith rather than just talk about it.

We have a lot of things going for us.  The obvious is not having children.  That's a lot of money we don't have to spend.  We live, I think, pretty simply.  I make my lunches and eat them at work.  We don't buy stuff just to feel good.  We have to need it.  And now the standard is, we have to really need it.  We've always lived far below our means.  We are retirement savings obsessed and enjoy saving money rather than spending it.

I'm not, believe me, trying to toot a horn.  I think it's critical, however especially in the infertile blogosphere to promote awareness that thinking about financial health relative to a desire for a baby is super important.  Everybody has to weigh their own costs versus benefits and everyone's standard for what is acceptable is different.  However, I am beyond grateful that we do not have children right now.  I don't know if that's God's doing or what but I feel very blessed in that regard.

So, we're choosing love over money, togetherness over separation, productive work over working just for prestige or to satisfy our parents' egos.  I'm proud of my husband.  He's taking the road less traveled.  And that's flat out cool!


  1. Love this! I remember when I first told my mom The Man was going to be a massage therapist...her first words were "he can't make any money doing THAT!" Um, gee mom, not everyone works to make a lot of money, some people do a job they love in service to others. My response was "I'd rather be married to a happy, poor man than a miserable, rich man." No, we don't have a lot of money for lots and lots of extras, but we get by and we are happy.

    It is the road less traveled, but it does make all the difference.

  2. That sounds like a very wise decision. My DH has been working jobs that he has hated for the whole time we have been married and it isn't fun listening to someone's misery for that many years...I just hope he can find a job that he doesn't hate or a job that he likes somewhat...but that may be expecting too much.

  3. Sounds like waiting for that right job is the best option for you both! It's a blessing that right now he doesn't just have to take any job. My dh was very supportive of me when I went back to school and was equally supportive when I was looking for a job. He knew how I felt when I worked at a job that I didn't like. Thank God for loving and supportive marriages!

  4. I love this reflection. My DH and I have had a lot of conversations of this kind ourselves. Right now we have more income than we strictly need, so we're saving (a lot, I hope!), but we have certainly been in phases where we were just getting by and that will happen again, I'm sure. In exchange for peace in knowing you're on the right path - definitely worth it.

  5. I enjoyed this post, especially since DH and I have lived through different circumstances in the past few years. We have never been wealthy, as in buying a suite of new furniture (we have a mix of IKEA, good furniture no longer needed by parents, etc). However we did have a chance to travel and own a much bigger home. Then DH was let go just before the financial crisis. That was really tough. Thank heaven we had savings, although it was heartbreaking to have to use them up when we had planned on using them for retirement!

    Now we live in a much smaller space, in a duplex where we rent out half of the home. Just these past few days we've emptied out the storage locker where overflow "stuff" went, and we are busy donating, recycling, throwing out, or allocating some things for storage (thank you, parents and parents-in-law) .... but by and large we want to fit into the space we have.

    Before, DH was working a much higher-flying job but with so much more stress. He enjoyed it but it just took so much from him. Now he is saving the world in his own way, with its own costs (he is away from home a fair bit) but he isn't consumed by stress and climbing the ladder. Thankfully I have a good job which I enjoy, though I need to do learn how to work smarter and not harder so I have more time for myself also.

    Yup, work, marriage, money and love ... so many decisions. I think you and your DH are bang on in listening to your hearts about what you truly want to do, regardless of what the world around you views as success.