Right after I got engaged, a career mentor of mine casually mentioned: “Marriage can survive 1.5 careers, but not 2”
He wasn’t trying to be a dick. He wasn’t suggesting that getting married was going to kill my career. He was just saying “Marriage is hard, and it’s harder when both people are hyper focused on their career.”
I have found this be true. When Mike and I both had high intensity jobs, it was hard. We struggled. Picking up my stepdaughter from summer camp at 3:30pm was an everyday conversation of “Whose job is least important today? Who can take the hit and leave early?” Continually deciding who was going to be the person to do 80% at their job in order to take care of stuff at home isn’t fun, and led to a lot of extra stress, a lot of feeling like we were failing both at work AND at home. Letting everyone down, all the time.
That’s where the 1.5 careers comes in. It’s not about not having two people who don’t work full time, or that one person’s job is any less important (financially or lifestyle wise), but more about an understanding that one person will go “all in” on their career, provided the other person can step up on the home front. It’s about expectation setting, and flexibility. I can work late when I need to, I can take that meeting in Milwaukee next Tuesday, I can be 100% at work when I’m actually at work because I know my husband has the time and flexibility in his job to make sure I’m not dropping things on the back end. I couldn’t do the job I do now, and feel comfortable that I can continue to make the living I do if I wasn’t working as part of team.
It’s working for us right now, but you know, nothing lasts forever. We check in with each other a lot; “Are you still happy? Are you bored? Is this what you want to be doing?” The answers to those questions might change, and we’ll change to accommodate. I see so much conversation about the idea of “having it all”, but those always seem to look at a woman in a vacuum, with not a lot of discussion about the way the family is structured around it. Can women (or anyone) have it all? Sure, why not. You can have anything you want. But you can’t have everything you want, not at least all at the same time. Life, as I understand it , is a lot of give and take. I want my marriage and my family. 1.5 careers is working for us as we move forward.
(Interestingly, when we were discussing this on twitter, one woman mentioned that her being a stay at home parent IS their “1” career, and her husband’s work was the .5. This makes total sense to me – she has four young kids, and the raising of four very young children requires her husband to have an extremely flexible job. As they grow older, she anticipates a shift in the dynamic, where she slips to the .5 and and he can rededicate to work, making his job the “1”. I love this example because it just seems to smart, and so real.)