Rewind Week: On Marriage and Working

First published 8.26.2006

A Slate article this week pointed out that the blogoshpere is abuzz with talk about a Forbes article that came out this week titled Don't Marry Career Women. It got me thinking. Disclaimer: I'm only been working full time/married for not yet 3 months. I probably don't know a thing about either.

I like my job. When I come home after a good day at work, I tell Josh all about it. I feel excited that I accomplished something. I feel like what I'm doing in making a difference in other people's daily experience, and I take pride in it. I like the intellectual and problem-solving challenges I'm faced with. Work is fun.

Conversely, I like working at home, too. I like making a peaceful, clean, happy home for Josh. I like cooking food we enjoy. That, too, makes me feel like I accomplished something and that it made a difference to someone who really matters to me. I look forward to spending the rest of my life making a home and family with Josh, and I wouldn't trade that prospect for the world. Being married is fun.

Apparently I'm a statistical anomaly. From the article:
("Career girls") run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat, less likely to have children, and, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women--even those with a "feminist" outlook--are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.

(A 'career girl' "has a university-level (or higher) education, works more than 35 hours a week outside the home and makes more than $30,000 a year."

If a host of studies are to be believed, marrying these women is asking for trouble. If they quit their jobs and stay home with the kids, they will be unhappy (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2003). They will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Social Forces, 2006). You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do (Journal of Marriage and Family, 2001). You will be more likely to fall ill (American Journal of Sociology). Even your house will be dirtier (Institute for Social Research).

So, what kind of news is this for a newly-married couple, with the wife in the workforce, and planning to stay there? Some more conservative than myself chalk this up in the 'I Told You So' column-- women belong at home, period. That's God's design.

Will I keep working in the foreseeable future? Absolutely.
Do we plan to have children a few years from now? Absolutely.
Does my working make my husband any less the head of our marriage? Not at all.
Will our marriage be happy? Statistics say no, I say yes.
Am I glad I went to college? I think I had to. I think God gifted me with intellectual abilities, and to not cultivate that would be "burying the talent". In the same way, not using my mathematical-logical skills day-to-day would also be wasting that gift. I must work, or, at least in this point in my life, I must.

I do not feel like I'm being disobedient to God, nor is our marriage any unhappier, because I am a 'career girl'. Heck, if I stayed home, I'd go nuts. I can't even handle the few Saturday mornings he works and I'm home-- I go on my own adventures instead. I'd be bored if I didn't work. Cleaning our 900-square-foot apartment wouldn't exactly keep me busy all week, we don't have kids to chase around, and when Josh got home, I'd have way more energy that he did and annoy him, not contributing to the 'peaceful home' I'm striving for.

So what makes a career woman happily married? How do I plan to beat the stats? John and Statsi Eldredge, in Captivating, describe 2 insecurities women can fall into, that I see as directly relating to being a happy or unhappy married career woman. They point out that women believe they are "too much" or "not enough". I can be too much- demanding my husband's attention, being inexplicably emotional, or feel like my requests are burdens. I can be not enough- failing as a perfect wife by burning dinner or putting off laundry too long or not knowing where he left his keys. Sometimes I can be both Too Much and Not Enough at the same time.

So how does this relate? I, as a career woman, might not be able to have a home-cooked meal on the table every night and fail as Not Enough. I might have a bad day at work and not be my cheery, enthusiastic self and be a burdensome Too Much. To stay happily married, I need to not let these insecurities creep in, when I do 'fail'. Conversely, my husband needs to be understanding and have realistic expectations, and be willing to help (which he does!).

My point: Being a Godly wife in a happy marriage doesn't have anything to do with how well I can cook or clean, but instead how well I can respect and love, and my skill as an encourager and a partner, all of which I believe I can do-- and have a day job.

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