On Marriage and Working

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, that's God's design. Similarly, Ashley linked to a post by her friend not too long ago that riled me up as well.

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.


ashley said...

This is an issue I've been really wrestling with right now. I don't WANT to work full time. I want to do part-time freelance graphic design from my house, more because I enjoy design rather than I want a paycheck. I want to go shopping during the day, learn how to cook, keep the house clean, have time to cut coupons and research the best way of running a household.

Yet, my husband left college with a really high amount in loans. I can't do anything about that, and I can't expect him to pay off the loans and support me at the same time. Therefore, I must work. All day at the office, I wish I was at home. I am unhappy.

The think I've been wrestling with is: am I unhappy because I'm working, or am I unhappy because of my attitude and desire to live a life on the other side of the fence? This is what I don't know. Paul (who probably knows me better than anyone else) thinks it's the latter. He thinks once I quit my job and stay home, I'll be bored. He's probably right... I just don't know how to change my attitude.

I'm going to tackle this subject soon in my blog. I've been working on a post, trying to decide the best way to approach it. In short, I think some women are more cut out to be Suzy Homemakers than others. Though my mom stayed home with us the whole time we were growing up, she was bored and restless once we were in college or high school. She was eager to get back to work, and she loves working. God made some women to love being at home, and other women to love working. I think the most important thing is that women put their family first - and if they can serve their husbands while working full time, then so be it! The question is, where do I fall and should I do something about it? I really honestly don't know.

ashley said...

Sorry for that long comment. :-)

Beth @ The Natural Mommy said...

Will you continue to work full-time once you have children?

Joanna said...

Thanks for your thoughts Ashley.

Y'know, Beth, I'm not sure. I'll obviously stay home with the baby for a little while, and I know I'll hate leaving my kids with a daycare/babysitter, but I may try it. Other people have done it, with their kids turning out just fine. At the very least, if I do stay home, I'll probably try to work from home to some extent- that's the great thing about the technology field; I can be anywhere and access what I need to. The company I'm at now, the hours are very flexible, which I kow will be a great thing through pregnancy and with kids at home.

Or Josh may stay home, though I'd be very jealous of him. We'll talk about it when the time comes. And that won't be for a few years. My mom stayed home after she had 2 kids, and I'm glad she did. It will be a hard decision for me.

ashley said...

I think mothers should stay home with their kids, if at all possible. I think God intended women to be the nurturing homemakers, and men to be the breadwinners. I have no problem with women working from home, but I do have a problem with women shuffling their kids off to be raised by a daycare.

But those are my thoughts. I have noticed I am a lot more conservative than you are, so feel free to disregard what I say. I also think this is a situation that doesn't need to be dealt with until the time comes, although I know for me I have every intention of staying home full-time once my kids come, and doing freelance graphic design from home if we need extra money. But that's just my situation.

annie b said...

I love you completely Joanna! You can't look at trends and studies about other people to know what will make you happy. Know youself. Talk, and listen. Keep your feelings flowing so that you and Josh can work things through before they are problems. You are a unique creation of God. If we were all alike, I think God would have been tired of creating people a long time ago. Just because you make a decision, doesn't mean you need to stick with it if it doesn't work out, nor does it mean it was a wrong decision. Sometimes we need to walk through things just for the wisdom that experience can give us.

Remember that happiness is an attitude. It is easier to change circumstances than to look too closely at ourselves. True happiness comes when we are at peace with our Savior. That does not depend on someone else's methods or interpretations of what God's plan is for our life.

ashley said...

You know, Joanna, I have been thinking about my last comment and I want to apologize. I think I feel into that tendency of mine to push my convictions on to others. That isn't right, and I'm sorry. I hope you didn't take it negatively, because I didn't mean for it to sound as bad as it did.

Joanna said...

Anne, thanks for your encouragement. I needed to hear an encouraging word about this issue; all of the Christian blogs I read were saying women who worked were irresponsible toward their families and materialistic, only working to support a frivolous lifestyle. I know that's not true, but I felt I was the only one.

Ashley, thanks for the apology. I understand where you're coming from, I understand that some women are gifted in home-things, and that is where they should use their gifts and passions-- my mom is one of them, and she was able to stay home.

I don't know if it's fair to generalize "God intended women to be the nurturing homemakers". I hope I'm nuturing, and that I make a good, peaceful home, but I don't think that also means I can't work, as long as my priorities are right. Even the Proverbs 31 woman, praised for the care she took of her family, worked. She dealt in real estate ("She considers a field and buys it"), invested ("out of her earnings she plants a vineyard."), and made shrewd business deals ("She sees that her trading is profitable"). That doesn't sound like the stereotypical homemaker or 'soccer mom' to me!


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