I Paused My Career for My Husband and Feel Guilty About It

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This post originally appeared on xoJane.

When I was growing up, my mother always told my sister and me to wait until we could stand on our own two feet before we got married.

“Get your education, start your career, and then worry about finding a husband,” she’d say. “It’s important to always be able to support yourself. Marriages don’t come with lifetime warranties.”

Some may think my mom’s advice was a bit pessimistic, but I think she was just being a good mom. Either way, both her daughters followed her guidance. At first.

For a little while, I was the woman my mom always wished I would become: I was successful, I could pay my own bills every month, and I waited until I had finished graduate school before finding the guy I wanted to marry. I graduated in 2003 with a B.A. in English literature, and I landed my first job teaching high school English shortly after. While teaching full-time, I enrolled in a graduate program and managed to pay for my degree without having to take out any student loans. In the six years that I taught at my first teaching position, I emerged as a leader in my local union, and — at the time I resigned — I was chairperson of the English department.

I met my husband in September of 2008and in July 2010, in front of our families and closest friends, we became husband and wife.

His job was in Colorado, so getting married meant leaving my teaching position in New York. It was hard to say goodbye to a school where I had felt I had made a true difference in my students’ lives, but having accepted another teaching position at a high school in Colorado Springs made it easier. I was happy and in love, and my mother was relieved that I had managed to heed her advice.

Things were going exactly as planned until a year later, when we received word that my husband would have to move to Europe for his job. The good news was that I would be able to move with him and the assignment would only be for several years. The bad news was that I’d have to leave my family and career behind.

Job options are limited for spouses overseas, and landing a teaching gig is nearly impossible. I was able to find a contracting job in a public affairs department, but I discovered after I accepted the position that the job would only be for a few months. I began applying for other positions almost immediately.

The majority of my days now are spent in my flannel pjs, looking for jobs online. At this point, I could probably wallpaper an entire wall of my apartment with the rejection e-mails I’ve received.

This is the first time since I was 13 that I haven’t had some sort of income, and it bruises my ego to think that I have not contributed any money to our joint checking account.

  • Daisy

    I understand how it can feel.  Just remember, your job does not define who you are any more than your relationships do.  It’s trite, but as they say: no one ever wishes on their death bed that they had worked more. 

    I quit my job, also teaching, for loved ones three years ago.  I could no longer take the guilt of “living 1,000 miles way from your aging grandmothers.”  So I quit and moved home.  I left my career and my adult friends.  I moved back into my parents house.  It was during the height of the recession so it was 8 months before I got another job (that was 14 months of job-searching b/c I started long before I quit). 

    Being unemployed offers some unique advantages.  You know what I regret from those months of frantic, pajama-ed, internet job-searching? Not dying my hair blue.  I had that one opportunity in my adult life when I had no one to answer to about my appearance and I missed it.

    Now I’m back in the education grind and I have to look presentable and responsible.  I wish I had dyed my hair blue.  I was too worried about a job interview cropping up to do it. 

    My suggestion is to embrace this time and dye your hair blue (or whatever your version of that is).         

    • WorkingMomof5

      What an excellent suggestion!  I’m dyeing my hair blue the very next redundancy I get.  Love it!

  • MSEM

    What a stupid article. I do not feel sorry for this woman at all. 

    • Momma215

      I agree. She could have started a blog and/or an online business. She could even hire herself as an ESL tutor. The time it took her to write this awful article could have been spent doing something awesome.

    • WorkingMomof5

      It is hard to empathize with someone who may be living your dream life, however, I don’t think it is her dream life.  It is so hard to know you only have a limited amount of time to accomplish in a career and to feel that time ebb away as you make sacrifices you aren’t sure are appreciated.  I agree that you won’t miss work time when all is said and done.  The hardest part is just being able to enjoy where you are, without feeling like you’re missing something and should be somewhere else.  I feel so sorry for women these days, who are made to feel like they must have and do it all or otherwise they are not worth as much.  It doesn’t matter what you have or accomplish.  With that mindset, you will always feel like you’re failing.  This societal pressure isn’t fair.  Even if you feel she’s a bit whiny and priviledged, you have to understand where those negative emotions are coming from.  Women are made to feel that way, even by their well-meaning parents.

    • Jamasian

      This was hilariously lame. Mostly because it seemed like she had goals and ambitions and then ended with but “ I wouldn’t trade my marriage for anything, not even a job.”

       So, what exactly is her point? Is she being given an ultimatum? Doesn’t sound like she has any real regrets or ambitions. If that’s the case, why not stay home and be a good wife and daughter??

  • BD

    Perhaps spending time networking and volunteering would ease your bordeom and lead to another position

  • Marie

    I feel badly for this writer. It sounds like she feels a tremendous amount of pressure and guilt but it’s mostly inside her head. Her husband is supportive financially and emotionally, she is actively seeking a job, she has worked really hard in her career and education thus far…not exactly an idle housewife eating bon bons. If she feels judged by her parents, she needs to remember that she and her partner are a team and they need to do what’s best for the two of them.

    It is definitely hard not to have a schedule, though. When I was looking for my first-time job our of grad school, I made up a plan where I would get up at a normal hour, job search until x hour (usually 2 PM or so), and then do other things with my day. It can be easy to feel chained to the computer, constantly refreshing job listings and updating your resume. You need to live, too, and make the most of this time off. When you are back in the day-to-day grind, you may look back fondly at certain aspects.

  • AngieL

    The bottom line is, what is your MAIN priority? Your husband/your marriage or your career. If you neglect your husband and advance in your career you might lose your husband. You may be the CEO of a company and single. End of the day what have you got? Will you have close relationship with  your subordinates? I doubt so. If your priority is career, you might as well stay single to achieve it. I suggest making your marriage strong and cultivate a few close friendships. That’s all you need when you grow old.

  • Hgmirau

    i know what you’re saying and i definitely have empathy for the position you’re in. it’s hard, and nobody can really understand exactly what you’re going through. in all of this, it sounds like you have a really good perspective on the emotional aspects while still allowing yourself to feel them, and that is healthy.

    i just wanted to point out that it sounds like you don’t regret giving up your career – given the chance, you wouldn’t actually do anything different because you love your husband and want to support him as well – so i would call this a grieving period for your own expectations of life and what you thought things will look like. and that’s okay. keep looking for your niche for where you’re at since it might be something completely unexpected! :)

  • Jamiepomerhn

    I’m the author of this article. The original title did not contain the word “regret.” I do not regret walking away from my job to be with my husband. One day without him would be far worse than being jobless. Guilt and regret often go hand-in-hand, but in this case, I do not have regret. Thanks for reading!

  • Marie

    I’m exactly in your situation – followed my husband to the US 5 years ago now (was supposed to be for 2) and left a great job as an English teacher. Job that I loved and that I was good at. Today I’m thinking of taking my kids and leaving my husband because I am so unhappy – although as you say, we have plenty of money and I’ve even found a part-time job. But still… Please keep in touch and let me know how your situation is today.

  • J L

    There seem to be a number of articles like this lately. I really hope I end up with a husband who has a good job in Europe because I cannot wait to travel there. I also agree with the below comments regarding not regretting working more. I’d be pretty happy traveling around Europe, doing yoga, and writing a blog about the amazing experiences I’d had while there. As well, since we would never leave our current jobs for less money than what we have now, I’d assume we could afford for me to go back to school and I’d probably take some online classes and maybe get another degree. All in all…I hope this author finds a way to enjoy her time. Maybe spending an hour a day looking through all of the news about foreclosures and joblessness in the US, and lack of affordable healthcare, might help her find a new perspective too. Volunteering is also something that you can do pretty much anywhere in the world…I just have trouble feeling sorry for these women even though I do realize that society puts a lot of weird pressures on women to define their worth and find their ‘place’ in the world. Also, there are pressures on men, we’re all subject to a very American mentality that makes it difficult to enjoy life unless we’re constantly ‘achieving’ and measuring up. Perhaps she will learn how to enjoy herself from the new cultures she is experiencing as well. That’s one of the greatest things I’ve learned in my own travels, having seen others truly enjoy life.

  • JenInBoston

    Yeah, why shouldn’t you have it all? Especially when, from your description, your husband seems to feel entitled to have it all, including a wife who drops her own career to boost his, right after paying thousands and thousands of dollars on her education! Did he ever say to his boss, “sorry, I can’t just move to Europe. I’m married, you know, and I’m not about to “tell” my wife to abandon her career.” Or, “well, if you can get a working visa for my spouse, I can do this, but otherwise it’s a non-starter.”

    Let’s be real. Degrees are needed for getting jobs, and not for gathering the knowledge needed to run a household and raise kids. College costs of $100,000-$200,000 are way too high if one doesn’t plan to work long enough to save at least as much as one spent. A smart person can educate him/herself if no career will be required. Or maybe a “good catch” of a man wouldn’t consider marrying a woman without a degree. I bet that’s true, actually, and it puts tribal dowries to shame if the true cost of getting a good husband in America is well into the six-figures!