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

Posted

Not once has my fantastic husband made me feel like I am not a contributing member of our family, yet I am so careful to tell him exactly how many jobs I apply for every day because I don’t want him to think I’m not trying. On a good day, I submit my resume to 10 jobs I’ve found online, and when I’m feeling extra ambitious, I even clean the bathroom sink.

But what I feel even more acutely than my wounded pride and boredom is a tremendous sense of guilt, several layers deep. I feel like I’ve failed my mom. She and my dad worked hard to send me to a good school so I could become something, and it’s hard not to think that I’ve let them both down, though they would never say that they are anything less than proud of me.

Still, I can’t help but think back to my college graduation. I attended a small all-women’s college, so it was easy to spot my parents standing off to the side of the stage. I caught a glimpse of them as I was handed my diploma. My father’s smile was lighting up his whole face, and my mom was not even trying to hide her tears. What was once such a happy memory now makes me queasy and uncomfortable.

I feel guilty for other reasons, too. Am I making that glass ceiling just a little bit thicker for other women by staying at home all day? It’s hard not to drop the laundry basket and ask, “What the hell am I doing here?” Who am I without my career? My husband’s wife? My parents’ daughter? If I wake up tomorrow and those relationships are gone, who am I then?

Another part of me thinks I’m being incredibly selfish to want it all. We are able to live comfortably on my husband’s salary, which is more than what many families can say during these economically challenging days. Living in Europe also affords us the ability to travel to places we normally would never be able to see — we have been to 16 different countries since we’ve moved here. It is an incredible opportunity, yet I can’t help but want more.

I like working. I like having a routine schedule where I know from the morning until late afternoon that I’m going to be a productive member of society.

Moreover, I have quickly found that I’m the worst housewife on the planet. By the time five o’clock rolls around, I’m usually running around the apartment, looking for something easy to clean or rearrange so that when my husband gets home, I can say, “Look at what I’ve accomplished today!”

Unfortunately, I usually choose really bizarre chores for myself. Instead of picking up the books and handbags I have scattered about our place, I’ll organize the items in our kitchen cabinets and create an alphabetized inventory in order to make more accurate grocery lists. When I show my husband, he asks, mystified, “You did what?”

I don’t know if I will ever get my career back on track, but I do know that at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade my marriage for anything, not even a job.

So for now, I’ll continue to send resumes to countless potential employers. I’ll empty the dishwasher, prepare a hot meal for my hardworking husband. I’ll keep that alphabetized kitchen inventory up-to-date, and I’ll take time to remember to be thankful for all that I have. And on the upside, at least I can do it all in my flannel pajamas.

Love reading other people’s financial tales? Check out more great LearnVest-exclusive personal stories.

  • 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!

    • Jasmina JS

      I agree with Jenin, completely! I followed my husband and moved with him to the country where his kids from his first marriage were living. Dropped everything. My fantastic job, my friends, my family. Soon, we had a child, and I enjoyed silly housewife jobs first year. It was a fantastic break from all the work, and responsibilities, and pressures, and crazy bosses. But then, I wished to get a job, to regain my financial independency. Have in mind that we lived in Eastern Europe and there was no chance for foreigner to get employment. Recession, strong nationalism in the country where we lived, daily disliking foreigners (if I’d spoke the local language with an accent id get eyes rolling). So, after 3.5 years in that country, my husband decided to move to his home country, Canada. Again, I followed as it looked like a gate out… Now Im facing opportunity to volunteer, and maybe eventually score the job. It’s the point where you realize you don’t have any financial resources, no independency, and you’re fully relied on your husbands income.
      If you ladies have any advice how to overcome these feelings please write. I feel that I need support :) Thanks for sharing your experiences. Not an easy one…

  • AinUSA

    To the author: I know exactly how you feel. I have 4 degrees and had a successful career in Europe. After I moved to the US, I have not been able to find a job. My father also paid a ton of money for me to study in Europe and in some ways, I feel bad that he would be disappointed in me. I try not to talk to him about my not working. However, in-between my moments of despair, I have tried to start writing online and doing volunteer work. Please update us on your situation

  • DearWifey

    This happened to me but I didn’t feel guilty about being a trailing spouse. I finished my education and started writing a book. The problems started when I realised that my husband put his career first- even after the initial settling in stage. I volunteered at a shelter as well but I don’t like working for free. I’m going back home now to finish my book and get a job. My husband can join me later on or I can come back once my book is finished. Feeling guilty doesn’t solve anything.
    I don’t think my husband feels guilty, this is just a different chapter in our marriage. I hope it works out but if it doesn’t I’ll be back in my career and on my way.
    The fifties are over- marriage these days often means living apart