This past Sunday, I ran a column by a mom in Berkeley who was feeling lonely because her husband worked long hours and traveled constantly.
The advice mirrored that of the wisdom in our own thread. I put “workaholic” in quotes because as our RachelD noted, there is a difference between people who work long hours because they have to and workaholics who are, literally, addicted to their jobs.
The biggest difference between the advice in Berkeley Parents Network and here at MotherTalkers is Berkeley marriage counselors and therapists made sure to offer their services. Otherwise, here is a taste of the advice offered at BPN:
It sounds like you may need to ask yourself some tough questions. Are you willing to give up your financial security to have more time with your husband? Let me tell you, that may not be as good as it sounds. My husband has a low-paying job that never requires traveling. I am the family breadwinner, but I don’t make all that much money either. Our lives are extremely stressful with both of us working and there never being quite enough money for things we both took for granted growing up.
If you don’t want to lose your husband’s income, here are some possibilities. You may need to develop a hobby or activity so that your life doesn’t revolve around your husband. Make plans for you and the kids that don’t involve him. Go out to nice places for dinner with the kids — you have the money for it! Skip the mac and cheese! Treat yourself to a nice spa overnight, where they have hotel daycare. Make friends with other moms in similar situations. I love to travel on vacation, but my husband hates it, so I find friends to travel with. Us moms and kids have great times together. I think if you went traveling and had some of the fun you think your husband is having, you might feel less resentful. You don’t have to wait for him to be around to have a life!
Go for it!
….It is time to schedule a talk with him. Tell him how unhappy you are and ask to negotiate for a better future. Do the negotiations by brainstorming with abandon and being respectful of each other. If he feels he can not change his career path, work together to spend more time together (start taking trips with him often and finding alternative child care people, etc). Find time for each other and then the family to keep the bond strong and feel connected.
Perhaps have a calendar to go over each week to schedule time together and for him to attend functions for the kids.
You must be persistant and tell him this is not going to blow over. That it is critical now and must be addressed and worked on together as husband and wife.
At least four or five letter writers (rightfully) told her to count her blessings; to find hobbies or friends to keep her company. One mom in a demanding field wrote in defense of the husband:
i just wanted to validate your husband’s feelings of feeling caught between a rock and a hard place. i’m a mom, and i also work in advertising, at an agency where there are both super-high expectations AND lots of people waiting in the wings, eager to take my place.
before i had my son, i worked all the time: nights, weekends, you name it. since becoming a mom, i constantly feel like i’m screwing up both at home and at work. at work, you just can’t be the person who consistently says no, i can’t stay late or no, i can’t go on production or no, i can’t take on any more projects. it will leave you extremely vulnerable, especially in this economy. just as in your situation, my income is our only income, and it’s scary as hell to have that weight on your shoulders.
after changing jobs several times in search of a more family-friendly situation (which i don’t think exists), i ultimately chose to take on a role that’s pretty dull for me, but offers more predictability on the home front. it’s depressing to see other people pass me by, but have to hope that eventually i’ll be able to go back to working on stuff i care about. in the meantime, i’m trying to focus on the positives: i’m providing for my family and spending more time with my son than a lot of other parents who work in advertising.
your husband may be able to work less, but it will come at a cost. greater marginalization/vulnerability at work, maybe. or doing work that’s not as great…which can also make him less marketable in the future, since getting new job offers always comes down to ”what have you worked on lately.”
it’s tempting to consider a less challenging agency, but if your husband is on the more senior side (ACD or above), an agency that pays less or has lower expectations can actually end up being more stressful and time-consuming, since the work still has to get done, but there are fewer motivated/talented people to do it.
allllll that being said, your concerns are TOTALLY valid. i would feel the same resentment you do. i think you should try and approach the subject knowing that he probably feels equally bad/guilty/stressed/depressed about it, and discuss the risks versus the benefits of reducing his time at work.
again, i know you wanted to hear from people who were in the same situation as you, but i wanted to let you know that it’s really, really, really hard on both sides of the equation.
I appreciated the understanding and respectful tone both here and at BPN. But it made me sad to see, once again, that we are an “all or nothing” society. That there is no middle ground or middle class anymore. Sigh.