how your mate impacts your career, pre-cations, and more

Over at Intuit QuickBase’s Fast Track blog today, I take a look at several big work-related stories in the news right now: a new start-up trend of “pre-cations” — paid time off before you start a new job; whether your choice of mate can make or break your career; and more. You can read it here.

{ 149 comments… read them below }

    1. Mallorie, the recruiter

      So true – I just sent to my husband! I often joke that the reason I am amazing at work is because he is so amazing at home. I could not do it without him!

  1. Lisa

    >>After all, “it’s a lot easier to concentrate on your next brilliant idea at work if someone else can be counted on to make sure the dog has all his shots, the car gets inspected on time, and the kids are fed,” notes Fortune.

    So, successful people have wives or the functional equivalent, is that what they’re saying?

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Ha! I once told my husband that I wish I had a wife, and this is exactly what I meant.

        [/sexism], too

    1. Diet Coke Addict

      That struck me, too. I know academia is the big one for careers that are pretty much predicated on the “one partner works, one partner stays at home” model, but I think that quite a lot of high-level C-level positions in more conservative industries also function on that model–who is going to be more productive: someone who needs to swap off kid pickups, vet visits, waiting-for-the-plumber times, or someone who can be at work all the time not worrying about that kind of thing?

      1. MT

        Agreed. I work in a conservative industry. It helps a lot that my wife is a stay at home. It allows me to pick up what ever schedule is needed that week. It allows me to travel on short notice. And it allows me to work as many hours as i need to that week.

        1. Lyssa

          My husband stays at home, and that helps me a lot, too. I really think that we’re going to see a lot more women in high level roles if we start emphasizing that dads can stay home and support the family, too.

          1. A

            My husband is also a stay at home dad, and it allows me to focus on my ambitious career plans. I hope more families will continue to choose a stay at home dad.

          2. KC

            When we have children, our plan is to have my husband stay at home until our kids are in school. Right now, I make much more than he does and with child care in our area being what it is, it would just make more economic sense. Plus, he’s really excited about the idea of staying home (I would not be).

          3. Natalie

            For sure. We’re not quite there in our relationship yet, but a noticeable plus to my bf is that he would be comfortable and effective staying home. I make more now and possibly always will, so if I ended up with a guy with a demanding career we’d probably have to hire help.

          4. Mallory Janis Ian

            My husband would love to stay home if only my salary were large enough to support that. Unfortunately for him, he makes nearly twice as much as I do (unfortunately for me, too, because I’d love to go to work and come home to meals that I didn’t cook).

        2. MT

          And don’t forget the ability to make last minute after work plans to have drinks with any big wigs who may travel in.

      2. Lillie Lane

        Two of my bosses and one of my close coworkers have SAH wives, and it makes me *really* pissy when they tell me they can’t understand why I haven’t gotten this or that done at home. Never mind that I am the wife, with all of the same cleaning/errand duties that their wives have all week to do, as well as the home plumber, mechanic, IT person, and all-around handyman because my husband works ungodly numbers I hours each week.

        1. Squirrel!

          TBH, I would just stop telling them about anything to do with what I am doing/not going at my house. It’s none of their business, especially if they use that information to be a jerk to you for any reason.

      3. Sarah

        A lot of high powered people can afford with their high salaries to hire babysitters and housekeepers. At least, that’s how it often works in NYC.

      4. Manders

        I’ve been wondering about that attitude in academia a lot lately. I’m a woman not in academia dating a man getting his PhD, and there’s definitely an attitude in his department that the non-academic partner should work to support the academic, but should also be able to pick up and move at a moment’s notice should the academic need to study abroad, move to another state, or adjunct at a tiny school. His professors (and fellow students–especially the younger ones who have never worked outside “the bubble”) seem to think I can be both the trailing partner and the breadwinner. I have no idea where that attitude is coming from or how anyone thinks it’s realistic to expect that in this economy.

        1. Jerry Vandesic

          Academics are often accused of being out of touch with the real world. This helps make that point.

    2. Lyssa

      “So, successful people have wives or the functional equivalent”

      Um, yeah, I guess so, if you happen to live in a 1950’s world where taking care of the household is women’s work, or something.

      1. Sarahnova

        Practically, though, it is usually the female member of a hetero couple to whom most of these tasks fall, for a variety of reasons. This is a problem, IMO, if you were wondering.

        It’s no secret that a lot of senior executives rely on having a stay-at-home or at least a less-successful spouse to pick up the slack at home.

        1. Lyssa

          It’s a problem if the female member is working just as many hours outside of the home and doesn’t want it that way. It’s certainly not a problem if the couple deliberately chooses jobs where one member works less and takes on more household responsibilities.

          Also, just because a person has fewer work demands hardly means that they are “less-successful.”

          1. Sarahnova

            Sure; my point, albeit badly-expressed, was more that it is a problem when these issues automatically fall to the female partner, and this limits her ability to really drive her own career.

            1. Senor Poncho

              I think there might be a really interesting sociological issue here, i.e., women subject to greater expectations/judged more harshly re: clean house, kids, etc., and therefore care more about these things than men do, resulting in an unequal division of domestic labor even in otherwise egalitarian households or dual-worker households.

              (in case not clear, that was just me spitballing, and I may be completely wrong)

              thoughts?

              1. the_scientist

                The woman’s second shift is, to my understanding, a fairly well-known phenomenon.

                (the “second shift” is the idea that even in hetero partnerships where both people work outside the home, it somehow still falls to the female partner to do the housework, cooking, and childcare).

                1. Kelly O

                  Yup. This is why I was taking ProveIt! tests last night at 10:30 – I had to work, pick up our daughter from daycare, get home, make dinner, clean up dinner, finish laundry, give the kiddo a bath, get her in jammies, do bedtime, and THEN I could do my testing.

                  My husband works from home, but most of the time he’s so busy he doesn’t have time to help out with stuff around the house, so I come home to a sink full of dishes, or stuff all over the place. Not to mention the mornings, wherein I have to get both me and the kiddo ready, get us to daycare and work, and still make it on time, with a smile on my face, ready to go at 8:00.

                  If you want to go to the gym or do anything after work, it just becomes frustrating.

                2. Aunt Vixen

                  Kelly O – You are also busy. And yet you find (or make) time to “help out” around the house. An adult doing a fair share is not helping; he’s participating. [If you and Mr. Kelly are both satisfied with your arrangement, then I withdraw my indignation on your behalf–but not my objection to “helping out.” See also general fury at the idea that a father can “babysit” his own children, which I pre-emptively acknowledge nobody has advanced here.]

                3. neverjaunty

                  Kelly O – I had the same reaction as Aunt Vixen. Your husband isn’t “helping out”, he’s doing his share of the household work and parenting, right? Why is it you who gets the second shift while he is “too busy” even though you have a job?

              2. Nina

                No, you’re on the right track. The “second shift” is very real. It doesn’t help that a lot of the “male appropriate” household tasks are usually things that can wait until the weekend, like mowing the lawn, fixing the roof, etc. Whereas the women’s tasks are traditionally things that have to be taken care of immediately: making dinner, bathing the kids, doing the laundry, etc. And the time it takes to do these things adds up to at least ten hours a week, hence the “shift.”

                1. Mallory Janis Ian

                  This is why I made my husband take on the finances! I noticed that all his tasks were of the do-weekly, -monthly, or -seasonally variety, while all of mine were more or less daily. It made me indignant to think of him living the life of a liberated adolescent (and making comments about how I could be doing it better) while I had all that responsibility. So I told him that I could no longer handle the finances, and he’s been doing it for several years now.

                2. neverjaunty

                  I treat making those comments as a request to have that chore dumped in the comment-maker’s lap forever, but that’s me. ;)

            2. Adonday Veeah

              “…when these issues automatically fall to the female partner, and this limits her ability to really drive her own career.”

              I dunno, this strikes me as more of a communication issue between the couple. Why would these issues “automatically” fall anywhere? A woman (or anyone else) in this situation who is not happy with might consider renegotiating.

              1. Natalie

                Research suggests that, even in marriages where the partners believe they are sharing the work evenly, women are generally still doing more. That suggests that there’s something going on beyond the communication within individual relationships.

                1. NoPantsFridays

                  Yes, I have seen some research that found that when there is a 70/30 split of housework between the female/male partners, it’s perceived as equal.

              2. neverjaunty

                As the person who has had to explain to a child’s school that they should perhaps be calling Dad at home, like the contact form says, instead of calling Mom at work first, yes, a lot of these are expectations women have to deal with.

      2. fposte

        I don’t know if people here are drawing on this use or not, but there’s a famous 1971 feminist essay by Judy Brady called “I Want a Wife” talking, not entirely satirically, about the desirability of this perfect helpmeet concept. That’s what that research summary made me think of.

    3. Ah Memories

      changed moniker to minimize chance of outing, but there was an elderly, important gentleman who spoke to my graduate school class during our first year and essentially told us that in his business, even the female leaders had wives, though the wives “just happened to be men.”

      Needless to say, many were offended. But, knowing my line of work and his business, the old fella probably was not wrong (substance-wise). Terrible choice of verbiage, but pretty accurate description of the reality on the ground, in my mind. Not to say that things shouldn’t change. They damn well should. But they haven’t, so, hey.

      I’ll let you all guess what field I work in and what his business was within that field (you probably won’t be wrong).

      1. Mallorie, the recruiter

        I understand this completely. My husband does a lot of the what would “traditionally” be considered more wifely duties… and as soon as I make enough money, he will stay home. Why? Because he prefers to work as a “home maker” and I prefer to work a crazy job – and that works for us! But I am surprised a lot by the reactions we get about this. I feel like people would not bat an eyelash if the roles were reversed. We do not plan to have kids, but I would still love it if he could be home 100% of the time, and I know he would too. He enables me to be my best self at work BECAUSE of what he does at home … I hate that he also has to work. Hopefully soon that will change :-)

        1. Stephanie

          I’ll look around to find this, but that reminds me of an article a guy wrote about changing his last name (either to his wife’s or just a portmanteau of their last names) after he got married. He said people were confused and questioned his reasoning, but that the reverse (the wife taking her husband’s name) is rarely questioned.

          1. Mallorie, the recruiter

            Yes, so true. Thankfully, my husband doesn’t get too self conscious about these things, but I know it really bothers him when people question why he is not more “career focused”. That’s just not who he is, but on the flip side, my career is my life (by choice! I wouldn’t have it any other way!). And the work he does for the house is SO appreciated by me; I could not imagine doing what he does while holding down a FT job. But it is definitely a double standard for sure!

            1. Erin

              There was an article in Slate a while ago about a man who was the homemaker (no kids) and he got a lot of flack from their friends. It was an interesting read! I will post the link below. And as a former recruiter, I agree 100% that it can definitely be a crazy job with crazy hours!

        2. Kelly L.

          This may be what we end up doing too. I’ve got the shinier job history; he’s a better cook by leaps and bounds.

        3. Windchime

          I have a friend who is in her 50’s. Her husband is in his early 60’s but retired young, probably 10 years ago. He is a stay-at-home spouse and she works a stressful, full-time job. She loves having him at home; he was around for their teenaged child before the child left for university, and he does all the work (including housework) around the home and has dinner on the table when she gets home at night. It is part of what makes her job bearable for her.

          It sounds like heaven to me. I can’t imagine coming home to a clean house and a home-cooked meal every night.

          1. ggg

            The CEO of our company gave a podcast interview in which she credited her success to her husband being able to pick up the slack. He took care of the kids/housework while she was working and traveling and getting a Ph.D. all at once. It was unclear if he was also working outside the home at the time.

            In our house, it is less stressful for me to hire help than to count on DH to get things done. Emotionally, he is a wonderful loving husband and dad. But if he were the nanny, I would fire him.

    4. Elizabeth

      I knew someone who owned her own business as a professional wife. She employed about 20 people (men & women) who cleaned houses, did the grocery shopping, got the bills ready to pay, took the dogs to the vet, etc. All the things needed to keep a household running smoothly. Her weirdest request was a one-off to stand in line to pay a bunch of parking tickets.

      She figured that all of her college friends were getting married to men who had similar education & career ambitions, so she suspected that there would be a market for such a service. She was in a metro area so that there was a large pool of clients to draw from.

      1. Ann O'Nemity

        Yes! I know someone who started a similar sounding business in the Chicago area. She’s been hugely successful.

      2. Karowen

        There is a (fictional) book series about this – the Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne. Definitely Chick Lit but a fun read, and always made me wonder if there actually was someone who did stuff like that. Pretty cool that there is!

        1. VintageLydia USA

          I’ll have to look that up! I’ve been slogging through Game of Thrones and not having fun with it, so I need a light but still thoughtful break.

          1. Karowen

            I will warn you that it’s definitely not what I would call thoughtful – There are certainly some pieces that are super cringe-worthy. If you do read it, please don’t judge me based on this one book! (And actually, based solely on your handle you may prefer the book Swept Off Her Feet (same author), which has been retitled as The Vintage Girl.)

      3. Kelly O

        Maybe THIS is what I ought to do; although where I live there are a LOT of single-income, dual-parent homes, so it might be the wrong crowd.

      4. Stephanie

        Oh yeah, that’s my friend’s business in the DC area. She’s a personal assistant to all these power couples who are too busy to take their dogs to the vet, buy groceries, etc. It’s ingenious.

        1. My Fake Name is Laura

          I would really love to see an interview and learn more about these businesses. It sounds fascinating – running a more personal and dedicated TaskRabbit.

          1. AlyInSebby

            I posted this below as well

            Many people asked about “Rent a Wife” Businesses.

            I am in Northern CA and I am Gal Friday.

            I joke that I might draw the line at sex work, but anything else you need help with, YES!

            I support small and home based businesses and individuals.

            I run errands, book keep, help people with their devices and technology, organize, cook, shop, event plan and manage, mailing projects, databases, count and catalog collections, create craft projects to show your prime memorabilia and help get rid of the rest or store it permanently, garden, yard work…last week in my business assistant capacity I played basket ball and made paper airplanes for the child of a IT person my client was meeting with.

            If you want to pay my hourly rate, there’s not a lot that I balk at.

            My parents and grandparents are all gone, and we don’t have kids. So I have a lot of patience for stuff most people in a similar position would have.

            I’ve had a minor hoarder, but not a serious one…yet…I can’t wait for that!

            I love what I do especially because I know how much it means when I get the kind of help I provide for others. Also my best friend benefits A LOT!

            Ask away…

        1. AlyInSebby

          You create it yourself.

          Focus on what over riding skills you bring to the table – me patience, organization and a gung ho attitude.

          I get about 30% of my referrals from advertising on my car – desperately needs to be updated.

          30% from client referrals – I used to belong to BNI it is a great way to jump start a small business.

          30% from Craigslist postings in Small Business, Finance and Household Services.

          10% – other sources.

          The economic crash was tough, I was lucky I have some other income besides the business. If I wanted to be a full time schedule busy – 40 + hours I would advertise more on Craigslist and other local resources.

          It’s low capital start up – all you need is your personal expertise, I create all my own marketing materials. hue business is on FaceBook but I am still leery and waiting to find a groove there that feels right. No twitter and no LinkedIn and no website at this time.

  2. HRC in NJ

    My ex-husband was subtly, but constantly, putting me down for one thing or another and my confidence was pretty shaky. Was never good enough to measure up to an ever-changing standard. I was then, and years later, still am, very nervous about sharing an opinion that differs from that of those in authority, and have a great reluctance to confront others when I disagree, afraid of the consquences. Afraid to stretch for fear of being put down.

    So yeah, picking the right spouse can affect your work performance for quite a while.

    1. Dang

      I’m sorrythat you’re experiencing that. I was never married but was in a long relationship that sounds very similar. I put aside career goals to keep the relationship going, and not a day went by that i wasnt crying ir obsessing about how bad things had gotten. I’m sure it was completely obvious that my mind was just somewhere else. when it ended I was so angry at myself and my confidence was shaken. Two years later I am still trying to piece things back together and figure out how to move ahead professionally, but the experience set me back at least a few years.

  3. Diet Coke Addict

    I wonder if certain career types tend to attract other careers as spouses. I’ve heard from my friends and family who are nurses that the Nurse and Engineer pair is a very common matchup for…reasons I don’t really understand? I wonder if there are others.

    1. Meg Murry

      I’ve never heard of the Nurse/Engineer common thing – could that just be from your area? Especially if there is a university where nursing and engineering are two of the biggest majors, it would make sense to see a lot of those pair-ups, simply because the nursing school tends to be majority women, while the engineering school is majority men.

      When my husband and I were going full speed ahead, there were times when we said “we need a stay-at-home wife”. I know some high power couples that have basically outsourced the SAHW role to nanny/housekeepers.

      1. De Minimis

        I know of at least one Nurse/Engineer pairing at my job, although I think the nurse mostly stays at home and occasionally works contract here and there.

      2. Elysian

        I think your location could have a lot to do with “pairings” – I live in DC, and everyone I know is either (a) a lawyer or (b) married to a lawyer and (c) a lawyer married to another lawyer. My husband is an engineer and his company is mostly men, who are mostly married to female lawyers. It would probably be weird, if we weren’t in DC, lawyer capitol of the US.

      3. E.T.

        My husband is an engineer. He reminds me of the guys in the Big Bang Theory, especially Sheldon. He often says he was attracted to me because I was “useful”, like he was evaluating a gadget for functionality. I am intelligent (his words, not mine, although I won’t pretend I didn’t preen a bit when he mentioned that as a quality), outgoing, communicative, smart with money decisions, efficient, and on and on. No mention about looks. Yes, he is a very practical person.

        Maybe that is why the Nurse/Engineer paring is a thing. If my husband is a typical engineer, then many engineers probably run cost-benefit analysis on potential spouses and conclude that having their spouses in the nursing field would be a practical choice for their families.

        Or maybe it’s not just nurses, maybe engineers feel that anyone in the medical field would be beneficial as a potential spouse . My son has two classmates who have fathers as engineers and mothers as doctors/dentists. Also, Mark Zuckerberg is an engineer, while Priscilla Chan is a doctor.

        (And, I just remembered, in the Big Bang Theory, of all of Leonard’s girlfriends, the one Sheldon admitted he liked was Stephanie, the doctor.)

    2. Perpetua

      My former boss used to joke (with a grain of truth) that male psychologists end up with female psychologists, and female ones end up with engineers. ;) Anecdata from my and her experience supports the hypothesis. :P

      1. JC

        I will add another anecdata point to that one!

        I got my psychology PhD at a school known for engineering, and several women in my program ended up marrying male engineering grad students.

      2. fposte

        Okay, but I’m not following the math here–don’t the female psychologists the male psychologists end up with count as people who aren’t with engineers :-)? Or does “end up” mean this is about who the second marriage is to?

        1. Perpetua

          Yes, they count, but as there are many more female psychologists (at least over here), the ones in relationships with male psychologists are in the minority, whereas the male psychologist population is much smaller so the effect of them being in relationships with their female counterparts is much more pronounced. :D

          And now I feel like I’m talking about a bird species or something. :P

          1. fposte

            Yeah, I think Ann got it below–I failed at the logic puzzle, which annoys me because I’m usually really good at those! I should stick to the fox, the chicken, and the corn.

    3. Glorified Plumber

      I’ve heard this too anecdotally… My school had a large engineering program (I’m one) and a large nursing program. Engineering program mostly male, nursing program mostly female… makes sense from a pure chance basis as they would be forced to go “elsewhere” out of their class to find mates. Versus other programs that are likely to be more 50/50 splits.

      That said… no nurse/engineer pairs that I am aware among my friends (that include LOTS of engineers). Wait… wait… my GF’s parents are Nurse/Engineer combo… dang.

      Common pair up in my social circle is: Veterinarian/Engineer. Go figure.

      1. Judy

        I’ve seen at my work, lots of engineer/engineer and engineer/teacher. We’re technically both at our house. ;) I know some engineer/nurse pairs, but they’re generally in my parents’ generation.

  4. Perpetua

    In words of my former boss: “male psychologists end up with female psychologists, female psychologists end up with engineers”. ;) Anecdata supports the hypothesis. :P

    1. In a snit

      But but but how can female psychologists end up with male psychologists if they’re ending up with engineers? HOW.

        1. Laufey

          Or a surplus of female psychologists relative to male psychologists – enough so that the majority of female psychologists can still pair off with engineers.

      1. Ann O'Nemity

        Not sure if this is right, but here’s a guess…

        Something like 75% of psych grads are women. All the male psychologists could marry female psychologists, and that would still leave the majority of female psychologists to marry engineers.

        1. LJL

          True. I was assuming equal distribution among the genders, when upon further thought I should know better. Thanks!

        2. Perpetua

          Yup, exactly!

          Also, my phone was acting funny, so I apologize for posting the same thing twice. :)

      2. James M

        Maybe the female psychologists reach a point in their lives when they trade in their male psychologists for hot young engineers?

  5. Robin

    I’d be a little wary about the pre-cations. To me it seems to set up the expectation that you arrive ready to put in those 80 hour work weeks. Am I overthinking it?

    1. OriginalYup

      It says Silicon Valley, so I read it as a perk being offered in a sector where people come in expecting to pull crazy hours and meet chaotic expectations anyway. I work in field (not Silicon Valley) that has a hectic seasonal component, and so I’ve really appreciated bosses who’ve encouraged me to take my allotted time off at the beginning of a new job. We all know that it’s going to get crazy in 4 months so I appreciate the honesty in acknowledging that I won’t get to use my 0.02 PTO days otherwise.

      But I get what you’re saying. It’s like the laundry service and fully stocked kitchens at certain tech companies. We provide everything here so you never have to go home! Message: stay and work.

    2. fposte

      I’m with OriginalYup–I think you’re probably pulling those hours either way, so might as well have a vacation first.

    3. Mister Pickle

      Maybe it’s one of those things that “works” for some people but not for others. I’m fairly certain I would *hate* a “pre-cation”. I wouldn’t be able to relax and enjoy things because I’d feel like I’d be building up a huge debt that I owed to my employer (I understand that this line of thought may not make sense to other/most people).

    4. neverjaunty

      No, that is the way tech companies work: loansharking. Every perk is a way to get you to spend more time in the office and/or feel like you owe the company every waking minute.

      1. Chocolate Teapot

        I remember reading a few years ago (pre-credit crunch certainly) that Goldman Sachs, or some other big City/Wall Street bank was offering paid gap years to new graduate employees, as they would be expected to work all hours when they actually commenced employment.

  6. Anx

    This is so timely for me.

    After a long bout of not progressing toward my goals, for the first time in a long time I think there may be a career ahead of me. My plan had been before to work through my 20s and perhaps drop out of the workforce to have kids. I love working, but truth be told I don’t have a singular drive toward a career. Plus, I’ve been dating someone who very much IS very specific about his goals. So I thought he’d go career track and I’d have a short one. Boy did that plan fail spectacularly.

    Now that my 20s are nearly over and I still haven’t began a career, I’m wondering what to do next. I want to go to work, not school. But I’m also wary of getting a job where there could be upward mobility, but then have to leave that drop if I want to go back to school (achieving a masters in science ‘after hours’ is a rare feat; the schedules for classes are erratic). I am loathe to put more time into ‘training’ for a career, because by the time I’m done, I’d be near my mid 30s.

    I’ve considered working as parent, but if I have a child with special care needs, 1 parent will have to stay home anyway. When both of us won’t be getting our careers off the ground until we’re in our 30s, I’m thinking more and more about choosing childlessness.

    Perhaps I could at least try to be a conscientious partner.

    1. Bernadette

      I don’t have specific advice besides please don’t let your age dictate your choice for a career or children. You’re still so young.

    2. Robin

      My best advice (as the working mother of a toddler) is to remember that you can’t predict the future, or what you will want, so the best thing you can do is what makes the most sense in your current situation, not the situation you think you might be in later.

      What really jumped out at me was not wanting to work somewhere with the possibility of advancement because you *might* want to go back to school? Also, you might not. (Also, increasingly, there are ways to do this in a way that allows you to keep your job, if that is what you really want.) I don’t think that is a good reason to choose a job.

      You might work as a parent, but if your child has special needs you might not? Unless you have a specific reason to expect it, a child with special needs is pretty rare, and making career decisions based on that fairly remote possibility is not a good idea.

      Also, not getting your career off the ground until your 30s is not that rare either.

    3. BRR

      It seems like you’re trying to plan for all of these variables before planning the main thing. You’re worrying about a lot of what ifs. I would cross those bridges when you get to them.

    4. Stephanie

      My sibling is special needs and my mom’s always worked. Admittedly, my dad took the jobs that required tons of travel and she looked for jobs that allowed for flexibility and minimal travel. It can be done!

    5. Natalie

      I don’t think I’m that much older than you, so I can’t tell you all about my happy ending, but I think my experience in my 20s was similar. As hard as this probably feels – you have got to stop trying to plan for every possible unlikely scenario. I spent 10 years metaphorically frozen in place because I couldn’t bear to take a step in any one direction without “knowing” (as though that’s even possible) that all the other directions wouldn’t be affected.

      I was terrified of looking back and thinking “Oh, if only I had done This instead of That, I would be doing Amazing Thing instead of Boring Thing.” Welp, guess what? Because I did NOTHING, instead of literally anything, I am now doing Boring Thing I’ve been doing for 10 years instead of literally anything else.

      If any of that sounds familiar, consider getting screened for anxiety.

    6. Serin

      From the perspective of a 50-year-old who’s looking back on what so far has been a strange and circuitous career:

      Try to think of your career not as walking a path but more as gathering skills and experiences.

      If you’ll seek out projects and education and experiences that make you feel more you — whether you’re paid for them or not — then you’ll enjoy your daily time more, and you’ll provide more valuable work to the universe. And maybe as life goes on these things will evolve into one or more careers, and maybe they won’t, but one way or the other, you will have given the world more of the things that only you could give.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Totally agree.
        Be curious, let things draw your interest.
        Put yourself where you can use your strengths.
        And spend time learning about things that are your weaknesses.

        When you hear that whisper in the wind saying “Hurry up! Get THERE!” Tell the whisper that you are already there. Learn the most you can in each moment of the day. Most of this learning is never wasted, you will use it later on.

    7. Clever Name

      I’m only 35, but my life really hasn’t ended up anything like I thought it would be like when I was young. I pictured myself being a park ranger, or living in a cabin doing research or doing something equally outdoorsy. Marriage or family didn’t play into my future plans whatsoever. Imagine my surprise when (after never having a boyfriend or dating at all in high school) that I met the man I wanted to spend my life with in college and getting married at 21. Then I finished college. Then got my masters. Then went to work. Then we decided to have a baby. Moved across country. Stayed home for a couple of years. Went back to work full time. Now work part time. (In case you’re wondering, I’m a consultant, and I actually do use my degrees at my job. It’s pretty great!)

      My point is, most people’s lives don’t follow anything resembling what is considered the supposedly socially-acceptable linear path of career success/family success (the order of what it’s “supposed” to be is up for debate). It really is impossible to plan your future to the level of detail I’m seeing in your post. The best we can do is live a life that we enjoy in the moment, while making very general plans for the future (like saving some money for retirement and not blowing it all on fun now).

    8. Anx

      Thank you so much!

      I think I’ve become quite paralyzed because in the past 10 years or so, I haven’t been able to make many decisions that I don’t regret. And in the time since graduating, I’ve met a lot of comments on how I should have planned better for the economic crash- among other things- and I do feel an overbearing amount of pressure to be ‘responsible’ from now on.

      I once had an interviewer ask how I expected to catch up after ‘putting off’ getting a job for so long (needless to say I did not get that job), which has contributed to my dread of having to leave the workforce force for more than 3 months at a time every again, but I cannot imagine reaching my other life goals without preparing to take those leaves.

      (Also, I know I am young but I do have signs of diminishing fertility and do not anticipate having the money to pursue adoption within the decade…which is probably making things feel more urgent).

      1. Natalie

        Have you considered counseling? This sounds like a distressing situation to be in, and a counselor could help you untangle your options and maybe examine some thought processes that might not be helping you.

      2. A is for Amicable

        I know I’m way late to this post, but on the off chance you subscribed, I second the counseling advice. Only when cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helped me actually contextualize and reduce my own issues (OCD), did I find myself truly happy doing what I want to be doing versus worrying about what I “should” be doing. I’m almost 30 and don’t even stress about my mom’s “but what about grandkids????” hysterics because I know I don’t want kids and my life doesn’t have to/shouldn’t be about making other people more happy than I am.

  7. Tempo Anono

    Ugh I would kill to fall into number 2. I’m the partner who makes a lot more and also the one who remembers how to keep the house operating.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale

      Heh, me too– though in my case, it’s because I work from home, have a lot more flexibility, and I’m really, really domestically oriented. I think it’s because I lived alone for so long and developed all kinds of efficient ways to do things. It would be easy to get resentful, but my boyfriend always does something if I ask, and I know that if it ever gets to be too much, I can afford to hire someone to clean. I’d still say he’s a conscientious partner, though, because he knows how to get out of the way when I need him to and he’s supportive of my decisions, both inside the house and out.

    2. NaCSaCJack

      How very timely! I am the breadwinner and home organizer as well and it is driving me batty. Especially poignant since the SO lost his 40-42 hour a week job a year ago. He has since decided to go back to school at a for-profit institute and work a part-time 18-20 week job at minimum wage. Ummmm, hello, we have bills here not to mention covering the SO health insurance aint cheap!! I cycle through high pressure times when I can work up to 50 hours/week (I try not to approach 55 hours or I get squirrelly) and low pressure tims when I’d like to take a vacation and get out of town. And yet I am expected to stop on the grocery store on my way home, shop, pick out dinner, come home, cook and have dinner on the table by 6pm, all while he is sitting downstairs playing his computer games. Doesn’t help that at any time in the last 9 years, I offered to let him go part-time at his job in order to go back and get a degree. His reply? “No, no, I’m comfortable where I am” Yeah, right up until he lost his job and found out how hard it is to get a job in IT in this economy without a degree.

      I’ve had two long-term boyfriends now, both of whom worked hourly jobs, both comfortable in their jobs and unwilling to pursue higher advancement. Fine by me, but then put dinner on the table, cook, clean, and run the dogs to the vet so I can pursue career advancement by working extra hours in positions I enjoy.

      I need a wife too. How much does a housekeeper or errand runner cost these days?

  8. TheExchequer

    So, Allison, I’m curious – how has your choice of a mate impacted your career?

    I’d tell you about mine, but I am currently planning on being the Awesome Spinster Cat Lady when I “grow up”, so nothing to tell here. :)

      1. TheExchequer

        Sure they do. There are the chores of Lounging in the Sunbeam, Chasing the Moth, Running Amok, and Scratching the Thing Not to be Scratched, just to name a few. ;)

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I only got married a year ago, so I’d say it’s been a non-factor in my career.

      That said, I think I might have found it easier to manage everything when it was just me. I don’t have a problem doing all the things when it’s just me. It gets more complicated (emotionally and logistically) when you add another person into the mix.

      1. class factotum

        Yes! If you are used to doing things by yourself, it can be maddening to add another person to the mix. I always did my taxes as soon as I had all the proper documents, but my husband waits until the last minute to do everything. We fight about who is going to do them because I WANT THEM DONE. (As we speak, my husband is still filing – he filed for an extension.)

        I hate negotiating the details of everyday life. I love my husband, but man, I am one and done. I will go back to living alone and doing things my way!

      2. Not So NewReader

        Oh my how true!
        Just a simple example: We would take a day trip with family. Seven of us in one vehicle. A bathroom stop would take an hour and a half. NOT kidding.
        The more people you add to the mix the longer everything takes.
        Marriage is a bigger deal because this is a life long commitment to constantly thinking of the other half with everything that comes up.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale

        Oh, this is SO true. When my bf first moved in with me, he was unemployed and looking, so he took over things like grocery shopping, picking up dry cleaning, dishes, etc. (He got mad at me once when I stopped at the store after work! That was his job, he said.) I told him about 3 weeks in that he’s not my assistant, and he said he had no idea how I managed before he got there, since I had work, a long commute, and a bunch of other activities. I definitely managed– because I had to. Once he showed up, it got complicated, dividing up chores and errands, and I had to learn to shut my mouth and stay put if he returned from the grocery store without certain things that I would have just picked up. We’re much better about it now.

  9. C Average

    Both the article and the comments are really interesting to me.

    I’m half of a writer / engineer pairing (I’m the writer), and I feel that even though I’m definitely conscientious by nature, the home stuff disproportionately falls on my husband, and I’d actually like to change that.

    We’ve only been married for three years, and before that he was both primary breadwinner and primary custodial parent for his kids. (We share custody with his ex-wife, but he’s always had the kids for more of the time than she does. It’s complicated.) He does EVERYTHING, and I really don’t know how. I would love to do more for him, but he’s the one who controls the calendar, has a sense of the kids’ tastes in food, etc. He also has a stronger point of view about the house, the yard, etc. And because he out-earns me by a huge margin, he pays the bills and manages the finances.

    I have begun trying to cook us healthier food and to keep up the house better (it trends toward barely managed chaos), and I assist with the kid logistics where I can. I think my main contribution to the household is fun. I make sure the kids have books to read and costumes for Halloween, and I get us games and plan outings and make sure there’s always something home-baked around to eat.

    He is SUCH a good man, and he works SO hard. I’d love to take some of the load off his shoulders. I’m just never quite sure how.

    1. Sidra

      You could ask him what his least favorite chore is and focus there (Taking kids to the doctor/dentist? Grocery shopping? Laundry?). He’d probably really appreciate you doing that one troublesome thing, even if it’s not as “much” as the other things he does.

      1. C Average

        I’ve already done that with the garbage! One day he made an offhand remark about how much he hated taking out the garbage, and I’ve unilaterally made garbage duty my job, no exceptions. I love how happy it makes him when garbage day rolls around and he gets to watch me whistle while I march the trash carts up to the curb.

        Now I need to discover his other least favorite chores and stealthily take them over.

    2. BadPlanning

      The things you’re doing for the kids sound pretty awesome. Costumes and outing planning can suck up a lot of time and creativity. Everyone likes to enjoy the output (look at the great costumes!) but not as many like to enjoy the process.

  10. Sidra

    My mate and I are both fairly ambitious (he does out-earn me, as my industry pays poorly) and neither of us is conscientious! I’m OK at domestic stuff, but don’t have a lot of time. He is not good at domestic stuff, but is getting better… But both of us dislike household management tasks. We would much rather focus on our work.

    I’m just hoping we get better and managing a household over time, or can eventually hire someone to help!

    1. louise

      Same at my house! We neither one like or excel at any domestic, but my husband has a much greater sense of responsibility than I, so he ends up doing far more. I can happily fritter away the entire weekend watching Gilmore Girls and snuggling dogs and leave the pile of dishes and laundry whereas he’ll eventually tackle them. He doesn’t even make annoyed noises at me while I keep watching shows…apparently I have a seared conscience because I *barely* feel guilty about it.

      1. Sidra

        Hahaha, better than we are! We just enable one another’s show-watching/dog-cuddling while the dishes pile up, haha.

  11. JM in England

    Regarding #3, I totally agree with the assessment. Abuse is abuse, regardless of the intent behind it. Can tell you firsthand that there’s no bigger demotivator. The vast majority of times that I’ve been on the receiving end, I could clearly tell that the intent was to demean and humiliate.

    1. Bea W

      To add, don’t be fooled by people claiming “good intent”. Whether they are demeaning and humiliating people to be jerky or to “motivate” them, the person is still demeaning and humiliating and that is their intent, not whatever bs secondary outcome they are claiming.

      1. Not So NewReader

        Right on. People with genuinely good intentions deliver their message using their hearts and their minds. They KNOW they are talking to a fellow human being first and foremost.

  12. Us, Too

    I absolutely agree that your choice of spouses influences your career. One of the most ambitious, successful women I ever met says that the best choice she ever made was who she married. Without her husband’s support, she never could have accomplished what she did professionally.

  13. Former Professional Computer Geek

    Someone needs to put #3 on a giant poster. Then I need a time machine so I can put it on past offices, so I can point to it when upper bosses & HR explain to me that “it’s not abuse, it’s a means of being *motivated*.”

  14. AlyInSebby

    Many people asked about “Rent a Wife” Businesses.

    I am in Northern CA and I am Gal Friday.

    I joke that I might draw the line at sex work, but anything else you need help with, YES!

    I support small and home based businesses and individuals.

    I run errands, book keep, help people with their devices and technology, organize, cook, shop, event plan and manage, mailing projects, databases, count and catalog collections, create craft projects to show your prime memorabilia and help get rid of the rest or store it permanently, garden, yard work…last week in my business assistant capacity I played basket ball and made paper airplanes for the child of a IT person my client was meeting with.

    If you want to pay my hourly rate, there’s not a lot that I balk at.

    My parents and grandparents are all gone, and we don’t have kids. So I have a lot of patience for stuff most people in a similar position would have.

    I’ve had a minor hoarder, but not a serious one…yet…I can’t wait for that!

    I love what I do especially because I know how much it means when I get the kind of help I provide for others. Also my best friend benefits A LOT!

    1. Not So NewReader

      I see rent-a- husband business in the same idea, also.
      And then we have the personal assistants.
      Some one has to keep everything rolling on the home front.

  15. Cautionary tail

    I read through all the posts with respect to your choice of mate and subsequent measures of success and didn’t see my situation. I got married to a wonderful person, who not long after we were married had a life altering medical event and was hospitalized for almost a year. I kept my full-time job but my mate could not work anymore and going to doctors 3-5 times a week became the full time occupation.

    It has been 13 years since that event and although the frequency of doctors’ visits has moderated it’s still at least once a week. Due to the event, it is impossible to either having a full-time job or to be a stay-at-home supportive spouse.

    Frequent rest throughout the day is required so I work all day, then come home and make dinner, do the parental limousine service, help with homework, etc. My spouse does laundry and bills and between us lots of things fall between the cracks and life moves on.

    So I have a supportive spouse, just one who is physically incapable of supporting us as a team. This limits us because my choice of jobs is predicated on how good the medical insurance plan is and how close to a hospital with the right specialization the job is, with cash compensation being a distant second. Consistent with the article, “it’s a lot easier to concentrate on your next brilliant idea at work if someone else can be counted on….” In my case I have been hamstrung in my career because I’ve had the potential for opportunities and had to decline because I want my spouse to live.

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