I am really quite excited to see the resurgence of feminism in the mass consciousness.
I’ve actually been meaning to write more about my nebulous thoughts and experiences around it, but this other thing has been eating at me a bit, so I thought I’d throw it out there and see if I can drum up any discussion, because frankly, I’m stymied.
How do I negotiate prioritising and “leaning-in” to my career in the context of doing what’s best for our family?
At the core of it, Neil’s salary is over 100% higher than mine. This is due to a number of things; but primarily because of a higher overall salary for the work he does compared to what I do, and a more direct career path for him (he’s been doing the same thing for a while, marching steadily upward, while I flitted around and dabbled).
But, while he would never boast about this himself, he also owes a huge amount of credit for his earnings and career success to the fact that he works really, really hard. He goes in early most days. He stays late when he needs to. He isn’t a doormat or a workaholic, but genuinely believes in what he is doing, really enjoys doing it, and works hard to deliver excellent work, all of the time.
His pride, drive, and passion are core to what I love most about him.
And before we had a kid, these rarely presented any challenges. He worked late, I worked late, we sorted it out and fended for ourselves when we had to.
Introducing the tiny human has meant we have also had to introduce a lot more compromise. Generally we’re pretty good at making things work, and Neil really is very involved in the mechanics of making sure we’re all fed, clothed, and reasonably clean. He’s got time booked out in his calendar where he won’t take late meetings because I have commitments. But occasionally, we both need to extend our work days, and we need to make a choice about which one of us has to lean toward the family more than toward our jobs.
So how do you choose who’s going to ‘take one for the team’ this time?
Prioritising Neil’s work means ensuring he can continue to earn the income our family needs to keep existing (we can not live on my salary alone).
But I worry.
I worry that I am going to lose opportunities to increase my own career progression and financial contribution to our family (not to mention my own personal goals and hopes and dreams), by not being able to lean in as hard.
I worry that by taking on the bulk of the household responsibilities, so Neil can continue to thrive and grow in his role as our primary breadwinner, I am spreading myself thin enough that my outside-the-home-work ends up relegated to the position of ‘job’ rather than career.
I worry that by ‘betting on the short-game’ we are losing out on the potential of the long-game, but at the same time, that a focus on the long-game for future unknowns in my career may bite us in terms of opportunities for Neil that could very concretely impact our family now.
None of this is about parenting, or time with Isaac, which I’m really very happy with. Heck, if my salary were higher, I’d consider introducing a maid/nanny/mother’s helper/au pair/household manager into our lives, to make the choices a little less stark.
(Or is the right bet a financial hit to have those resources, so we can start making more time-choices now, in the hopes that it pays off in the future? – see, I can play this game all day.)
My in-person life is pretty much devoid of working couples without massive salaries who make this work.
I know a lot of families with two average incomes, who work to live and rarely exceed the 9-5:30 boundaries. I know many who live on one income, with someone staying at home to manage the household. I know a few where there is one ‘main breadwinner’ income-earner, and the other who has ‘just a job’ and generally makes most of the work-sacrifices to take care of the family. And then there are the Sandberg-esque examples, of two people who already have huge careers before kids come along, where hiring extra help is, financially, a no-brainer.
Maybe you are or you know someone, like me, somewhere in the middle?
Is there anyone out there who has any more of this figured out than I do?