Things I Know About Marriage & Careers After 15 Years
This should be a two-word post.
I don’t know much about marriage and careers even though I’ve been married for over 15 years.
I suspect many things and I know a lot about my marriage but I don’t know a lot about other people’s marriages. I ask about them and certainly, I observe them but if success or failure is marked by marriage or divorce then none of us know much. There are marriages I knew were doomed. I went to weddings and decided to not bring a gift because no part of me thought they’d be together at the end of the year. Some couples are unable to make a clean break and they need to get married so they can get divorced. It’s like it’s the only way they know to get away from each other.
Other marriages I simply don’t want for myself. I suspect they’re happy (perhaps in the way people with Stockholm Syndrome are happy) poking and prodding and making fun of each other. Others seem sexless and one, in particular, has me thinking that they’re both gay and closeted (even to themselves), to be fair Mr. G says that I think everyone is gay, maybe I spent too much time in West Hollywood selling tanning packages to “straight men” who had an inordinate number of gay male friends and a penchant for bodybuilding, hair waxing and tanning nude. Maybe I just see the world a little differently.
My friend Cassie is starting a new relationship and as everyone who is married or living with someone knows, the first year is really tough. It’s not tough in a way that folks understand when they’re in it, it’s difficult in hindsight. My husband and I were strangers sharing a home, a cubbyhole really in the hillside. We had to figure out how we saved money (hah! there was none), how we earned money, who got the computer, who scooped the cat shit and who our friends were. We had to decide on bedtimes, morning routines, food and newspaper sections. Everything was a negotiation the first year and it was easy because we were madly in love and really couldn’t get enough of each other. When people date for 5 and 7 years before marrying or cohabiting I wonder if it’s more difficult having some of the bloom off the rose?
So Cassie and I were talking about Penelope’s post where she talks about the different ways to be married to someone successful and I sort of bristled. I didn’t say it out loud (because I’m trying to develop tact) but hasn’t Penelope been divorced? More than once? She’s crazy, right? Or maybe she’s just crazy smart. I don’t know, I haven’t read enough to make that judgment but something tells me there’s a bit of mania involved with her ascent to the top. I say that without judgment, with some amount of reverence even. I’ve become a bit of a slug in the winter months I could use a dose of mania.
So there’s this post where Penelope Trunk outlines the kind of marriage you can have if you want kids. According to her, there are the following scenarios for women:
Be the breadwinner
- Marry a Stay at home dad
- Use nannies
Be home with your kids
- Work part-time
- Don’t bother earning money
I’ve read and re-read that post a dozen times and I’m wanting to pick it apart and be able to say, with authority, “This is insane, there are more options for mothers than this. There is a balance, there’s a way to have a career that doesn’t dip into your personal life. It’s all possible.”
I can’t say that. If you’re thinking of marriage and you know you want to be someone’s mother these are discussions to have before conception. I’d argue that this is a decision to make while dating, before getting serious.
No matter which route you go it’s tough to adjust to marriage and to parenting. I cannot begin to comprehend what it’s like to adjust to parenting someone else’s child. My mother married when I was 15 or so and our stepfather had to walk a fine line. I think he did it gracefully as teenage years are not imbued with grace.
There’s a particular challenge in being the non-earner. It’s been difficult to give up control of our future and basically bet it all on one man that I met at a boozy party when I was 25. Obviously, we’re the thing movies are made of. We still like each other, we haven’t filed bankruptcy and the kids seem to be well adjusted. I’m only minimally jealous of my husband.
Yes. I am often envious of my husband. Which makes ZERO sense because when I go to pilates today he will be meeting that will likely wring him out and use every bit of energy he has. But he’s doing it in a luxury hotel so I convince myself that it’s all fabulousness and luxe and there’s no actual work involved and then I feel sorry for myself that I’m home.
And then I start arguing with myself (maybe Penelope and I have a little bit of The Crazy in common) and I remind myself that the man works long hours and I don’t. I should stop being petty and jealous of his amazing dinners. Then I remind myself again that we are different people and he doesn’t actually love fancy dinners with strangers. He doesn’t thrive on it. This is actual work for him. So I start feeling grateful and not at all put out that I have to rush to FedEx to get a tie that he forgot sent overnight. In fact, I hoped to myself that he would be as generous with me and my pending trip to Australia.
Then we got to chatting a little more and I found out that someone booked his flight from Los Angeles to New Orleans via Minneapolis. No. I cannot explain why. I can’t even get a slightly slow eight-year-old to look at a map of the US and explain how that happened. I chatted with him about ways to fix the return flight (which has similar idiocy built into it) and joked with him about needing a private jet.
Which is when I began to resemble this lady.
Mr. G explained that his trip in late February would indeed involve a private jet to the east coast. I love that man and I want wonderful things for him but sometimes the perks of being the one who works leave me feeling a little left behind.
And it’s just a feeling. We don’t cater to feelings here. We cater to actions.