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Forward Motion


If there is one subject I’m perpetually fascinated with, it’s how our relationships and careers intertwine. Perhaps one of the reasons I find it so compelling is because it’s a relatively new problem. Its current incarnation has only existed for a generation or two, and we’re all still figuring out the ropes. Earlier this week we talked about how two careers are not a zero-sum game, and today, Kristine Harrington is exploring how her husband Steve sacrificed his career for hers (temporarily) and now is building his own. As someone who has been in Steve’s position, and who will one day probably be in Kristine’s position, I want to offer support all round (and discussion).Forward Motion | A Practical Wedding

When Steve and I first met, we were already on the verge of physical separation. Completely twitterpated by our third date, I broke the news to him hesitantly that I had been accepted to nursing school out of state and would be leaving in a matter of weeks. His response? “Well let’s just see what happens then.”

You know the rest.

After I left, it didn’t take long for Steve to join me. He quit his job (at the height of the recession), packed up his car, shipped a storage container north, and moved into my (now our) 600-square-foot apartment. With his (now our) eighty-pound chocolate lab, who fast became friends with my (our) fluffy, bossy Bichon Maltese puppy. As I began what would be my hardest semester of nursing school.

Yeah, that was interesting. But somehow we survived and emerged (mostly) intact from the adventure. Unfortunately for us, I became a newbie RN in a saturated job market and quickly learned that nursing was far from the recession-proof career we all had believed it to be. My first job in critical care was in yet another state. Steve faithfully helped me pack up a moving van and moved with me. Then we moved back a year later when I realized that critical care nursing did not fit me at all.

All this is to say that Steve has repeatedly put his own needs and professional goals on the back burner throughout our relationship and early in our marriage. He hasn’t done so silently, nor would I expect him to do so. He’s taken soul-crushing jobs for which he is vastly overqualified, in the name of making rent and paying the bills. It’s affected him some days more than others. He’s struggled, but he’s survived the roller coaster much more gracefully than I ever would.

When I graduated with an MSN this past May, we sat down and talked about his future. He, like me, is passionate about a million different subjects and has an intellectual curiosity a mile wide. But when he really thought about it, he realized that he wanted to do what he had dreamed about for decades. He wanted to work in… wait for it… health care (did the man learn nothing from the pits of despair I call Nursing School?!). He is now taking classes to become a Physician Assistant. I am so proud and so impressed already.

But what has really amazed me throughout this process is that I’ve come to understand what it means to share a present and a future together. And how to negotiate our individual futures so that they become not “his” and “mine” but “ours” (sort of like blending a 600-square-foot apartment and two dogs, but on a much bigger, scarier, more uncertain scale).

In the midst of his own excitement about school, Steve has still encouraged me to continue my own education, which is far from over. (My name is Kristine and I am a school junkie). As we’ve researched PA programs for him, we’ve found nurse practitioner options for me, and we’ve started to realize that this is going to be an even bigger adventure than we anticipated. It may require a cross-country move. It may be enhanced by the growth of our family (or not). It may call for a complicated and delicate dance of jobs, clinical internships, and coursework, all while keeping a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.

But the beauty of the adventure is that it will be ours. And all of the uncertainties and unknowns of the next X years have gotten me all twitterpated again. Because it will be a journey I share with my partner, and that will make all the difference.

Photo by: Daniel Sheehan of A Beautiful Day Photography (APW Sponsor)

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  • http://anniecardi.com Annie

    Kristine makes such a great point here–we often merge stuff and think of it as “our apartment” (okay, so maybe I had trouble giving up the idea of “my” coffee maker) but we tend to shy away from ideas of “our career goals.” I think women especially are raised to feel so protective of our careers. This is with good reason, but it can also make the idea of any sacrifice or incorporation of new plans really hard. But I love reading about couples like Kristine and Steve who are facing challenges and making goals together. Best wishes to both of them for the next adventure!

    • meg

      This is an interesting idea, women feeling protective of their careers. I kind of want to explore that more…

      I know that of the two of us, I’m the one who’s CRAZY protective of my career (like, I’ll knife you if you get close to it), and David really values his work, but isn’t protective like that, probably because he doesn’t have to be. I’m the one under tons more pressure (especially now) to give things up. Everyone seems to assume we won’t get full time childcare, for example, but literally no one assumes that David will be working less. So it falls to… ME!

      So I’m hyper defensive for a reason. That said, we’re REALLY good at thinking like a team. Primarily because if I’m holding a knife, I like a second person with a knife covering my back.

      (I wish I was joking.)

      • http://theroadto92912.blogspot.com Molly

        I like the image of very pregnant Meg standing at the threshold of the APW offices looking nervously in all directions while clutching a chef’s knife.

        • http://anniecardi.com Annie

          That could totally be a t-shirt.

      • http://anniecardi.com Annie

        Very much feel the same way. Also, I think most of us are the first generation of women who were taught that you can have a full education and career (not just work until you get married). There’s a lot of pressure that comes with that.

        • meg

          Oh NO! We’re second generation at least.

          I mean, first wave feminists fought for it (for the older ones of us, that’s our moms), and the generation in between grew up thinking they could do it (third wave feminists). I think we’re fourth wave, if we’re counting still, and here we are.

          • http://anniecardi.com Annie

            That’s true. I wasn’t dividing in terms of waves of feminism, just between our moms and us. (Mostly because I think of my own mom, who wouldn’t have been allowed to attend my high school or college because they were all male when she was young.)

          • http://highdivingboard.wordpress.com Morgan

            My grandmother (born 1922) had a career and a family. Sure, it was secretarial career, whereas a couple of generations later she’s have been the CEO type, but she worked to support the family. My grandfather’s minister / English teacher career didn’t really bring in a ton of money. And her mother worked full time in the family store.

            Yeah, I’m not the first generation in my family by a long stretch, on both sides. I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

      • CBB

        I’m a bit jealous of women who are intensely defensive about and attached to their careers. As someone who was raised by a single, feminist, schooling-then-working mother, it never occurred to me until about a year ago that I might not want to pursue a career. Right now, I’m in a job that’s perfect for me in just about every way, that could lead to a career that’s incredibly well suited to my skills and interests, and that is generally low-stress, but I still feel, most days, like I wish I was home reading, cleaning up, trying out new recipes, and playing with my dog (part of this is laziness, obviously, but part of it is a real lack of career-based ambition). Four years ago, when my fiance and I moved in together, I chalked it up to “nesting,” but as the years have gone on and the feelings have only intensified…man is it starting to freak me out.

        Mine is not the brand of feminism that defines all choices a woman makes as feminist, and I can not convince myself that a choice not to work is a feminist choice (NOT that it’s not a fine choice! I just don’t believe that it’s a feminist choice), and I always expected myself to be someone whose larger life choices were feminist ones. Anyhow, I’m rambling, but I’d love to hear from other raised-feminist women who are dealing/have dealt with this issue!

        • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

          Realizing that I don’t care all that much about “career” was a very strange thing to wrap my head around. And strangely, it was only when I started embracing the part of myself that values family life and being able to hopefully one day be an at home parent that I started to embrace the label of “feminist”.

          What I’ve started to realize for myself in regards to feminism is that even if the choices I make aren’t ones that further the most obvious feminist agendas, if they are well thought out and have reasoning behind them they can still be feminist. To me feminism doesn’t have to mean devaluing roles that traditionally fell on women, but rather recognizing that they can be a choice and to deny women one avenue just because “it doesn’t further the feminist cause” is just as bad as forcing women into the same roles. If we are required to go into careers we don’t want to then that’s just as limiting as it is to require someone who WANTS a career to stay at home. Both avenues should be open to us.

          • CBB

            I completely, 100% agree that women SHOULD have the choice to work outside or inside the home (in fact, I think a big part of the problem is that the domestic work that’s historically been done by women is so devalued!) but something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately is that my choices don’t exist inside a vacuum. If they did, it would go: “I struggled with this, and I’m doing the right thing for me! Hurrah! Feminism!”–but I’m thinking about raising children who, if I do choose to work in the home, will have a stay-at-home mom. Most of their peers who have a stay-at-home parent will also have a stay-at-home mom (not dad), and, institutionally, I see that as a problem.

            Anyway, just something I’m struggling with, and I’m so interested in hearing how other women are thinking about/dealing with it!

    • http://makingsofanurse.com Kristine Harrington

      Annie,
      You are so right about that sense of protection over our careers. I found that even after Steve and I had both agreed that it was “his turn”, there was a voice in my head that kept whimpering, “But…I’m not done yet!”. ;-) I guess I’ve dealt with that voice in two ways:

      1) I’ll never stop being done – not only am I a school junkie, but I’m a fierce believer in lifelong learning and growth. I would hope that my marriage will continue to foster this pursuit.
      2) The reason I feel so fiercely confident in moving forward with Steve is because I know that he is as fiercely protective of my career as I am. Our partnership works because we want each other to succeed (we even mentioned this in our vows).

      Oh, and P.S. Steve has a couple years of prerequisites before he can even apply to PA school. Which means timin-wise, I’ll probably get to go back to school again before he does. We all win. :-)

  • KH_Tas

    I should think of something intelligent to say, but my mind has been blown by the awesome of this post, and the people within it.

    So: Great post Kristine

  • dysgrace

    This. Is. Lovely. Thank you, Kristine!

    One thought, though, has been hammering away at the back of my head the whole way down…How do you fit two dogs (including an eighty-pound lab) into a 600sqft apartment? We have a 700sqft apartment, and I am too nervous to bunnify it, so we just have a lot of houseplants.

    • http://makingsofanurse.com Kristine Harrington

      Haha, it was certainly tight quarters for a good 1.5 years. The Lab and I did a lot of wrestling over couch space. The puppy became Steve’s shadow (and remains in worship mode to this day ;-)

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

    I LOVE this post. My baby family definitely works on the joint future principle when making career decisions, and we both have a real say in what steps each of us takes in our career. Sometimes that means that one person’s career goals may seem to take the lead but honestly it’s all about propelling us towards the future that we both want to reach and its with our joint goals in mind.

  • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

    These posts have been so very relevant this week.

    I am a very established professional with a career in international health that I value tremendously. My husband is 9 years older than me and has a career that is 9 years more established in every way (i.e. he has a more senior position in his organization, more senior level pay, etc.). I suspect that he will always be more established than I will… and I feel worried that what’s best for “us” and our family will in practice always orbit around what’s best for him, because I am relatively less established, and, therefore, more flexible. Add on top of this the fact that we work overseas and the chances of us both finding a perfect fit job are next to nil. We have something pretty close to that right now but yet….

    I know I wrote just yesterday that every choice contains within it the longing for, and mourning of, the road not travelled, but that we have to focus on the road that we’re on. I’m still working on it. I have a job I like well enough, but I know that right this second I’m not flinging myself headlong into achieving my greatest potential professionally. Add to that the inevitable balancing act of having children (I just missed an open house at school and am feeling so guilty about it I could die). In any case… all of this is to say that I’ve enjoyed the conversation, and these are really tough, very real issues.

    • http://byjacki.com Jacki

      “… every choice contains within it the longing for, and mourning of, the road not travelled, but that we have to focus on the road that we’re on.”

      Isn’t that the truth. It’s hard to admit that sometimes without it being taken the wrong way.

    • meg

      But you know what… his career will always be more established until he retires first, and your income is the sole income. IE: it evens out, and there is always reason to develop your own career.

      You know?

      • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

        You are absolutely right, Meg, and the two of us were actually talking about it this morning. I actually feel very protective of my career, and am not at all at peace with the way things are right now. It’s fine until I finish grad school and develop my next Big Ass Vision for my life, but I’m clearly not in a place of total peace right now.

    • Marcela

      I can so relate to everything you just wrote, Manya, probably because we share very similar circumstances: expats, same age difference, children and all that it implies. It is not easy, yet life is long and full of surprises…

      • http://safarimama.blog.com Manya

        You’re my secret sister, Marcela…

    • http://makingsofanurse.com Kristine Harrington

      Manya, I just wanted to tell you what a beautiful writer you are. I love your comments and I LOVE it when you post! Just wanted to make sure you knew that. *Hugs*

  • Sara C.

    This post has me wondering – has any APW’s lived separately apart from their husbands in order to pursue differing career goals? My husband and I are both at the beginning of our careers/finishing grad school, and as of now we’ve spent summers apart (as in, plane ride and different states apart) working at differing internships that are best for us individually. When I tell our friends that we plan on living apart for 2-3 years (until we both get to a point that moving to the same city isn’t a death sentence for our individual careers, but instead a viable opportunity), then I tend to get strange looks….

    • http://nickandnoragettingmarried.wordpress.com Annie

      I haven’t personally experienced that, but I know people who have. It’s not ideal, but usually there’s a specific end goal (like “When I finish residency”). And I’m reminded of my grandparents, who had to spend major time apart while my grandfather was working on various job sites up and down the east coast. It’s not like couples have never had to survive long distance; people shouldn’t be so horrified by the idea.

    • Umpteenth Sarah

      We did this for 3 months before we got married, and it is very likely that we will have to do this for a while when my husband takes his first tenure-track job (fingers crossed!), which is likely to be outside of driving range from where we live now and I work. I don’t think I’ve encountered many weird reactions, but I think that’s because in our graduate program there were at least 4 members of faculty who had long-distance relationships with their wives (it was always wives). Not ideal, no, but they made it work… and so can we… and so can you!

      • http://www.stitch-witch.net Christina McPants

        One of my high school friends is currently living out of the country in med school while her husband lives at home with his parents to help support her schooling. We haven’t talked in a while, so I have no idea how things are working for them, but people do do it.

    • Kess

      I’m doing this currently – although we’re not actually engaged right now, let alone married. Basically, I’m going to grad school at my current undergrad which is in the middle of nowhere so there’s no where my SO can find a job here. Therefore we live 9 hours apart and will continue to do so until about June 2013. Our 4 year anniversary is this weekend and for more than half of the relationship, we’ve been long distance.

      However, after that we’ve currently (because everyone knows plans change) decided that we’re going to be together. At that point I’ll either be pursuing a PhD or going into industry and my SO has agreed to follow me (basically, his current job is ok, but he’s a-ok with trying something different by then)

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      We’ve talked :) But I’ll chime in because I love finding others in the APW community who have faced similar circumstances.

      We’ve done that, kind of. In the first two years of our marriage, we’ll have lived in the same country… maybe half the time? Less than that, I think. I’ve been in grad school in Europe and B. has a job in Asia. Sometimes he can work remotely (hence the half) and sometimes we’re really far apart. People didn’t know we were married for the first year and a half, though, so there were fewer strange looks. Also, living apart is pretty common in academic circles.

      There’s a careful balancing act in marriage between you as individuals and you as a couple. Sometimes supporting each other from afar really is the right answer — it definitely was for us.

    • Christa

      We’ve done the long distance thing for three of the last five years and counting. We started out dating, eventually got engaged, and finally married. It started when we were both in grad school. He’s now a post-doc and I’m getting close to finishing. Neither one of us like it, but we make it work. We have a series of possible end dates that depend a lot on how we decide to play out the early stages of our careers, and whem I’m finally done writing.

      • Sara C.

        Your series of possible end dates makes me smile – because after driving ourselves crazy trying to set a definitive, “we-will-live-together-in-this-year” date, we finally gave up. Now when I’m feeling cranky and someone asks me “oh, you must be looking for work here, since your husband is still in school” I tell them our marriage is better when we don’t live together :-).

    • Elemjay

      I would have thought that there are many people in the military who in pursuing their career spend a long time apart from their spouses

      • Sara C.

        Ah so true – which apparently is easily forgotten?

        And thank you, everyone, for sharing your experiences :-).

    • BSW

      Isn’t it funny how the strange looks come no matter what side of the coin you’re on? I’ll be following my boyfriend (pre-engaged) across the state and then internationally for his job while I try to take some pre recs for grad school and work… wherever. When I told my current boss this, she held her tongue couldn’t hide that strange, doubtful look. I just try to smile in response because what really matters is that he and I are happy with our choices, and WE ARE.

    • meg

      Here you go you guys! I dug up this great post on living apart (VERY apart, opposite coasts) while married.

      Though *of course* if any of you have more to say on the subject, you should send us a post, because I think A) lots of people need to discuss it, and B) I suspect there are lessons in there for all of us.

      • Sara C.

        Thanks :-).

    • Meredith

      My parents are sort-of doing this right now. For the last 6-ish years my Dad lives in another state during the week, then goes home on the weekends. My mom works full time but locally. For the first year, he commuted to Florida from New Jersey, but for the past 5 years it’s been Pennsylvania, which is way easier. 1 night during the work week either he goes back to NJ or my mom goes out to PA. There isn’t an end time in sight for them; at this point, retirement, I suppose as they are approaching 60. They’ve been married 35 years now so I guess this is not exclusive to younger couples.

      • http://theengineerandthearchitect.wordpress.com Saretta

        My parents are also doing this with no end in sight. My Dad has lived in several places anywhere from 4 to 7 hours away, and works out his schedule so he can be home for a week about every 6 weeks. Its tough to watch them deal with this situation that we usually ascribe to younger couples and realize that anything can happen in the future.

      • Not Sarah

        My grandparents did something similar, for I think, my grandfather’s entire career. You just went where the jobs were. Actually, I think both sides might have done it.

    • LB

      My husband and I lived across the country from each other for two years (one while dating, one while engaged) while I got my MBA. It was something I needed to do to advance my career and I don’t regret my decision at all. I can also say with 100% confidence that I never want to do that again. I think the thing that made it easier was it had a clear end date – after graduation, we agreed that I would find a job back in the area where he lived. I should explain that he has two children from a previous marriage that he has joint custory of, so moving was not (and is not still) an option for him.

      I think it would have been infintely harder if we didn’t have an end date defined. To each their own – I think some people thought I was crazy for doing what I did, but it was worth it in the long run.

    • Megs

      We not only lived apart for our careers for a year, but got married while doing so! My husband (fiance at the time) stayed in our apartment (see yesterday’s conversation about NOT giving up a good apartment in NYC!), while I got a separate one for a temporary job in an adjoining state. We were lucky, though, in that we were, quite intentionally, only a train ride apart and were able to spend most weekends together. Still, I liked to joke that most people move in together when they get married, but I moved out.

      I was lucky in that I wasn’t the first in my family to get married while living apart, so I had a model to look to. My parents spent the first year of their marriage living apart, too (my mom had to finish up her student teaching, and then had to deal with a family illness). They’ve been married 42 years, so I think that’s pretty good evidence that it can work out just fine.

      Like Meredith and Saretta, I’ve also noticed that it’s becoming more of a trend in the current economy, even among people my parent’s age, out of necessity. (Our separation wasn’t totally necessary; but it was a great opportunity for me.)

      It’s not an easy path (is any?), but spending time talking on the phone each night definitely made the distance easier for us. But it was almost harder after the year was up and we moved back in together–we had both readjusted to living alone, and it took some time to get our schedules in sync again. Totally worth the work, but it did take time.

    • JC

      Pre-engaged here, but my FH and I lived 1,000 miles apart for 5.5 years for school, and will most likely have to do it again immediately after getting married summer of 2014. He finished his schooling and moved to where I am still in school, which is great! However, after graduating vet school, I will have to do a one year residency. Therefore, I will have to live somewhere else for a span of one year, making it not worth his effort to relocate with me and leave his great job for only one year. We have been dating since high school, so this might not apply to everyone, but we have always had a policy of “Do what you need to do for yourself, and then we will live together when it is possible for both of us” I know that we would both resent each other for following each other and not our dreams, so we stuck it out long distance for a LONG time. I have to say that it has worked out wonderfully for us, and now we are together and super happy :)

    • Denzi

      We’ve been married for nearly a year now, are moving to France together in the spring, and when we move back in the summer, may very well end up across the US from each other for two years. We have to hash out the particulars, but his job is very-location dependent, and we realized recently that we have both been stalling my career for two years for his and that is not okay with either of us, so the next step after France (for his career and my fun) is for us to support me while I get an MSW (and possibly an MDiv at the same time, in which case I think he will try his damndest to be where I am because five years of long distance marriage is a little too much for us). I am applying to schools where he could get a job, but we are very open to the possibility of being long distance for two years (how to make it work, pending), and I’m starting to be a little excited about it. My husband met me in the middle of a depressive spiral and at the end of my last steady, full-time job, and I am looking forward to showing him that I can accomplish useful things for us, too. (Plus decorating to my tastes again instead of compromising! Although he does all the cooking, so I would be sad about that as well as the missing him…)

    • http://makingsofanurse.com Kristine Harrington

      One thing I didn’t mention in the post is that after we got engaged, Steve and I lived apart for six months. I had left my job in WA and returned to working in Portland, but we had a house leased and Steve had a relatively well-paying job in Seattle. So while he looked for jobs back in PDX, I stayed in a friend’s basement and commuted to WA on weekends. Then our lease ran out and we found a place in Portland, and Steve couch-hopped while I settled us into our place and he commuted down on the weekends. It wasn’t ideal (in fact it was downright awful at times), but we survived. And despite the emotional roller coaster, we still got hitched a few months after that.

  • Ashley

    As someone who is about to walk into a similar situation (me being the one in Steve’s position) this really hit home.

    We’re on the verge of a cross-country move so my husband can take advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity and although I am totally thrilled for him, I’m totally terrified for myself. I have been the primary income in our house since we got married (although my husband has been contributing more and more since he’s been out of school), not to mention the health insurance carrier. I am a planner and I really do best with stability and calm. This transition will have little of any of that.

    But despite all of that, I think in life (and marriage) you just have to take the leap even when it’s uncomfortable and scary. I keep trying to remind myself that the agony of the “what ifs” would be lifelong, where the pain of the initial move and uncertainty will be temporary.

    Can someone please remind me of that in a month when I’m loosing my mind? :)

  • http://ellenmcsweeney.wordpress.com Ellen

    Thinking about careers and relationships intertwining is one of the biggies for me, especially because we got together young (20 and 21!) before our careers were at all established. My husband cooked and cleaned for me all the way through my master’s degree — in MUSIC (so he wasn’t getting any income bump out of the deal). During that time, I also founded a small arts organization. Could I have done this without him? Not sanely. Now that it’s time for him to finish his dissertation, I’m seeing housework differently. Every time I cook dinner or clean up, I’m freeing up some time and energy for him to focus on his work, like he did for me. It makes dishes seem less shitty and it really makes me feel like an important part of what he is accomplishing.

  • http://byjacki.com Jacki

    I love it.

    “It may call for a complicated and delicate dance of jobs, clinical internships, and coursework, all while keeping a roof over our heads and food in our bellies.”

    This is the dance we’re starting, our own version of it anyway: I’m considering a major career change (leaving insurance for nursing school, maybe) and he’s two years into one (starting a small business, which currently pays very little). And we’re raising his son. In years past I probably would have gone all ME, ME, ME and freaked out as we tried to intertwine our lives and career goals/current realities, but I’m learning to say US, too, and build together from that place. Thanks for talking about this so beautifully.

    • http://makingsofanurse.com Kristine Harrington

      Good luck with nursing school! I’m here for moral support anytime!

      • http://byjacki.com/blog Jacki

        Thank you so much Kristine! I’m nervous/excited/still figuring out how to make it work!

  • Mallory

    Thank you, THANK YOU. This post hits home in so many ways for me.

    As someone who is newly engaged (Huzzah!), my SO and I are trying to navigate the tricky waters of grad school/careers/”real life”. Which is, in and of itself, a terrifying prospect. Multiply that by two and factor in geographic differences…things become more complicated.

    As he is still several years away from a PhD, I will be taking the sacrificial plunge first when I finish my MA this spring, moving from DC to a slightly less conducive to international affairs locale. He continually expresses reservations that he is limiting me and my career; but, to me, this is what’s going to be the best for us and our baby family. After he gets his degree in a field with a wealth of options, we can focus on me. My parents, too, have been questioning “if this is what you (I) really want?” To be with my (soon-to-be) husband, to start a family together, to wake up and fall asleep together – absolutely.

  • Dana

    Thank you thank you thank you for this post. It has perfect timing.

    I am recently engaged and my S/O and I are in the same field – environmental science and policy in the public/non profit sector. We both have decent jobs right now, but I am expecting a job offer with more responsibility…in another state. I’m slightly farther along in my career, but not by much.

    Right now we are in a big city, but this potential move would bring us to a smaller town in Virginia, where opportunities in the environmental sector are likely to be more limited, especially when there are TWO of us looking for the same types of jobs.

    For the first time, I am trying to figure out if this new job is the right move for my own career (probably) AND for our family (not so sure). Couple that with the stress of potentially moving apart, to another state, while in the midst of wedding planning.

    My head has been spinning for weeks…

  • http://theincompleteidiotsguide.blogspot.com/ Alyssa

    Thank you so much for this. I sent it to my boyfriend because it’s something I’ve been trying to talk to him about for months without success. Even though we live together and share everything, I feel like all of our discussions are in terms of “your future” and “my future” instead of “our future.” We know we want to spend the rest of our lives together, but his job in the family business is here and he’s afraid if he leaves it he won’t be able to find another job with his limited skill set, or if we end up back here that his job won’t be waiting for him when we get back. I plan on going back to school to get my M.Ed. and credential, and he’s afraid that I won’t find a job in the same city. I feel chained by his job. We’ve discussed other career paths that he could go back to school for, but I feel that he’s clinging to this job like a security blanket.

  • Jen

    Thank you for this post. I love your story!

    I do think you are correct that we can be quite protective of our careers, and as another poster said, this may be even more true of women. My fiance and I are both lawyers and when I mention that maybe I’d like to try the Partner track at my law firm everyone’s response is generally “Wait until you have kids then decide,” but when my Fiancee says the same thing its like “well, duh.” When I hear this, like Meg, the knife comes out!

    We are many years away from trying to start a family but it already worries me a little how we will work towards achieving our own goals (professional and personal). But your right, its a “dance” and a dance that must be done together.

    • http://www.invertigodance.org Laura

      I run a dance company, so I get to literally dance around this issue! We’ve gone through times where he supported me and now I am the primary earner in our partnership. It’s like tango or contact improvisation – you listen and respond to your partner at the same time as holding yourself strong and centered.

      Also, side note – as an artist, the director of a company, a woman and the primary earner of a household, I find myself increasingly wondering if I can add “mother” to that list. The first four are already such a delicate balance.

  • http://theengineerandthearchitect.wordpress.com Saretta

    My husband and I just moved across the country so that he could have the job he’s been dreaming about since he was in high school. I have been all for the move from the beginning, but the actual transition has been tough because I went from bring home the bacon while he was in school to, well, basically doing nothing. We haven’t been here very long and I know I will get a job, but the in-between time is tough. But in the end, I know that this move was best for *our* future even if it is putting a bit of a damper on *my* present.
    I’ve always been very protective of my career (the image of Meg with a knife is true for me too) and career goals, and there are many reasons to take a time-out along the way. I wasn’t entirely happy with the job I had before, so most of me is excited for this opportunity to redirect my career in the way that I want it to go. There is that little piece of the that is still stuck on not being employed because of following my husband across the country, but I think that will fade with a job of my own.

  • MM

    This is crazy… I worked with Steve in one of what I’m assuming is being referred to as the “soul-crushing” jobs (which I was also vastly overqualified for). That’s really all I have to add here, other than being able to attest to the fact that Steve is a wonderful person, but that is pretty much obvious from the post, right?

    • http://makingsofanurse.com Kristine Harrington

      You’re kidding! And you just happened to come across this post? What a small world (that’s the THIRD time I have said that in the last 12 hours).

  • Taylor B

    Thank you for sharing this post! I sort of burst into tears at the reference to Steve taking “soul-crushing jobs,’ my partner has stayed at a soul-crushing job for the last 3 years while I went to grad school fulltime. I’m looking for work now, and he is still incredibly supportive of the process, reminding me I don’t have to jump at the first offer, that the point of graduate school was to find a job working higher up in the system (social work/public health). After three years of cooking, cleaning and paying most of the bills, he is still encouraging me and exuding patience. What I needed to hear, and you gave it to me in this post, is that this guilt I’m carrying is misplaced. We were investing together in our future, not just in my career. And as soon as I’m settled in the new job, we will tackle his career path, not just to even out the personal satisfaction, but because that is what is best for our future together. I really needed this change in perspective, thank you.

    • http://makingsofanurse.com Kristine Harrington

      Oh trust me, I understand the guilt. I’ve certainly had my moments too. Hang in there and I hope you find what you are looking for.

      P.S. My sister has an MPH/MSW and is thriving! I have so much admiration for the work that y’all do!

  • http://www.acastoftwo.com Leah McGregor

    Gosh, thanks for sharing your story Kristine. At the moment I am working full time while launching a jewellery business and a blog and my partner is cooking all the meals, patiently and lovingly supporting me, and ignoring the huge pile of laundry that needs to be put away. I hope that one day I can return the favour for him, as he grows and finds his passion.

  • http://makingsofanurse.com Kristine Harrington

    Oh by the way, since this post was submitted, we did end up making the cross country move! Any North Carolinian APW friends out there?

  • Karen Harrington

    I love your posts Kristine, AND not just because I am your mother, but because they are so thoughtful and elicit such inspiring conversations. I love that so many of you, as couples, are engaged in the give and take of the important issues in a relationship, and that many more women and their career aspirations are a critical part of the equation. I don’t love that the glass ceiling is still very real and will often dictate the outcomes of those decisions and I don’t love that many women are put in a defensive position about the importance of their career choices. There is progress, slow progress. We will have arrived when these choices are truly gender neutral and for most of the world that is a long way off.

  • secret reader

    favorite piece of career advice, from my super boss, “you never know who is going to follow whom.”

    he said it to snap me out of assuming de-facto that my partner would be the one to get the job offers at the end of grad school. (this is why self-identified feminist bosses are the best.) but he also meant that over the long-term, in a two career family, you never know whose career will be in the “lead,” when it comes to we-have-to-put-one-first decisions. using this as a mantra really helps me keep the two career dance in perspective. just because things are compromised in one direction or another doesn’t mean they’ll always be that way.