Wedding Graduates Return: Maddie

This morning, we introduced the newest member of the APW staff, Submissions Editor Maddie. Now that you guys are through your whirlwind of excitement (Who am I kidding? You’re still excited!), Maddie is here with her first post as a staff member. Long time readers will remember her lazy girl wedding two years ago, and now she’s back, writing about what she learned. She’s writing about how sometimes we do need to sacrifice dreams for our relationships and how instead of that being anti-feminist, it can end up being the most empowering thing we ever do.

Growing up with my ill-paired parents, I got used to hearing conflicting messages as a kid. My mom and dad (separated well before I was born) disapproved of most of each others’ parenting lessons, but there was one they could agree on: Getting married one day would be a perfectly fine option for me, so long as it didn’t compromise my bright, shiny future.

It’s not that getting married was a bad thing exactly—it’s just not something I was ever supposed to aspire to. I had much bigger fish to fry. And if fate would have it that I should get married, I was not to let it hinder my bright, shiny plans for success (to become Jodie Foster if my dad had it his way; Oprah Winfrey if my mom had hers). Furthermore, it was made very clear that if I were to get married, my success would have to be despite that relationship, and most certainly not because of it.

I’d be like that surfer girl who kept surfing even after she got bitten by a shark; marriage could set me back temporarily, but it would never prevent me from realizing my greatness. (Holy swollen ego, Batman.)

So when I married Michael two years ago, that was very much where I stood with regards to marriage. Sure, I was in favor of being with Michael forever—that was an easy promise. But committing to another person and committing to a lifelong partnership are two very different beasts. Still, armed with my parents ideologies, I trudged onward in my dedication to have my cake and eat it too. (Oh and I was going to eat lots of cake. I might even eat all the cake. Watch out world!)

And for the first year of our marriage, I did just that. Michael and I built up a casual existence in Connecticut, eventually adopting a dog, settling into a cute downtown apartment close to the commuter rail, and sometimes doing things together on the weekends. On the flip side, I had a completely independent life in New York City, where I commuted two hours each morning to a Soho office to work 10-hour days at my, ahem, dream job in the entertainment industry for $14 an hour. It was perfect. I wasn’t compromising my goals for domesticity. I wasn’t sacrificing my dreams for a man. And I most certainly wasn’t letting my marriage prevent me from becoming Tina Fey (eat that, parents). Sisters, I was doing it for myself.


I also wasn’t sleeping. Or making any money. Or seeing my husband. Ever.

Around our one-year anniversary, I broke. The dog we adopted was seriously ill, my job was not promising any upward mobility, and I hadn’t slept for more than four consecutive hours a night in almost six months because our downtown apartment was directly above a bodega with 5am deliveries. And it hit me: I was giving, giving, giving all of my energy to a lifestyle that I hated and getting absolutely nothing in return, just so that I would never be accused of settling. I was stunting my own growth as a human by refusing to acknowledge my marriage as a relationship that could propel me forward, rather than hold me back.

So finally I let go. I quit my job in the city and accepted a higher-paying position closer to home so that I would have more time to pursue things that make me happy. With emotional and financial support from my husband, I started a wedding photography business that will never turn me into Tina Fey, but that brings me more joy than indie films ever did. And now, having finally opened myself to the idea that our marriage is the adventure, we are about to embark on a move across the country, to live in a city we’ve only visited before, so that Michael can live out his dreams and I can continue to figure out what my dreams look like.

Do you want to know the punchline? Since quitting my “dream job,” my life has begun to resemble something so much closer to what I had always hoped it would look like. And now, working for APW, I get help share your stories, write about my own experiences with the signature APW snark, and I’ve been told the staff goes for regular Gelato trips. Now that, I think Ms. Fey could get behind.

Oh, I called my parents last week to tell them the news. You know what? They’ve never been more proud of me.

Photos: Hart + Sol Photo, wedding photo Eve Event Photography

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  • Mmmmm.

  • Courtney

    I heart this post, big time. As a very recent newlywed (and just, in general, you know, a person), I’m struggling to figure out what my path in life will be (both individually and in my marriage), and if that coincides with other people’s expectations for me, and MY expectations for me (and frankly if any of those expectations matter). So, welcome to APW, Maddie! I look forward to hearing more from you!

  • SpaceElephant

    THANK YOU. My circle of friends, my coworkers, maybe even my generation are all convinced that if you are not LIVING for your job, killing yourself working long hours, bleeding for it, then you are somehow Less Than. (I also work in the arts, so the $ is never there). They see marriage as an obstacle you have to deal with to continue to pursue this dream.
    And you know what? I am happiest when I work 40 hours a week, when I get to come home at a decent time to cook dinner for my husband and I, when I have a stable job with a decent income. I still have free time to devote to art and intellectual pursuits, but it doesn’t have to consume me in order to give my life worth and meaning.
    And this truth has only become clearer in my marriage. Rather than losing myself in marriage, my self has become more defined and I find it easier to pursue my dreams, which include all sorts of domestic pursuits.
    So excited to have you on board!

  • Ceebee

    Oh maddie, I’m so proud of you too.
    I always say – you don’t grow up till you break your parents’ hearts.
    Don’t flock me just yet!

    I completely understand where you stand.
    First our parents would always want the best for us, and the path that makes us happiest.
    Until we figure both parts out – what makes you happy, and that that’s ALL that it takes to make THEM happy – they’d always be thinking you need their opinion/advice/help/instructions. You’re their little girl.
    And we (especially Asian like me) always take those as execute-without-fail instructions UNTIL we figure out the first -and only- part of the above equation. We owe it to ourselves and them to be happy, no matter what we choose to do.

    I too held off a lot of things and wrangled myself up thinking I’d be settling and disappointing them if I don’t do what I was *supposed* to be. But what we’re really supposed to be doing is to feel important being happy (aren’t that what job satisfaction is about – to be happy and feel important).

    Usually marriage is seen as a rites of passage, when they start taking you seriously. That’s because you made your most important choice of who makes you happy. But growing up starts the moment you make the first choice that is really yours. And parents will have no other response other than really proud!

  • How’s your pup?

    (and lovely to meet you, of course!)

    • Maddie

      She made a full recovery! (That’s her touching noses with my husband above). Thank you for asking. <3.

  • GIRL!


    (also, thank you for this post. i needed it today. the east coast will miss you, but we are glad to have had you here [and hope we’ll have you back to visit!])

  • This is something Eric and I always felt strongly about–we are there for each other to help our souls grow into what we’ve always dreamed they would be: as individuals and together. Our marriage is a character in this world, too. It has a soul, as well. We have to nurture each other’s souls, and the life of the marriage. I do believe that marriage can propel you forward, if you let it–like our vows said, “marriage is the incubator of love”–it lets love grow and it allows for love to “have a safe place to land”–this means that love can try out any adventure, in safety and security, because there IS a place to fall, and someone to catch you, or push you further, if you can’t always do it yourself.

    Maddie and Michael–I am proud of you both! Thank you for sharing this and believing in each other. MWAAAAH.

  • Chris Bergstrom

    Wow. Thank you, Maddie, for writing this. I’ve been struggling with what feels like a very similar inner conflict to what you describe for a long time (months? years?).

    There was a career I thought I wanted; I thought I owed it to myself, to my gender, to my long and expensive eduction, and to society to succeed in it. And I’ve discovered that I hate it. I hate doing the work itself, and I hate the lack of infrastructure or intentional culture surrounding it, and I hate the sacrifice of family life and/or personal life that it seems to require of so many people.

    This career crisis came about at the same time as my engagement, so I questioned (and still question) whether I was giving up my ambitions on account of my impending marriage, in anticipation of becoming a wife and – eventually, hopefully – having the babies. I never wanted to be that woman.

    And yet, I always wanted the marriage, and the babies. (With the career.) And now that the marriage is here, and the babies are not just a far-off future abstract twinkle of a thought but a goal we should plan for within several years, I find that I still want a career, but not this one. I need a new path.

    I want a career that will allow me to contribute to the world and use my talents, but one that will not consume me. I want to be part of something worthwhile (like my current path is), and functional (like my current path is not). Maddie, your post made me feel
    a) not so alone in this conflict, and
    b) like switching paths is possible, and can lead to a happier life.
    Thank you.

    • Stephanie

      I am currently going through the same struggle as you. You are definitely not alone in this!!

      • Chris Bergstrom

        Thank you for saying that, Stephanie! Good luck in your struggle; I hope you (and I both) find a good place to be soon.

    • Amy

      I’d also love to hear more conversations about marriage/babies/work. I’m currently pregnant and I’m honestly just flabbergasted by the number of people (both sets of parents, friends, colleagues, etc.) who expect me to be the one to totally downshift my career because I can’t honestly expect my husband to pick up the slack when I do something like :::gasp:::: travel out of state for several days for my job.
      And my response so far has been, why yes, of course I do. Because its his kid too, and I like my job, and btw, we need my income. And, um, he’s ok with that. Or we wouldn’t have gotten pregnant. I just feel like all of a sudden because a baby is in the picture, expectations went right back to 1950s where my career is an after thought. And that doesn’t even jive with how I was raised. Just an odd experience all around.

      • Chris Bergstrom

        I’d like to hear these conversations too. Very much.

    • Jennifer Lyn

      um, yes, can I give a ‘holla? I agree totally.

  • Contessa

    As the woman who threw herself into and then lost herself completely in her first marriage, I understand your parents’ worries. I am glad you are taking the time now to define your dreams with someone who wants to see you have them!

    I love this post.

    My fiance and I are currently navigating the timeline of having a baby while I finish school which will allow me to achieve my dreams. It’s a landmine filled conversation full of his desire for bio kids (I already have 2) and my desire to finish college and get an actual career (which he already has). BUT we both have a strong desire to support the other and I know we can sort this out together…

    Much luck and hugs to you!

    • Cassandra

      SUCH a landmine-filled convo. We have one child (who is biologically mine) and we definitely both want another… but I’m in my third year of a PhD program that entails a lot of international travel (as will my work), and the Boy is in his first year of an extremely competitive PhD in a different country. Figuring out when babies can happen without dragging my career down, when I’ve worked crazy hard for it having put myself through 7 years of post-secondary school as a single mom, is tricky to say the least. It’s really hard to navigate this kind of decision-making without feeling like someone has to compromise more than the other.

      • Contessa

        YES! YES! YES! He is sure “We can work it out” but I am terrified. I keep bringing it up as “We need to talk about this” but I can’t get to the actual discussion.

        • Cassandra

          Yeah, we stall pretty much after I say “I think we should talk about this” and he says “It’s all going to work out fine.” He’s definitely not *intentionally* not talking about it; he just happens to less into life-planning and forward-thinking than I am. Which is occasionally infuriating and usually funny. In this case, it’s somewhere in between…

  • Pearlabeth

    “Getting married one day would be a perfectly fine option for me, so long as it didn’t compromise my bright, shiny future.”

    This. I’ve always been scolded not to give up career aspirations for a baby family of my own. The pounding expectations come from family (Don’t let anyone hold you back! Why aren’t you shooting for the Stanford faculty job? Why don’t you go for the McKinsey consulting job?) and from mentors/colleagues (Women in engineering! Girl power! Put a plug in the leaky pipeline!).

    And to be honest? I don’t want that high-powered lifestyle.

    I’m driven enough all on my own, thankyouverymuch, and I will make the tradeoffs for my version of a fulfilling life. My vision of happiness *includes* a baby family. That baby family will require that both my FH and I continue to make sacrifices, both personal and professional to make it work. And that’s o.k.

  • PAF

    So interesting. Me and mine are doing a similar length commute into NYC everyday as you once did (and worried that it will wear us down too). It’s something we just started, but as opposed to doing it for our careers, we’re doing it to explore a much sweeter and slower-paced lifestyle, and to enjoy our non-work time together (which is why I hope we can make it work for a while). This will also inform our decision on where to “settle down” long-term, which will then inform what kind of jobs we’ll search for later on.

    By the way – that is the HANDSOMEST dog I have ever seen. I think I just spent 5 minutes staring at him (or her).

  • Manya

    Our marriage is the adventure…
    Yes! Yes! Yes!

  • I used to think I wanted the career. I wanted to totter around a city in my business clothes and heels. (Okay, so I still want the clothes and the heels sometimes.)

    I still want to contribute and make money, actually, I’m the primary “breadwinner” in our house. I wouldn’t be okay with NOT making at least a good chunk of our money (and ohhh man if/when that day ever comes I’m going to have an adjustment to make). But the actual success part? The raking in the money part? The working long hours? I don’t want a damn part of it.

    My favorite part of the day is driving up to the house when Forrest puts down his tools and the dog starts doing his little bucking and wiggling routine. I like our quad rides in the summer and our snowy walks around town in the winter. (And most especially the Saturday morning coffee before a snowshoe.) Those are the things that fulfill me.

    I think the transition is hard because not only did our parents expect us to go forth and succeed (my mom still hasn’t gotten over our choice of location and are focused on the “but you like your job” line as if the real stuff doesn’t matter) but all of society. The driven academically/monetarily successful parts of us were celebrated as teenagers and young adults. We were breaking the mold! Going out to independently conquer the world!

    This somehow adds up to feeling like a failure when the addition of another person allows us to expand our dreams. Expansion not necessarily meaning reaching for the bigger things but the more quality things. Although I still have the feelings of failure sometimes posts like this one (which is a lot like Meg’s wedding grad’s return post now that I think about it) remind me that we are on the right path. That we’re in this together and that makes us better.

    • “My favorite part of the day is driving up to the house when Forrest puts down his tools and the dog starts doing his little bucking and wiggling routine. I like our quad rides in the summer and our snowy walks around town in the winter. (And most especially the Saturday morning coffee before a snowshoe.) Those are the things that fulfill me.”


      Like so many people here, I had a plan for a bright and shiny future path before I met my husband and when we met, a part of me refused to fall in love with him for fear that I wouldn’t Accomplish Stuff. I knew right away that he was just… it. It was always going to be him and it scared me how much that overshadowed, even from the beginning, almost all of my dreams. Our whole relationship has consisted of me watching my priorities re-align themselves to accommodate our life together and mourning, mourning, MOURNING while recognizing how much happier this new path makes me.

      The thing that’s hardest for me is what Meg said in the intro: how un-feminist it feels that I’ve changed my plans for a man. I don’t even know where the pressure comes from in my case (maybe some subliminal messaging in the media) but I sense a lack of community gathering around women who make room in their dreams for a partner. I don’t know why, but when a woman is getting shit done on her own, there’s just something so…shiny about the whole image. Why isn’t the picture of married women doing the same just as brilliant? Is this in my head?

      I have such a great life right now! I’m charging through grad school and getting experience part-time in the career that is currently fueling all of my inspirations. At the end of the day, even if I’ve been slaving over my research, I feel creative enough to work my own art and passions. I’m so looking forward to my future and my husband is a big part of me finding this happiness…but I think I still struggle because I know that it’s just different from the path I’d always imagined when I was alone. I’m continually convincing myself that this is every bit as fulfilling as my un-married plans. I’m always reminding myself that the dogs welcoming me home and the comfy dents my husband and I have put in the couch are even more beautiful than anything I could have imagined before them.

      • Dawn

        Although I’m still among the pre-engaged I feel this way too. Especially when trying to make plans for a future that involve or accommodate my partner. I’ve noticed that I have had much more trouble and resistance in changing my plans for him, than he has altering his plans for me.

        This is certainly food for thought.

      • Shoshannah

        “I don’t know why, but when a woman is getting shit done on her own, there’s just something so…shiny about the whole image. Why isn’t the picture of married women doing the same just as brilliant? Is this in my head?”

        I don’t know, but I know it’s in MY head. For sure.

        Reading this, and acknowledging this fact about myself, just blew my mind. I am going to have to go away and think about this for a while.

        But I will say: I think, for me at least, part of the reluctance (I am a longterm unmarried hetero feminist cohabitor) is due to deep-seating feelings that to “capitulate” to the “conventional” female lifescript would be a betrayal of all those generations upon generations of women who were trapped by marriage and patriarchal expectations, not to mention those brave souls who “got shit done on their own” – the women whom I’ve always looked up to as role models.

        Hmm. Thanks for the nutritious thoughtfood.

        • Class of 1980

          Shoshannah, maybe you didn’t mean to generalize and I hope I’m not misinterpreting you … but there have also been generations of happily married women too. I honestly don’t remember women in my mother’s and grandmother’s generation as being less happy overall. When some feminists paint it that way, well, it just doesn’t ring true to what I saw.

          One could argue that men in the past might have felt just as trapped! Outside of men who held white-collar jobs (the minority), what about the countless men who held down physically-demanding or dangerous jobs in support of their families? My business partner’s grandfather was crushed in an accident in the coal mines of West Virginia and had part of his stomach removed. He could only eat small amounts of food at a time afterward.

          What about farm families where the labor of both husband and wife was necessary to survive? Surely those women were getting shit done too?

          I read an article by a historian who said that when she read journals written by early American women, they seemed to have a lot of confidence and pride in themselves. Later on when a lot of the goods women used to make began being manufactured commercially, the tone in the journals changed and the women became less sure of themselves. They had been reduced to more of a consumer than a producer.

          Certainly there was abuse and there still is because of human nature. But I think sometimes we paint marriage in the past with too broad of a brush and call it “all bad”.

          • Shoshannah

            My mother and grandmothers were definitely trapped by marriage. One grandmother had to divorce her husband because he was sexually abusing my mother, and the other was emotionally abused and cowed by her husband for her inability/refusal to play happy wife to his political ambitions (she had largely untreated mental health issues in an era when they were considered deeply shameful). However, those two grandparents reached a sort of detente later in their lives, he mellowed out a bit, and she missed him terribly when he passed.

            But to your larger point – YES! In addition to my feelings of mourning regarding women’s limited opportunities in the past, I also suspect that, in the family, among friends, and in their communities, women were often *more* valued in the past than we have been in since the Industrial Revolution. After all, people married for economic security. Families were food-producing units, as well as emotional support units.

            I would love to read the article you mention if you can remember the author or title. I have access to JSTOR! :)

            No doubt men also felt trapped by their role as the breadwinner. But there has always been less pressure on men to marry, and they do not have the double burden (/joy) of carrying and birthing children. I often think that if I was alive in the middle ages, say, I would try my damnedest to get into a convent, to avoid plowing and having 15 children.

            Have you read Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes?

          • Class of 1980


            Sorry, I haven’t even been around till now to read your reply. I don’t know where the article is that I referred to.

            I did find this, which is interesting.


            My own mother was in an abusive marriage, which she got out of. She went onto to remarry and the second marriage is great. My grandmother and great grandmother were in fabulous marriages and I think they felt really good about themselves!

            And even when my mother was in the bad marriage, I knew it didn’t resemble the majority of marriages. I knew of lots of happy marriages in my mom’s peer group.

            Unhappy abusive marriages will always be with us as long as there are people with issues.

      • Laura Mc


        I love the fact that you bring up mourning when we re-align our priorities and venture down a new path– even though we know it will be better. I think it’s so important to acknowledge that mourning process, feel it, and move on. I know I have struggled with it in the past (especially when giving up my apartment in the city to buy a condo in the suburbs with the fiance) and will continue to have moments of mourning in the future when paths change regarding marriage, kids, careers, etc.

    • Maggie

      “Expansion not necessarily meaning reaching for the bigger things but the more quality things.”

      THIS. It seems like, in our culture, success is supposed to be easily measurable and highly visible. More Stuff. Nicer Stuff. Swankier titles, fancier vacations, your name on an office door. But I’m slowly realizing that’s not how I define it. My idea of success is more about emotion and quality and time. May never get me approving nods or pats on the back, but I’m learning to be at peace with that.

  • This is a totally inspiring post. Thank you!

  • L

    Thank you. Lately I’ve been struggling with whether I’m failing to “live up to my potential,” and what it means to make a second move in as many years for my husband’s job. This is what I needed to hear.

  • This is SUPER inspiring. Thanks lady!

  • Awesome post with an amazing message. Oftentimes the life we’ve envisioned (or had envisioned for us) isn’t what ends up making us happy. You go, girl.

  • katieprue

    Okay, I think my reply got lost. Internets fail.

    I just think this is such an awesome topic (topics?) and so well written. Coming from divorced parents, with divorced siblings, etc etc, I’ve had to remind myself constantly that it’s okay to want to get married and that that doesn’t make me a sellout or compromise my dreams. In fact, I think I’ll be able to kick a lot more ass with a good partner. That’s what partner means to me, anyhow.

  • Granola

    Good for you Maddie! The boy and I just got engaged three weeks ago and already I feel like I’ve entered a bridal Twilight Zone. While my family has generously offered to pay for the wedding and reception, I feel unworthy because it’s so much more than we could afford if we were doing it ourselves. This stress has run smack dab up against the poor economy and my wish that I was doing better financially and career-wise than I am. I’m trying to stay optimistic that things will get better from here, but sometimes the struggle just seems overwhelming.

    Stories like yours help me to remember that there are variables in life that I’m not aware of. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all you can see is all there is. Solutions usually present themselves, even to problems that seem insurmountable.

    Congrats to you and your husband. We’re glad you’re here on APW, and happier in life in general.

  • This post and all of the comments have me going “YES!”

    I have conversations in my head about this stuff all the time. I still remember doing freelance art some years back and having a client tell me, “This is good stuff! Now, don’t you go getting married and settling down or anything. You’ve got a lot of potential.”

    I still have kind of a WTF reaction when I think about that.

    I could go on for pages about this stuff, but I just wanted to say thank you for putting those wise thoughts out there. It’s very comforting/inspiring to hear how other people have dealt with the work/life balance, finding out what *actually* makes you happy, and telling those deep-seated academics-inspired (also mostly self-inflicted, in my case) narratives of “how a successful life is supposed to go” to fuck. Right. Off.

  • This post is amazing and exactly what I needed. This website, also amazing. Can’t wait to explore it more. I’m glad “we” (women) are now standing up for what they REALLY want, not all of us want to be in a high paying/powerful position working long hours etc. Some of us have dreams of simplier things and that should be more than enough.

    • Amy

      I think what’s interesting is continuing the discussion about the expectations and what happiness ‘means’ to you with your partner.
      I know right after I got married, my husband had a bit of a freak out because he suddenly felt like all the pressure was on him to be the provider, as if my career would naturally start to taper off now that I was the ‘wife’. That wasn’t what I wanted, or planned (even with kids in the picture) and that wasn’t at all ‘me’ prior to the wedding. It was just amazing how strong the cultural narrative was/is around the wife scaling down after marriage. It was surprising to me to see how strongly that pressure felt for my husband.

  • “our marriage is the adventure”

    LOVE. May your adventure be great & your dreams come true. Welcome to APW, Maddie!

    p.s. I hope your pup is okay

  • Class of 1980

    I would hope that your generation listens to it’s heart more than previous generations did. Some of them were so busy worrying about cracking glass ceilings that they never asked what the air was like up there.

    • meg

      And then they ended up with a job they didn’t like and a home they couldn’t afford? I think the one good part of the crisis is making those of us in our 20’s and early 30’s really question if the “right decisions” are the “right decisions for us.” Since we’ve watched those choices just implode around people. I’d rather see my family and travel instead of buying a house, I’ll tell you what.

      • Class of 1980

        I want to see you all have quality of life in addition to paying the bills … oh, and less bills too. ;)

  • Stephanie

    This was so inspiring to read. I’m currently maintaining a long-distance relationship so I can have the prestigious big-firm lawyer job everyone says I’m supposed to feel honored to have. In reality, I wake up every morning thinking of how much I want to quit so I can finally move to SF and live with the boyfriend, like we’ve been planning on doing for over a year now. I’m slowly starting up my photography business but I feel like it would be so irresponsible to leave a good paying job before I’ve even booked my first client. I’ve come to realize the weight of responsibility is crushing my true dreams. It’s one thing to realize this, but it’s a whole other animal to have the courage to act on it. I commend you for having that courage.

    • Shoshannah

      You can do it.

      Shit, I’d move to San Francisco just for the CITY, nevermind the guy. :)

      Props to you for being “responsible” and working toward your authentic goals at the same time. I’m kind of in the same boat, and things are finally starting to come together. My partner moved across the country to be with me a year ago next week. And it’s been awesome.

      I know it’s hard to save money while maintaining a long distance relationship, but if you are making enough as a big-firm lawyer to do so, that’s the best advice I have. My partner saved up about $2,000 before moving here, and has only been able to find contract and part-time positions, but we’ve been fine. It was totally worth it.

      Best wishes to you.

  • Emma

    Love this post! I’ve definitely been thinking similar thoughts, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone. I recently moved across the country (Chicago > New York) for my fiance’s job, and I’m trying to decide what will make me happy in my career. Luckily, I found a job here quickly. But I’ve realized in the last few years that I’m happier when I’m not a workaholic and I like having balance and a full life outside work, yet I still feel this pressure to “succeed” by everyone else’s standards.
    Looking forward to reading more from you, Maddie!

  • Sometimes, an APW post just hits me straight in the heart. This is one of those posts. Maddie – I’m currently at the bottom rung in a field where people seem to treat marriage like a giant obstacle to professional success (which is just one of many reasons why I’m not sure if I even want to climb this ladder), and I really needed the reminder today to hold my head up high as a married lady and to defend my relationship against that kind of thinking. Thank you for that.

    • Amy

      And isn’t it still a bit of a kick in the teeth when being married is seen as a plus for a man (he’s more stable, etc.) and as a detriment for a woman?

      • Class of 1980

        That’s because they assume the man is going to work his ass off until he has a heart attack supporting a family. Neither sex gets out of these decisions alive.

        • ItsyBitsy

          True that. Patriarchy hurts *everyone.*

  • ElisabethJoanne

    “Getting married one day would be a perfectly fine option for me, so long as it didn’t compromise my bright, shiny future.

    “It’s not that getting married was a bad thing exactly—it’s just not something I was ever supposed to aspire to. I had much bigger fish to fry. And if fate would have it that I should get married, I was not to let it hinder my bright, shiny plans for success…”

    I got the same vibes from my parents, and they’ve been happily married for over 30 years.

  • Laurel

    Not gonna lie. As of this moment, I am convinced that Tina is a devoted APW reader.

    I am so excited to read more of your writing.

    • meg

      She would fit right in here. Let’s not joke.

  • Vanessa

    You’re killin’ it Maddie!

    Like I said, celebrity in my mind!

  • “So finally I let go. … so that I would have more time to pursue things that make me happy.”
    I am right there now and this post was something I needed to read. I moved countries for the boy (who already had a permanent position) while I had just finished with school, and the situation is a lot harder than we ever expected, meaning there are very little chances of getting a job in my field.
    I had some dark months where I was going crazy , crying, being anxious, irritable, and wanting to break things, but at some point I decided to start counting blessings and to find a way to make it happen, even if it seemed we had already tried everything. Turns out when I decided to let go, I started really enjoying our relationship, valuing it instead of feeling bad about how I was a failure because I would never get the career after spending 10 years in university, and it is like the colors came back to our lives. We are also finding new dreams, and maybe I will start school again, in hopes it will help, but there are also other projects…
    Anyway, thanks for this empowering post, it really gave me hope somehow.

  • Amelia

    You’re dog is so cute, I want to smother her in kisses and then have Hart & Sol take pictures of my dogs to adore always.

  • Kate

    Wow, thank you so much for posting this today :-) I really needed it. I also just moved to the SF Bay area for my husband’s job and am not having a lot of luck finding a new job for myself. It was one of those days where it’s noon and I’m still sitting in my pajamas at the computer, wondering why I gave up my dream job (that had become very much not a dream job) in Virginia when I read your post! Thanks for reminding me why we do these things for our marriages. Also, congrats on the APW position!

  • Carly (from VA of course!!)

    Maddie, so psyched to hear the news!!! Yayyy now I can keep you in my life ;-)
    Thanks so much to you and Monica for being the best photogs ever, my mom is obsessed with you both. The East Coast will MISS YOU, though!

    • Maddie

      Your mom is possibly the nicest person we’ve ever met. SERIOUSLY. :)

      Thanks for the love!

  • YngMadeline

    Man, this post is AWESOME. This is exactly how I hope to grow with my boyfriend/partner/person, thank you so much for sharing this!

    I think this is a common issue for our generation. Growing up in a culture that recognizes feminine strength and possibilities in ways that have previously been overlooked has made defining feminine/female/woman identity that much more complicated. I know that for me, my identity of self and self-with-other is very confused. I want to be independent and completely self-reliant while also maintaining an emotionally supportive relationship with my boyfriend/partner/person. I am never sure how to balance what the best choice is for myself and what is good for myself-with-other. When do I use one identity or the other?

    The one problem I had with this article is the dichotomization of these two identities in the introduction. The intro seems to imply that when choices are made using the self-with-other identity, the singular self identity gives up dreams. The black and white framing of this nuanced balance here and in other media is one of the contributors to this confused identity that I and many other women wrestle with. (I do admit that media does come in miles behind pure human-beingness as a contributing factor in this struggle.) Any time that I choose to identify as a self-with-other and make choices within that identity, I am not taking away from my singular self because at the end of the day, I am still both of these identities. What contributes to one, contributes to the other. I view my choices as a balancing act to gain equilibrium between myself and myself-with-other. I think this is a much more useful and helpful way to think about this struggle many of us are facing.

    Frankly, I think that by separating these identities, as the introduction does, old stereotypes of women are being reinforced. It implies that your choices as a wife are in opposition to your choices as a single person. This is why talking about these things as an equilibrium is so effective. We rarely think of restoring an equilibrium as a pure act of removing something (although sometimes that is all that is needed), we usually think of it as a reciprocal process. The article goes on and frames this balancing act in a wonderful way, I just wish the introduction did as well.

    • Chris Bergstrom

      I like this idea, seeing this crusade as a search for equilibrium rather than a struggle. Right now, it feels very much like a struggle to me, but I am going to try to grow into your way of seeing it.

    • Class of 1980

      Isn’t the introduction meant to show how she used to think?

  • Sooooo basically, Maddie, you put into words pretty much exactly what I’m going through. In fact, I’m even packing and moving to San Francisco as we speak. Any chance you’re planning on taking improv classes in SF? Because that’s going to be one of my first moves.

  • alyssa

    Okay, this post seriously made me cry! Maddie, I’m engaged, but I TOTALLY get what you are saying about wanting to achieve Big Things DESPITE being married. (aka, become Tina Fey, no lie. Seriously. So much cake.)

    I love hearing about your success within the partnership, how you learned to let go of what was not building you up, and how you are kicking ass and taking names now as part of APW!

    It truly inspires me to hear of people who thrive IN and BECAUSE OF their marriage, because that’s what I hope for my future husband and me. Thank you for the wake-up call!

  • Welcome, Maddie! I really like this post. I know I’ve felt the weight of expectations. It’s heavy. I’m glad you’ve realized you can’t bear that burden if you want to fly.

  • I really resonate with this discussion in the comments. I married a man, and before I did, I had spent all my 20’s searching for the “thing” that I was supposed to be doing. That search led me to live in many cities and countries, hold different jobs, try different things, go to clown school, quit grad school, and move across the country to join a band, 6 weeks later meeting the gent that I’m now married to.

    And now, in my marriage, I am living a quintessentially 21st century domestic’s life. I work from home, a few hours a day, at a job that doesn’t pay much, but that centers around the local food movement which I’m in love with. I do most of the chorse: I pay the bills, clean, do all the cooking, run the errands, while my husband is in school full-time for a job that will ultimately allow us to live on one income, and allow him to work fewer than 40 hours a week.

    In this transition, it has been important for me to try and understand and qualify how I am contributing to our wee family. The things that I’m doing in our home instead of earning money actually MEAN something. I mean, they’re actually WORTH something. I bake our own bread, I make our own yogurt, I grow lots of our food. But even the simple care of the home stuff, the paying of the bills, that’s time that my husband is doing HIS job right now, which is cramming his head full of tons of detailed knowledge that will pay off at a later time. But its been an adjustment for the actually money I bring home, to be less important that the home that we create together.

    And the other surprise: finding that baking bread, keeping home, finishing the bills: I get a bigger sense of accomplishment from that than any professional experience I’ve ever had. I feel LAME for saying that. And THAT’s the trouble. I think, ultimately for me, when I turned 30, I had some sort of revelation about AMBITION and how it serves to fight inertia, but sometimes, it takes us places before we’ve decided if we actually want to go there. I think that certainly this happens in relation to a partner, these kind of evaluations, but I also think they happen because of time, because of the understanding of self that happens when you age, and in particular the end of one’s 20’s and into their early 30’s. Has this happened to others? Some major revelations about ambition, achievement, success and how we measure all those things?

    • Maggie

      “Has this happened to others? Some major revelations about ambition, achievement, success and how we measure all those things?”

      Yes, yes, yes! Would really enjoy discussing this more in-depth… I feel like I’m going through a very similar experience.

  • Moving across the country (or in my case, to a different country) so your chap can pursue his dreams and you can figure yours out. Yes – I’m two weeks off doing this myself. I only hope that I can do as you have done, and find that I inadvertently work out what I want from life too.

  • So, so proud of you.

  • Awesome post Maddie!
    I get the parent pressure, too. Once we were engaged, I started hearing from my father how I needed to be sure to stay financially independent, and my mom still tells me about how I need to be sure to have my own money “in case”, and that I really should have a job I can support myself with, “in case”. My parents are going through hard times, and my mom hasn’t had a job since before she was married, so it’s hard – I know where that advice is coming from.
    But it’s strange, since we moved to a fairly remote part of a different country so I could go to grad school and get my Master’s, and my husband has been the one having a hard time with his career. Despite the fact that I am bringing in more money to our bank account (though not much, student stipend), my parents are still worried, wanting to make sure I don’t sacrifice my career for my family. The fact that we will probably move somewhere for my husband to find good work next is hard for them to get behind.
    Meanwhile, my father is telling us we should go work at Google, with my husband doing something amazing, and me dog-walking for the company… so it’s safe to say there are some mixed messages coming our way.

  • Kess

    I’m working thru the “but what about your potential!” feelings too. I’m not engaged yet, but that’s mainly because of me having issues with that feeling. (And my BF and I wanted to be able to be a bit stable/slightly older before we get married)

    I’m 21 years old, am currently studying mechanical engineering, and would really like to get a PhD in mechanical engineering and be a prof. That’s not going to happen right away! I’m graduating next year, planning on getting a masters (2 years) then working for ~4 years (work experience for engineering profs is a real plus) and then going back for my PhD (~5 years). So, that’s 12 years down the line, when I’m 33, when I’ll hopefully get the job I actually want.

    I’ve always been in the top of my class, and people already said I was “wasting my potential” because I didn’t apply to MIT. It’s partially a “you were gifted with this mind, you’ve got to use it for the greater good of the world” and “you can’t let any man drag you down!” that is really making me stop when thinking about marriage and family.

    It’s so freaking frustrating! Because I want a family too, and I just don’t know how I can do it.

    Ugh, sorry for the rambling.

  • Long-time reader, first-time commenter, married 1 month – this post is music to my ears. I had been hoping, hoping, hoping that life would slow down after the wedding and so far, not so much. I need to do some letting go and changing of my own in order to figure out how to make our life filled with the things that we want and that make us happy, instead of filling our schedule constantly with obligations to things and and people that don’t. Your post is very encouraging – thanks so much for writing it!

  • Sarah

    Yeah. I actually just searched “commuter marriage” and came upon this post. Because if anybody’s been talking about it, APW has right?
    And while this isn’t what I was looking for (can someone in a commuter marriage talk about it please?) this is hitting home.
    I love my husband and I love being married to him. But I have been under and unemployed for the better part of a year now and it sucks. I define myself by my job and my being busy. And I think that’s ok.
    It’s ok to be madly passionate about your work. It’s ok to want to work. But I’m not sure I’ve found the line of where being devoted to your work is bad for your marriage. And I’m struggling with that. I’m being presented with some opportunities in a city three hours away. I can’t commute that every day(tried) so I’d have to live there during a week. But is that a bad thing? Would it be bad for our marriage to sacrifice time together during the week? I just don’t know.

    Having a weird morning ladies.