Monday, May 3, 2010

To Travel Or Not to Travel

"When I was looking at possible career choices, my wife told me she did not want me to pursue an occupation in sales.  Her father had been a salesperson and had experienced severe stress over his finances for the majority of her life.  With her desire in mind, I was careful in choosing my major. How do you feel about directing your spouse's career path?"  the Professor asked.

I thought about my experience with Ben's career choice.

Ben and I were both in school when we married.  He was just starting and I was almost half way finished.  Because of this unique arrangement, my opinion on Ben's career choice was highly valued.  I had only one  stipulation: he could not choose a career in which he would travel excessively.

It might seem mean or unfair that I was so forceful in my opinion, yet I know how I become when Ben leaves town.  A day or two before his departure, I become moody and unreachable.  I lash out at him for little things.  I am surly and unapproachable.  When he does leave,  it gets worse.  Arguments abound and jealousy ensues.  Our usually agreeable relationship turns into a cesspool of negativity.  Not exactly breeding grounds for a healthy marriage.  So, to ensure that our marriage stay intact, I knew the remedy: a career that would not require traveling.

With this in mind, Ben originally decided to pursue a doctorate in Psychology.  Sure this required a lot of school, but I knew this job would not require too much travel.

A semester into his undergrad, he felt dissatisfied with psychology.  He was unsure what other course to take, so he continued in his chosen path.  That next semester, though, he began looking into other things.  When he started looking into becoming a pilot, I became weary.  He asked my opinion on it and I told him I didn't think it was a good idea.

"Why?" he asked.

"Because, it would require that you be gone frequently.  You know my feelings on that.  You also know how I become when you do leave."

The reminder was enough to help him look elsewhere.

(You might be curious how I will hold up while he is in medical school.  It is different.  Maybe in a future post I will explain why.)

In answer to my professor's question, I feel a career choice is a joint decision. Choosing employment that may leave one or both spouses feeling overwhelmed is not a good idea.  In the end, employment is something the whole family will work at together.

How would you have responded to the question?


  1. I would want my husband to discuss his career decisions with me, but the only way I'd direct his path is if his choices were dangerous. For instance, would I support him going to work in a war zone? No. (And some friends of ours are now doing just that, and making tons of money, but I don't think it's worth it.) But barring danger, I'd support whatever made him happy.

    This is mainly a moot point for me because I'll never have that option. My husband was already established in his career when I met him and he has only gotten more entrenched as the years wear on. He loves what he does. If he didn't, I might push him in another direction.

    I guess for me that's what it comes down to: What will make him happy? I grew up with parents who hated their jobs. I wouldn't wish that on anyone.

  2. Kelly, I agree with you very much on this. When my husband became dissatisfied with psychology, I encouraged him to find something he was more passionate about. The way I see it, he will be working until he is in his 60's so he might as well do something he enjoys. I also wanted him to choose something I could support him in. The danger involved in being a pilot (as well as the travel required) would have been too much for me to bear.

    I was lucky to have been in on Ben's career choice from the beginning. Being a pilot was one of a few dream jobs he was interested in. Another one was to become a physician. One of his greatest fears was of not being smart enough for medical school, but I encouraged him to try. I am so glad that he was courageous enough to give premed a go.

  3. My husband is gone a lot. He is a paramedic for Wendover Ambulance and he goes out about two weekends a month. AND he is going to the Fire Academy at the end of the year. So he will be gone even more.

    It's something I've really struggled with, and have come to terms with. I still don't like it. I think I will feel worse about it when we have kids. I don't want to be a single parent.

  4. I told my husband I didn't care what he does. But he needs to keep two things in mind.

    One: He has to LOVE what he does. Work and providing for a family is hard enough without not enjoying your job! And even if they try not to, they do tend to "bring their work home" in their attitude.

    Two: I don't mind if he travels some, but I would NOT be a single parent.

    He got a degree in something he loves but the job we accepted took an unexpected turn. Now he is in managment and doesn't really care for it. It's hard to see him struggle with that.

  5. Kristina, the funny thing is that my husband is gone quite a bit. Last semester there were weeks when he would leave at 9 and not come home until midnight. It was rough! Many of my friends' husbands are gone Monday-Thursday or Friday and will tell me they would rather have their husband do that than be in medical school. Yay for me!

    I guess one of the reasons I dislike traveling is how mean I become before and during his trip. It is much easier for me to mentally handle Ben being absent during the day (and evening) because he is around at night when the kids wake up (which is happening frequently lately). I guess I didn't make that very clear in this post.

  6. I'd hate it if my husband travelled all the time. My dad was a salesman for many, many years and I felt for a long time that I didn't really know him. It was sad.

    But, like you, I also think it's important that your spouse doesn't hate his job. That's a miserable situation as well.

  7. I love this post. I love the way you and Ben discuss and honor each other's point of view.

    My father was a salesman, and gone a great deal. He also taught sales in a business school, at night. Gone even more.

    I swore I would never marry a man who traveled.

    My ex traveled about as much as I did, when we married. We were both in our 30s, in business careers, and international at that. There were 4 to 6 trips/year - 2 days to a week - each of us. To the best of my recollection. That's manageable.

    Our first child came one year after we were married, just as he took another job and began to travel 50%. 50% went to 60, then to about 70%, and sometimes more. My travel went down to a week to 10 days, total, a year. And then nothing.

    Not only is that much distance terrible for a relationship, but it leaves one parent holding the bag. I was the one parent, and also responsible for bringing in a substantial income. I asked, several times, that he cut back - not eliminate - just cut back, even to 50%. He did not want to.

    I guess that says it all.

    I applaud your awareness of what works for you and what doesn't. And your working together as a couple, as a family, to arrive at a scenario that feels fair. The balance may change over the years - everything does - but your approach of discussing and deciding together bodes well, to my mind.

  8. Wow. I don't know. I would agree that I wouldn't want my husband to be gone for a long time, but if his big dream was being a pilot, I would have a hard time telling him not to pursue a dream. My husband thinks my writing is a waste of time and that really hurts; I wouldn't do it to him.

    What kind of medicine does your husband want to pursue? Because that's a very demanding career as well. He will be gone a lot during med school and residency.

  9. Thinking of employment as a couple's decision is a great way to look at it. My husband was on his way to law school, and then to taking over his dad's firm, but he changed his mind as a senior and decided to get his PhD in English. I think it was the right choice, if only for the suh-weet schedule of a professor!

  10. If only we knew what the future held. My husband is not in love with his job. He's good at it, and it's a good job, but it's hard to see him struggle. I wish he could find something he loved, but even he doesn't know what kind of job that would be. I admire him for sticking it out, in order to provide for our family.

    If he ever discovers what he loves to do, I hope he can find a way to make a living at it.

  11. Since I met him, my husband has always been in sales and has really never left home once. I big upheaval for us was when he had topped out at his old job and decided to go into business for himself. I supported him fully. Amazing things happened when he was finally in charge of his own success.

    We've been through a lot in our nearly 20 years together. We evaluate our decisions together. Despite my shopping problems, I tend to be more cautious and conservative than him about taking leaps! One thing I love: when I had to leave my employer of 18 years he supported me fully and my writing, which is pretty amazing for a guy who hasn't voluntarily read a book since junior high!

  12. I think one of the blessings of living today is the greater opportunity to find a job you love. Just because my husband's father was a plumber, did not mean my husband had to do the same. I knew my husband was headed to med school when we were dating, if it was a problem I wouldn't have married him, and I let him chose whatever specialty he felt drawn to. He has a career that he is passionate about.

    I do think, as his spouse, my needs also were considered. It is hard for me to say, as I am about as low maintenance as possible, so I didn't really have a lot specifications for his job. I mostly wanted him to be happy with it. (Although is the last couple of years there has been some concerns about the time drain of this specific job and I have had to ask certain considerations be taken for my sake.)

  13. It is a hard question to answer and I think that some of it is related to age. I don't mean for that to sound obnoxious, but sometimes you have to work for a while to figure out what you want or don't want.

    I supported my family for seven years as the "sole breadwinner." I was very proud of this, not every man can do it. But I did and I did it intentionally with the agreement and support of my wife.

    But it took a toll. It was very hard at times and there were moments where I hated my job. Moments where I felt trapped and hated that.

    Over time when I looked for ways out I wasn't happy with being told that some positions weren't a good thing to explore. The "influence" wasn't something that I always appreciated. FWIW, I wasn't being told that I was the only one who had to work either. The feedback I received was in regard to certain jobs.

    I have lived some of my career dreams. Now I am most interested in trying to find something that provides satisfaction and income.

  14. Thoughtful post, Amber. When we got married I was in theatre. My wife was uncomfortable with me performing in any of the romantic lead roles that I would have been trying to get. So I changed tacks. I'm a teacher now. That was hard at the time, but I have a wonderful wife. I wouldn't trade her for any amount of leading roles. She's given up some things for me as well, and I think our mutual sacrifices balance out. That's marriage, in my opinion. It's a mutual creation and requires both parties to make some real sacrifices.

  15. I think anything that affects a couple's quality of life should be a couple's decision, career included. But there is something very valuable to be said for doing what you love, and sometimes that means sacrifices on both people's parts (as you well know!). =>

    (Also, I hope your Internet is restored soon!)

  16. It's a fascinating question. I married late and so my husband and I are were both entrenched in our careers already but for young people? You HAVE to be on the same page about that. HAVE to. You're wise to know your limits.

  17. I was so lucky in this regard. Before we met Neil was decided on becoming an optometrist. A largely 9-5 sort of job that would be conducive to family life, and allow his wife to stay at home. I had no career ambitions, though I'd risen far in the job I put myself through school with. I wanted to be a stay at home wife and mother, and he wanted to marry one. It worked out beautifully for us, and I know not everyone is so fortunate.

  18. I can totally relate. When my husband and I were just dating I had a hard time with his desire to join the military. I told him it would be a deal breaker for us. But I didn't stop him, I just said that I would move because I couldn't live that life. Circumstances made it such that it didn't happen and here we are more than 10 years later. My perspective had changed, not about the military, but what I would be comfortable with. I still think that I get to offer my opinion, but feel better about letting him do what he wants. Maybe that's because I know his perspective has changed too! :-)

  19. Christine, this line "I ... feel better about letting him do what he wants. Maybe that's because I know his perspective has changed too" is beautiful. You are right--marriage is about growing. Often, you and your spouse grow together. This means that your desires begin to align. I think it is a beautiful thing. I trust my husband to make the right decision and you know what? He has. Everytime.

  20. [...] Ben.  Even though he is gone quite a bit, I prefer his current schedule to one in which he would travel.  My preference does not exclude me from feeling overwhelmed.  Especially when Ben’s [...]


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