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Does your husband’s work-life balance affect your own?

Categories: Career, Frugal Living, Making Time, The Juggle, Working? Living?, do more with less


I think that one of the reasons my own work-life balance is so awful is that my husband’s is nearly nonexistent. He has a demanding job, at the same company at which I work; and he’s a journalist, same as me — which means we’re both facing with the same industry meltdown and accompanying stress. But he’s dealing with a wrinkle that I don’t: As a man, no one really expects him to be struggling with work-life balance. That’s not to say that he doesn’t struggle with it. Believe me, he does. It’s just that, if he has to work late, it’s assumed that I’ll handle all things kid- and house-related. And I do. But if I have to work late, I always feel like there’s a price to be paid. And I know that’s coming from within — I’m the one keeping score, not him.

Over at Sparkplugging’s The Man Page, Derek Semmler asks working father-of-six Leo Babauta if women  have a harder time achieving work-life balance than men. “Moms who work often juggle a lot more than dads do, as they often assume more of the home responsibilities (not necessarily, but more often than not),” he replies. (Moms who work from home, or who stay at home, have an even bigger problem, he points out: “Their work IS their home life, so there’s no division at all.”)

It’s not a new issue at all: A 2007 survey by and reported by CNN found that 37 percent of working dads say they’d leave their jobs if their spouse made enough money to support the family, and another 38 percent say they would take a pay cut to spend more time with their kids. Their ability to do so has been affected by the economy’s current downward spiral, of course — but, then again, the economy is affecting working moms as well.

So, readers, I’m wondering (and I hope you’ll tell me): How is your work-life balance, as compared to your spouse? Does he worry about it as much as you do? And how does his juggle affect your own?

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12 comments so far...

  • My husband’s work-life balance completely dominates my own. This is an ongoing source of stress for us. For example, if he comes down with a cold, he will just decide to stay in bed. Period. It doesn’t matter if it is his day to take our son to school or get him ready. There is no notice to me, and now I have all the duties that he has simply dropped. He just doesn’t get out of bed. On one hand, I applaud him for taking care of himself. On the other, we’re not talking the swine flu here.

    If he has a conflict from work, work wins…period. If adjustments must be made, I am the one to make them.

    This is outrageously unfair and I know it. It is the only real source of stress in our marriage. We fight about it over and over again. What it comes down to, I think, is that he just doesn’t get it. He just never thinks about how his decisions, or indecision, will affect me. I have tried to just walk away and let him deal with the consequences, but then I end up dealing with the mess after it has been made (rather than heading it off at the pass…when it usually takes less time to resolve). No matter what I do, I can’t get rid of the “details.”

    Sorry to be so long…this is a very raw subject with me.

    Pat  |  May 14th, 2009 at 1:30 pm

  • We also struggle with this. I used to just believe that my husband made more money than I did and therefore I should be the one who misses work for sicknesses or does all of the doctor’s appointments. However, when our taxes were done last year, we came to realize that with the commission that I made that his pay wasn’t much more than mine at all. In fact, if my deal that was supposed to close in December had not closed the first working day of January instead, my income would have surpassed his! The fact that I work very close to home and my sons school still predominates everything, though. He works an hour away and uses this as an excuse. He hides behind work for everything. Of course, he is the only person in his office that has a child and no one there is understanding at all of his having to leave for child related issues.

    Oceans Mom  |  May 14th, 2009 at 2:57 pm

  • I know for a fact that if I made enough money for us to live on, my husband would gladly quit is job. BUT, I betcha our child would still be in daycare, because he’d be off playing golf and doing all the other non-kid friendly stuff he does.
    I don’t think he stresses at all about work-life balance. Yes, he pays the bills, and I know that is stressful. He also mows the lawn and takes out the trash. But that’s pretty much where his duties end. He doesn’t ever have to worry about groceries, cleaning, stuff involving our daughter, laundry, giving the dog a bath, etc. I don’t think it ever crosses his mind, “Am I spending enough quality time with my daughter?” or “Maybe I should clean the toilets for that wonderful, lovely, never nags, wife of mine” Where as for me, I constantly feel guilty that I can’t play with her, and take her places because I’m so busy doing everything else that needs to get done, and worrying about whether or not he has clean socks.
    And, admittedly, I am passive-aggressive. I don’t say anything about it. I let the resentment stew. I’m not going to force him to spend more time together as a family. And I’d rather clean up the house myself than ask him 10 times to sweep the kitchen floor.

    Erica  |  May 14th, 2009 at 4:15 pm

  • I’m not married, but as an outsider looking in, I don’t understand why anyone thinks the “ideal” is everything 50/50. It makes more sense to have a division of labor based on who’s in a better position to do “a” versus “b,” relative motivation and ability, etc. I don’t see what it has to do with money, either. If you’re closer to home/daycare and/or have more flexibility, do it, but give him another job to even things out.

    As far as him staying in bed with a cold, the remedy for that is to to do the exact same thing next time you have a cold. Make him use his own brain to figure out why that isn’t acceptable. (Men generally don’t learn by being talked at, especially when the person talking is his wife. Sorry, but it’s true.)

    I also think it’s kind of strange to complain about “having” to be there for one’s kids when there’s a problem. I consider it a privilege as well as the best thing for my children.

    SKL  |  May 14th, 2009 at 8:47 pm

  • i think a lot of this depends on sooo many variables! in my house, my husband does a lot of the ‘kid duty’ because my commute is about an hour each way. I am not sure if my ‘breadwinner’ status plays into that or not, i think mostly it’s location location location. He works 5 minutes from home and our son attends the daycare on the campus where he works. certainly makes more sense for him to do drop off/pick up and doctor appointments! He also has a job that has a consistent start/end time of 8:30 -5pm everyday. He LOVES his job and we both love the daycare for our son - so it works for us.

    so i just asked him “do you ever worry or think about your work/life balance?” and his response was “um no, not really, i figure it’s in balance. i figure you do” lol i think that sums it up well!

    kate  |  May 14th, 2009 at 9:33 pm

  • If everything else at home were balanced I wouldn’t complain about the sick days or the doctor appointments. He will realize that I am doing too much work and step in but it never lasts for more than a couple of weeks. Last night, for instance, he decided that he was going to go out shopping for a Blu Ray Player - which I could care less about having. I was stuck with making dinner, putting our son to bed, cleaning up, feeding the dogs, taking them out, and preparing lunches for the next day. All in all, his normal task is only to clean dishes but still, after working all day and taking my son to swim lessons I am exhausted. I left some of the pans from dinner for him as I was tired. He complained that he shouldn’t have to do them as he was out buying something “for the family” knowing very well that he is the only one in the family that cares whether or not we have a Blu Ray instead of our already existent, hardly every used DVD player.

    Oceans Mom  |  May 15th, 2009 at 9:32 am

  • We’re in the same boat as you and your husband — both journalists, both working for the same company — and our work-life balance works about the same. He tries hard to be home on time and to pick up some of the drop-off/pick-up/emergency duties, but really, I bear the largest share of the load. In the office, he’s a rising star. I think people think I do good work and respect me, I don’t get the praise he does. I also have to walk out the door everyday at a set time.

    Most days, I don’t mind. Others, it’s rough.

    Hillary  |  May 15th, 2009 at 2:04 pm

  • I don’t see how anyone could answer this question any other way than “yes”.

    Uhura  |  May 18th, 2009 at 8:59 am

  • I would like to add: The responses here so far make me very sad.

    Tthere can be no work life balance unless both spouses / partners are thinking in terms of “we” rather than “me”.

    Uhura  |  May 18th, 2009 at 9:04 am

  • Thanks for this thought provoking post.

    My husband doesn’t worry much about work/life balance. He is very committed to his career (and in providing for me and our future).

    I never ask him to choose between his career and me because I just don’t think it is productive. His career and drive is part of who he is and I love him for it. He works hard because he loves it and he works to make things better for me too.

    However in accepting his career I’ve had to accept that it is inconsistent with an equally demanding career of my own when we consider the other things that are important to us. I did bash my head against the wall about this one for a long time, until I ended up on the verge of a nervous breakdown and finally realised what I was doing to myself and my marriage.

    I don’t think it is possible for two people in a partnership to have very demanding careers at the same time AND have home-cooked meals and all of the other things that are important to my husband and I. At any rate we didn’t manage to make that work!

    But I don’t believe it is automatically the man whose career should come first or that anything is static - priorities will change and so will work and other demands.

    I do not financially need to work at the moment but I choose to (albeit on a reasonable 8-5 basis) because I enjoy it. We don’t have kids just yet and I expect that things will change when they come along. My husband has also said that he would also continue to work even if he didn’t need to financially.

    Rachel  |  May 18th, 2009 at 9:40 am

  • For a while there, I was getting about 5 hours of sleep because I was doing the work-life balance. Between my spouse and I, I bring the the bulk of the income, but I also share in household chores (he also gets to do 50%, which has been the lifesaver). However, up until about 2 years ago, I added mommy duty to my already hectic day.

    About 2 years ago, I sat down with my significant other and said that we had to work together in order for me to remain sane. My work-life balance is still not completely balanced, but it’s getting there. Here’s what we did to make sure I was getting enough sleep, had enough time to work and spend time with the family:

    - We have a “late night” work schedule. So, on Mondays and Wednesdays, I work later (if I have to). While on Tuesdays and Thursday, he works late. If we don’t have to work late, we make plans to eat dinner as a family together. Friday is family night.
    - Since we’re missing out on family dinners during the week about 3 times a week, we usually eat breakfast as a family together. OK…so we get up at 5:30 a.m. to get outselves together as well as breakfast, but it’s completely worth it.
    - We split up the chores.
    - Our weekends are scheduled in advance as is our week - including what needs to be done (e.g. cooking, cleaning, etc.)
    - We have a maid service come in twice a month.
    - We have 1 hour of cleaning every weekend. This helps with the clutter.

    The key to our happy marriage and the extra time has been scheduling. And, more importantly, there are just things we know won’t get done. If we don’t get to vacuum for 2 weeks, the end of the world isn’t coming.

    Yin Chang  |  May 18th, 2009 at 7:46 pm

  • Since my husband is te stay at home parent, I think that his work/life balance is far more out of whack than mine in the sense that he never gets to leave work. And if the comments here are any indicator, I am far luckier than most.

    When I get home, the baby is usually taking her afternoon nap. Both of us relax in the living room - him with the XBox and me with a nap. It’s rejuvenating and some form of togetherness. I guess we’ve just decided, without saying anything, that some things are more important than setting immediately into work when I get home!

    Given his duties throughout the day, I will cook dinner and clean at night. He cleans constantly during the day, just to keep it manageable. I usually do the more in depth cleaning a couple of nights a week - and we both share laundry duty.

    I am also able to take time off of work at the drop of a hat. When our daughter was seriously sick earlier this winter, I took 11 days total (it seemed unfair to make him stay up all night with a crying, pukey baby and then head off to work in the morning). Most of it was unpaid, but my boss allowed me to make it up. So, in that respect, I’m very, very lucky. If I have to leave, like I did yesterday, with no notice, I can. If I need to stay home, I can.

    We help each other, I guess is the bottom line. We divide the work fairly equitably and make each other rest when one is more motivated or energetic than the other on any given night…as in, “Put that down and I’ll do it. Go relax.”

    Phe  |  May 19th, 2009 at 12:40 pm

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