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The 36-Hour Day

with Lylah M. Alphonse

I'm a full-time editor, a part-time writer, and a mom and stepmom to five amazing kids, ages 1 to 14. For me it's not about finding balance, it's about the daily juggle-- my career, my commute, freelance work, homework, housework, married life, social life, and parenting-- and finding the time to get it all done.

To learn more about Lylah, check out her Work It, Mom! profile and read her blog at

Would you leave your career for your marriage?

Categories: Career, Hacking Life, The Juggle, Working? Living?


West Indian Girl singer Mariqueen Maandig is giving up her gig to marry Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor, her bandmates declared in August. WWE announcer Lilian Garcia announced her retirement Monday after 10 years with the WWE Divas, trading the wrestling ring for a wedding ring. And over at the, a reader tells columnist Carolyn Hax to put marriage before career because “it really wasn’t worth all the sacrifices.”

Which made me wonder: If you couldn’t have both — and if finances weren’t an issue — which one would you choose?

I’m always surprised by the way marriage is touted as the end-all-and-be-all for women, and by the way some people feel that the only proper path to personal fulfillment begins at the altar. “We agreed on one simple rule: For every time I said “no” to my husband because of work, I’d say “no” to my boss because of my husband,” the reader explains. “I credit my husband for his patience and the support I needed to recognize that career advancement came at the cost of individual integrity.”

One has to wonder: Did her husband follow a similar rule? Is his “individual integrity” tied to marriage — or threatened by his career?

On the other side of the world, still-single Bollywood actress Rani Mukherji says that false rumors about marriage are ruining her career. “Lot of filmmakers who approach me for roles start by asking whether I am getting married. They have apprehensions whether I can commit myself to their project,” Mukherji explained in an interview.

And therein lies the crux of the problem: No matter how far we’ve advanced, or how well we can juggle, there’s still this assumption that a woman who is committed to her husband and family can’t be equally committed to her job. And vice versa.

Are more women agreeing with the assumption? Or are we just becoming more aware, thanks to entertainers who go the either/or route? “Clearly, there are women who believe that this is the best route for them and have made arrangements with their partner to pursue a full-time dedication to the household and family,” Jessica Ashley writes at Yahoo!’s Shine. “But other than the requisite Housewives of Pretty Much Every Metropolitan City, we don’t see these women in the spotlight very often.”

Would you leave your career for your marriage? What if one or the other was on the line?

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6 comments so far...

  • There are two different questions at work here. First, once already married, would you leave or alter your career in order to save your marriage? My answer is yes. I made a commitment before God to my spouse and to hold my career as more important than my relationship with my husband would be sacrilege in my mind. Would I lightly make that choice? No, not at all, and I also wouldn’t be the only one backing off from my career to save our marriage unless there was clearly something particularly problematic about my career that didn’t exist in his.

    The second question is really, prior to marriage should a person choose to give up their career in order to be married? That comes down to the person and how important their career is to their sense of self. I do think that if any man asks you to choose between him or your career, you should send him packing before making any long term commitment. However, there are life circumstances that could force a decision between the two. I don’t think there are any easy answers there, and I don’t envy any woman who finds herself facing that decision.

    LMJN  |  September 24th, 2009 at 7:51 pm

  • Seems like a false choice, but if somehow I stood at a fork in the road where marriage or career had to go, I’d drop the career in a heartbeat.

    Stefan  |  September 25th, 2009 at 6:19 am

  • Leave career for marriage: Well, probably yes. It is easier said than done.. but the point it.. i know i know haev to be happy from within to be successful at work… With a failing marriage, i am sure my attention will be diverted.

    Now to be in a happy marriage, we need to be fullfilled professionally or mentally. But when one si presented on a fork.. you have to make a hard decision.. This is in no way a sacrfise. It will be CHOICE i am making.. Since for me, my family DOES come first.

    GNSD  |  September 25th, 2009 at 10:29 am

  • I think this is something that both men and women may be equally confronted with.

    I dated a guy for 6 years. Much of that time was spent with him being frustrated because I had no inclination to drop everything to move to his city. His reasons for not being willing to do the same and move to my city were obviously more valid than my reasons (though I was the one with a more established job/higher income, local professional licenses, and local family). I interpreted his attitude as disrespect, dampening any “euphoric sense of abandon” that might have led me to give it a try for “love.”

    Similarly, my brother-in-law decided to take a job in Canada although my sister had made it very clear that she wasn’t wiling to give up her career (a state-licensed profession) and follow him. He apparently thought she’d relent once the deed was done, but he was wrong. He now travels back to the states on weekends.

    On the other hand, I know couples where both spouses try to weigh the overall pros and cons, and both are willing to sacrifice if it seems to produce the greater net benefit for the family. It’s kind of neat to see the success of some unusual arrangements, thanks to the mutual respect and flexibility of both spouses.

    I’d give up my career (temporarily at least) to benefit my family if I really believed that would be the outcome. But it’s hard to imagine that my becoming a SAHM in the long term would be best for my family. More likely, I’d find some work to do, even if it required me to change careers/industries.

    SKL  |  September 25th, 2009 at 11:54 pm

  • My question would be is WHY isn’t this question applicable to both men AND women? Why is it only being posed that we women HAVE to be the ones to give up our career? Should it not be a mutual decision, not one piled on the wife?

    At one point, many years ago, my husband was given the opportunity to take managership of a store in another part of the state. Granted, it would have meant a bit more money, BUT it would have meant uprooting us and me losing my job, and moving to a rural area where what jobs were available weren’t of the same caliber or pay as what I was in. We talked about it, weighed the pros/cons, and ultimately figured that the move, while good for him, was bad for me (my job was the most stable anyway) and therefore bad for both of us. In the end, the money he would gain wouldn’t compensate for what I would lose.

    The days of simply picking up and moving at the drop of a hat are pretty much gone for couples and families. So why is assumed that women are the always the ones who have to give up their careers?

    As for would I leave my career for my marriage? That question has to be qualified a bit more. Would I automatically leave my job if my hubby got a job elsewhere? The answer is no, I would not. At this state of the game, I have too much time and $ invested to just up and leave. Besides, he can ‘commute’ if necessary.

    Would I give it up to save my marriage? If depends. If my spouse were demanding that I quit simply because he wants me home, then the marriage is not worth it nor is he. No spouse worth their salt should EVER be that posssessive, stupid, and egotistical. If they are, you need to get rid of them anyway.

    If, on the other hand, you are a workaholic and your job IS getting in the way, then you’ve got a serious problem and it’s you, not them.

    So, the circumstances have to be spelled out to give a definitive answer.

    Jane  |  September 27th, 2009 at 11:46 pm

  • I have a friend who did both a different points in the same marriage.

    They were married, she got her degree and found to establish herself she had to leave their home state. The first few years of the long-distance marriage she will freely admit were rocky and wondered a few times if it was on the line because of it. But it worked; she established a name for herself and was able to move back home with a job.

    Now, as with many people she’s been laid off, and has chosen, for the time, to stay where she is without a job rather than endure the long-distance relationship again.

    So I guess the fact that she didn’t lose her marriage over her job means she really wasn’t giving it up; but I think it raises the point that maybe, doing so either way, isn’t permanent. She knew he would never move, but she knew she wouldn’t be happy if she didn’t finish what she started. And both are actually stronger because of it.

    Mich  |  September 28th, 2009 at 3:06 pm

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