Adapted from a recent online discussion.
When we first got married, my husband was really supportive of my career. When we had a baby with serious medical problems, he took paternity leave to stay home with her for the two days a week I work.
Now we have two preschoolers and he quit his steady-but-boring job for a challenging job that requires him to be gone for two weeks every month. I quit my part-time job because it was too stressful for the kids to have both parents gone (my job also required travel).
My husband is thrilled to have me at home more, and my kids are doing better with me at home, but I am angry my husband couldn’t wait another year to have his dream job. Both kids will be in school next year.
His side is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime job and it’s worth the travel. I don’t know how to get past the feeling that my husband is choosing his career over time with his kids. The kids cry every night he isn’t home to say good night, and it’s been six months at the new job.
Did you not have any say in his switch?
Your description leaves room for the possibility that you’re upset only after the fact, now that you’re seeing the consequences of his choice. It’s not fair to get angry at him about unforeseen side effects of a choice you both approved. I’m speaking mainly of the crying at bedtime, but this also applies to the sheer exhaustion of your being on kid duty 24-14.
Also, you’re not saying he was wrong to take on this challenge; you’re saying he was wrong not to wait a year. Right? You have a lot of anger over just a year, especially one that’s apparently over halfway through.
So, unless your husband made this decision without your consent, this appears to be less about his career-grab than it is about your fatigue.
If this thinking is close to the mark, then I have some suggestions:
1. When you’re starting to get upset, force yourself to think long-term. You’re in a moment, and moments pass.
2. Don’t forget those early years. Your husband came through for you, so come through for him now.
3a. If your husband just decided for both of you, then that’s legitimate anger in need of attention. Explain that you realize it’s a done deal now, but you do need him to recognize the unfairness of deciding this unilaterally, and to promise it won’t happen again.
3b. If you did take part in the decision, then anger at him isn’t fair. Take responsibility and, as needed, remind yourself of your initial rationale: You both chose this career move for a reason, a reason that hasn’t changed.
4. Start rallying when your husband is away. Kids read stress on their parents. Then, they cry at bedtime — so suck it up and brighten up the bedtime routine. Make it something you and your kids will look back on fondly as something that was yours and yours alone. It’ll likely feel like you’re faking it at first, but once it gathers momentum, the joy often becomes very real.
Tomorrow: Other contributions to the suck-it-up project.