There's a Good Chance Your Husband Will Hold Your Career Back

December 7th 2014

Kristal High

Motherhood is a full time job; so is being a wife. The only way to survive them both is to manage expectations about what can really be accomplished in a 24-hour day and have a good sense of humor. For her part, Sheryl Sandberg really stirred up some controversy by suggesting that we could "have it all" if we we only Lean In. In truth, it's hard to lean in when you're constantly being leaned on, which is exactly what happens to most working moms. And for young, working mothers, who lack the resources (i.e. deep pockets and discretionary budgets to buy extra help in our personal and professional lives) to achieve as much as we might've hoped in our pre-baby lives, the challenge is even greater.

It truly takes time and patience to find satisfaction in that mix of ambition and exhaustion that often becomes one's reality once marriage and motherhood set in (how do you like those M&M's). But a recent study by the Harvard Business School suggests that the answer to fulfilling our personal and professional desires lies in who we marry.

Want to have kids and be a tour de force in the profession of your choosing? Great! Marry someone who's comfortable with role reversal and is willing to let his career take a backseat to yours. While you're out making the bacon and a name for yourself, he can be home doing laundry, preparing dinner, and competing with Eddie Murphy for the best daddy daycare in town.

Stats and adages are all fine and good, but the task of having a more egalitarian relationship or positioning the wife as the breadwinner and career professional has its challenges. Who cares that it's 2014 and it's generally accepted, publicly at least, that women are equal to men (though pay disparities have yet to belie our equal status in the workplace). When doors are closed and folks are at home, men may not be as willing to acquiesce to their wife's more dominant role as head of household as some might hope. The ego is a fragile thing, and for men, feeling like the provider and having the financial ability to take care of one's family is a key component of manhood. Just ask Steve Harvey.

Though men may take great pride and joy in supporting their families as caregivers when Mom's not around, the day-to-day tasks of parenthood and being a dutiful spouse are often thankless and undervalued, leaving men feeling as if they are missing something bigger and better. After all, everyone can't be Cupcake Man.

It's true that effective parenthood requires resources and support, and being a career woman means you have to sometimes sacrifice familial responsibility in favor of the demands of the job. But until we, as a society, get to a point where we no longer see parenthood as primarily women's work, "marrying good" will not help women accelerate their careers, and working Moms will continue the tiring task of juggling it all while making it look easy.