I recently read an article on Slate called When Career Ambitions Break Up a Marriage. The story is about a couple, Stephen and Caitlin, who are both at a point in their lives where they are not willing to compromise their careers for their marriage. (I link to the article later in this post on purpose.) I also read some of the comments. (Scott’s out of town, so I have more time to delve into the underworld of the Internet.) Many comments acknowledge that both people are somewhat responsible for the marriage failing, but ultimately pin responsibility on the woman.“Both selfish, but she’s ridiculous. Marriage and family require sacrifice, period.” “This young lady has a fundamental misconception about what it means to be married (or at least, to be married for life). If she thinks that she never has to make a sacrifice in her marriage, then she will sacrifice her marriage to her own self-fulfillment.”
I sort of agreed: I felt like the marriage falling apart was more Caitlin’s fault, too. But then, I realized that I might be reading this story through the societal lens that the man’s career is more important than the woman’s career. How would I feel if I read this story with the genders switched? Which person would I blame for the likely dissolution of the marriage in this alternate story? Below, I have three links. One opens a dropbox .pdf file that is the original story. Another link opens a dropbox .pdf file that is the alternate story, in which I switch the genders. To switch genders, I switched not only names and pronouns but also some of the other, auxiliary information. Although it’s fairly easy to tell which link is the altered version because these two are so hetero-normative. I’m not saying which story, 1 or 2, is the original or the alternate version. The last link is the original article. Who is “at fault” for the marriage failing? Is it the same person’s fault in each story? If so, it’s really both people who are at fault.
Balancing career and marriage is so hard. I actually started this post by writing about how Scott and I have grown – and not grown – in this area. But the draft was so long (around 1,200 words!) and so personal, that I’m not ready to share our journey when we’re still very much in the middle of it. But, I do think it’s valuable to realize what cultural lenses we use when we have our discussions about how to balance these two important pieces of our lives.