Thoughtful Thursday: Dual-Career

November 4, 2010

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the November Intelligentsia, the people who commented on every Thoughtful Thursday post for the month of October.

#21: Wiseguy from Woman Anyone?
#14: Lost In Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#13: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#12: A from Are You Kidding Me?
#8: Rebecca from Northern Grin
#6: Cat
#5: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde

Thoughtful ThursdayRemember how I had made up my mind to move to my mother’s city? Apparently, the universe may have other plans. I’d applied for a job before my mom got sick, then put it out of my mind, but I have been shortlisted. During my preliminary interview, I learned that the job is so much better than I imagined. I may or may not be about to receive an offer for my dream job, 2500 miles from my mother’s city. If I don’t get the offer, this is all moot, but if I do get the offer, I have a lot of thinking to do.

Relative benefits of each city:
Quality of life: Mom’s city destroys Dream Job city in terms of quality of life. Weather, crime, amenities, toddler-friendliness, attitude, people, lifestyle.

Family: Mom’s city means that I can take an active role in helping her, medically and personally, and that she’d get to see her grandchildren more than a couple of times a year. Dream Job city means I’m no better off than I am right now, struggling to do things from afar but mostly spinning my wheels and occasionally flying out for emergencies.

Friends: Don’t really have friends in either city. Come to think of it, we barely have friends in the current city. We do have friends elsewhere, promise.

My career: Dream Job city isn’t called Dream Job city for nothing. Mom’s city might be fine, or it might be kind of bad for my career, or most likely it would be fine eventually but not for the first half-year or year.

Finances: Dream Job city has a lower cost of living plus my salary would be substantially higher.

DH: He would much, much rather live in Mom’s city, no question. Even if my mom didn’t live there he’d be thrilled to live there. In terms of his career, Mom’s city could be neutral — the same situation as now — or possibly outstanding for him. Dream Job city would be neutral.

It’s this last point that trips me up the most. DH has been very supportive of my career and incredibly tolerant of having made several major geographic moves on my behalf. Most, but not all, of these moves have been to cities where he’s been happy to live. Though the first move when we got married involved a major drop in prestige and a 50% pay cut, most of our moves have ended up working out very well for him, both career- and life-wise.

If DH were the one to get a dream job offer, we’d likely orchestrate our lives around that. But, although he is wonderfully successful on many counts, no one has yet asked him to move to a specific place for a specific dream job. There have been times that we’ve both been on the market, and if there had been competing offers in competing cities, we would have had to figure something out — but it’s never come to that, at least not yet. It’s been gratifying in a way to be the one whose career has driven our life decisions, and I’m not sure how I’d handle putting my career on the back burner for his. I don’t think that’s what I signed up for. I don’t think that’s what he signed up for either. I started out as The Ambitious One, then The Accomplished One, but meanwhile he turned out to be The Successful One. Somehow, we are both The Supportive One.

As I have pursued my goals through the years, he’s had substantial input into location. He has definitely had geographic veto power, so much so that there are many positions I never pursued in the first place because I knew he didn’t want to move there. This time around, if I do get the dream job offer, it’s in a place that DH totally doesn’t want to live — and, the move might be permanent. We could be in crappy Dream Job city for the rest of our lives. The family issues are tripping me up as well, but the main sticking point is that I don’t know if I can make my husband move somewhere he doesn’t want to live instead of a place he desperately wants to live, even if it’s the best decision for us collectively. Does a +10 for me outweigh a -5 for him? What if his -5 becomes -20 but we’re stuck there? What if my +10 isn’t a +10 after all? Or will his -5 become a +5 like it usually does? Do we scrap all of the career concerns in favor of quality of life? Is Dream Job city really that bad? Can Mom’s city possibly live up to our imaginations of it?

We’ll see. It may very well not be up to me anyway. Either way is good; either I get my dream job, or we live in a city that makes us all terrifically happy and I am able to help my mother. This is the good kind of conundrum. Stay tuned.

In your own life, how do you balance competing careers, different goals, and varied interests?

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8 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Dual-Career”


  1. Yeah, this is a tough one. As a writer, I could go anywhere, but my husband, like you has to do specific jobs in specific places. If he got offered a Dream Job in NYC, I would be happy to go. If he got offered one in Texas, no way! At the end of the day, we’re more quality of life than quantity of life sorts of people, so getting paid more wouldn’t be worth it if we were somewhere that wasn’t totally awesome, either weather or culture-wise. In your case I don’t think the job is worth it if DH isn’t going to be happy there. Marriage has enough tests as it is.

    Strangely enough, we just made a major moving decision ourselves. We’ve decided to move to a much smaller place, so that we can do more of the stuff we love doing and walk everywhere. I think some of our friends will find our decision baffling, but we realized that we only ever host parties 3-4x a year. We’ll miss having a guest room for sure, but moving means that more quality of a life for the whole family. Still, we’ll see.

    The weird thing is you never know how you’re going to feel about a city. I thought that I would HATE L.A when I first moved here, but now I’d be totally okay with spending the rest of my life here. And I’m still surprised by how much I liked Pittsburgh when I lived there. Is DH super-sure that he’s going to hate this city? It might be his dream city in disguise, b/c seriously if I had to move back to the East Coast, Pittsburgh would be my second choice (after NYC). And I’m sure there are other cities that I’ve dismissed w/o giving them a chance. Miami comes to mind…

  2. Ana Says:

    This one hits close to home. I have always been the ambitious one, and we moved to current city solely for my job, leaving behind DH’s friends & family. We are now settled here, and he is happy & becoming accomplished in his job. And I just realized that in order to advance in my career, I’d be better off in a new place. Probably a smaller place, a less desirable city…we are in limbo. For the first time in my life, my ambitions (education/career) may not trump all. And I may be OK with that…

  3. Elana Kahn Says:

    The balance is very careful. My husband and I respect each other’s interests and careers and have fairly strict schedules. Every time a schedule change needs to be made, it’s done with everyone. Even though our interests may be different, we make time for them. Our goals are mainly the same, which helps us to cooperate and compromise easily.

  4. a Says:

    Our balance is heavily skewed in my husband’s favor. He’s antsy and ambitious and likes variety. The 11 years that we worked for the same place drove him crazy. Now he travels all over – but he’s good at screwing things up for himself sometimes. So I keep my very stable, well-paid, generally secure job, while he flits about. It works for us, because I am very tolerant and like my time alone too. Sometimes I get a little resentful, but I know that if I moved where I wanted to live, my husband would hate it. In 5 years, though, I can move on to whatever I want to do – that’s the minimum number of years required to get the best retirement benefits from my job.

  5. strongblonde Says:

    as always: this is difficult. my career is much more flexible than b’s. b’s degree is in a speciality that there are approximately 30 jobs per year in. maybe. if he’s lucky. so every job he applies for is loaded with stiff competition. my career also has stiff competition, but there’s a national shortage. and i have an interesting combination of degrees which makes me desirable. i could honestly move to almost any location and find a job pretty similar to what i’m doing now. it may not be at the best school, but it would be a job. or i could always fall back to practice full time. at any rate, it affords us a bit of flexibility. the problem where we live? the housing market. all of this is moot since there is no way we would ever be able to sell our house for what we need to get out of it. so moving right now is really out of the question. does it stop b from applying to jobs in hawaii? nope. and if he got an offer there? i am sure i could find a job there as well! 🙂

    can’t wait to hear how this progresses!!


  6. I find this interesting, b/c we’ve just signed a rental agreement on a townhome half a year after we decided to move from the boring area we live in. We had the molecular version of the same thoughts you’re having. We could have moved further out, but that meant an even longer commute for hubby. We could have moved to the West side, which is gorgeous and very walkable, but our rent would go up and the quality of our space would go down. So we settled on a nearby city, where we can literally walk to everything both practical and impractical. Much smaller space but lower rent, great school district, and way more quality of life. So my answer to your question comes as someone’s whose been making a lot of quality of life adjustments lately. I also write this as someone who could be living in Hawaii right now if her husband’s career didn’t keep her here in L.A.

    Basically your Dream Job will suffer if DH isn’t happy. But I wonder if the Dream Job City is really as heinous as DH thinks it is. Have you two actually been to the city? And if so, are there any areas that would give you great quality of life? For example, when I moved to Pittsburgh in one of my gap years before grad school, I did so b/c my sister lived there and I wouldn’t have to pay rent. It never occurred to me that I would end up loving it as much as I did — to the point that if I had to move back to the East Coast, this city would be my second choice after NYC. Most cities have some great area of town that makes living in them bearable. Maybe think about taking a trip with DH and the twins to the Dream Job City to see what you find.

  7. Kristin Says:

    I became a SAHM for a number of reasons and one of the primary ones is the fact that someone who has a career in emergency services does NOT have a regular schedule that you can easily work child care or another job around. Since my husband had over 15 years climbing the career ladder in emergency services, I was the one that stepped back to become the stable schedule.

  8. WiseGuy Says:

    The kind of job profile that both I and Birdman hold does not permit us transfers. If we move to a different city, (assuming one of us has a good reason/job to do so), the other one will always have to begin from scratch.

    Early on in our married life, I trailed Birdman wherever he went. I worked with him initially because there was hardly any other hot job available…he moved to a different city, and I joined him in the other place (same organization) almost two months after that.

    We tried to come back to the city where his and my parents stay, and we attempted that by me resigning from his organization, moving back with his parents and me applying afresh for different jobs. He did not get a good enough offer and hence did not ultimately quit his job…18 months later, I travelled back to his city and started fresh again.

    Now, I am no longer willing to go back to scratch again and again. It is apparent that I would always have to trail him. It is in that equation that probably all competing ambitions will be resolved.


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