To Love, Honor and Employ: Why I’m Hesitant to Work for My Husband
A little over a year ago I entered a career crisis that was initiated by a lay-off from the small parenting education non-profit I was employed by for almost five years at the time. My days of working as a Program Assistant both coordinating curriculum and teaching classes to teen parents quickly turned into days of me questioning my career path, self-worth and financial future in my pajamas. It also didn’t help that I was battling a nice helping of anxiety I was experiencing with many transitions in my life at the time including new motherhood and a marriage; both which were barely a year old.
Only a few weeks before, my husband had decided to take the plunge into running his plumbing company full time after juggling his business with a full-time position working for the city. Luckily we saw the signs that my job was struggling as I saw co-workers get let go one at a time and a CEO that was doing everything short of breaking down in her office every day that passed when no word of funding to support our programs came. So when “D-Day” arrived I wasn’t surprised. I had already secretly cleaned out my desk days prior, was ready to file for unemployment and hubby and I had come up with a game plan for getting health insurance once the inevitable happened.
Still, knowing something is going to happen doesn’t necessarily quite prepare you for the moment it does. I was angry (hell I think I’m still kind of angry). For me, that moment was when ish got real for the first time as an adult. Until then I was typically an optimistic person who swore that if you worked hard and were a good person, good things would happen to you. Being laid off forced me to look at things differently and I must admit even now when it comes to providing for my family, I don’t think my loyalty will ever lie with anyone’s 9-5 ever again at which my name isn’t on the front of the building. That’s not to say that today I’m any less committed to the work I do, but I don’t think I define my life’s success by my career nearly as much as I used to. I’m a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter and a BFF that happens to be a professional as well.
In the summer of 2016, I ended up being hired by another non-profit in a position that although was a pay cut and required less experience than my prior position, did allow me to pursue my passion of sexual health education. Silly me thought becoming employed within a week of my unemployment benefits being cut off surely was a sign that my career crisis ended. WRONG. Within a few months I quickly learned that now I was just a ball of anxiety, resentment and confusion that now had to wake up early every morning. Don’t get me wrong, most days I enjoy what I do, but to say I look forward going to work would be a long shot. And lately I feel like my fears of being a thirty-something cliché are coming to fruition: I’m tired of all the time, can’t tell the difference between most of today’s rappers and have a love/hate relationship with my 9-5.
My husband however, hates his daily routine a little less than I do. First off, anyone who has their own business knows that a con is that you usually don’t clock out at 5 and get to run home to catch up on the latest This Is Us episode. He has to work weekends when business is slow to make sure he can cut himself a check, his phone rings constantly and even when he isn’t physically in the field, as a small-business owner he’s still doing his own administrative work until he can afford to hire more staff. This is where I come in. Every once in a while when I’m complaining about emotional managers or meetings that should’ve been e-mails, he manages to slip in, “Well one day when you work for me, you won’t have to worry about stuff like that.”
Don’t get me wrong, my husband respects my passions and doesn’t think I should be sitting around baking cookies and changing diapers all day, but remember when I mentioned “loyalties to these 9-5’s”? Sometimes his subtle invitations make me wonder what’s keeping me from investing into our family legacy, even if it isn’t something I’m all that interested in? For me, I think the answer is fear. I was raised in a household with both a mother and father who worked in hospitals and made a conscious decision to work for separate places specifically in case massive lay-offs happened. I always respected that forethought, because low and behold, while I was in undergrad my 50-something father got the pink slip (along with my older sister who shared the same employer) and suddenly much of the financial burden of the household was placed on my mother. Still they didn’t miss a beat and it was all because they chose separate career paths in some way.
I’m also fearful of the sacrifice that might come with helping my husband continue to build his business. I don’t want to wake up one day with resentment for his success wondering what could’ve been. It reminds me of the flack Ayesha Curry (wife of NBA player Stephen Curry) caught when people accused her of riding her husband’s coattails for a come up in her own career. She mentioned how at one time she felt the public looked at being a wife and mother as uncool and how the roles were even looked down upon. As a new mother I’m learning it’s OK to like doing for your family and that climbing the career ladder doesn’t always have to be pitted against being a wife and/or mother. But there are so many hours in a day and there will be times in life when it’s OK to not want to be a career woman. You can have it all even if it all isn’t at once. In the event I do choose to be employed by my husband, it doesn’t mean I have to set my dreams on fire and turn my back on them like Angela Bassett in Waiting to Exhale.
As I get older, I’m realizing that when it comes to career, I’m less worried about who exactly is signing my paycheck and more about maintaining my peace of mind from day-to-day. Because if this past year has taught me anything it’s that even if you are getting paid off your passion, it requires some element of work and the honest truth is work is not something we always look forward to doing. I don’t know if I’ll be mixing my professional and personal life anytime soon, but what I now know is that your position today doesn’t necessarily have to represent your path tomorrow. Titles are great and shout out to those climbing the career ladder, but at the end of the day when it comes to making a living we all have to answer to someone, whether it’s customers, readers, or a traditional “boss you can’t stand” aka “The Man”. Now whether I’m ready for that man to be my husband, is a different story.
Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.
Image via Corbis