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The Busy-ness of Work & Marriage

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Talk About Work and Family Expectations

Unfortunately many couples get married without spending much time discussing their expectations about what their work and family life will be like. This can create difficulties for the couple when the wife decides she wants to live and work in New York City but the husband was thinking they would live on a farm. That was the storyline for the 1970's sitcom "Green Acres." However, this situation is not so funny when you are the one living it. Here are some questions that couples should thoroughly discuss prior to getting married. Although you may not know the exact answers to all of these questions, it is important that you and your partner have a pretty clear idea about what your wants and expectations are in these areas. Answer these questions individually and then compare your answers with those of your partner. The results may be very revealing.

  • Do you and your partner both plan on working after you get married?
  • If you both work, will one partner's job take priority over the other?
  • How will you make employment decisions that will affect your partner?
  • Are you and your partner in agreement about the type of work you both will do?
  • How will you deal with job changes involving the type of work you do or changes that may require you to relocate?
  • If you both work, how will that affect the way you divide housework?
  • If both you and your partner do not need to work for financial reasons, will both work anyway?
  • What if one partner wants to stay home but the other thinks you both should work?
  • How will your work affect your decision of whether and when to have children?
  • Would either of you consider staying home to care for the children?
  • If both you and your partner need or want to work, what are your childcare options?
  • Can either or both of you work from home?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of different work or stay-at-home scenarios for your marriage relationship?
  • Are you and your partner in agreement about where you want to live?
  • Are you and your partner in agreement about the type of lifestyle you will live?
  • Are you and your partner in agreement about how many hours you will work in a typical day?
  • Is career development or family life your top priority?

Potential Solutions for Childcare

In the examples, scenarios were shared where different couples struggled with work and family life issues. They all came up with different solutions that worked for them. However, your situation may be different, and the solutions that worked for these couples may not apply to your situation or work for you. Whether you have children now, or are planning on having children in the future, take a few minutes with your partner to consider what your solutions for work and child care may be.

Solution Advantages Disadvantages
Work at home.    
Arrange work schedule so that someone else in the household will be home to provide child care.    
Ask family members outside the household to provide care.    
Hire someone from outside the family to provide child care.    
Trade child care with a friend or neighbor.    
Use the services of a day care center.    

Is the "stuff" worth it?

Do this exercise to help you determine the value you as a couple and/or family place on the extra income that can be gained from working multiple jobs or longer hours compared to spending extra time together. This is an exercise that I frequently use when talking to college students about work, family life, and parenting.

  1. Think back to a time in your childhood when you were the happiest and then answer the following questions.
    • What were you doing?
    • Who were you with?
  2. Now, try and remember a present you received for any given birthday or holiday when you were a child.

Initially, these questions may seem completely unrelated, but in reality they are very closely linked. Having conducted this experiment with hundreds of students in college classrooms, the answers I received to the question of what they were doing when they were the happiest varied widely. However, the answer to the question of who they were with was almost always a family member of some sort and the activities they were doing were rarely very expensive.

When asked to recall what present they received for any given birthday or holiday when they were a child, most people could not remember.

The purpose of this exercise is to show adults that from a child's perspective, gifts that can be purchased with money are rarely remembered and are of little lasting value. The gifts that children hope for and the ones that make them truly happy are time spent with family.

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2005, December 07). The Busy-ness of Work & Marriage. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License