It comes as no surprise that millennials are getting married later in life than ever before. According to relationship experts, this new norm is due in part to more women entering the workforce in recent decades: Both men and women want to advance their careers and fear that student debt and the high cost of living will weigh them down if they tie the knot before they’re financially ready or satisfied with their accomplishments. On top of that, research has shown that women pay a “marriage penalty” (more in taxes) compared to single women, while the opposite is true for married men compared to single men in the workforce. No wonder we’re not rushing to the altar.
I’ve seen this play out firsthand: During my senior year of college, an alumni in her mid-30s came to speak to my class about her career trajectory, saying that she doesn’t plan on settling down until she climbs one more rung up the corporate ladder. Another woman in her mid-30s I spoke to years ago, who wed at 23 and was pregnant with her third child when we met, told me she wishes she’d married her partner later in life. “This way I’d have more of an opportunity to advance in my career,” she explained.
But why do we equate marriage with career derailment?
For so long, I too viewed career and marriage as mutually exclusive life phases, and the thought of settling down before I felt like I’d “made it” put me in a panic. But, as I’ve learned from some of our great feminist leaders like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who has long credited her success to her healthy relationship, marriage and careers don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And with the right partner, you can overcome sexist gender norms and distribute your household responsibilities equally.
Sheryl Sandberg described this work-marriage symbiosis in her book Lean In, explaining how her late husband, Dave Goldberg, supported her executive role at Facebook. “You can date whoever you want, but you should marry…the guys who want an equal relationship. Guys who want to support your career,” she wrote. Of her late husband Marty Ginsburg, RBG said, “I betray no secret in reporting that, without him, I would not have gained a seat on the Supreme Court.”
Even Jessica Valenti, the matriarch of modern-day feminist writers (IMHO) attributes her career success in part to her husband. Recently, the Future is Feminist author took to Instagram to tell fans why she believes this to be true. “If you’re going to spend your life with someone, make sure they’re a person who is as invested in your success as they are their own,” she opined. And in an article titled “Kid’s Don’t Damage Women’s Careers—Men Do,” she explained that it’s hard for women to succeed when they’re juggling their careers and home tasks while their husbands neglect domestic burdens.
I’ve personally heard many women sing the praises of husbands who share the double burden of working and caring for the household—across the board, they’ve said it has made a huge difference in their career success. Whether that support comes from an Instagram husband (a growing breed), encouraged alone time, or men simply doing the laundry, read stories below that will stoke your faith in mankind.
Debra, travel journalist
“I work as a travel journalist, which often means picking up on short notice and flying to another city or country for days or even a week at a time. I am also the mom to 2-year-old twins. My husband is the only reason I can be both a mom and a travel writer. In addition to being a better cook (and better laundry folder) than I am, he regularly takes care of the girls while I’m gone. But even when I’m home, we share duties 50/50. That’s how it should be. It’s 2019, we are equal co-parents, and I love my husband so much for understanding that.”
“My husband and I both work full-time, and we’ve always split domestic chores. He is a much better cook than me and is dedicated to contributing equally to childcare for our toddler. He’s also a quadriplegic, and when he noticed that there were certain tasks that were harder for him to complete, he made sure to contribute in other ways. He stayed up with our daughter at night for the first few months of her life (when I was taking care of her during the day) so that I could heal from my delivery. He’s also purchased adaptive cooking equipment for himself and made sure to try out all the car seats and cribs to ensure that the ones we purchased were accessible for him to use—all so that he could contribute equally to our household labor.”
Joanne, business writer
“I love that the current veneration of Ruth Bader Ginsburg recognizes the invaluable support of her late husband Marty. I have my own Marty: my husband, Mark, and I agreed before we got married that we’d support each other’s careers equally…back in 1979! Early on, he worked overtime so I could gradually ramp up my career as a business writer (while our children were young). I worked overtime to support our family when he pursued a startup, initially forgoing salary. We feel equally invested in each other’s wins, and I’m happy to report that our three grown daughters and their partners carry on this new family tradition.”
Ali, software engineer
“My husband, who works in the technology industry as well (for a longer time), has provided an endless flow of support from the beginning. Besides answering technical questions, he continually reassures me that I’m not the only one who has all these questions at the start of a job in our industry. He tells me about the amount of time it took him to understand certain concepts fully, and shows me that everyone always has a lot to learn. His encouragement and consistent belief in me has pushed me to ask people questions, and to believe in my ability to grow. Working in the same industry as my husband can be extra riveting: we dream about building software together that we both find meaningful. Our marriage represents the true definition of a team—we have each other’s backs at all times.”
Sarah, city councilwoman
“Since I ran for our local city council, he’s been taking on half the load at home, sometimes more. (He was even my campaign manager.) Now that I’m in office and still working full-time as a writer, plus our two kids with loads of evening activities, we trade off who plays parent Uber for the kids depending upon my evening commission or community meeting schedule. My husband is definitely key to my being able to do as much as I can, as well as my kids, who by default have learned to pitch in and make the house function. I have too many friends who juggle really busy lives, but then also carry most of the burden at home.”
Melissa, freelance writer/system analyst
“I was earning enough for him to quit [his banking job] and take care of the kids and household. As soon as he did that, he was a million times happier. After a year he realized he never wanted to go back to banking and got a job with USPS delivering mail. He’s home before me so dinner is always made. He helps the kids with homework and takes charge of household duties. I’ve tried my luck at a couple of startups that took me away from home for up to 80 hours a week. I couldn’t have done any of this if he hadn’t taken a step back from his career. It really works for us!”
Whitney, certified orientation and mobility specialist
“A month after our honeymoon, we found out we were pregnant. He took on a second part-time job to help build our savings. That summer I accepted a job at a school for the blind, and needed to get a second Master’s to be fully qualified for the position. To help with finances and my pursuits, my husband became a stay-at-home dad while he was still going to school too. This gave us flexibility and meant I was able to advance my career. He was doing way more than 50%. Then, he agreed to foster my nephew, a newborn born with opioids in his system, during both our final years of school, knowing that he would be the one who spent the most time at home.”
Tara, author and health/science journalist
“The only part of that viral BuzzFeed burnout article I couldn’t relate to was having the greater mental load in my marriage/household. I wouldn’t be where I am without my husband’s support, and he does more of the cleaning and cooking than I do. The traditional stuff the ‘wife’ always has to remind the ‘husband’ to do? It’s often the other way around in our home, depending on the topic/task. Our home is as close to 50/50 as I’ve ever seen among friends. I never take what I have for granted. I travel a lot for work, and he does FAR better on his own with the young kids than I do on my own with them when he has to travel.”