by Vicki Larson
I was working happily in a career I loved when I happened to fall in love. This doesn’t appear to be much of a dilemma, and it wasn’t. But then we got married and a few years later I got pregnant and that’s when the first big dilemma popped up: Who’ll watch the baby?
Maybe we were young (although we were already in our 30s), maybe we were naïve, maybe we were choosing to live simply before it was trendy, maybe we were traditionalists at heart, or maybe we were just acknowledging the obvious — my husband made much more than I did — but we agreed that I would stay home.
It was a somewhat uneasy transition, one I loved and hated depending on the day — or time of day. But at the same time that I threw myself into full-time motherhood, my husband was starting to climb in his newspaper career.
He asked me to help him, and I was happy to do it. Not only did it put my writing skills and creativity to good use, but it also felt like we were a team — not just husband and wife, not just mom and dad, but journalist and photojournalist.
Plus, a grant I had researched and written before just before we got married not only sent him to Japan for six weeks — the only photojournalist to win it — but also led to his being named as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. What could stop us?
Nothing. In fact, we could have been the poster couple for “Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All ,” conservative commentator Megan Basham’s new book that advises women to opt out of the 9-to-5 grind and put their energy into making their husbands be more successful in their careers.
Not only will they make more money as a couple — “Men whose wives aren't employed earn on average 31% more than single men, but for men whose wives have full-time jobs, that number drops to 3.4%” — but they’ll be happier and more unlikely to divorce, she says.
If only it were that easy; haven’t we all heard stories of women who worked while their husbands pursued their law or medical degree and then got dumped for a trophy wife? But Basham, 33 and a self-described "choice feminist," says it’s worked for her. Her book details how she helped her husband, Brian, work his way up the TV newsroom ladder by rewriting his resume, researching jobs and finding him an agent. (And, of course, she’s been promoting her book, which sure seems like work to me.) They’re now awaiting the birth of their first child this summer.
I’d like to say that my marriage had the same fairy-tale ending. Sure, I researched and wrote a few more winning grants for my husband, and the book idea we developed and shopped around to agents finally got published — a year after we divorced. It’s dedicated to his girlfriend.
And the years I took off to be a stay-at-home mom (although I started working part time when my second son was born) and hubby cheerleader have cost me plenty now that I’m back in the workplace full time, just as “The Feminine Mistake ” author Leslie Bennetts and “Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World ” author Linda R. Hirshman would have warned me.
Would I have done it differently? I don’t know. I’ll certainly never regret the years I spent with my two boys. Nor do I regret the help I gave to my then-husband; I loved him, and it was unconditional. I made a choice, and this is how it ended up. Plus, now I get to list it on my resume under my “accomplishments.”
But the truth is this — every choice we make has consequences not only for ourselves, but also for our families and society. There are no guarantees, and no one can predict which marriage will be strengthened by an arrangement like Basham’s and which one will implode regardless. Still, it’s important to ask ourselves, “What is a good life?” and then feel good about our decisions.
I’m only sorry I didn’t write the book first.