Work ethic in the United States today is a highly misunderstood concept. We used to encourage hard work during working hours and family life after hours, but the idea of work/life balance is now seen as essentially blasphemous. We see the memes online every day about how working a 40-hour work week is now “part time” and those who insist on having free time to spend with their families are lazy or entitled. How did this happen and why? When did the idea of actually being happy in your life become such a negative stigma? People laugh about getting divorced because they’re never home to nurture their marriage, acting as if that divorce is an accomplishment which denotes that they deserve a promotion. I don’t think it’s funny, and it’s disrespectful to those of us who actually give a fuck about our marriages and families.
Let me backtrack a bit and tell you about my life before I was married, and everything changed. I worked really hard to put myself through college without much financial assistance from my family. While others were going to toga parties and keggers, I was working full-time on nights and weekends to afford my rent and tuition while also dealing with an emotionally abusive boyfriend (but that’s a story for another time). I didn’t sleep for years as I was up at 7-8 in the morning to go to class and then working until midnight and staying up after work to study. After college, I graduated into an economy that was devastated by the recession and could barely find any kind of work in NE Ohio, so I worked any shitty job I could get to pay the bills until I had had enough. Following a difficult breakup, I moved to a new city and began a fresh career in sales.
After I had moved and decided to jump head-first into sales as a career, I got sucked into the corporate bullshit mentality because I was sad and lonely. Work was all I had. I swore I’d never trust a man again and that I’d work 80 hours/week and never have a family if that’s what it took to survive. I was a natural at sales and I had fun selling cars. I made more money than I’d ever seen in my lifetime, but I wasn’t truly happy. Despite everyone telling me that this was the life, hustling 12 hours/day and then going to the bar and hooking up with random guys, it never felt like the life that was right for me. I knew I wanted something more meaningful.
In 2015, I came upon hard times that forced me to reconsider my career options, and I found my first few gigs as an independent contractor with the ability to work from home. Around that time, fate also answered my call when my now-husband knocked on my door in the middle of the afternoon. He was selling cable door-to-door for one of those shitty little companies that don’t even pay a living wage, and the girl he was working with was fake in every way. I wasn’t buying a word she said, but I thought he seemed like a good guy. I thought it was a coincidence when I saw him again in the parking lot of my building later that day, but it turns out it wasn’t. He sent me a friend request online the next week and we were married about 2 years later.
While we were dating, and I was planning the wedding, I went back to corporate sales just long enough to get a bigger place and pay for the wedding without debt. Of course, this company was trying to spoon-feed me the same poisoned koolaid as all the other companies, and I wasn’t interested in drinking it. About a month before the wedding, they conveniently “lost” my vacation request for my honeymoon which had been approved previously and would not re-approve it. I was basically told that if I took that week off anyway, I’d be out of a job. It was the easiest decision in the world when I quit and went to the beach for my dream wedding and honeymoon. I’ve never regretted prioritizing my new family and my happiness. We adopted two rescue dogs and they’re a handful but I wouldn’t trade my family for anything.
I know I’m getting a bit longwinded here, but it’s only because I feel so strongly about prioritizing the important things in life now that I’ve found them. If you honestly believe that your job should be your #1 priority in life and nothing else matters, that’s fine. Go ahead and be a workaholic, but please don’t get married and put your spouse through the misery of always being less important than your boss. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting the happiest life possible, and I don’t know anyone who actually thinks happiness is working 80 hours/week and dying alone of a stress-induced heart attack. Life is for living, and if you aren’t living to the fullest you might as well just die.
I’m going to wrap this up by referencing one of my favorite movies, The Devil Wears Prada. In the scene where Andi and Nate are fighting about her working around the clock and never spending time together, her phone rings and it’s her boss. When she’s faced with the decision of which conversation to prioritize, Nate says “Just so you know, the person whose calls you always take…that’s the relationship you’re in. I hope you two are very happy together.” He couldn’t be more right, and Andi sees the light at the end and chooses to save her relationship with the one she loves. That’s a tough call to make, but it must be done. Especially if you’ve walked down the aisle and taken vows to honor and respect your spouse, it is your responsibility to keep those vows and respect your marriage enough to make time for each other. After all, you never know how long you’ll actually have together, so make every moment count.