Adapted from a recent online discussion.
DEAR CAROLYN: I have this job. I really, really love this job. Sometimes I resent how consuming this job is, but I do love it.
My husband stays home with our toddler, which works well for all three of us.
We had been planning to try to get pregnant again next month. But some work deadlines shifted, and from a work perspective it’s suddenly better to wait a few more months. Not “or I might lose my job” better. Just “to maximize my performance” better.
So, part of me wants to wait. It’s just a couple of months, right?
But another part feels guilty and ashamed for prioritizing work ahead of family … and I know for sure my husband will resent having to wait. So much of our household already revolves around this job.
Yes, I do know nobody can ever really plan these things — we might start trying next month and try for a year. And yes, I do know this “problem” emerges from extraordinary privilege. Still, I gotta decide, and I feel really, really stuck. Any suggestions for an approach?
DEAR OVERPLANNER: It is just a couple of months, yes, and it’s better for all of you not to be stressed — so wait. There’s no need to let the principle of the thing ruin some perfectly good pragmatism.
And, at the same time, address your husband’s resentment and your choices as a couple.
When you’ve reached the point of “guilty and ashamed” — not over a trivial 60 or 90 days or whatever you’d be waiting, but instead over who you are — that’s your hint that you’re overdue to get stuff aired and figured out. You love your job, you are a “congenital overplanner,” you care about maximizing your performance. This isn’t stuff you should be denying or apologizing for or fretting about admitting to your life partner. It’s you.
Instead, you need to own these things and work with your husband on how they come to bear on his quality of life, how you plan your family, how you and he divide the domestic workload. If his needs aren’t being considered or met, or if he isn’t getting a full say in how things are done, then it’s time for him to be heard.
Someone who does feel invested as a full partner, however you divide the responsibilities, is not going to feel resentful over something so minor as pulling the goalie Feb. 1 instead of Nov. 1. Invested partners work together toward joint goals, and therefore will agree your focusing on work till X and then trying to conceive starting on Y serves you both and makes complete sense.
And invested partners also aren’t fearful that admitting what they prefer will drop a spark on dry tinder.
Come to think of it, even if you didn’t have a new work deadline to manage, there’s still the issue of bringing another child into a situation that actually isn’t working “well for all three of us.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with a household running around any particular thing — a job, a hobby, a sport, a health issue. What matters is that the family co-chairs agree on how things are run. So please set aside time to get frustrations out and addressed.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com or chat with her online at 10 a.m. each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.