Tuesday 7 May 2013

Marry the man = Marry the job

Once upon a time, I had a friend who was dating a sports journalist. After a few months, she started getting very sulky about him spending most weekends of "the season" working. Her complaint was that you didn't date someone in order to spend most weekends alone; you dated them to have someone to spend weekends with! At the time, I was a bit mystified - surely she knew what his job entailed before they became a serious item? Hadn't she considered how it might impact on their time together? To not do so seemed to me to be as silly as those Army or Navy wives who complain when their husbands are sent abroad on a tour of duty. You knew that their job was their life when you got involved with them, so why exactly are you complaining?

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague asked me whether DH minded the long hours I put in and the travel that I do. The question surprised me*. It could be interpreted on several levels, although I am sure the original intention was just curiosity and a chance to compare someone-else's circumstances to his own. Of course, in a male dominated industry, there is always the sexist angle that we expect wives to put up with travelling husbands but vice-versa is rare enough to be an object of curiosity. However, I don't think that was his intention. Still, he got me thinking - what are the assumptions we make about our relationships? And that reminded me of my friend, above.

Maybe I am different from other people, but I have always assumed that you have to accept your partner as they are - and that includes accepting the impositions of their job. Marry the man; marry the job, as it were. Then again, I started my working life doing shift-work, in a job that required a degree of obsession to enable you to do it (nursing). Perhaps it has given me a different perspective. I don't understand when women (and it is usually women) complain about the hours their husbands put in, but they're happy to enjoy the benefits of the income his hard work pulls in. You can't have it both ways.

In engineering, there often isn't much of a choice - you want the job, then you have to work at site, miles from home. It isn't a lifestyle choice; it's a choice between earning an income or being unemployed; paying the mortgage or worrying about where the next meal comes from. Even if you are a permanent employee, there are only so many times you can turn down working away before it damages your billability and your career. Oh, and marks you down as dead-wood for the next round of redundancies.

However, a marriage is a partnership. If a job offer or promotion comes through that involves longer hours/weekend working/working away/a long commute then you have to discuss it. When the job is a lifestyle, both partners have to have buy-in, even though reality is there may be little or no choice. It is what it is. But both parties need to accept that. And accept that, if you love your partner, then you need to love their job too.

- Pam

* The answer, when I asked DH, was "No" but he's a bit fed up with dropping me off for early flights.