I am a 28 year old man currently reaching the end of my doctoral studies. I am also in a serious relationship and seriously considering marriage in the near future. Ordinarily, I would be looking for a career as a University professor, or something else that makes direct use of my doctoral studies, such as a policy advisor for government or Catholic education. The current economic climate (it looks like the University sector here in the UK is going to be hit by still further cuts in the next few years) doesn't make that a particularly stable career choice at the moment, and I am also aware that, while a University professor earns above average, most of the married professors I know either married late in life, married other professors or are in two-income families where both have to work.
My girlfriend and I have spoken about this, and while she is willing to work, we would both prefer for me to be the breadwinner and for her to stay at home and homeschool any children God may bless us with.
So I am faced with a choice - without a doubt my doctorate will be an advantage if I apply for work in the financial or management sector, which would give me the opportunity to bring in a good income, afford a nice house, put money aside for children's education, etc. On the other hand, I feel that academia is the best use of my talents, and can see in it the opportunity to genuinely transform the world for the good, not merely to earn a wage.
I recognise that, for a married man, the duty to provide for his family comes first. I recognise that it would even be right for someone to abandon something objectively morally good (e.g. a career as a teacher) for something morally less good, though not objectively evil (e.g. to take a job as a debt collector) if that was what was needed to feed and clothe his family. Having said this, I need to remind myself that an academic career would still pay above-average. Is it still a duty to abandon something good which could provide for the basics, in order to provide 'the best' (materially and financially) for my family at the expense of being morally ambivalent to my work?
I suppose one question is what kind of example do I want to set for my own children? The father who is rarely at home because of work commitments but whose children know he loves them by the time they are able to spend with their mother, or the father who strives to do good at work as well as at home, even though sometimes money is tight? I would want my own children to know what my Protestant upbringing never taught me, that you have to make a choice - either you want to make a difference in the world through your work, in which case you stay single or join a religious order - or you want to provide for a family, in which case you make the right career choices to provide the best for your children.
In spite of all my social liberal tendencies which tell me the contrary, I do think it's a Protestant error to think you can do both. The work of married people is not our vocation, but our vocation is to the family. Catholic marriage requires a fundamental sacrifice, not only of selfish interests, but also of all the other 'good' things a married man could do in the world, in service of the one thing that is needed.
My girlfriend is a wonderful person, who would never ask me to make that sacrifice, and it is precisely because she would never ask for it that I feel the desire more and more strongly to make it for her.
There is another dimension to this, which is I do have some depressive tendencies. I went through a phase of using my faith as an excuse to destroy my life and make myself miserable. Spending time with the Salesians pretty-well cured me of that. I don't want to use marriage as an excuse to do the same, that's not fair to my girlfriend. It feels like a false choice, and all the fine theological language I can muster to justify this choice (I have a copy of Chrisifideles Laici and Familiaris Consortio open on my desk as I write this - decided to remove the quotes which I had previously inserted in this post and replace with what I really feel) doesn't make it feel any less hypocritical. There are plenty of men who do manage to balance married life with worthwhile careers that don't make a lot of money, and many of them are very happy in their lives. Maybe I'm turning into a miserable, judgmental conservative who imposes unnecessary burdens on myself and others. Trouble is, I know whatever course I choose I will regret not choosing the other.
Am I too nice for my own good? I wish I could be someone who would enjoy the cutthroat world of finance, but I just know I'd hate it, and I'd be a different person if I didn't.
I'm confused, and would appreciate some help from those married folks out there.