Husbands and Fathers - big career choices question


#1

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.


#2

[quote="DL82, post:1, topic:211376"]
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.

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.
There is a saying: Do what you love and the money will follow.
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 do not think that it is your duty to work at something which you do not feel you would be as happy in order to make "more" of a living. You have said that as a teacher, you would still be providing for your family in a way that would allow for a comfortable life and still allow you the time that you would want to spend with them.

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? Ah, now I think the fact that you are asking that way means you really already know the answer. :) 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. :thumbsup: You are off to a good start!

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. How do you think she would feel to know that every day you were going off to a job that you truly did not love just for the money when you have a choice to go to one that pays enough to make a comfortable living? Only a truly mercenary wife would want to subject her husband to that choice.

There is another dimension to this, which is I do have some depressive tendencies. I could see how this will be a problem for you should you end up choosing a job that will not make you happy then.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. Yes, there are. You must resist the materialistic pull of what the world tells you is important. 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 think this says it all. I think that maybe you are just afraid of all the responsibility. But making "more" money will not take that away. A strong faith will. And a belief that God will provide you with what you truly need to be happy, even if it is not what this world offers as happiness.

[/quote]

May God bless you and guide you as you discern what your future should be.


#3

firstly, congratulations on your work in getting a doctorate:

I Wanted to touch on this part:

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 grew up “working class” My dad, unfortunately had a limited education, and worked manual jobs, although he was a skilled worker.

His days were 12-13 hour days every day except Sunday.

Money was tight all the time anyway. But I only have the best memories of my Dad. He was gentle, kind, strong, almost perfect Dad. I will always appreciate all his work and be grateful to him.

Hope that helps.


#4

If you can find a job which is both enjoyable and sustains your life; go for it.

There is little point entering a sector which you would not enjoy; even if the pay is higher; for money is no compensation for satisfaction and happiness.

If it is academia you enjoy; go for it. There are plenty of positions which pay more than enough to support a family; particularily if you do not squander wealth.

You can always subsidise academic work with releasing books. A hard-working academic should be able to release at least one or two books a year even if they are working full time; this - no doubt; could subsidise an income substantially.


#5

My husband LOVED his job. That is such a blessing to be able to go to work and get paid for something you love to do.

However, I also think people who spend their lives in universities live in a cloistered environment. It is good to be in the outside world to see how it operates. And you are young. Many people change their career paths to go in a completely different direction.


#6

People that enter jobs they are not interested or even dislike are often angry and unhappy… and they usually bring that anger and unhappiness home. I say this because almost every job out there has its ups and downs. And if you don’t like what you’re doing, then the downs get harder and harder to take. Add to that an economy that makes it hard to get another job… and then you feel like a slave. Come home to a gaggle of hyper kids, and your skin starts to crawl… It’s a recipe for YUCK!

I’m all for my husband working a career that he loves (he does), and working longer hours (he does), and being a great attentive father when he is home (he is). And yes, we even struggle financialy from time to time. But my children KNOW their daddy loves them. And you know what, he’s also just that kind of guy (and so MAYBE career choice wouldn’t have mattered.) Other than his happiness… on his J-O-B

I was raised to get educated well enough that I can earn a living to feed any children I might have should DH turn out to be a dead beat or no longer be in the picture. Honestly, this resulted in a career that I’m quite capable of and DESTEST! Very happy to be a WAHM (doing something I like when I can),

And FINALLY, it’s great that you’re making a solid effort towards figuring this out. But the fact is, life is going to throw you curve balls that were not part of the plan… make the best choice that allows you to be your best person. This is not just about money.

You clearly are already acting responsibly… Best wishes!


#7

I suppose I ought to count myself lucky that I am in a position to choose between a career that allows me to spend time with my family or a career that gives me financial security, many people can do neither.

That’s precisely the problem for me, however. If I go into a career in finance, I just feel like I will be complicit in that system which keeps so many people desperately poor and insecure in their lives, even as it accumulates money in the hands of the few. A career in education policy may, in some small way, give me the chance to make other people’s lives better, to improve our society in some way. All the same, if that is truly my ‘vocation’, to make others lives better through better education, then I ought to embrace that as my primary vocation, perhaps as a Salesian brother or a numary with Opus Dei, able to give myself totally to that aim in my career. If I am to choose marriage, I must choose to give up any other way of making an impact on the world except through the sacrifice of my whole self for the good of my wife and children.


#8

[quote="faithfully, post:6, topic:211376"]
People that enter jobs they are not interested or even dislike are often angry and unhappy... and they usually bring that anger and unhappiness home. I say this because almost every job out there has its ups and downs. And if you don't like what you're doing, then the downs get harder and harder to take. Add to that an economy that makes it hard to get another job.... and then you feel like a slave. Come home to a gaggle of hyper kids, and your skin starts to crawl... It's a recipe for YUCK!

[/quote]

Thanks, but I really think that for me it would be the other way around, going home to a household where we have as many kids as God chooses to bless us with, where my wife has no money worries, would bring me such a joy I'd take that out with me into whatever work I did.

In my experience, good people don't do what they love, they love what they do. I grew up in a Royal Air Force town, and to an 8-year-old boy the idea of being a fighter pilot is pretty much the coolest job there is, and yet I would see guys who would complain about their job just the same as anybody else 'I have to do another 200 hours of flying practice this month' etc. - even being a fighter pilot eventually becomes 'just another day at the office', and I need to bear that in mind when I think about what I think I would like - most likely, God has better things in mind if I'm willing to embrace the choice to put family first.

Nothing would get me down or make me angry like the thought that I'm still the selfish person I was when I was a kid. I am thankful to my step-mother who gave me a strong sense of shame at my own selfishness. Though she wasn't a Catholic, I think her values helped me to really desire the life of sacrifice which Christ preached and lived. I don't want my kids growing up looking up to a man who only does his job because he 'likes' it, or whose motivation doesn't begin and end in the marital home, I want them to have a strong role-model of sacrificial love.


#9

I’m actually degreed in Finance. I just had NO passion for it when I finished my degree. However, I was able to use that knowledge when I moved over to HR. I’ve recruited in the accounting and financial arena, and done quite well. Helping people find work and getting paid for that is AWESOME. One job in particular, I was able to work with staff and educate them on their 401ks. Many don’t contribute, even up to free matching. They don’t understand what they are missing. A career in Finance does not HAVE to be putting $$ in just the hands of the rich. I met a woman not to long ago that focused on Female clients. Generally they were divorced and raising children on their own. Wow, I wish someone had pointed me in THAT direction. I would have LOVED using my degree in a fashion that aided/empowered others like that.


#10

A career in finance…I have absolutely nothing against helping the rich with their money. There’s many ways one can help. We have a relative who is a financial adviser and also a Catholic. He is handling one family who has 20 million and a friend from college who has $20,000 to invest and all of those in between.
He counsels the family members with the 20 million. Meets with the young ones more apt to blow the money and explains their responsibity in handling their part of the estate if and when they gain access. God bless him for that!
The other investor is a lay missionary and college friend. So the investor is making sure his friend has something put aside.
We need him because we can not concentrate with everything else going on in our lives.
I’m so glad we found him. And he has five young boys too.


#11

I, like you, went to school and then graduate school. I studied business because that is what I thought I would bring me the most happiness. Right after graduation I landed with a top notch and ‘top of the pile’ corporation and loved my job. Up to that point I was not in a relationship, but was soon after and we married. After five years I was laid-off - one of 200 that day. I landed on my feet and landed in a job at a smaller corporation that brought me even more personal rewards. All the while we started a family. We had an idea of how we wanted to live our lives - God did too. I was laid off again and now I work for the Catholic Church.

I have two suggestions. 1- Be careful what you pray for because you may end up working for the Church. 2- Try not to plan out the rest of your life today. Have ideas and dreams, but allow God to use you as He sees fit. When you realize God has a plan for you and you allow him to unfold it before you, the rest of your life will seem so much easier. Don’t worry about what kind of father you are going to be to children you do not have yet. Become a great man first. Then become a great husband.

Let go and let God!

Good luck and God bless!


#12

Congratulations on your soon to be PHD. My personal suggestion on your situation is this: Work in the world of Finance now for 2 -3 years, get a “real” world understanding of business and economics. Set a limit as to how long you will work in finance and then go into academia. Your experience will make you a better teacher and professor. It will provide you with contacts and a network of resources for the future that you can use to enrich your teachings, get opinions, bring in speakers, help with book editing and if need be have a supplemental source of income.

When I was in college and high school, for that matter, I always got more out of a class if the professor had real experience and stories to discuss than any grad student teaching an intro course did. I still keep in touch with my favorite professor from college and he definitely does not get lost in academia.

Pray for guidance and the gifts from the Holy Spirit. Mother Teresa said “if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”


#13

[quote="DL82, post:1, topic:211376"]
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.

...]

There is another dimension to this, which is I do have some depressive tendencies.

[/quote]

If you're anything like my husband (you remind me quite a bit of him :) ), then it will be crucial for your emotional, spiritual, and even physical well being to earn a living doing something that you feel has genuine purpose. For 7 years, my husband has been miserable doing a job that he deems worthless. Only in the last several months has it really started to affect him at home. :( And I've spent several years trying to convince him to leave, even though I know times will be tough for us for awhile, financially and emotionally. It just kills me that he sacrificed so much of his own happiness "for the good of our family," when, ultimately, "the good of the family" requires both husband and wife to be healthy and not depressed.

Now that my husband is finally trying to pursue something he considers meaningful, the difference in him is tangible. As his wife, and I've told him this countless times, I'd rather have a happy husband who isn't home quite as much (and who doesn't earn as much money), than to have a depressed, grumpy husband home every day at 6, even if it means we sacrifice the money. Better to sacrifice the money than the man I married.


#14

I already worked, in a public sector project management and policy development job, for 3 years before I started my doctoral studies. I enjoyed some parts of it, but I couldn’t stand the thought of spending my whole life there, which is why I left to pursue a PhD. I’m sure that work will stand me in good stead as a teacher and researcher, as you say. However, my field in education changes pretty rapidly, I don’t know whether I could (a) keep up the record of relevant publishing and (b) cope with the pay cut if I decided to change back to academia at some point in the future.

Also, I realised while reading that I posted this not so much because I’m interested in others’ opinions, but because the more I tell myself and tell others that I am willing to abandon every other ambition and talent in my life to be a better husband, the more I might actually believe it myself :(.


#15


#16

I apologise, I shouldn’t have written this.

All the same, the point is, I don’t believe in the Protestant ‘work ethic’ idea that says that your work is a vocation and something that sanctifies you. It may be so for a single person or for a religious in certain active vocations. For a married man, however, marriage is the vocation, the sole vocation, the one thing that matters, the pearl of great price, everything else can be given up for this one thing, because this one thing is the image of Christ’s love for the Church, for which He emptied Himself, even willing to die on the cross for her. I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’m living up to that vocation if I ask my family to make sacrifices for the sake of what I want to do.


#17

[quote="DL82, post:16, topic:211376"]
I don't think I'll ever feel like I'm living up to that vocation if I ask my family to make sacrifices for the sake of what I want to do.

[/quote]

Just know that if it comes to it, and your wife asks you to do what you truly wish to do, please don't feel as though the sacrifices your family may make are too great -- Sometimes, the family suffers too much when Dad sacrifices himself too much. :hug1: (Such is the case with my family, anyway. :o )


#18

I think at this juncture, I would suggest that you talk with a priest that you respect and work well with.

You have a definition of marriage that is concerning to ME. However, it is not I that you plan to marry. Are these sacrifices that you speak of material? Or necessities that you won’t be able to meet?

Or maybe I just don’t understand. Does the job you prefer to take require that you ignore your family? That they will live in poverty? The education of your children would be compromised on all fronts? Will there be a lack of nutritious foods? A solid spriritual upbringing?

PS… at least for me… No need to apologize. I can see that you are trying to work things out… just putting your thoughts out there. I’m just throwing out things that come to mind based on your words. I KNOW I don’t have enough information to offer you a personalized solution…

Best!


#19

This strikes me as a selfish comment. Why should you be the only person to benefit from sacrificing? Why can’t your wife have the blessing of sacrificing for you as well?

In a good marriage, the husband sacrifices for his wife and she sacrifices for him. This is also called love.


#20

[quote="newf, post:19, topic:211376"]
This strikes me as a selfish comment. Why should you be the only person to benefit from sacrificing? Why can't your wife have the blessing of sacrificing for you as well?

In a good marriage, the husband sacrifices for his wife and she sacrifices for him. This is also called love.

[/quote]

I am sure my wife will make sacrifices too, but they will be the sacrifices that need to be made, first of all in giving birth, then in raising children, keeping the home, etc. There is a difference between asking her to make that sacrifice and asking her to go without just so I can do what I want.

All of this has really been brought home to me recently by a friend who is discerning a vocation with the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (those guys are awesome by the way). It made me realise that, unless the sacrifice of married life is as complete, as total a denial of self for the sake of Christ, as the sacrifice made by priests and religious, it doesn't live up to the full dignity of the Sacrament. The Friars don't go into religious life bringing their own desires, they don't say "I'll live by most of this rule, but I still want to go out and play football for my team on a Thursday evening", they go into that way of life to be obedient and submit to the needs of one another. A married couple ought to be the same, first you serve one another, then you serve your kids together, then you serve your parish community together as a family, and if after that you still have time and energy, then you serve your local community, through volunteering or public service. There shouldn't even be a moment for mom and dad to stop and think about their personal wants and desires, nor should they need to if they are both seeking to live a life according to the commandments of our Lord, to love God first and love one another, looking to one anothers' needs first and foremost. That seems like such a perfect sacrifice. To want to add something 'else' to that, like an enjoyable or socially beneficial career choice, just seems selfish and irrelevant compared to the beauty of that all-consuming vocation:love:.


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