You marry a person to spend your life together… but between work, children and hobbies, how much time do you actually spend together? Our society expects us to maintain a monogamous, lifelong commitment, but then places so many barriers in the way of success. Long work days, traffic-ridden commutes and the care of a small child aren’t the way anyone ever intended a marriage to thrive.

My husband James and I both worked away from the home for 5 years, and the few hours we had at night were filled with de-stressing, maybe exercising, and catching up on DVR. Now that he works from home and I am a stay-at-home-mom to a toddler, the work pretty much never ends. Despite having all day together at home, we are both otherwise occupied with something else. It’s hard to make time for the person you married!

The Work-Life Balance

At a leadership conference for James’ old company, the speaker recalled a senior-level manager who asked, “What about work-life balance?” He was told, “If you care about that, you shouldn’t be here.” Work is your life, I guess, if you’re looking to be an executive at a major corporation.

A friend, working 60+ hours a week, recently starting searching for a new job in the government sector that would limit his hours to a mere 40. He wanted to be able to spend more time with his girlfriend and pursuing his hobbies. As for the change, he called it “early retirement.”

We have plenty of other friends who have worked their butts off for advanced degrees and high-paying careers only to rarely see their significant others. This isn’t a specific person’s fault, and hard-working dads (and harder-working moms) aren’t to blame for doing what American society expects of them. It’s a society that values productivity over family, work over love. No one would ever accuse the romantic Europeans of working too hard! They have copious time off, generous maternity leave and safety nets for just being a citizen. Of course, they’re not making the advances in technology that we are… but what really matters at the end of life? It’s pretty evident that we’re breaking our backs to produce, leaving little time to spend with the people we’ve chosen to honor forever.

I’ve had some people tell me that we shouldn’t expect instant gratification—just wait 40 years and retire and then you can spend time with your husband or wife. Sadly, after long periods of neglect, many marriages go sour. What then? Driving the U.S. alone in an RV doesn’t seem so worth it.

Our Story (How We’re Fixing Things)

When James started working from home, we knew he was going to have more time with the family. What we didn’t know is that a lot of it wouldn’t be quality time, as running a business is more time-intensive than expected. Although we seriously reduced our expenses, the pressure to work all the time to make more money is always in the back of his head. I guess it’s just been ingrained for too long. So the balance is always drifting, and we have to be very careful as to make sure we make time for each other without toddlers, iPhones or TV.

What bears repeating: You made a lifelong commitment to your spouse, not to your job. If you’re in a job that doesn’t fit the lifestyle you imagined, start looking for something else. Luckily, we’ve found something that’s working for us right now. The most valuable relationship in your life is the one you chose on your wedding day! My ultimate goal isn’t to be a stay-at-home mom, but I’d like to work at something that’s in line with my talents, values and allows me the flexibility to be there for my child. If this is what you want, don’t sell yourself short by telling yourself it’s impossible. You may not succeed on all levels, but it’s better than never trying at all.

Sometimes it can feel silly to take a “marriage health” day from your job, or pay a babysitter to watch your child. All I can say is that it beats the bill for marriage counseling or worse, a divorce lawyer! While those of you close to James and I know we haven’t always had the ideal relationship, I’m glad to say that after 6 years of marriage, a baby, and some major changes, we’re still trying to create the ideal life.

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