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August 29, 2006

Don't Marry A Career Woman?

Reading Michael Noer's recent article, Don't Marry a Career Women, was something of a mixed bag:

Guys: a word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career.

Why? Because if many social scientists are to be believed, you run a higher risk of having a rocky marriage. While everyone knows that marriage can be stressful, recent studies have found professional women are more likely to get divorced, more likely to cheat and less likely to have children. And, if they do have kids, they are more likely to be unhappy about it. A recent study in Social Forces, a research journal, found that women--even those with a "feminist" outlook--are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.

Not a happy conclusion, especially given that many men, particularly successful men, are attracted to women with similar goals and aspirations. And why not? After all, your typical career girl is well-educated, ambitious, informed and engaged. All seemingly good things, right? Sure … at least until you get married. Then, to put it bluntly, the more successful she is, the more likely she is to grow dissatisfied with you. Sound familiar?

Pieces like this, like Jacqueline Mackie Paisley Passey's snidely petulant exposition on the tiresome need to perpetuate her own species, are always amusing, if only to see just how far the author will go to get attention:

Why women “pretend” to love their children:
And I’m sure a big part of it is evolutionary instinct to prevent mothers from murdering their children. That’s why so many mothers are completely deluded about how great their babies and children are, too. Everyone thinks their kids are the best, even when they are ugly, stupid, horrible brats. These delusions may serve a functional purpose, but they’re still delusions. Whenever I hear a news story about a mother murdering her children I always wonder why we don’t hear these news stories a lot more often.

The funny thing was not so much the weak way in which Noer made his argument, which I'll get to in a moment, but the reaction to it. Noer's piece initially caused such a ruckus that Forbes actually deleted it from their website, only reinstating the article once its strident testosterone laced message had been muted by a bracing companion piece from Elizabeth Corcoran, a bizarre bit of online PC warm-and-fuzzyness that boggles the mind. Apparently we strong, capable, bodacious new age feminists can't handle too much of that old tyme chauvinism without a filter. You go, grrrrrl!

In a pitiless essay that had me howling, Slate's Jack Shafer came closest to my view of the matter. And we thought women were cruel!

The nine slide-show entries appear to be a holding pen for crap Noer couldn't shoehorn into his overstuffed thesis. The headline to the first one, "You are less likely to get married to her," is a non sequitur. That you are less likely to marry her can't be a reason for not marrying her. The literature cited in the second slide, which is about divorce, refers only to the number of hours women work—not their education levels—and hence doesn't seem to apply to Forbes' definition of "career women." The fourth slide, "You are much less likely to have kids," doesn't allow that many "career women" don't have kids by design. If you don't want kids and don't have them, there's no tragedy, right? The fifth slide seems to be playing fast and loose with the facts. Its headline asserts, "If you do have kids, your wife is more likely to be unhappy." The item is footnoted to an academic study and a USA Today story about the academic study. According to USA Today, the study found that affluent parents experience reduced marital happiness after spawning compared with middle-class parents. If this observation is about joint income, not a woman's career, what's it doing in the story about not marrying career women?

I won't quarrel with the seventh slide, which tells men, "You'll be unhappy if she makes more than you," or the eighth, "She will be unhappy if she makes more than you." If you find yourself in the predicament of being unhappy about the income disparity within your marriage, take my advice: You're going to be unhappy about something, and if you're unhappy about this please shut up and go buy yourself a Fiji vacation.

Before my female readers break their nails pounding out angry e-mails to me, they should consider the piece's fundamental weakness. Forbes' definition of a career woman is extraordinarily broad, including any woman who has a college education, works 35 hours a week, and makes more than $30,000. So, if you define non-career women as all the "undereducated" who work part-time and make less than $30K, it becomes painfully obvious why female careerists are more likely to divorce than non-careerists: They can better afford to get out of an unhappy marriage than their sisters.

That may be bad news for all the schmoes getting dumped, but it's great news for the gals. So, go ahead, young ladies. Get your degree. Even go to grad school. Gun for that corner office if you want to and get the guy. If you divorce, make sure to stick him with the shared subscription to Forbes.

By the time I got to "bore me with your fury" it was too late. I had spit out most of my coffee. Shafer has a point. Women seem determined to prove every moronic stereotype about the female sex. Instead of calmly poking holes in Noer's thesis (which is easy enough to do) they start waving their Lee press-ons about like a bunch of deranged harpies on crack.

The awful, awful truth is that to a certain extent, Noer is right. There are only so many hours in the day and having a clean home, well-reared children, and a healthy emotional and sexual life is far more difficult when both husband and wife have full time careers. In the early seventies, feminists were famous for telling young women they could have it all. What many women are finding out now, however, is that we may not be able to have all these things at once. Life is full of trade-offs.

What Noer glosses over is while statistics are useful for making decisions in the aggregate: in hiring, for instance, when you have to screen large groups of people you don't know much about, they are not as useful when dealing with individuals about whom we have independent knowledge.

The important thing to realize is that it isn't the aggregate characteristics of the group (i.e., career women vs. homemakers) that matter in the marriage market but the individual qualities of the person you marry. The single most important thing any man or woman brings to a marriage is the belief that the marriage comes first: before the children, before their career, before friends, parents, or any other relationship. If you put your marriage first, it will survive.

So many people put the cart before the horse. They spend months or even years planning their wedding day or their honeymoon, they spend thousands of dollars on a dress or an exotic location or a ceremony that puts them in debt for years and never give any thought to the words they speak that day. But those words are truly the only thing that matter: they are what bind the two of you together for the rest of your life. They last perhaps 60 seconds, and yet they last a lifetime. Or should.

You could throw the whole rest of the ceremony out and lose nothing, really, of value.

I often wonder how many people realize that? Perhaps that is why so many marriages fail. It has nothing to do with women, or careers, and everything to do with being focused on the wrong things.

Posted by Cassandra at August 29, 2006 06:12 AM


This all sounds very similar to the parental advice I try to share with my precocious little co-pilot.

I've told her to make sure she uses the gifts she has to provide for herself, and not become dependent on anyone else. That's the good advice. I've also told her I'll fund her wedding as long as it's an elopement to a nice tropical island and not a $50k extravaganza. She's not quite as receptive to that, as you can imagine!

Posted by: Daveg at August 29, 2006 08:42 AM

"The single most important thing any man or woman brings to a marriage is the belief that the marriage comes first: before the children, before their career, before friends, parents, or any other relationship. If you put your marriage first, it will survive."

Bravo! There is a lot of effort put into avoiding obvious truths like this one. Books and books are written, brows are furrowed, all in trying to figure out why so many modern marriages fail. They fail because they are not important. Hollywood comes to mind; "it's because of the pressures we face, blah blah blah".

All nonsense and self-deception, of course. If your career is more important than your marriage, eventually you'll walk away from your mate for fame or money. It really is that simple.

Posted by: Tim Smith at August 29, 2006 08:52 AM

You know, I'm also always amazed at how many married people try to weasel out of the inconvenient fact that on the day they got married, they made a *promise*.

You will hear them say all sorts of ridiculous b.s.: "The feeling died... I don't love her/him anymore.... he never talks to me.... we've grown apart... we have nothing in common... blah, blah, blah".

To which I kind of roll my eyes and say, "OK.... exactly what does that have to do with the promises you made on your wedding day? What are you doing to solve those very temporary problems? Because presumably you loved this person on the day you married. Now go fix it."

We have all been there if we have been married for any length of time. I am about the most distractable person on the face of the earth. But promises matter, at least to me. What kind of world would this be if you couldn't trust at least the people who are closest to you?

I can accept (I suppose) that many people are only in it for themselves. But life only works if you can find a few people who you can trust in the clinch. I want to be able to look someone in the eye and know that they will be there through thick and thin. They do not have to be perfect, because I am far from perfect. I will adjust, and forgive.

But they have to show up, and keep showing up.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 29, 2006 09:10 AM

It has nothing to do with women, or careers, and everything to do with being focused on the wrong things.

Lovely, succinct-made point in conclusion there. I'll add my voice to Tim's Bravo!


Posted by: a feminist at August 29, 2006 09:19 AM

Marriage is easy. You say "I do" once, and "Yes dear" a few million times.

Posted by: Dr. Male at August 29, 2006 09:23 AM

Dr. Male -

I'm glad that you were so easily trained! It takes some of us much longer to remake our husbands. ;)

Posted by: MathMom at August 29, 2006 09:31 AM

Wow - I really needed to snort my coffee today! Cass, I definitely agree with you. Marriage must come first or it won't survive.

As one who speaks from experience, contrary to Noer's slack-jawed reasoning, a marriage can break up whether the woman is a career-woman or career-housewife!! As a career-housewife, I had the unpleasant experience of divorce since I made him unhappy. Now I"m a career-woman and single mother. Obviously Noer forgets that it's 6 of one and half-dozen of the other . . .

So yes, marriage is easy - if you work hard at it and put it first (but it takes two to do the work!) and I really don't think it matters what kind of career we wives have!

Posted by: Nina at August 29, 2006 01:10 PM

It's interesting too. There really are tradeoffs.

I often sit here at my desk, frazzled and stressed out, glued to my PC and wistfully dream of those peaceful (but often boring too) days when I was at home wistfully dreaming of having a glamorous, stimulating job and nice clothes.

Am I happier now? The God's honest truth is that I don't know. I am happier in many, many ways. I am more stimulated mentally - of that there is little doubt. Sometimes I am overstimulated. But then I have less peace in my life, less harmony. I miss those moments with my babies. I miss the hugs and kisses, the closeness. I don't miss the drudgery. I like the freedom of my life now, but then some of that is illusory too because I have less leisure time than I used to. I like the excitement. I feel like a kid again, much of the time. Sometimes now I feel like my life is living me instead of me, living my life.

I think much of that is a function of working, vs. staying at home. I had much more of a sense of control when I was a homemaker. But on the otter heiny I am so much more assertive and alive than I was in some ways.

But sometimes I wonder whether the things I exert control over now are more incidental things because the pace of my life has picked up so much, like driving a sports car at 70 mph. It's hard to tell when you're moving that fast. All you can do is hold on and try to enjoy the ride.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 29, 2006 01:24 PM

Costello: Marry an ugly girl. Marry a pretty girl, she'll run out on you.
Abbot: An ugly girl would run out on you too.
Costello: Yeah, but (waving his hand) ffft.

Sometimes I wonder how the new world will get along when the last of the dinosaurs is gone.

Posted by: Sonar at August 30, 2006 12:49 AM

deranged harpies on crack... Heh

Posted by: Zendo Deb at August 30, 2006 10:22 AM

Michael Noer's article, "Don't Marry a Career Woman" has some valid points.
by, Raven Smith

Michael Noer article Don’t Marry a Career Woman provoked a rush of criticism that besieged the experts. My criticism and where I agreed, comes down to this; his article was true for some career women and completely untrue for others. The questions that I’m suggesting is this, did his article have more truths in it or was it just plain imaginary? Mr. Noer didn’t write an article that wasn’t backed up with research, he provided some facts and not one boycott article I’ve read thus far addresses those. Statistics can be a writer’s dessert or poison depending if what you’ve claimed is in the minority so therefore possibly pointless, or within the majority and worth discussing. The backlash for his audacity to write the article, brings a hidden light where social biases prefer to not see.

Topic 1) Mr. Noer wrote…”a research journal, found that women--even those with a "feminist" outlook--are happier when their husband is the primary breadwinner.”

In the last forty years, Americas social conscious has changed. Some men and women feel obligated to be a caretaker for their children and spouses. Some men and women feel honored to be caretakers. Some men don’t equate their manhood with any caretaker role at all and some women don’t equate their womanhood with a caretaker role either. Our passions are changing and unfortunately, our economy and the value of materialism has left an impression on the American family. Today, the majority of women still desire to care for their children first and if they have to work, the typical preference is part time and not full time. It is because of this reasoning that women are happierif the husband is the primary breadwinner but unfortunately, many of us don’t have this opportunity to utilize a choice. Economics have come into play and an option for the choice to stay at home is limited.

Topic 2) Mr. Noer wrote- “…the more successful she is, the more likely she is to grow dissatisfied with you.”

This statement is about human nature and its premise is non-gender specific. One of the advantages to having a career is it builds your confidence. This factor can come home and there walks in a puffy spouse, whether male or female; success at the job, can build you up with your presumed superiority at home. It’s very rare, considering human nature that when we can climb the ladder of success, we can remain humble. Periods of dissatisfaction within a marriage is a given because all marriages have seasons of struggles. For many, the test of ones character does come into play with career achievements and this is a behavioral fact and not a gender bias. When you’re the big guy at work or you have some power at the workplace, to come home to a job that doesn’t have awards on the walls isn’t an easy adjustment. You receive pats on the back all day long and come home to a job that doesn’t have praise wrapped around its little finger. You take that situation and tie it around any periods of struggle within a marriage and yes, it’s easier to become dissatisfied with your spouse. Topic 2 is true for both women and men.

Had Mr. Noer written a non-gender article about how success at the workplace can create dissatisfaction with ones spouse, the article wouldn’t have been controversial. And, there are articles out there on just that but our sensitivities on women’s rights have clouded some of the finer parts of accuracy in his article.

Topic 3) Mr. Noer wrote- “Women's work hours consistently increase divorce, whereas increases in men's work hours often have no statistical effect.”

I saw this argument as ambiguous. It’s more widely accepted for a man to spend more time away from home than a woman. If a career woman works full time men tend to feel abandoned, where a woman does not. Again, if a career woman is a mother, she is still expected to carry more of the parental responsibilities than the father. An increase in divorce, due to a woman’s increase in work hours is because we’re raised in social climate that teaches differently. Do I think that’s acceptable? No, I don’t but Mr. Noer’s argument is still nevertheless, true.

Topic 4) Mr. Noer wrote- “The other reason a career can hurt a marriage will be obvious to anyone who has seen his or her mate run off with a co-worker.” He also wrote, “The work environment provides a host of potential partners…"

Opportunity sparks options and opens doors for betrayal by both men and women. You can have an affair at Burger King but if you have a job that provides financial stability the temptations for an affair has fewer drawbacks. If you rely on your spouse’s income you’re less likely to jeopardize your marriage. If you rely on your spouse’s income you’re less likely to leave an unhealthy marriage. This is human nature that's true for both men and women. Had Mr. Noer written an article stating that most affairs from career men come from the workplace, that wouldn’t have been viewed as controversial.

Topic 5) Mr. Noer wrote- “They will be unhappy if they make moremoney than you do. You will be unhappy if they make more money than you do.”

One's frame of mind towards their spouse who makes less money or stays at home is tested by our value in materialism and the male ego. It’s not a woman’s fault if she makes more money than her spouse but most men would agree, it’s a jab to their ego. Socially men are geared for the provider role and yes, it causes problems. It’s just another area where society hasn’t progressed but it’s still a very real problem that supports Mr. Noer statement. What's also causing this? We, both men and women interpret a higher income as being a better provider. Work ethic is no longer enough because attaining wealth is admired by so many.

Topic 6) In other words, a good marriage is associated with a higher income, a longer, healthier life and better-adjusted kids.

When both spouses have careers the labor specialization has a greater opportunity for equal grounding but once you throw children into the labor realm, the dynamics change far more.

Interjecting my personal reflection

With my own personal struggles as a single mother and working on my career, I found I had no time to be a mother. I remember getting up at 6 am, dropping my kids off at the sitter at 7:15 and I was off to work. At the end of my day, I picked up my kids, drove through traffic and got home around 7 pm. I still had to accomplish homework time, cooking dinner, bathing, getting their clothes ready for the next day and all of this, within two hours before bedtime. I was spent. I lasted a few years and I couldn’t bare it any longer. There is a very popular erroneous American parenting quote, “Its not quantity but quality time.” Children need quality and quantity time with mom and dad. It becomes their lacking when they don't have both. So, I sacrificed my career and in time, I realized I made the wrong decision. Why? I allowed my children to not be first because I feared I couldn’t provide for them. So I stayed in an unhealthy relationship for a few years instead of taking the bull by the horns and saying enough. Lessons learned.

Children first

A full time career choice leaves parenting time down to two or three hours a day during the work week and often, that isn’t enough. If your happiness comes through a career first and you're a better parent for it, than by all means you should, but that doesn’t excuse a lack of character either. There are enough statistics out there that support that one parent being at home when children get out of school, creates a more balanced kid. Time and quantity is of the essence. When one spouse comes home at 6pm, and the other spouse was able to tend to the children’s homework, do the shopping and prepare dinner, there is more time in the evening for quality fun time with the kids and spend more quality time together as a couple. Those dynamics are simply true but often comes with criticism. As Mr Noer suggests in his article, kids tend to turn out better adjusted when someone is home or in my opinion, at least part time. I agree.

Wounds and Fears

I look back historically at my sisters suffering and I carry that in my heart and how inequality cost them happiness. To have no choice but to surrender to an unhealthy relationship because of the fear in loosing a god-given right for their children, deeply saddens me. To not have the right to own property or have a career, deeply saddens me. The brave women in our history will always marvel me but if we don’t take back our integrity for the family unit; our children will continue to reveal their shortcomings from our choices.

Many of us don’t have the options to be home with our kids and we carry guilt over this. I believe if our hearts have the right motives than our sacrifices should be guilt free. If we strive for a career to have big screen TV, nice cars and to attain materialism, than that’s a job that should be dismissed. If strive for careers because we can't keep a roof over our heads than we should work. If we work jobs to build our confidence, inflate our egos than that’s a job that should be dismissed.

If you were to take Mr. Noer article and replace all attributing “female” and “male,” words with non-gender “spouse” wording, you will discover that this article wasn’t very controversial at all. Why? Because the subject at hand does have some merit but our sensitivities stood in the way of reason. Rewording the article does shade some light on this and with lesser biases, we're more open to some of his conclusions. We must not let our fears create road blocks. The non-gendered version carries both the male and female possibilities in Mr. Noers argument. If you can find her and his truths in this rewritten version then there are some truths for the career woman as well.

To close,

Mr. Noers article has more insight to offer than not. Women and men can have careers, children and a happy marriage. This is true, possible and it happens. The time you spend serving these can show up as a great savings account when you’re older, a bigger house, more vacations, a happier marriage and balanced children. Our choices can also show up with unhappy children, an unhappy marriage and a bigger house to settle in divorce court.

Posted by: Raven Smith at August 31, 2006 09:36 PM

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