Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Marriage Matters: Working Late

So back in June, I found myself a job - it's not technically full-time, permanent employment, and it's not really lawyer work, but it's a job and I like it and things have been much better with both of us working, for about a million reasons.  But there is one thing that is kind of frustrating about working, which is that things happen.  They happen at the end of the day when we are desperately trying to get something in the mail, or ready to be filed, or signed, or faxed.

For the past four years, my husband has been working at a job at which things frequently happen that keep him after work.  He gets home anytime between 5pm and 2:30am.  (That only happened the once though.)  I used to get really annoyed when I would have dinner ready at 6pm and he wouldn't get home for another half hour, or when I asked him when he was coming home and he said, "eventually."  But, sometime in the past four years, I realized that I really shouldn't give him a hard time about coming home late, because usually he can't help it, and unless we have something we are trying to go to, it doesn't really cause that much disruption in our lives.  (I did start a rule that if he wasn't home by 6, I was allowed to eat without him, since I liked to eat and then do homework.  Since I'm not in school anymore, I no longer have this rule.)

When I started working, I got the same treatment.  Mark is generally understanding that sometimes I get caught at work, with the only exceptions being when we have some place we need to go, like a flight to catch or a dinner party or something, which we have previously discussed and previously agreed to be home by a certain time for.  I strive to do the same, although I think we can both admit it's a little frustrating when the inevitable happens and the other person gets stuck at work, even though we discussed this.  

This has also fostered a general attitude of "rolling with the punches" when it comes to job stuff.  When my husband tells me he has to go out of town, I roll with it, even if it means cancelling plans we already had.  When I have a work event or networking function come up at the last minute, he makes dinner and doesn't complain.  I feel like this general approach creates a supportive environment for us when it comes to our careers, which is nice, and it fosters a general spirit of reciprocity which we are trying to apply to other aspects of our relationship as well.

How do you and your spouse navigate working late?  Do you work generally the same hours, or does one of you usually work later than the other?  Do you have things where even though they sorta bug you, you just let them go and your spouse does the same?


  1. So Econo Man and I rarely, rarely, rarely argue. But this right here? This is our hot-button issue. When I'm not around, Econo Man will stay at the office until 9 or 10 at night and grab a burrito at the takeout joint across the street from campus. (He has a freakish jackrabbit metabolism that allows him to eat as many burritos as he wants and not gain weight.) When I am in Boston, I work from home, and he feels like coming home to eat at 8 is a good compromise. I just can't wait that late to eat! I'm perfectly happy to eat without him if he really feels like he needs to work late, but he hates not getting to share dinner with me so I feel really guilty about succumbing to hunger before he gets home. Plus, for a while there he was really bad about calling me and telling me his plans.

    What we finally worked out is that he aims to be home around 7. If he's going to be significantly later than that, he calls me, and I get to make solo dinner arrangements with no guilting.

  2. Collin is getting his PhD. He works A LOT of hours. He works most weekends. There are times when this makes me feel lonely, but really what I just want is advance warning, so I can make other plans and not feel like I'm waiting for my husband to come home for my life to begin. Because he's generally choosing when to work those long hours, that works for us. I think it is a lot easier than the "something came up!" situation you describe. So my condolences, even though it sounds like you have a good attitude about it.

  3. This is one of the reasons that we left London. I can work from home now, and Patrick gets home at any time from 4:30 to 6, depending on whether or not he plays squash after work. During busy season, he could stay as late as midnight when required. As Barnaby's bed time is at 7, it means that we can swap bath duties for cooking dinner depending on who feels like what. We'll never be millionaires, but I had a health scare a few years ago and it really hit home how precious time is!