Five Reasons Why My Husband Was My Most Important Career Decision

Photo of Karen and her husband TimI’ve been following Sheryl Sandberg for a few years now, starting with her TED talk in 2010. While all of her messages are powerful, I think my favorite is: “I truly believe that the single most important career decision that a woman makes is whether she will have a life partner and who that partner is.”

I’m so very thankful for my husband, and I whole-heartedly believe marrying him was the most important career decision I ever made. Here’s why.

1 – He makes me less fearful. Our daughter, who is now looking at colleges, recently asked me how I decided which college to go to. I told her I chose the closest one to home that had a great reputation. I really wasn’t adventurous back then. Since marrying my husband, however, I’ve grown less fearful of change. As a young married couple, we moved from my life-long home of Rhode Island to England, where I got international work experience. From there, we decided to relocate to the San Francisco Bay Area to pursue our careers in technology. This morning, I joked with him that we should apply to be the middle-aged married couple to go on the 501 day journey to Mars. Knowing we’re in it together, I’d do almost anything!

2 – He helps me when the going gets tough. The most stressful job I ever had was when I was 30 years old and just started at a new company. I was a localization project manager, a job I had never done before, and I was the only person in this role at my company. I had more work than I could possibly do, which caused an overwhelming amount of stress. Over dinner one night, I started crying as I told my husband about my day and how far behind I was. He then helped me think differently about my work, and how to justify I needed some more people to help me. He helped me create a model for estimating how many hours any given project would take, and therefore how many additional people I needed to get it all done. He spent his whole evening helping me. And it paid off. The next day, I presented the model to my manager, and who agreed that we needed to hire another person. My stress level dropped overnight.

3 – He shares in parenting responsibilities. Like most working moms, I complain about having to shoulder most of the parenting responsibilities for our family. However, when I needed it the most, my husband equally shared the duties. Just before having my second child, I interviewed for a new position at my software company. I got the job, even though I was about to go on maternity leave for three months. When I went back to work, I knew I would need to put in some extra hours to learn the ropes and show my commitment to this new team who were putting in long hours on a software release. So, my husband and I took turns being home by 6pm to feed and bathe our kids. Knowing I could work late, if I needed to, every other day made all the difference.

4 – He often believes in me more than I do. In the mid-2000’s, I was working part-time for a software company, and we were acquired by a larger company. As part of the acquisition, I was offered a significantly larger role, if I agreed to work full time. As I considered the new role, I started thinking of all the reasons I shouldn’t accept it. I’d have less time with my children. I‘d never managed a group of that size. I’d have a longer commute and would get less exercise. I’d have to lay off some people. I lacked experience in some of the technical areas that I would be managing. The list went on and on. My husband helped me recognize that I could and should seize the opportunity. He convinced me that we could handle the logistics of our both working full-time. He reminded me that I had the foundation to learn new technologies and that I was a talented leader. Thanks to his support and encouragement, I was able to set aside my fears. I allowed myself to envision succeeding in the new position, and I got really excited. I found the confidence to say yes.

5 – He provides balance to my aversion to risk. I’m now building a consulting business from ground zero, something I’ve never done before. My husband, bless him, is telling me not to worry about paying clients right now. He believes it’s okay to take some risks, that the money will come, and we’ll be fine in the meantime. His support and confidence is encouraging me to explore options, to invest time in networking, and to attend many events. And I’m feeling more confident every day that all of these activities will pay off.

I’m so very grateful for my husband and his unwavering support of me and my career.

Tim, for these reasons and so many others, I love you.

–Karen

© 2013 by Karen Catlin. All rights reserved.

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