Fast Track Blues: Overcoming Resentment at Home

By Jeanette LeBlanc, Ph.D.

Remember the suburban mythology perpetuated by the television program Leave It to Beaver? Ward comes home from a day at the office. He walks in to a sparkling clean house, the delicious smells of pot-roast, potatoes and brownies baking in the oven. June plants a gentle kiss on his cheek, "How was work, dear?" Beaver and Wally look up from finishing their homework, "Welcome home, Dad!"

Flash forward to today, your town, your house and your life. You walk in from a hard day at the office. Your husband arrived home two hours earlier. "A job is just a job," he says. You walk into a minefield of toys and debris, the smell of gym socks, and the blare of the television. The children cannot be seen but you hear a series of crashes from upstairs. With one hand in a bag of chips, your husband continues flipping the channels and grunts in your direction. You stumble in with your briefcase, wonder what to make for dinner, and how much laundry you can do between now and midnight. Could this be the fuel for fire of resentment burning inside you and other executive moms around the country?

Dual-earner families have increased markedly over the past 30 years, and in three-quarters of these couples, both partners work full-time. The pooled time available for child care and household work is decreasing, creating additional stresses off the job. How can you handle this stress and keep the home-fires burning with love instead of resentment?

Sharon, a mental health professional in Florida, knows the challenges of having a "less-ambitious" husband. "Richard didn't understand my drive to excel in my chosen career. He wanted me to be a "homebody" like he was yet he sent me on "guilt trips" all the time. After work, I just wanted to go out or to take art classes. Our mutual resentment plus his insecurity and fear led to the end of our marriage." Long-term resentment is clearly a risk factor in many marriages today.

Who Brings Home the Bacon?
Sometimes resentment builds over who brings home the "most" money. You are proud of your financial success yet you may resent the added pressures and expectations. It may be difficult to cut back at work, or find a job that requires less time away from home. Likewise, your husband may be proud of your ambition and love your paychecks or may feel threatened, or "one-upped."

Female "breadwinners" often develop a strong sense of independence and flexibility. Rebekah, a health care consultant and writer from Colorado, is the primary breadwinner in her family. She put off her writing aspirations for many years to make sure the bills were paid. Yet, she has a sense of contentment in her 16-year marriage. "We allow each other to be who we really are. That's what love is. We are very different individuals from our careers to our interests. He would rather go bowling, while I would rather go to a symphony. I've made peace with that. As parents, we are both fairly permissive but balance each other out whenever the need arises. Ultimately, we do come together to support one another."

The "Man behind the Woman"
As a lifelong "overachiever," I too have ridden the Fast Train to success, accomplishing many of my career goals at a young age. I earned my Ph.D. at 25, the same year I gave birth to my son. My own needs would get run over as I attempted to "do it all." Yet, whenever I would resent my husband's somehow "easier" life, I realized I needed to speak up and ask for support and help. His support and willingness to do more housework and childcare made my "Fast Track" possible. It's the "give and take" that has made our fourteen years of marriage work.

How will both your marriage and your career thrive? Overcoming resentment at home can make the difference between a healthy or a dysfunctional home. May your fast-track career, marriage, and family all end up at the station of both success and happiness.

How to Overcome Resentment at Home
1. Communicate about the resentment so that you can explore solutions. Resist the temptation to control his behavior. It is also critical to discuss money. Create a budget, eliminate debt and save for your future career options and for less financial pressure. Discuss how to juggle, balance and prioritize at home and work.

2. Compromise and let him do things his way. Ask for the specific help that you need without blaming. Not "I have to do everything around here" but "Can you put the kids to bed tonight?" Your husband's support in other ways does count. Perhaps his willingness to do more housework and take care of the children has made your Fast Track possible. Granted, he probably doesn't do it the "right way," otherwise known as your way. But if it drives you crazy, hire a cleaning-service. It will save you both a lot of time and stress for a relatively little cost.

3. Couple-Time is critical to maintaining a happy marriage. When I hear couples say that they don't know each other any more, it's typically because they simply co-exist without any real romance. Plan a date-night two to four times a month. You'll have fun together, connect on a deeper level, and regain that sense of mutual respect and admiration.

Jeanette LeBlanc, Ph.D., is a National Certified Counselor and freelance writer specializing in life-balance, parenting and women's issues.