Now that families with two working parents are the norm, couples are beginning to bicker over who becomes the "trailing spouse." According to CNN, the "trailing spouse" is the one whose career is subordinate. For instance, if a husband has to relocate for his job and the wife agrees to it, despite her career taking a hit, she's the trailing spouse. Mary Noonan, author of a study about working couples, says that wives are more often than not the trailing spouse because, "men and women are taught to play very different roles within marriage. Women are socialized to play a homemaking role within the family, whereas men are encouraged to focus on their careers and breadwinning." But I think the socialization goes a step further. As we've discussed, women are opting out of many science careers, and few go into other extremely demanding fields like politics. Women are choosing jobs from the get-go that are more malleable.
One of the "trailing spouses" interviewed for the CNN piece, Dayna Steele, is a former radio host who just wrote a book, and she's married to Charles Justiz, 55, a NASA research pilot. The couple has been fighting recently because Steele's media appearances are becoming a bone of contention. "I have tried very hard to schedule around my husband's full-time job and keep him posted on my schedule, confirming dates before I book them," Steele says. "Then, he started scheduling things over mine without telling me." To which her husband responds: "We've had some collisions…I can't call NASA and say, 'Excuse me, I can't come in because my wife has a book signing.'"
And really - he has a point. Steele acknowledges that Justiz's job is the one with long term stability and benefits, so it would be foolish for her job to take precedence as his is necessary for their financial solvency. It seems like a vicious cycle: women often take jobs that are innately more flexible (the other woman interviewed for the CNN story was in PR), and so they don't really have a leg to stand on. However, like all things in long term relationships, each major move a couple makes takes discussion and compromise on both parts.
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