Can This Marriage Be Saved? I’m Too Scared to Go Back to Work

February 17, 2011 at 11:11 am , by

With the economy such as it is (crummy) and jobs such as they are (scarce), the dilemma of this week’s endangered couple is one that so many families are now facing. Jan, a 44-year-old stay-at-home mom of three tweens, worked as an endocrinologist before she had children and is contemplating reentering the workforce. Her husband, Scott, is currently the sole provider for the family but recently had a serious heart attack at the young age of 44. His health scare has made them rethink their arrangement, and Jan’s not so sure she can handle it.

Jan’s turn She lives in constant fear that Scott’s going to drop dead, and though she tries not to burden him with her worries, she’s totally consumed with anxiety. Several bad experiences with childcare made the couple decide that Jan should stay home after their third child was born, but she loved and missed her work and the company of other doctors. As much as she’d like to go back to it, she’d need to be recertified, which involves taking classes and exams, and the thought of it terrifies her. She’s completely fixated on Scott’s health and what will happen to the family if something happens to her husband.

Scott’s turn Jan is stuck in a rut, and her misery is spreading through the whole family. He misses the passionate, professional woman he fell in love with and thinks all she cares about anymore is their kids with no thought for herself. And after his heart attack, she won’t let him do the things he used to love, like skiing, because she’s afraid he’ll keel over on the slopes. He’s as scared for his own health as she is, but he’s following doctor’s orders and knows there’s nothing else he can do, so there’s no reason to fixate on the what-ifs. And he misses the intellectual conversations they had in their early years, before those switched to the all-kid, all-the-time channel.

The counselor’s advice Jan’s self-esteem, which she got mainly from her career, was in the dumps. She refused to believe she could be a good mom and a good doctor simultaneously, but she was perfectly capable of both. It emerged in counseling that Jan was terrified of failing and daunted by going back to such a high-level job, so the therapist worked to break down the challenge into smaller goals that Jan felt more capable of reaching. The couple worked through Scott’s health problems by agreeing that all he could do was to take care of himself and stop worrying about things beyond their control. Jan’s self-worth began to improve as she started getting back into her former work life, which helped her relax and focus less on Scott’s health and more on the time the family had together.

2 Responses to “Can This Marriage Be Saved? I’m Too Scared to Go Back to Work”

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  2. Something any more on that theme has incurred me.

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