Should my priority be career or marriage?


I am a Christian and a divorced mother (not by my own choice). I have been divorced for four years and have two teenage children still in the home. I am currently reading your book Thou Shall Prosper and am learning quite a lot that will help me provide better for my family. Although I have a BS degree and am diligently working to expand my career opportunities, my heart’s desire has always been to simply be a wife and mother.

My question is should I be investing a lot of time into furthering a career that I really don’t love, or instead, spend some time and resources seeking opportunities to attract a husband? I feel this idea is discouraged by most but no matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to change my heart’s desire. I am confused as to what would be the wisest and most fulfilling path for me.


Dear friend,

While the question you are asking is complicated by the fact that you are divorced with two teenagers, in its most basic form, the work/family dilemma affects most of us. At many stages of life, we need to make choices that we hope will allow us to merge a successful financial life with a successful family life.

While our society insists that the balance should be exactly the same for men and women, that simply isn’t true. We assume that you aren’t financially independent, so working must be in the picture at the moment. In any event, looking for a spouse is not an occupation any more that pursuing happiness is. Both of these are best approached indirectly.

In your case, we urge you to get guidance about dating, and possibly marrying, while you have two teenagers. While the best case scenario resembles The Brady Bunch with a wise, loving husband and father entering your lives, there are many potential pitfalls. You need to have your eyes wide open and wise input along the way.

Having said that, we don’t see the answer to your question as an either/or case. If you don’t love the way in which you earn your living, you should be figuring out what you can do to improve that situation. The more fulfilled you are in all areas of your life, the more you will project yourself as someone interesting and appealing.

At the same time, having been blessed with children means that you do have part of your heart’s desire. Teenagers need a great deal of your time and energy. Again, the happier your family life, the more appealing you are as a potential spouse. Being involved with your children in church and community activities would seem to be the perfect way to spend time with them and meet good people who will think of introducing you to any suitable men they know. When it is appropriate, be open with your social circle about your desire to remarry.

We would encourage you to try to think of all the various parts of your life as connected. Being a mother, working and presenting yourself in the best way possible do not conflict with each other in the broader picture. Just as you wouldn’t accept a work assignment that took you away from your children for a few months at this stage of your life, you may choose not to go on a path that will leave you no time or energy for dating. That still gives you many options for devoting yourself both to work and socializing in the hours set aside for that activity. Do so enthusiastically.

Best wishes,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

3 thoughts on “Should my priority be career or marriage?”

  1. I think you would have a lot to teach younger women about raising children since you are now an empty nester. You could blog about that. Also, any home crafts and DIY things you do could be marketed on the Internet. You could also go in with other older women who have more time on their hands due to kids leaving the nest and start a business. Since our population has more elderly consumers in it, I think a business that serves the elderly would really be profitable.
    I can’t wait to see what others post here because I often worry about women who spend their best years serving husbands and children to be left behind when they need support most. I think that what the government takes for Social Security purposes from a working man while his wife works at home should be split between them so each will have an accumulation of Social Security income in the latter years when health can prevent working. I am very sad about the plight of women in this day and time! I am praying that your children will not only “rise and call you blessed” but realize your hard work and sacrifice by always blessing you provisionally.
    For His Name Sake,

    1. I think that’s a very interesting idea about Social Security, Zoe. There is a real dilemma for women and families in general when women feel that they must give priority to work because of a worst case scenario.

  2. Dear Rabbi,
    I am a recent divorcee who had been married for 35 years. During that time, I committed my life to my husband and my children. I became an empty nester and a divorcee within two weeks time. Because I devoted myself to my family, I only worked part time and did not have a career with retirement benefits. My future is unpredictable and current earn only 10.00 an hour. I will receive a small alimony for three years. I can barely make it with the alimony at this time. I have an inexpensive place to live, with utilities included and very few expenses. I don’t know how to go about increasing my earning potential. I am 55 and don’t want to change my job now because it offers me insurance and retirement. How can I earn extra income from home? I don’t want to work a second job outside the home.

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