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Husband addicted to work! Help!

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  • Husband addicted to work! Help!

    We are a two-physician household and recently had our first baby. We waited to start a family and are a little older and very financially secure. We both work full time and have decided to continue to do so for now. We have hired a nanny for child care.

    My husband is mid- to arguably late-career (one of the more senior partners in his group) and had always said he would start working less/take fewer shifts once we started a family. Well, now the baby is here and he is doing the opposite. He is actually picking up extra shifts, arguing that his group is short staffed and things are busy. Now he says he'll cut back when he makes it to age 50 in a few years, or some days he'll say it's when the child reaches school-age. There is no financial need for him to keep working at all, and certainly none to work extra. Thanks to his many years of a high income and high savings rate with sound investment and next to zero spending, plus the addition of my income which is nearly equivalent, we are financially secure.

    When I talk to him about this, it sounds like it comes from this uncontrollable drive to make as much money or work as many hours as his other partners. He very much focuses on the comparison with the other docs in his group. He even admits that he does not derive joy from work and has to spend at least 30 minutes complaining about it to me at the end of each day. I truly think he is actually addicted to working and/or earning money.

    It is difficult for me to understand this as I have absolutely no such similar feelings. I recognize the opportunity cost of working extra and am happy to not take on extra shifts, or even to pass some of my assigned shifts to my partners, in exchange for the free time it allows. He, however, cannot seem to grasp the opportunity cost concept at all. He would work all day and then come home and spend 2 hours doing yard work if it meant saving even $20.

    Right now I feel sad that my husband is going to be trapped in this work addiction for the years which I feel like we've been looking forward to all our lives. I want to be spending time with our new child as a family, working only when we want to and traveling or otherwise enjoying family life the rest of the time, which we can afford to do. Instead I am picturing me doing things by myself with the baby on the weekends.

    Does anyone have advice or experience that would help me? Will his attitude change as the baby grows up and becomes more interactive/fun? Is there any other argument I can try to make to appeal to someone with his attitude toward work? Right now my only solace is that there is a global pandemic so there isn't much we could safely do anyway.

  • #2
    Welcome to the boards!

    Sounds like a hard way to be a new mom, working full time at that.

    I want to be spending time with our new child as a family, working only when we want to and traveling or otherwise enjoying family life the rest of the time, which we can afford to do. Instead I am picturing me doing things by myself with the baby on the weekends.
    Did you say this, exactly this, to your husband?


    • #3
      I am so sorry but it appears that his identity is more closely tied to being a physician than having a family. Surely, this behavior didn't start after the baby was born and is not a complete surprise. Family counseling might be in order. Lots of psychiatrists participate - hopefully someone besides a financial planner will comment!
      Our passion is protecting clients and others from predatory and ignorant advisors. Fox & Co CPAs, Fox & Co Wealth Mgmt. 270-247-6087


      • #4
        Lots to unpack here, for sure, but I remember many years ago (21+) when we had a new baby, as a father, I did not enjoy the first year or so. I am not natural at all of the baby care stuff and the ooing and cooing and marveling at the first time he ate a cheerio or whatever trivial accomplishment of the day. I felt guilty about it, and it made me feel inadequate as a father and even ashamed. Work was a respite from all of this, and I did not mind doing extra work to avoid being home for the baby stuff. My wife realized this and naturally accommodated, and we even spoke about it years later. After a year or so, I was completely on board as a father and have enjoyed healthy relationships with my children over the years (at least I think I do).

        Perhaps your husband has similar feelings and maybe needs some time to transition into fatherhood and is using the "more work, more money" mantra to avoid confronting the challenges of fatherhood, as I did. When we had our second child, the baby care stuff came more natural to me, and I did not avoid it at all.


        • #5
          Counseling. He's got to want to change in the first place so him going to counseling may not be the best first choice. Maybe you could start and discuss with your counselor on different ideas and approaches.


          • #6
            I too was an older dad, and probably had a child around his age. Even though it is tempting to work just because the child is sleeping and he cannot interact much with him/her, that is a false notion. There is nothing like a small child sleeping with you, or keeping you awake all night because she wants to be burped and pacing around the room.

            He needs to heard from older dads that this is an once in a lifetime opportunity that cannot be gotten back. Maybe do regular shifts and cut back to less shifts as the child hits 4-6 months. Maybe go back to regular when child is at school.


            • #7
              Welcome to the boards. I believe there are Mom forums around too that may have a different lens on this. New parenthood is downright tiring and frankly -- frightening of the unknown and work is an easy escape from it all. Take a step back and see if this is a recent phenomena or something brewing for some time. Regardless, the key intervention is marriage counseling to get the lines of communication and reflective listening to have him here himself and see if that impacts.

              On the financial side, it would be probably very worthwhile to have a professional sitdown on current status and retirement goals. A lot of times people just are stuck in savings at-all-cost mode. FIRE FIRE FIRE. and lose sight that they've already won the game. That may very well be it too. When we crossed FI, it still took about a year to really get used to loosening the purse strings -- ordering nicer meals, ok to go after happy hour, taking weekend flights, cutting down on work responsibilities.


              • #8
                We are starting our 3rd decade of our career. My wife works a lot. Well a lot more than me. She doesn't do it cause she likes it but because the teams are always short and she feels like she needs to help out. It's her family outside her family. The extra money doesn't hurt(I get none of it). I spend more time with the kids. My daughter asks often why mommy is always working. I tell her, she's doing important work. Who else is going to take care of these high BMI covid's? Somebody has to do it. When the thought of being overworked comes up, I think about the fire fighters who HAVE to fight fires in our area. They are overworked are placed in harms way, year after year. Someone has to do it. As a physician, the thought is that we are paid more than enough and therefore we can work less. Yes, you can use this logic and even get FIRE'd. But the point of our high pay is due to the importance(even though it may not feel like is) of the work and the shortage of MD's(some of it due licensing/educational/qualification barriers, but that's not our fault). I'm sure this doesn't help, it just is what it is.


                • #9
                  Work can be an escape from the family. I feel bad admitting it but it is true. Glad I have some company. My wife goes crazy when there are too many day in a row of sitting around at home alone with the kids.

                  I wish I could be one of those people who want nothing more then just staying at home with the kids. I happen to think that is mostly just Facebook bologna but I am sure a few people actually consume their life with their kids.

                  Sounds like you should confront him about it. He may hide behind the work obligations excuse but you want to be happy and have your chance at a career you will need him to pull his weight.

                  I am sorry that you are going through this. It sounds like it will be difficult. If it is of any consolation I found that as the kids grow it is more and more enjoyable to spend time with them. Hopefully that will be true for him as well. Except each additional kid resets the clock.

                  Good luck


                  • #10
                    I hope things work out. Layman’s “diagnosis”. The problem is really deepseated in his head. Soo helpful. Just a guess, hard driving success driven highly competitive individual that completely adores his perfect family. The work/life balance is rational, I will devote more time to the family. There is no penalty for always getting more work done with minor glitches in the family. Workaholic. Always more to do. What he won’t realize is that his absence did have an impact. He could have been a better husband and father, and an even better family life.
                    Suggestion: Straight talk, conceptually he understands but he isn’t carrying his share of the load because you do your “share” and his too.
                    Schedule his responsibilities for primary home/baby duties. That includes “nanny” arrival and nanny relief. Saturday’s, dinner, breakfast the whole ball of wax. It is one thing to ask you to cover for home duties, it’s another to just skip out and rely on you. That isn’t the intention, but that is the result. Work is accepted as a rationalization of higher priority. Is it? He has to make that choice. Time to go home. Wife and kid need you home.
                    Completely non-confrontational Less work means better life. Needs to work on getting home. Assigned tasks is his piece, weekends included.
                    Not a thing wrong with both carving out alone time. By the way, time with the kid is valuable.


                    • #11
                      Talk to him. Could this just be a sign of the times? Financially secure or not, i can't imagine a new dad being okay with the idea of potentially losing their job just as they welcome a little one. With the pandemic, many are truly scared that if they work less or show that they are not essential they will be fired. Perhaps he feels that he needs to keep up with partners for that reason.


                      • #12
                        It you are okay about being public with this, i would join the physician moms Facebook group and post your scenario.

                        this is really tough and counseling might be in order. I can tell you I know in advance I wouldn’t really enjoy the baby experience (I have 3) but felt I would enjoy things much more once they turned 3 or so. Two of my three have done this and it has been more enjoyable. I think Covid also might be playing a role here too. Honestly wish I could be more helpful but there’s a ton to unpack here and I think only counseling can do that.

                        one of the early blog posts that WCI has that I read and it profoundly impacted me was one that addressed the realization of stopping when you have won the game or the psychology of having “enough.” Those might be worthwhile to read and share with your husband. No one in their deathbed ever said “I wish I worked more” but many said “I wish I had more time with friends and family.”


                        • #13
                          New dad here (she's a little over 1) and I'm around your husband's age from what you described.

                          Work can absolutely be an escape from the day to day chaos that is a new baby. There are some days when I didn't necessarily have to work those extra hours, but did anyway just to continue the relative peace and quiet. I'm also the type of person who has to be feeling productive, and watching a baby sleep or eating just didn't scratch that itch for me. She's adorable and I love her, but it wasn't exactly exciting, if that makes sense. I think VagabondMD and Lordosis described it perfectly. There's some guilt associated with feeling this way and work can be an escape from that, too.

                          Now that's the bad... The good is that as my daughter got older and started interacting with the world around her, it became more and more important to me to be there. When they start to recognize you and show joy in you being there, then it becomes much harder to leave them for something as paltry as work.

                          I would bet this is going to fix itself given time. When your husband sees the baby smiling and laughing at you and the nanny more than him, it may show him what he's missing out on. For me, it was the realization that I had less pictures with my daughter the first few months of her life when compared to my wife and family.

                          ​​​​There is an opportunity cost here, and I bet he'll see it soon. If not, keep gently prodding.
                          I should have been a pair of ragged claws. Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.


                          • #14
                            I was that guy and then some. Full time group practice. Did my own admissions, covered call for a group of 5 providers. Admitted to two nursing homes, medical director of one and medical director of a home health agency simultaneously. In-services. Hospital administrative demands. Interviewing potential new partners regularly. On multiple committees with the group practice, including board of directors, and on and on. Wife had her career too and wanted to excel as well, so it worked out, but at the expense of exhaustion.

                            Then the kids came along. An opportunity to re-assess priorities and reset. If work's an escape from the home situation, there is usually something wrong and needs correction before problems snowball. If he's insecure about finances, see if that insecurity is overblown or if indeed there is too much unnecessary spending forcing our lives in a direction that's not optimal.

                            Time for drastic changes 14 years ago, about 1-3 years into their delicate lives. I left the group practice to open my own practice. Little income at first, but plenty of free time. Gave up all hospital and facility work (using hospitalists), gave up all directorships and organization boards. Hired mid-levels. Got aggressive with market investments. Purchased commercial real estate.

                            The goal was a transition to passive revenue without compromising purpose and income. The result is that I currently see patients only 3 1/2 days/week currently 9-5, yet we still service more patients than I could have on my own. Goal is to cut back to 2.5 days a week with the next provider hired, and continue cutting back to management role from there. Now no weekends, evenings, early mornings, holiday work. Take home is 5+x my peers and never been better.

                            The majority of physicians, unfortunately, have an employee mindset - the more hours I work the more I earn. I can tell you that this would have definitely not allowed me to make the efforts to accumulate all this passive income that produces life long dividends as opposed to the token highly taxable paltry reimbursement received one time for a service rendered, and my work load would have continued to consume me at the expense of family. I thank God for curtailing my path every day, and the vessel he used was my wife who convinced me only 6 years into my career there has to be a better way. It is indeed, a much better way to live.

                            Despite the success, the current mindset is not to keep up with the Jones( or even be the Jones). Future goals are to unload strategically all the stuff we unnecessarily accumulated due to warped priorities. Live simply. Learning to do so humbly with stealth wealth. Nothing to prove to anyone. I hope your husband gets to that mindset sooner rather than later. Life is short. Live Courageous (as in the movie). Don't give up, clarity is often elusive until someone else paints a better picture. Hence why I'm a man of faith. The painting of life's priorities has already been painted for us. Doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks. When I've strayed, redirection put me back on the narrow road of priorities, true purpose, balance, gratitude and happiness.

                            I agree with the need for deeper communication. Discuss it with a gentle demeanor, an understanding mind, a vision for a child's early (and later) years, and give change of heart the patience and time to take it's course.
                            Last edited by EntrepreneurMD; 08-08-2020, 11:23 AM.


                            • #15
                              As people all attest to - It's easier to see patients and be productive than to be a new parent. It doesn't mean that it's okay either. Getting a nanny doesn't absolve one spouse of duties. It takes BOTH to do it right in a dual income household, regardless of the income each contributes -- especially when it's not a financial issue anymore. Both careers matter. Both spouse's contribution to the child matters -- Day 1. Yeah changing diapers sucks at 3AM. So does consoling the baby when its gassy or grumpy and needs to drive around the town for an hour to get calmed down -- it's a time suck.

                              It's a shared responsibility and that should be a message sent and received. It's NOT okay.