Whose Job is More Important?

My husband and I were married within months of our college graduations. But before that day, we had lots of conversations about our future. What types of jobs would we pursue? Where would we live? Did we want children, and how many? How would we divide the housework? Not super romantic—but the stuff of which long-lasting marriages are made.

We’re planners and practical by nature. We decided that my husband would find the “real” job, so I could have the “fun” job. The “real” job as an engineer included higher earning potential and travel rewards that could be used for family vacations,. But the downsides were days spent away from home and longer working hours.

The “fun” job as a teacher promised the schedule flexibility would require as the primary caregiver for our potential children—set working hours and an attractive array of weekends and holidays off. The downside, of course, was (and remains) lower earning potential.

Fifteen years and one child later, things are different, but good. Through my work outside of the classroom, I continue to grow both personally and professionally as a teacher leader. As I enter my second year as a teacherpreneur, I have more opportunities to participate in conferences and policymaking than I had ever imagined.

Summer is prime time for teacher learning. I have done more traveling this summer than I’ve done during my previous 12 years of teaching, and the tension of managing our schedules has increased. Someone always has to be at home to take care of our son and the pets; my husband and I have had to begin to negotiate our schedules and shift our priorities.

Photo (c) 2011 John Morgan. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

So whose job IS more important?

Our schedule challenges this summer have caused us to re-negotiate our arrangement. We’re comparing schedules and deciding which events (and whose) to attend or miss. My husband is making decisions about when and if he should travel, or ways he can change his work schedule and arrangements to stay home more.

In the end, it comes down to a very external factor: What is the worth of our work?

“If they valued what you did, they’d pay you for it.”

More than once my husband has expressed his frustration at the discrepancy between his profession and mine. The work that he does outside of work hours is paid, either as a consultant or in exchange for compensatory time. There is rarely a stipend for the work I do outside of school hours. Instead, I exchange my free time for the opportunity to change working conditions for myself and other teachers.

My husband’s company allows him to complete professional development hours for his license during company time. While my district provides eleven hours of paid professional development time during the year, I have to complete the other nine hours each year at night or during the weekend.

Perhaps more important, the work he does outside of normal work hours is required. The work I do is voluntary. I cannot in good conscience make the decision that what I volunteer to do above and beyond my job description is more important than what’s he’s paid to do.

To say that the process is without argument or hurt feelings would be disingenuous. It’s not personal; it’s a difference of professional perspectives. In many ways, it’s a driving force behind why I do the work that I do as a teacherpreneur: so teachers will receive the professional respect and treatment we deserve. So teachers will be encouraged and supported in pursuing teacher leadership projects. So that teachers are not left feeling as though what we do has less value.

In the end, I realize that the problems I face are good ones to have. My husband is my staunchest ally. He sees things in me all the time that I can’t see in myself and encourages the work that I do. He just wants others to see that value, too. I agree.

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  • Rob Kriete

    Who is the “they?”


    Great blog post. 

    Clearly, money is not an indicator of job importance.  My favorite baseball player, David Wright, gets paid roughly $20 million to hit and field for the NY Mets.  He plays a game.  I work with students to educate them, model for them, prepare them and help them and, as a result, society as a whole.  Therefore my job is way more important than the captain of the Mets (and I think Mr. Wright would readily agree!)

    I believe Babe Ruth was the first baseball player to make more than an American president.  When asked if he was worth it, the Babe replied, “I had a better season than the President.”

    So, my question really is: Who is really the “they” of the quote,”If they valued what you did, they’d pay you for it?”  Taxpayers?  the state?  the school board?  history?


  • DeidraGammill



    I totally get your dilemma. I traveled more this summer than I have in 16 years of teaching and 23 years of marriage! My husband, who is self-employed and therefore has more flexibility, was super supportive and excited about the opportunities I had. And yet …. the issues my new opportunities created were …. well, unexpected.

    When I wasn’t traveling, I was on my computer. Writing. Reading. Researching. I made a point to keep my computer on my lap in the living room, so I was “with” my family even though I was working. Yet somehow they all felt neglected. I have 2 teenage boys at home and a daughter in college. They have lives of their own and are frequently out with friends or working. But even they noticed (and commented) that I was busier, more distracted, more disconnected from our family this summer than I had been the last few years writing my dissertation. It wasn’t the cluttered house or frozen meals – they were used to that. They missed me being “present” even though my body was in the room. Ouch. So in my family, the dilemma wasn’t “whose job is more important?” but “what’s mom’s top priority?”

    I’ll be honest, their comments stung. After all, I had finally finished that darn dissertation and now had some freedom to explore teacher leadership opportunities. Didn’t my desires count? They did and do. But my husband and kids count too. They actually count more. Because at the end of the day, if I change the teaching profession and lose touch with my family, what have I really achieved?

    I’m working towards a better balance. And failing miserably at the moment. But I’m grateful for a family that chose to say something rather than let hurt feelings simmer. I figure that somewhere, in a universe far, far away, is someone who can teach me how to bring balance to the force. I just hope they bring milk and cookies too. 🙂