Can Women Expected To Support Husband's Career Develop Their Own?

If women exhaust themselves by helping their husbands advance in their careers, when will they have the time and energy to work on their own?

Kalyani Ganesan
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Recently, a New York Times column featured an anonymous woman who worked at the same university as her husband. While she worked as an adjunct instructor who taught literature and writing, her husband worked as a professor of hard science.

She shared that, as an adjunct instructor, she frequently edited his research works, which she was initially happy with. However, she revealed that lately, she had been feeling like she was doing unpaid labour by supporting her husband’s career. She explained that editing is exhaustive and time-consuming work. However, she said that her contribution wasn’t acclaimed financially or personally, while her husband got all the money and recognition.

Wife Supports Husband's Career

She further narrated that she could instead use the time she spends on unpaid work for her husband’s career to develop her teaching career or advance her own research work. She stressed how her "blood boils" that she is not being compensated for her specialised contribution to her husband’s scholarship.

She added that, as a researcher, her husband had limited access to funding to hire another paid editor, and as a pre-tenure faculty member, he was somewhat in a vulnerable position himself. She wanted to know if she should continue to help him as a loving partner or if she should choose to do editing work only for paying customers.

When Will Women Have The Time To Grow?

The woman’s query emphasises the unpaid labour that women are expected to perform not just at home but also in supporting husbands' their careers. If women exhaust themselves by helping their husbands advance in their careers, when will they have the time and energy to work on their own? How is it fair for a woman to be expected to help her husband in his profession for free when she could get paid for the same work elsewhere?


Helping each other grow in their respective careers is a wonderful aspect of a relationship. However, mixing personal and professional relationships can lead to bitter complications. In this case, the husband has the means to hire another editor, but if he does, he has to pay them. So he gets his wife to do the same task without any financial compensation. This is a clear case of marriage entitling the wife to unpaid labour in numerous forms.

The husband could mention her in the credits and ensure that she receives the recognition she deserves for her contribution to the work. He could also make sure that the energy and time she invested in his project were financially compensated. Wouldn’t he have done all this if he had hired another editor to work on his project? Why should marriage give him the entitlement to make his wife do the same work for free?

Why should married women be forced to prioritise their husband’s careers over their own? How is it fair for them to sacrifice their time and energy and compromise on their dreams and passion? How much more should women have to lose until we see a change in society?

Couples Should Support Each Other

I can’t help but remember this scene from Sudha Kongara’s Soorarai Pottru. Maaran (Suriya Sivakumar) is working on his dream project of starting an airline company. His self-sufficient entrepreneur wife, Bommi (Aparna Balamurali), comes to his office with a professional proposal. As an entrepreneur running a food and beverage company, she offers to tie up with Maaran’s airline company. Both of them will get an equal share of the profits. That is a perfect example of a couple supporting each other’s careers without exploiting each other's contributions.

Women have been forced to engage in unpaid labour at home since ancient times. That has been the social norm in patriarchal societies. Now that women are breaking glass ceilings and proving that they possess equal prowess in every field, shouldn’t they be entitled to fair and equal financial and personal compensation for their contribution? Don't they deserve to be recognised for their talent?


Views expressed by the author are their own

Feature Image Credit: Still from Thappad

Suggested Reading: Carework To Household: Unfair Things Women Have To Do As Unpaid Labourers Of Love

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