The Trailing, GenX Husband

The Trailing Husband – the man who gives up his career and chooses the route to support his wife. Similar to a woman quitting her job to be a stay-at-home mother and then trying to enter the workforce after years of not having a career, the Trailing Husband is also looked at like he does not have his career priorities in order. The result: not being hired.

First off, I cannot believe my husband and I are the only people that have the trailing husband syndrome. Yet, when I search the Internet, I find a ton of resources for trailing spouses targeted mostly towards wives. I found one single, relevant article linked to 1993 in Google. And as I read that article, I sadly observed that not much has changed. I still see the same concerns in 2015! Another resource that I came across a few years ago was the book, Lean In, written by Sheryl Sandberg, former COO of Facebook. She touches briefly on the trailing husband syndrome, but the message is lost amongst many women commenting more about their own career paths and needing help at home. On LinkedIN, you can’t find much either. There are 11 groups associated with trailing spouse, but they all appear to be lead by women, who appear to be trailing wives. So what gives? There are still not that many resources out there for the Trailing Husband and this is significantly impacting their job satisfaction and their overall satisfaction in life. With many women climbing the career ladder, I know I cannot be the only one noticing this trend.

Another significant change that I am seeing in my generation (GenX) is that many men in my age range are facing problems in their careers. I don’t think they are all Trailing Husbands, but I do see that they are struggling with similar things. Even in training provided by HR at my Fortune 500 company, there is proof that the Millennial generation is surpassing the GenX and Baby Boomer generations in numbers. Could this be the problem? Recent articles and studies being posted by research foundations, such as Pew Research, are stating that we have been surpassed in numbers by the Millennials. However, the Baby Boomers are not leaving the job market. Time Magazine also looks at these trends and tries to understand each generation for what they are. In October of last year, they published a powerful article about GenX’ers being the ignored generation in the work force. This all leads to as the number of people in the workforce increase, the Gen X’ers are decreasing in overall numbers. Are we becoming a forgotten generation? Are we not promotable or even worth hiring?

I bring all of this up because I sit and watch my husband have lack of job satisfaction and frustrations finding “real” jobs. You can be told over and over again that you cannot blame your past and you need to accept where you are, but it is not always easy. You might wonder how did we get to where we are? Below are the events that brought us to where we are; some people might call them excuses. Whatever you call them, here is what happened….

Leading up to
Leading up to “Crandalls est 2001”

Additional Observations:

  • Raised by Baby Boomer, Divorced Mothers (one remarried, the other did not)
  • Female raised to be involved athlete and student organization leader
  • Male took on adult responsibilities early on (worked early, raised sister, paid bills, etc)
After “Crandalls est 2001”

Additional Observations:

  • Wife climbs corporate ladder
  • Husband still looking for direction, is a job hopper lacking job satisfaction, questions self confidence and abilities, becomes jack of all trades
  • Gen X Couple begins to redefine what success means instead of letting society define it

This all leads us to the questions of can you really get past your upbringing and your label? If a company does not have my resume next to my husband’s when they review it, they will never understand fully why he did the things he did. I hear hiring managers say it all the time that they ask what is wrong with people that job hop. Even my brother, an older Gen X’er, told me that as recently as last week! And since companies are tending to forget about our generation, they are not seeing the Trailing Husband syndrome for what it is: GenX husbands attempting to support their wives in their careers.

Because of all this, I know Josh and I are definitely on the path to retire early. That does not mean we’re not going to work anymore. It means, we want out of the corporate/government like structures that ignore our generation and to work at our leisure where we know we are appreciated and wanted – for ourselves. There may be consequences to this, but overall satisfaction in life is what matters more to us. Living on our own terms sounds much more appealing than living to the constraints in the current workforce makeup…. Unfortunately, we got the message later and need time to get that plan finalized. Until then, we’ll be over here in our corner trying to figure it all out.


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