When the divorce of Jon & Kate Gosselin of Jon & Kate Plus Eight was trending on Twitter, one of best reactions I saw was:
Jon & Kate should have quit their show before they quit their marriage.
I agreed with the sentiment and have said before that you couldn’t pay me enough to do a reality show of my life (maybe to be on someone else’s show for a specified period…). Yet what Jon & Kate did in keeping their show even when it seemed to be exacerbating the strain on their marriage is the same thing that many Americans do every day. It’s just that most Americans do it at their ordinary jobs, rather than on national television.
It seems to me that the Gosselins kept their show because they wanted two things–security and celebrity (or perhaps celebrity and security). And while most of us don’t want (or get, anyway) celebrity, we do want security and we want to succeed. At the root, we share the same motivations that kept them on the show.
So, what is it that keeps you in a job and how far would you go to get/keep one?
Celebrity Through Work
We’re not all celebrities, but most of us want to be successful at our jobs. We may define success differently–some want to climb to the top of the organization, some want to be celebrities in the field, some just want to retire early.
The drive to succeed has ruined many a marriage, often through sheer neglect of the relationship. One spouse, or both, puts in more and more hours, the couple sees less and less of each other and the marriage dies.
What drives people to put so much work into their job that they neglect the rest of their lives? I think it’s a combination of factors, probably different in every case. But at the root are the association of a person’s job with their personal worth, a need for success and recognition, and a feeling that by succeeding at their job they can guarantee safety for themselves and the people they’re supporting.
Security Through Work
I think it all comes down to an issue of security and a fear of scarcity/poverty. Jon and Kate, for example, have eight kids–including sextuplets. While many families have raised that many kids, it’s rarely been with so many clustered in the same age group. Often older ones have been able to care for younger ones.
In ending their tv show, the Gosselins would have cut off their children’s main financial support. They would have cut off their own financial support. This money could perhaps have started college funds for the kids. It could have prevented spending money on childcare–a drain on families with even one or two kids. And perhaps it will, since they plan to keep the show running even after they’re divorced.
Is Getting Security Through Work Bad?
No, our jobs do provide us a certain amount of financial security. There are times when keeping a job really may be the best thing for a marriage in the long run, even if it strains in the short term. When a job starts causing trouble, it’s important for a couple to look at the situation together and evaluate the benefits and the costs.
It’s great to excel at your job. It’s great to get promotions and raises that help you care for yourself and your family. But the Gosselins remind us that too many people stay at a job and don’t change their approach even when it’s become quite clear that their relationship is in danger.
How far would you go to get a job in this economy?