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Family Versus Career
aka: Career Versus Family

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Rhonda doesn't handle her sister's pregnancies well...

"You are asking me to choose between making a house payment and taking care of my sick child, and I do not appreciate it!"
Karen Pruitt, Home Alone 3

Usually an Always Female trope, as well as Truth in Television. Though one can legitimately question whether a man who spends all his time at the office is a 'father' in any but the biological sense.

This one basically boils down to "how dare a woman be good at her career job and have a family, too!" Sometimes, it ends in Take a Third Option and a woman effectively strives to reach the top of her field while having genuine bonds with her kids (even if they don't always pass time together, and a nanny is very involved), but usually ends in the woman having to give up her job and be a Housewife to cater to the demands of her family, or at least feel frustrated at her lack of career advancement. Some sort of ill relative or Doorstop Baby may force the issue. If she hasn't already gone through Career Versus Man, she'll go through this one. If a husband is present, asking him to help around the house is usually out of the question since, you know, "his work is more important and he deserves his rest".

Related to Feminine Women Can Cook, Maternally Challenged, Children Raise You, Doting Parent, and High-Powered Career Woman.

Compare Mandatory Motherhood, I Want Grandkids, and My Biological Clock Is Ticking. Contrast Action Mom, who mostly points and laughs at this. Compare and contrast When You Coming Home, Dad?, a male-leaning counterpart where the balance between career and family tips too far in the direction of "career".


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Great Teacher Onizuka: Ms. Kanzaki tries to have her cake and eat it too, and in fact had her daughter Urumi partially to help advance her own career as a stock trader (she chose sperm from a genius scientist so Urumi would be smart and able to help her with her work). She works from home, but might as well not be there, given how absorbed she is in work, to the point that she doesn't even notice when Urumi tries to commit suicide.
  • Downplayed in HeartCatch Pretty Cure!. Tsubomi's parents were both highly respected botanists who were majors in their field. However, it wasn't until Tsubomi had a major emotional breakdown that they realized by choosing their careers, they were hurting their family. So they quit their jobs, moved to Kibogahana, and opened up a flower shop. They're still both working, just that now they got more time with Tsubomi.
  • This is a major theme in the Lyrical Nanoha series post-StrikerS, as the lead ladies grow out of their Magical Girl status and become Magical Women, although for the most part this trope is defied, as Nanoha herself and most of her friends manage to combine family life with successful careers. One major example, however, comes up right in the first season and forms a huge part of Fate Testarossa's backstory: her single mother Precia focused so much on her career that she wasn't there to save her first daughter Alicia when she died, driving Precia borderline insane with grief and eventually leading to her excessively cruel treatment of Fate, Precia's cloned Replacement Goldfish of Alicia.
  • Inverted, or something like that, in a two-episode arc in the second Sakura Wars OAV. The first episode centers around the other girls believing that Sakura is going to get married, which of course unquestionably means that she will quit her job. The second episode is Sakura, who is actually just attending a relative's wedding, moping over how she can never get married and have a family herself because she doesn't want to quit her job. The girls remark a few times on how glad they are that this is a "new era for women" where they can choose to have a career or a family (but not both). Well, it is the 1920s...
  • This becomes an important plot point in Team Medical Dragon, where Doctors who has to take early leaves or long breaks in order to take care of their family gets a lot of flak from their colleagues, and this would severely hurt their careers.
    • Dr. Katou swears off marrying and starting a family, because she wants to focus on her goal to reform the highly obstructive medical system in Japan. She used to have a boyfriend, but her dedication to her career prevents her from having any meaningful love life with him, so they break up, and he goes on to marry someone else.
    • Dr. Fujiyoshi, a single dad, has to leave his young daughter in the care of her grandparents because his work takes up most of his time. He briefly considers leaving Meishin to be closer with his girl, but ultimately decides that his skills and talents are more needed in Meishin.
    • Dr. Isaka's husband wants to have a child, but Isaka herself isn't too keen on the idea because she fears the repercussions that she will face from the other women if she takes a maternity leave.
    • Dr. Beppu, another single dad, has to juggle between taking care of his patients and his sickly son. Choosing one would get him into trouble with the other.
  • You're My Pet is a major deconstruction of this trope, with the main character eventually ending up with someone who tells her it's her decision whether she wants to keep her career or not (and means it!). She eventually ends up becoming a respected freelance journalist who travels around with her husband the internationally acclaimed dancer.

    Comic Books 
  • In Fantastic Four, Reed Richards runs into this now and then. While there is no question that he loves his family, he sometimes has a hard time showing it and tends to get so caught up solving scientific problems that he unintentionally ignores them. The Council of Reeds consists of alternate universe versions of Reed Richards who as a rule have raised themselves to Physical God levels through various means, and take on cosmic-level problems even more routinely than the Fantastic Four. They told the main universe Reed Richards the main difference between them is that adherence to human morality and social connections are holding him back from reaching his full potential. After a brief hesitation, Reed decided to turn away from the Council and return to his family.
  • In issue 30 of the Silver Age Green Lantern comic, Katma Tui decides to resign from the Green Lantern Corps to be with fellow Korugarian Imi Kann. Hal Jordan stages a fake monster attack on Korugar to test her loyalty as a Green Lantern. Katma ends up attempting to save Hal instead of her fiance, proving that her career was more important than family.
  • Wonder Woman (1942): Diana Prince, the nurse whose identity Di buys, wants to continue working as a nurse, but after having her baby her husband knocks her out and literally chains her in their kitchen. This reaction is treated as normal and not dangerous at all even though he explains it as being embarrassing that his wife and the mother of his child would "have" to work, disregarding her feelings of wanting to work and be a mother entirely.

    Comic Strips 
  • The page image comes from Baby Blues, in which career woman Rhonda feels shafted by her mother because she has yet to settle down and have a family, compared to her sister Wanda, who as of this time has three children.
  • One of the (many) reasons fans hated the ending of For Better or for Worse was because Elizabeth gave up an exciting and meaningful job (namely, teaching) to go running back into the arms of her high school boyfriend Anthony to marry and have a baby. Anthony's first wife, Therese, meanwhile, is judged for wanting to go back to her career in finance after having Francoise, despite the fact that Anthony had reneged on a deal to be the House Husband in order to talk her into having Francoise in the first place.

    Fan Works 
  • Justified in born of hell('s kitchen) when Foggy points Matt is already unable to balance his legal career as a lawyer and moonlighting as a vigilante, and now that he's officially claiming his son Peter's guardianship it will only lead him to crash and burn. Matt agrees and decides to drop vigilantism, since his son has psychological problems and needs all the care and reassurance he can get.
  • Deconstructed in Conversations with a Cryptid with All For One, which is arguably the crux of all their problems as they want to have both. They started a family, only to abandoning them with well-meaning intentions when their criminal activities caught the eyes of many enemies. This abandoment emotionally scarred their spouse and child for years. They attempted to purge all their enemies, leaving many heroes and civilians caught in the crossfire, while also leaving a successor to take over and take the blame of their actions. By the time All For One does reunite with their family, all of Japan is on the verge of falling apart and the heroes are hardly able to control the criminal element which grows wilder without their leader's guidance. It's strongly implied for their family and for Japan that it would have been better if All For One just stuck with one to begin with.
  • This is how Team Four Star interprets Towa's continued villain status in Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, despite that they concluded that she got together with Dumplin at the end of the previous game: while she does love Dumplin and their daughter Puddin, she is still committed to her plan to revive the Dark Demon Realm, regardless of the fact that she'll have to fight Dumplin and Pudding over it.
  • Green Leaves establishes Might Dai as willingly rejecting the promotion to chunin and greater recognition of his skill as a martial fighter who mastered the Eight Gates, since he deemed his son needed a living father more than a dead war hero. Guy is deeply grateful and appreciative of his father's decision.
  • Used in the Zootopia fan-comic I Will Survive. Judy gets pregnant by Nick and wants an abortion. One of her reasons is that a baby would be a detriment to her career. She wants to be promoted to lieutenant and realizes that raising a child would delay that by months, if not years.
  • The For Better or for Worse fanfic The New Retcons explored Elizabeth and this trope further, with Elizabeth wanting to be defined as more than 'Anthony's wife, Francoise and James's mother', but thinking that she has to enforce this trope, and is surprised when Anthony suggests getting a job if she doesn't want to be just that. (It's only worse in that she's following in her mother's footsteps. Elly had the same feelings about this trope: hating it yet thinking it's ironclad. It was a contributing factor in her losing her mind.) Therese, meanwhile, admits she's Maternally Challenged and in the end, would pick her career over her family, giving primary custody of Francoise to Anthony and emigrating to France to further it (though it's agreed she will have Francoise for one month every summer).
  • Origin of a Non-Hero has a Rare Male Example alongside a straight version: All Might warned his protégé that he couldn't balance raising a family with being a Pro Hero. Despite this, Izuku and Ochaco get married, and both attempt to continue their careers. This doesn't go well, resulting in the pair divorcing, and Ochaco getting slammed by the media for 'breaking his heart'.
  • Justified in Son of the Sannin. Being a ninja is a high risk occupation, so couples who have children will sometimes have one member start taking lower level missions or retire altogether to ensure that the kids will have at least one parent survive. Whether the husband or wife steps down varies from couple to couple (examples of both show up in the story).

    Film — Live-Action 
  • In Airplane II: The Sequel, an early indication that we're not supposed to like Elaine's current man (aside from him not being Ted Stryker, of course) is that he very seriously expects her to quit her rewarding job as a computer officer on board the first passenger space shuttle and start making babies.
  • Bad Moms: Averted. In the beginning, Amy Mitchel struggles to balance her family life with that of her career. Instead of choosing one or the other, Amy creates a balance between her two lives in addition to a third life - her personal life which had been nonexistent since she had kids - and ultimately becomes a much more happier, well-adjusted person. Of course part of the problem was that her bosses were making her work more than what was outlined in her contract.
  • The Big City: Arati, once a Housewife, gets a job because the family needs the money. They don't have a lot of choice about it, especially after Subrata is thrown out of work, but Arati still feels guilty when litte Pintu gets a fever while she's out working.
  • Click: Michael wants a better life for his family and tries hard to get a promotion. But due to abusing the power of the magic remote, he set himself on "auto-pilot" which seemingly made him obsessed with career, estranging him from his family.
  • Dark Waters: Rob’s wife is a former workers comp lawyer who is now a stay at home mom.
  • The Devil Wears Prada shows Miranda going through another divorce because her husband can't handle the amount of time she devotes to her job. Her two daughters are shown spending most of their time with a nanny.
  • Fielder's Choice has another male example. Philip struggles to care for his autistic nephew and work on his advertising career at the same time. In the end, he realizes he doesn't want to end up like his boss, sixty-three years old with lots of money but no wife or kids, and passes up the promotion he's been after for years.
  • Get Smart: Max and Agent 99's cover story for the trip to Russia consists of them being a married, currently child-free couple, due to 99's persona choosing to focus on her career. Max makes a side comment that, 99 being Older Than She Looks due to Magic Plastic Surgery (necessitated by her cover having been blown on a previous op), she's biologically running out of time, which 99 does not take well: she snaps that it's a personal decision and not his, or her mother's.
  • The Grudge: Subtly hinted at with Susan. She wears a wedding ring and one out-of-focus picture in her apartment might be of a little boy (the lighting makes it hard to tell), but she seems to live alone while she works at her overseas job.
  • In the movie I Don't Know How She Does It, the principal character does have both a family and a career she loves, though she struggles to balance them both, implying she should choose (even though the company she works for bears responsibility for not understanding their employees have lives outside of work). Averted in that she keeps both her career and family, though one of her colleagues has an accidental pregnancy when before she was disinterested in anything outside her career. She keeps the baby and becomes enchanted with having a family the moment she gives birth. The film was panned for an abundance of stereotypes, and the title itself suggests having both a career and a family is a struggle principally women face.
  • Deconstructed in The Intern. Jules is the head of a successful company and is considering hiring a CEO so she can have more time at home with her family. But it's then pointed out that hiring a CEO won't automatically fix any problems she has at home, and Jules herself is vital to the running of her company. Her husband, who had been having an affair, calls it off and agrees to work harder to fix their situation.
  • Kathy from Jimmie (2008) quit her studies when her autistic son Jimmie was born. Her career as a translator didn't take off until after he was institutionalized.
  • The Knowledge: While studying for the legendarily difficult exam which London taxi drivers must pass, the candidates sometimes do this to the exclusion of everything else in their lives.
  • Look Both Ways (2022): The central conceit: Natalie either moves to Los Angeles to start her creative career, or moves back in with her parents in Austin after she falls pregnant. She makes strides towards both in both realities, and the movie suggests that women can in fact have it all.
  • In Miss Sloane, the titular character has long ago made the choice to focus on her career 100%. She doesn't even date, preferring to regularly meet a male escort in a hotel room for sexual satisfaction and for a brief fantasy of a relationship.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Miss Brooks' intention in this theatrical series finale is to leave her job as an English teacher once she achieves her Series Goal of marriage to Mr. Boynton. Family first for Miss Brooks, as her dream is to be wife and mother. She marries Mr. Boynton at the end of the film.
  • Proxima, with the chosen angle being the particular estrangement and strain brought upon a mother/young daughter relationship when the mother is an astronaut who has months of training to do without seeing her daughter and has to literally leave this world for a full year.
  • In The Smurfs, Patrick, enraged at the Smurfs' responsibility for ruining his business pitch, runs off to save his job and abandons his wife Grace when she defends them. He later has second thoughts when Grace texts him a sonogram picture of their upcoming baby.
  • Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love: In a Rare Male Example, Barry quits his job as an ad executive so he can spend more time working with Raun.
  • Spanking the Monkey: When Ray tells his mother that she could go back to medical school, Susan admits to Ray that his father Tom didn't want any children, and gave her a choice of either becoming a mother or continuing her career; she chose the former. It's easy to see why she's such an unhappy person, but this makes her actions all the more selfish when she later seduces her own son.
  • A consistent theme in Sylvie's Love.
    • Sylvie's father gave up his music career to start a family.
    • Sylvie did not want to make Robert choose between family and career, so she didn't tell him she was pregnant before he left for a huge European gig.
    • Robert later pays her back for it: he moves to Detroit by himself so she doesn't have to give up her dream producing job.
    • The ending brings it full circle: Sylvie gifts her father's saxophone to Robert, and it's implied that he takes up music again while he and Sylvie balance being parents.
  • In Tyson's Run, Tyson's dad quits working as a football coach so he can help train Tyson before the marathon. The local newspaper runs a story about it with the headline "Family Over Football."
  • Regina from Under the Piano gave up a promising career in opera to raise a family. She admits that she did it because she was scared of success and thought marriage was the safer option and views Rosetta's mental disability as punishment for throwing away her gift.
  • Wild Rose (2018): The prevalent conflict is that Rose-Lynn has difficulty balancing her dream and caring for her family, and Marion at one point chews her out for focusing on her performance after her son breaks his arm. In this case, however, it's more indicative of Rose-Lynn's immaturity, and she later wisens up and finds a good balance.
  • X-Men: Apocalypse: Agent Moira MacTaggert was married and has a son, but she got divorced because her priority is on her career at the CIA.
    Moira: I had a husband, but it's hard to do this job and make it home in time for dinner.

  • Tim from The Boy Who Drew Monsters was once planning to go back to college and finish his degree, but after his son Jack Peter was born and later diagnosed with autism, it was decided that Tim would be a stay at home dad, since his wife Holly, as a lawyer, made more money than he did. Now Tim works as a caretaker for rich people's summer homes, a job that leaves him with plenty of time for taking care of Jack Peter.
  • In Dragon Queen, Trava is conflicted between taking care of her tavern and going after her mother.
  • The Fragility of Bodies: Verónica starts missing family events when she starts to become more invested in her case, to her family's disapproval and annoyance.
  • In The Girls Series by Jacqueline Wilson, there's a subplot where Ellie's father and stepmother Anna argue because Anna has launched her own business and doesn't have so much time to be at home. Ellie also accuses her father of forcing her mother to give up her career, even though he says that Ellie's mother wanted to stay at home.
  • Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982:
    • Jiyoung's mother wanted to be a teacher, but she had to quit school to go work at a factory to support her brothers' schooling.
    • Invoked by Jiyoung's mother when she persuades Jiyoung's sister to go to university to become an elementary school teacher. Jiyoung's mother says that being a teacher is a good career for women because it is easy to care for a child while working as a teacher.
    • Jiyoung quits her job when she has her child, as she can not find someone who can look after her child.
    • Jiyoung's psychiatrist says that his wife gave up on becoming a professor, and eventually quit working altogether to care for her child. She seems bored, as she started studying elementary school-level math as a hobby.
    • The counselor at Jiyoung's psychiatrist's office quits her job as she became pregnant.
  • Joanne Bertin's The Last Dragonlord has Maurynna, recently made a ship's captain and loving the work, find out that she is actually a weredragon, meaning she has to leave that work and go to the place where weredragons live with her One True Love. In ''Dragon and Phoenix" she's not happy about giving up her ship and makes this clear repeatedly, getting angry with her true love when she finds out that even if she hadn't been required to give up her ship, he would have tried to convince her. For her the issue is of freedom versus love, and as much as she appreciates the love she misses the freedom. In the end, she doesn't get her ship back, but she does get the ability to take her dragon form at will and fly, which helps.
  • Underdogs: Ewan's mother became a stay-at-home mom because of him. His problems with mainstream education meant that she was constantly having to go to his schools in the middle of the day, and having a regular job just wasn't convenient.
  • In Vampire Academy, this is mentioned to be the reason so few dhampir women choose to train for a career as guardians. They opt instead to have children.
  • Bluestar in Warrior Cats. After she gets pregnant she realizes that having to raise the children will make her look like a less fitting candidate to be the Clan deputy than her rival, Thistleclaw. A bit unusual in that she decides to go for the career path instead of family, by giving away her children and making it look like they died in an accident.
  • In You Don't Own Me, this was essentially forced on Kendra; she still aspired to be a pediatrician after having her first child and initially tried to return to work after Bobby was born, but struggled to cope due to what she later realised was post-partum depression. Her husband strongly 'encouraged' her to become a stay-at-home mother like his own mother had been, but Kendra's mental condition only deteriorated further, especially after the birth of their second child. She believes it was Martin's plan all along to manipulate her into giving up her career to be a housewife; she couldn't even handle being a stay-at-home mother due to her poor mental and emotional state. Following Martin's death, Kendra got treatment and is now happy as a working mother, with a nanny to help.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sarah in Brothers & Sisters constantly struggles with this. Originally she was a working mom with her husband staying at home to take care of the kids. After her divorce, she lost the job with the family business, her ex tried to take custody away from her because of how long she works, and she increased the hours she puts in because she started working for an internet start-up.
  • Discussed in Charité at War, which is settled in the early 1940s in Germany. It's a source of conflict between Doctor Margot Sauerbruch and young, pregnant doctoral candidate Anni: Margot tries to scare Anni away from her patient Lohmann by noting she's probably more of a candidate for a motherhood award than a dissertation. Contemptuously, Anni replies that Margot is not the role model she'll take — Margot has one daughter who's currently in a boarding school and doesn't plan on having more whereas Anni wants to quit working in a few years to raise a whole bunch of babies. They get over this when Margot empathizes with Anni's concerns about her baby. Anni winds up divorced, raising an only daughter alone and thus supporting herself.
  • This happens a lot in shows Police Procedural shows, such as Cold Case and Criminal Minds as mentioned above, with. As the cops are usually Married to the Job, it puts a strain on their relationship with their families, especially their spouses. Sometimes the older characters are mentioned to have gotten married/divorced more than once because of this.
  • Aaron Hotchner of Criminal Minds might be a rare male example. His wife all but demanded he gives up his position at the BAU so he could be home more with her and their young son, Jack. He didn't, and they got divorced over this.
    • And JJ is an aversion; as of season four, she has a baby and a boyfriend (later husband) who gave up his job (as a detective) to stay at home with their son.
    • Unlike most crime shows, the characters of this series are constantly travelling to different states, which makes the situation even more difficult.
  • For Life: Used as an excuse by Glen Maskins when he steps down as Attorney General-elect. (In fact he was pressured into resigning due to his unethical and illegal actions).
  • Full Frontal with Samantha Bee posits that one reason many people involved in multi-level marketing schemes are women, is that Eagleland doesn't provide any sort of guaranteed paid parental leave or childcare, meaning that many women who can't afford to send their children to daycare or hire a nanny (and don't have family members or friends they can rely on nearby) have no choice but to drop out of the workforce. Of course, that means the household loses their income as well, leaving them susceptible to being suckered into these scams.
  • Girls5eva: Prior to Girls5eva's reunion, Dawn and Scott were planning for a second baby. Her revitalized dreams of pop stardom puts a stop to this plan for now. Scott isn't thrilled about it but tries to be understanding.
  • Grey's Anatomy:
    • Bailey's husband (a House Husband) got upset at her for not having enough time for their son. When she has to choose between general surgery and a pediatrics fellowship (she originally wanted to go for general, but realized she had an interest in peds, which would have her working more hours), her husband outright tells her that if she takes the pediatrics fellowship, he'll divorce her. She refuses to even make the choice, deciding to divorce her husband for treating her that way, but has to choose general surgery since she would then become a single mother.
    • Chief Webber's wife keeps telling him that if he doesn't retire then she will leave him since he kept promising to do it and kept putting it off. (Hilarious in Hindsight, in that she did leave him — first by getting Alzheimer's, and then by, y'know, dying.)
    • Cristina and Meredith's desire to not have children is implied to be partially due to not wanting this situation to happen, especially Meredith who doesn't want to end up being a bad parent like her mother was. Meredith eventually gets over this and has a child with Derek (with another on the way), and there isn't any conflict. Most of the couples on the show are made up of people who work together, so the trope is usually averted. The hospital also has its own daycare center, which makes things easier.
      • Invoked, however, by Cristina when she and Meredith have a big fight in Season 10. She claims that, because Meredith by now has two kids (the son is named Bailey), she has naturally had to cut back on her surgery hours and is probably not at the top of her game. Because the two are carrying the Conflict Ball during this season, Meredith is obliged to take offense at this.
    • Rare Male Example in the tenth season, once again involving Bailey. Her Second Love Ben Warren had a surgery residency in Los Angeles but quit because the show takes place in Seattle and he wasn't getting any screen time — err, was far away from his family. Bailey (understandably) worries that her new marriage is going to end the same way the old one did. Ultimately, the situation is resolved by Ben enrolling in the residency program at Seattle Grace Grey Sloan Mercy Death. Ben eventually decides to become a firefighter (see spin-off show Station Nineteen). Bailey is at first upset but eventually learns to accept his new dangerous career.
    • An interesting case with Owen Hunt. He starts dating a woman. But when she reveals that she will gladly become a stay-at-home mom after marriage, he breaks off the relationship, claiming he wants a working woman for a partner. Eventually, he adopts a baby boy, before discovering that he will also be having a girl after a one-night-stand with an ex.
  • Cuddy on House seems to be falling victim to this trope via her adopted baby. In this case, Cuddy is a single mom, and doesn't really have a husband to help her take care of the baby, so it's a little more justified.
  • A fairly common conflict in Jane the Virgin.
    • Rafael struggles to balance his commitment to Jane and their child and his commitments to the hotel, which he considers his father's legacy. In season 3, we learn that he is not biologically a Solano.
    • When he and Jane get together, Michael is pressured by Rafael between his dangerous career as a cop, and Mateo's safety. He is willing to choose Jane and Mateo, but Jane stops him from quitting his job and lets Rafael know that.
    • Season 2 focuses on Jane struggling to balance her new baby, her tangle of personal relationships, and going to grad school.
  • Mad Men:
    • It's implied that Betty's less-sympathetic traits stem from high intelligence - she has an anthropology degree from Bryn Mawr - socially constrained from having a career outside the home.
    • Joan is expected to leave her office manager job and start pumping out babies when Greg makes chief resident. She actually does resign even when he is passed over. But since she realizes that she values having her own work and he is an awful husband even by the standards of this show, the arrangement doesn't last. She then demonstrates her competence in a bid to save her job and starts a schedule that also allows her to bond with her young son, even after she rises up through the corporate ranks.
  • In Malcolm in the Middle, Lois and Hal married young and kept on having kids. Lois had ambitions of being a concert pianist but had to abandon them to take care of the children and work two hours a week short of full-time at a supermarket to help pay the bills. She is actually bitter about this, which manifests as meticulously controlling every single aspect of Malcolm's life to live vicariously through him, and possibly unconsciously sabotaging Dewey's piano contest to prevent him from surpassing her.
  • Our Miss Brooks: Several episodes (i.e. "The Wrong Mrs. Boynton") suggest that Miss Brooks' intention upon marrying Mr. Boynton is to quit her job and become a fulltime wife and mother. Miss Brooks finally marries Mr. Boynton at the end of The Movie Grand Finale.
  • Parks and Recreation
    • This shows up in the seventh season episode "Pie Mary" when Leslie is criticized by some members of the public for being a working mother and not quite fitting the conventions of a candidate's wife, with one competing candidate's wife even scoffing that she's "trying to have it all". At the end of the episode, she and Ben angrily but calmly call out their critics, with Ben in particular pointing out that no one ever asks him if he misses the kids when he's away working or who's looking after them when he's not home. They get a crowd that half cheers and half boos them.
    • This is Defied for their campaign manager Jennifer Barkley, who makes it very clear she's not one for motherhood and likes it that way.
  • Part of Me: Mónica would often focus on her career as an international pianist more than her family, which became a major source of conflict between her family, causing her first husband to turn unfaithful and her oldest daughter to resent her.
  • At the end of Pretty Little Liars, ALL of the principal cast's main plans revolve around starting families/getting married. Somewhat subverted as the cast did get fulfillment out of their respective employment while they had them, particularly Hanna who had her own business, they just don't seem to believe a career is important past your early twenties.
  • Scrubs: Carla thinks about staying home with the baby for a while. After taking a six-week break after the birth of her child, Carla realizes she can't stay away from her job for a whole year because she loves working there. Turk isn't too happy about the decision but quickly gets over it. By the end of the episode, Carla starts working again but feels sad about having to leave Izzy with a nanny.
    • In season 8, JD takes a job at another hospital to be able to spend more time with Sam, though with him it's more about being not being able to see his friends from his old job.
    • When Dr. Cox becomes Chief of Medicine, he struggles with juggling his new responsibilities on top of taking care of patients (something he really doesn't have to do but wants to) and picking up his son Jack from school. Jordan tells him she understands that he'll need time to figure out how to balance things out since he refuses to give up on anything, and she doesn't care if he has time to pick Jack up from school, just as long as he's there to read him a bedtime story and tuck him in at night.
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • Played straight in season three, where we meet Jeannie Miller, Rodney McKay's sister. She had left a promising career in theoretical physics to raise her daughter, much to her brother's consternation. Jeannie makes it clear that she chose to be a wife and mother and is happy with her decision. But despite being a Housewife, she's still a scientist (and even occasional Action Girl) who solved a problem that had baffled McKay for years "in [her] free time, with fingerpaints."
    • Subverted in season five when Teyla struggles to decide if she should rejoin Shepherd's team after her pregnancy and risk leaving her son without a mother, or if she should give up fighting for the freedom of the galaxy which is also very important to her. In true Action Girl fashion, she does both (it certainly helps to have a House Husband in these sorts of situations.)
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Played with in "Fascination". After an argument with Keiko, Miles O'Brien told her that he had written a resignation letter from Starfleet. Keiko later told him that, while she appreciated the gesture, it wasn't necessary for him to choose between Stafleet career and family.
  • This was the central theme of an episode of Twice In A Lifetime. A man convinces his wife to give up her career to stay home and take care of their daughter while he climbs the corporate ladder. The result is that the marriage falls apart, the daughter grows up to be a delinquent and his career goes nowhere. When the guy is given the chance to go back in time and fix things, he realizes that his wife was great at her job and on the fast track for a major promotion. He convinces his past self that the right choice is for him to stay home and support her. In the new timeline, their marriage is saved, the wife is a successful corporate executive, the daughter had a happy childhood and is now going to college and he found his own happiness as a stay-at-home dad.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "Little Boy Lost", the photojournalist Carol Shelton must decide whether to accept her dream assignment abroad or marry her long-time boyfriend Greg and have children. The day after the job offer, she meets a strange boy named Kenny at the zoo and she assumes that he was sent by a modeling agency to work with her. The two of them spend the day together and quickly form a bond. The next day, Carol breaks it to Greg that she has decided to take the assignment. Immediately afterwards, she finds Kenny at her apartment and he pleads with her to remain in the US. Confused, she asks him how he knew about her conversation with Greg and where she lived but Kenny runs away. He mysteriously vanishes before Carol can catch up with him. The following morning, Carol sees Kenny in the park and questions him once again. She discovers that Kenny is the son that she would have had if she had chosen to turn down the assignment and marry Greg. Carol explains that she does want children but there are other things that she wants to do first. Kenny says that she might have a son one day but it won't be him. He then fades away, calling Carol "Mom" just before he disappears forever.
  • The entire third season of Ugly Betty has been about this message. This is especially ironic since (a) Betty doesn't even have children or a husband, and (b) the family member screaming for the attention is her sister, who already is home with their ill father on a daily basis anyway.

  • The final chapter of My Beloved Mother, a flashback to the protagonist Sinbell's past, reveals this is what kicked off the story's plot: Sinbell's biological mother, a supermodel named Aya, unexpectedly realize she's pregnant with him while in the peak of her career after an affair with Dr. Carl, who was then recently promoted and at a high point of his career, too. Aya chose her child almost without hesitation, but Dr. Carl disagrees - which turns ugly when Carl attempts to have Aya drugged for an abortion. It doesn't work, Aya escapes the hospital and the city and Carl later have a My God, What Have I Done? moment upon realizing what his action entails.

  • The 1982 song "I've Never Been to Me" is about a jet-setting woman telling another woman how despite having travelled the world and lived the sweet life, she also laments the fact that she gave up the idea of getting married and having children of her own.

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Mayan Mythology, there's the fertility and healer goddess Ix Chel, who is seen in three forms. She starts off as a young woman who practices healing arts, then she has a slightly older form who has taken time off from her career as a healer to focus on her marriage, having children, tending to her family, etc. (In this form, she holds a rabbit, symbolizing fertility.) Then she appears as an old woman who has returned to her career now that her children have grown up and she herself is no longer capable of reproducing.

  • Subverted in New Dynamic English, where Max decides to change his job from a travelling businessman to a radio worker because he missed his family. This was already foreshadowed in the software version where it's stated that he'd always miss his family even though he had been travelling.

    Video Games 
  • In Mortal Kombat X, Sonya chose her career over spending time with her husband and daughter, causing their relationship to become quite strained.
  • Lee's past before the Zombie Apocalypse struck in The Walking Dead had a strained relationship with his wife. She wanted to advance her career and move to another area while Lee wanted to settle down and start a family. The two have a big fight over it. One day, Lee comes home early from work and catches his wife sleeping with a state senator. Lee kills him in a fit of rage, causing him to get arrested and sentenced to life in jail for murder. Lee was on his way to jail by the time the game starts.

    Web Comics 
  • In Supermom, Liza struggles with her desire to get back into superheroing. Eventually, she reaches a compromise with her family where she'll hero part-time.
  • Deconstructed in this webcomic titled You Should Have Asked, which explores how traditional gender roles have shaped modern relationships.

    Web Novel 
  • Can You Spare a Quarter?: Graham decides to request extra vacation time, and eventually retires from his job. He needs the time to take care of Jamie.

    Western Animation 
  • An episode of American Dad! tackles this. When Stan befriends a senator, he leaves Roger to take care of Steve to focus on climbing the political ladder. However, when Roger's antics cause the senator's daughter to be taken by drug lords and doped up, the senator reveals he doesn't give a crap about her and only cares about his job, making Stan realize that his family comes first.
  • Sadly averted in Archer. Malory prioritizes her career over her son, leaving Woodhouse to raise young Sterling. On the rare occasions when she did spend time with him, she usually tormented him in order to teach him a lesson.
  • Princess Carolyne deals with this in Season 6 of Bojack Horseman. She wants to be the perfect agent, business owner, and mother, but tends to ignore the latter in favour of work. She is overworking herself by choice as a means of generating self-satisfaction and feels guilty for loving her work too much, but at the same time took great efforts to adopt her daughter Ruthie and is more positively involved in her life than any other parent in the show besides Vanessa Gekko and Rutabaga (her rivals), Kelsey, Guy, and Hollyhock's dads.
  • Helen of Daria deals with this too. She wants to be the perfect lawyer, mother, and wife but tends to ignore the latter two in favour of work and her daughters' needs are often brushed off. Helen is overworking herself by choice as a means of generating self-satisfaction and feels guilty for loving her work too much, but at the same time gives actual useful advice to Daria from time to time and is more generally involved in her children's lives than her non-workaholic husband.
  • Mocked in an episode of Family Guy, in which there is a spoof of the "busy businesswoman who's busy but who doesn't notice her life is missing a little special something because she's so busy with business!"
    Handsome Male-Lead: Shh shh shh... Over the next 90 minutes, I'd like to show you that all your problems can be solved by my penis. [romantic music plays]
  • Averted in the The Flintstones movie Hollyrock-a-Bye Baby. When Pebbles' and Bamm-Bamm's twins are born, Pebbles immediately goes back to work at her advertising agency. Since Bamm-Bamm is a screenwriter, he is able to work from home and be a full-time dad.
  • A variation occurs in Jem. At the start of season 2 Pizzazz and Roxy threaten to kick Stormer out of the band if she doesn't get her brother Craig to find out Jem's secret identity. She gives in but Craig doesn't take it lightly when they find out what her friends said to Stormer.
  • This was addressed in an early episode of King of the Hill. When Bobby is diagnosed with ADD (when really, he had consumed far too much sugar) old-fashioned Hank suggests that Peggy quit her job as a substitute teacher and become a stay-at-home mom to give Bobby more attention. Peggy reluctantly agrees and stays home, but quickly grows bored. By the end of the episode, Hank realizes that Peggy isn't happy when she has so little to do and supports her decision to return to teaching.
  • In TaleSpin, Rebecca was occasionally portrayed as neglecting Molly somewhat due to the amount of work she had to put into Higher for Hire. It was never suggested she shouldn't be running the company, just that she should be trying for a better work/life balance.

    Real Life 
  • This typically happens with most female politicians who have young kids; people usually use "concern for their children" as an excuse to dismiss a female candidate. Because, you know, fathers don't need to play any role in parenthood other than being the breadwinner.
    • In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, VP candidate Sarah Palin was often accused of neglecting her family, even though Barack Obama's daughters were also young at the time.
    • Taken a step further in the early speculation for the 2016 Presidential Election, with critics wondering whether Hillary Clinton would run for president and if she can handle running a country and being a grandmother. No such concern was expressed about Donald Trump, who is a grandfather himself as well as his youngest child still being a minor.
  • The United States during World War II. Just because you're working 12 hour shifts in a factory "to free a man to fight" doesn't mean you don't owe it to your family to provide a nutritious home-cooked breakfast and supper, plus pack a balanced lunch, plus keep the house spotless, plus take care of the Victory Garden...
  • Jan Kuehnemund, the founding member and lead guitarist for the all-female glam metal band Vixen, speaking from bitter experience said this trope—along with Career Versus Man—were the reasons why she was reluctant to join an all-female band. Because eventually those tropes would often come into play, causing the break-up of the band.
  • Maureen "Rebbie" Jackson-Brown, the eldest child of the Jackson family, faced an inversion of this trope. She wanted to get married and become a homemaker, preferring a stable domestic life over the hectic world of show business, but her Stage Dad of a father Joe Jackson wanted her to become a pop singer like her younger siblings. Her mother Katherine supported her, but when Rebbie got married, Joe refused to walk her down the aisle at the wedding. While she did release four albums in the 80's and 90's and had a top 40 hit, "Centipede," her primary focus was always on being a wife and mom.
  • French actress Mylène Demongeot revealed that her first husband forced her to abort several times so she could keep her career going.
  • With the increasing prevalence of remote work and other non-traditional arrangements, especially since the COVID-19 Pandemic, it's becoming easier for women (and men) to balance work and family...if their employer remains forgiving about remote work.
  • For all of the North American workers who still have to report to a physical workplace, or those who have to again report to a physical workplace, childcare has been growing more and more expensive, to the point of eating up one parent's entire paycheck. [1] On top of that, at least in the US many childcare centers and preschools have had to close to the end of enchanced emergency funding. [2] This has forced a lot of North American parents, mostly mothers, out of the workforce and back at home with their young children.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Career Versus Family, Family Vs Career, Career Vs Family


This Pains Frogleap!

Apparently, in Warrior Cats, there's no such thing as a career woman. When Leopardfur gets her promotion to deputy, Frogleap whines and acts overdramatic before breaking up with her- because Mosspelt is already pregnant with his kits. But obviously it's Leopardfur's fault for getting a job!

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / FamilyVersusCareer

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