I had a working mom, so I assumed my wife would be one, too. Clarissa Acuna, the woman I married, also planned on having a career of her own.
But we were both wrong. Clarissa hasn't worked since the summer of 1991, shortly before she delivered our third child.
At the time, it no longer made sense financially for her to work. After paying taxes on her wages and child care for three children, we wouldn't have come out ahead.
But over the years, that fateful decision has locked us into two different roles. I work and earn. She takes care of the kids.
Having a stay-at-home wife has given me enormous career flexibility. Unlike some of my colleagues, I've never missed days because of a sick child. I've been able to work late when needed, travel whenever I wanted for stories, and move around the country for better jobs.
That's the upside. There are also big downsides. There's good reason to believe that Clarissa, who is bilingual and has a marketing degree, would have been successful in a multitude of careers. She never got the chance.
And as the kids grew older, living on one salary was a squeeze financially. I come from a long line of cheapskates. But I've been made cheaper because it was tough supporting three kids -- particularly putting the eldest two through college -- on one salary.
Periodically, I bring up the subject of Clarissa rejoining the work force. It's not so much the extra money, though I do worry about our household being completely dependent on one wage earner in a contracting economy. Mostly, I just think she's ready for something new, and she's very capable.
We talked about it the other day. She points out that every time it seemed our kids had grown up enough for her to start working, something would happen to change that.
A few years ago, our youngest boy came down with a painful neurological disorder, which flares up periodically. Clarissa was the one who toted him to the doctor and stayed up with him when he had a rough night.
'Every time we started to ponder about work, he would get sick,' Clarissa reminds me. 'I needed to be home. If I had been working, I would have quit.'
But that son is now a junior in high school, and he won't be in the house forever. Clarissa is rapidly approaching that day when she has to decide whether she wants to go back to work -- or find something else to do with her time.
Every family has to navigate these decisions differently.
Vickie Bajtelsmit originally trained to be a lawyer. Then, when she was 25 years old, she says she looked at a legal career and thought, 'I can't be a successful lawyer in a high-powered firm if I want to have kids.'
So Ms. Bajtelsmit decided to become a college professor. Today, at 51, she is chair of the finance department at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
She says she purposely picked a career with flexible work demands. Still, there have been times when her workday was upended by a sick child. 'I've often said jokingly to my female colleagues, 'I wish I had a wife,'' she says.
For those women who do leave the work force, re-entry isn't easy. Clarissa is all too aware of this. Is there an element of fear about working again after 17 years at home？
'Yes and no,' she replies. 'It's not as if I would get the plum job at this point anyway.'
In fact, Clarissa believes one of her strengths is that she's flexible. She proved this the last time she worked, after graduating from college in 1989. She started as a customer-service representative at a consumer-finance company and was soon promoted to a much better-paying sales job.
Clarissa still isn't sure she wants to go back to work. She says she could opt to stay home and work on hobbies like gardening or photography. And she might do some volunteering. After all the times she moved the family for my career, how could I complain？
But Clarissa also believes she'll know the right time to return to work. And if she does, she'll eventually find the right job. 'Life just comes to you if you wait long enough,' she says.