One of the young male athletes I coach brought this article in the Wall Street Journal to my attention today. It's an interesting area for thought and discussion. This is a topic that comes up sometimes with those I coach. Following are my brief thoughts on it.
I think this is often seen as a wife’s issue, and there is no doubt that women face the dilemma described in the WSJ piece in unique and challenging ways - perhaps in more challenging ways than those faced by men. But that doesn't negate the conflicts that men face. And being male and having been through this myself, albeit a long time ago, I've got an opinion. For what it's worth, here it is.
Men, especially athletes in their 30s and early 40s with a young family and a growing career, are often caught in the middle: No matter what they do they’re wrong. If they spend a big chunk of their limited time with the family then the career suffers. Financial hardship can result. If they devote most of their non-training time to career then the family pays the price. The marriage may suffer. Now insert sport into the equation. Men in this situation must give a lot of thought to their drive to succeed at the highest level in everything they do – career, family and sport. The only one that is truly optional is sport. Something has to give. For this reason many men put off big athletic accomplishments until they are in the 50s.
I don't have a solution that will help everyone in this predicament. There are no easy answers. I'm certainly no expert on this, but I'd suggest having a serious discussion with your wife before committing to an Ironman, national championship, Boston Marathon qualifying time or other such big challenges. Make sure that she (and perhaps your boss) understands and supports your goal. I've seen the downside of not having such discussions.