My wife and I have been working together at the same firm in the same career for over 20 years and we have been married for 21 years. As consultants, our careers require us to travel frequently. We have two children, who are now 19 and 17. We have great lives, work for a great company and are thriving professionally.
People ask us all the time what it is like working together, and my answer is that the most important thing we have done over the 20 years is to manage the context in which we are holding our work. We both took a stand that we would never have our family be an issue for the firm.
This does not mean that we haven’t had many difficult issues to handle and resolve, rather that we have always held the reality of raising a family with a dual-career couple as a real opportunity for all of us to flourish, rather than an obstacle to overcome.
Like many families, we have had some very hard times in the raising of our children. Both of our children have separation anxiety and would have frequent periods of anxiety when we were traveling. Some days it was really bad. In response, we learned to create structures and processes for our family to decrease and ease the anxiety, such as:
- Create a visual display and events system to track all each person’s day and calendar;
- Create regular occasions to be in communication while on the road;
- Make family time sacred and special. Someone once told me, it is not the quantity of time you spend with your children, but the quality time you spend. Turn off devices, go outside, do something fun together;
- Always schedule date-night with your spouse;
- Do three-month planning. Do this to get the “not to be missed events” in your calendar like soccer games, school concerts and awards ceremonies. Keep this time as sacred no matter what;
- End each day with acknowledgments and moments of gratitude. Call your spouse and children and share something that you are grateful for;
- Have several back-up babysitters in the event your day-care people are sick;
- Stay in communication and do not step over anything that may upset you.
These practices not only allowed us to be productive at work but also prepared our children to be independent in their own lives. In this sense, managing a family in a dual-career couple has transformed from a burden to a blessing.