Having two breadwinners in the family can make it harder for young, married couples to break bread at home, but it doesn’t have to. If you’re willing to work as partners, adjust your priorities, and tweak your definition of “having it all,” then you’ll likely be happier at home and at work.
It may sound like part marriage counseling, part career counseling, but the fact is that dual-career couples sometimes need both. Add children to the mix, and you really need both.
More and more I’m seeing that people will emphasize one thing more than the other depending on where they are in life. When couples are having kids, they’ll scale back on their career a little bit, and often this happens more on the woman’s side. When it comes to men with a partner who works, there’s more attention on taking care of the home: cooking dinner, bath time, coaching, grocery shopping.
When my husband and I had kids, I put off earning my PhD for quite a few years so that I could take care of them. Did it hurt me in the long run? No, but I sure felt like it then.
I got through it by staying busy. It was a different kind of busy than I was used to; I took up quilting and served in leadership roles for my children’s activities. I also maintained my consulting in conflict management and leadership training. Most of it was for no pay, but it kept me relevant.
When I was ready, I got my PhD. Then it was my husband’s turn to put off a promotion and delay starting his own company to accommodate my new career trajectory.
Each couple will find balance in their own way, but there are a few ground rules all working couples should keep in mind:
If you want a happy marriage, respect each other’s careers and make these decisions together. Look at the whole picture: economic issues, kid issues, your own personality (what can I handle?), feelings around issues, your passions.
Partners should encourage each other to reach higher and be ambitious and support each other equally in the home. Remember: You’re in this together.
My husband was much better at putting the kids to bed, and I’m the mechanic in the family. Find out what you’re good at and balance each other, regardless of society’s gender stereotypes.
Take baby steps to get to where you want to go. You may have to pass on a promotion so you can stay where you are for a few more years until your kids get through school.
Accept what you can and cannot change.
Being in a leadership role not only gives you more latitude and the power to control your calendar a bit more, but also higher pay to afford help.
You may not want to be in the senior suite right now (which is okay), but find a place where that’s an option in case you want it later. This is particularly important if you have or plan to have children.
When it comes to career or life options, keep an open mind. Avoid saying, “I don’t ever want to go that track.”
If you feel stuck in one place for a while, find ways to continue learning. Take the time to learn from others, whether it be your colleagues, your managers, or your children.
I’ve given myself permission to cherish the moment I’m in, whether it’s making dinner for my husband, brainstorming with colleagues, or working with students. If you find your own definition of having it all, you will have it all.