Submitted by Jim Haselmaier
My wife and I both worked full-time while raising our two kids. It never occurred to me that I might give up my career after our kids came along. It seemed like everyone I knew expected me to support my family financially, and I never questioned that expectation. Before our daughter was born, my wife told me that she thought she might be a better mother if she continued working, and I agreed with her. So even when things got hectic and stressful (and trust me they did), it never entered my mind to give up my career.
In hindsight, I think the process of managing careers and kids worked for both of us because we were determined to make it work. Most of the time it was just that simple. We also developed a level of flexibility that enabled us to manage and cope with the unexpected demands presented by our kids and our jobs. We got really good at supporting each other and communicating clearly. It's worth pointing out to younger parents that we weren't great at any of this in the beginning. It took years of trial and error, failures and successes, and a lot of laughter (and a few tears) to work into a rhythm. We were lucky to have friends with similar lifestyles who would listen to our stories and laugh (rather than gasp) and then tell their own similar stories. Even though our kids have been on their own for a while now, we still feel like we're catching up on lost sleep and quiet time.
We each had standing "household assignments"; mine were cooking, grocery shopping and keeping up with the cars. My wife's focus was laundry, paying bills, and "logistics". Over time I added investing and she took on some volunteer work. We recognized that the demands of our careers ebbed and flowed. When one of us was particularly busy at work, the other might need to step in and do more around the house for a while. The fact that we both had demanding full-time careers made us extra sensitive to situations where work was particularly hectic for the other. It caused us to develop a lot of empathy for each other too.
One thing that worked for us was an agreement that we would never commit to a business trip without talking with each other to be sure our trips didn't overlap. That ensured we were always able to honor our commitments. And once my in-laws came to the rescue when we both really did need to travel the same week.
One night, while I was out-of-town and having dinner with colleagues, my cell phone rang. My wife was calling to ask about a logistical issue at home. The call was quick and efficient with none of the standard pleasantries. My dinner colleagues (who knew my wife and our dual-career situation) started quizzing me about how we do it - raise kids while both of us work. I told them that we'd developed a high degree of empathy for each other. For example, I told them that we understand that, when traveling, the person at home has the harder job. I pointed out that I didn't tell her I was out having a nice meal in a nice restaurant and enjoying myself because that would not have helped her as she was dealing with the stress at home.
I appreciated that my career enabled me to travel and change my focus on occasion. I hope it made me a better parent. My wife's career offered the same benefits for her.
Determination, flexibility, and commitment enabled us to make it work. Every day.