04/24/2019 Steph Anderson

Navigating rough waters as a dual-career couple

If you and your partner both have careers, it can be difficult at times to make the right decisions that keep both your ships afloat. Throw children into the mix, and a few waves can quickly become rough waters that challenge even the most sea-worthy vessels.

What can you do to ensure calm waters and favorable breezes?

Sailing references aside, it’s incredibly hard to navigate life as a dual-career couple with kids. For example, when one of my kids wakes up in the morning not feeling well, my husband and I look at each other, then we look at our calendars. Whose calendar can better accommodate taking off to tend to our sick little one? Who took off last time?

It’s a delicate dance of acknowledging both of us have important jobs, yet our kids are more important, so one of us has to prioritize them for the day. Who will it be? Even if you don’t have kids, both partners being in a career can be tricky. Who will stay home to let the repair man in or get Grandma from the airport or any other number of things that demand one part of a two-part unit?

Big decisions become difficult as well. Sometimes relocation is necessary to move your career forward, but that can greatly impact your spouse’s goals, making someone feel like their career is going on the back-burner. Even if relocation isn’t necessary, it might be extensive work travel, so when one person is gone the other must pick up the slack.

It’s not easy, but many couples make this work. They do this with proactive effort and striking a balance of give and take. Here are some ideas to help dual-career couples both feel like their careers and desires matter while managing all of life’s little ups and downs.

Communicate: Communication is central to the success of any relationship, but for busy dual-career couples, it should be a constant. On Sunday, sit down and look at the week ahead. Note any major commitments with work or the kids and discuss who needs to be where and when. A shared family calendar is essential to stay on top of things throughout the week, along with the periodic text or IM.

Ask for help: ‘It takes a village’ is a true statement for dual-career couples. There is never any shame in asking for help. If you’re fortunate enough to have family nearby, lean on them for assistance. The kids will love to see grandparents or special aunts and uncles regularly. If you don’t, get to know your neighbors and make friends with other parents with kids who might be able to assist or do a care swap throughout the week.

Hire help: A dual-career household means dual income, so hopefully you have a little more budget breathing room. Invest in hiring help where you need it so you can enjoy your free time as much as possible. Research quality child care or hire a nanny or au pair. What’s more, hiring someone to clean the house and/or do landscaping can open time for your career and family.

Respect: Probably the most important thing to keep in mind in a dual-career relationship is showing respect and appreciation for the other person’s values. You might not always agree (or even understand!) them, but you are on this journey together and supporting one another is the most important thing.