Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Love, Marriage & Work-Life Balance

Last year, I had the honor of attending a speaking engagement featuring former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. Though she shared a lot of valuable advice about life in D.C. and how to succeed in a hyper-political environment, the one story that most stuck with me pertained to her marriage.

During the Q & A session, a member of the audience asked Dana how she found a healthy balance between her incredibly demanding job and her life outside. Dana’s answer? She didn’t. As White House press secretary, she devoted herself fully to that position, and even now has had to make a New Year’s resolution to start taking her husband’s phone calls while at work.

As I left that evening, all I could think was that as much as I hope to achieve professional success in my life, I absolutely refuse to do so at the expense of my marriage or family.

Like me, I’m sure you’re very often heard couples describe marriage as being a 50-50 partnership. But in my eyes, this isn’t truly the case. I believe being married actually means giving 100 percent of myself, 100 percent of the time. Does this mean I have to give up all of my independence or that I’m no longer supposed to enjoy time by myself? Of course not. But it does mean prioritizing my marriage above any and all other commitments in my life, including work and outside projects.

Here on Capitol Hill, there are congresswomen who will step out of a hearing or meeting when they receive a call from their children or families, making no apologies about doing so. I respect and admire this, mostly because many people wouldn’t have the guts or the professional standing to do something like that. After all, it’s one thing for a congresswoman to set such an example, but in most workplaces, getting up to take a personal call during a meeting would be severely frowned upon, especially when done by a woman. Yes, I feel there are sadly still a lot of double standards when it come to issues such as these.

But finding my own balance and defining priorities has honestly been easy, since I have a very clear picture as to what I value most in my life. If Stephen calls during a meeting, I do most often have to call him back, but I do so immediately afterward. He also knows that if it’s urgent, he can call our main number and ask someone to come get me right away. And when we’re out to dinner or spending time together, I try to avoiding checking my email or taking calls.

After all, when I made a commitment to Stephen, I didn’t only commit to being there part of the time or when it was convenient for me, my bosses, my friends, or anyone else for that matter. I committed to being there all the time, and to giving 100 percent of myself to this marriage. Hopefully, I will never need a New Year’s resolution to help me reaffirm that promise.

How do you achieve a balance between the professional and the personal?

(Photo Credits: Alex Neumann Photography)


  1. Yeah, this is definitely a tough one. I certainly don't answer my fiance's calls during meetings now, but like you, I make it a priority to call him back as soon as possible. I know that stepping out to take calls would look very bad where I work. I agree that there is a double standard, but that's just life, especially for those of us who work in male-dominated fields or offices. I think there's a happy medium between not taking your husband's calls at work at all, and making him a priority when you have some down time, even if it's while you're at the office.

  2. Fortunately the company I work for is small and family friendly, we have a mother/son and brother/sister pair that work here. They are pretty understanding when you need to be out for family stuff though I still feel guilty about it when it happens. Since I have my own office I don't feel bad about taking my husband's calls since it's not disturbing other people around me.

  3. I definitely think there is a choice that has to be made - and often times there is a sacrifice in one area. I've chosen to be less aggressive in my career, because my friends and family are more important. But there are ton of women (and men) that put their career first. There's no right or wrong, it's just the choice you make... and your spouse probably knows (or should know) your priorities before walking down the aisle!

  4. I work from home, so that I can make the time for my family :)

  5. Great post! I really might just have to go post my own response on my blog because I have a LOT to say on this subject, being a young woman in the engineering construction industry isn't easy! As of right now I make my family top priority but I make work right up there too. I think I'm just to head strong because I've been told that married women in construction won't ever go as far as a man, so I'm determined to break that!

  6. great post! i admire those women who can find a balance.

  7. Thanks for such a thought-provoking post! Like Kim, I too am not as aggressive in my career. My fiance, friends and family are most important in my life. Someday I would love to have my own business so I can work out of my home.

  8. It is hard to work the balance but one each couple works out. We certainly try to IM a bit more now since it's less obvious and doesn't have to be answered immediately.

  9. Good post. I am the "driven" one in our relationship. Career growth is a big major deal for me and we've talked about what that will look like for our family. He accepts the fact that I may work late or miss calls, etc. Bottom line, it's never easy and it's whatever works for the couple involved. It sounds like you and Stephen have figured out what works for you!

  10. I actually just saw a show about 14 powerful women and they were all congress women who had families and children. The one couple had two younger children and the husband and the children came with her to out of town functions and stayed at hotels all the time. It is def a tough job to juggle the personal and the professional. Another congress woman said that she makes sure that Sunday is always family day, eating together, going to the childrens games together.

    I have two step daughters and I hate missing out on their games and its hard but I only have so much time off from work and I work at night so Im not able to make it to every game. But I make sure i make it to the very important things like graduation, school plays. And I always make sure to take their calls or call them back right away.

    My husband and stepchildren always come before work and always come first in my life. If there is an emergency i pick up the phone and call out sick. Life is important...work can wait!

  11. This is hard. I give 100% of myself to Pete 100% of the time.

    But. What do you do when one is succeeding in their career and the other one hates theirs and there aren't a lot of options in the area. It is currently a huge problem for us. I've been promoted twice in the past year with a 40% pay raise. Pete hates his job.