I recently had a mini vacation from work; Friday, Monday and Tuesday off. 5 days in total. It wasn’t enough time to really do anything substantial, but it was enough to get me thinking about spending all my time at home, and with Elijah. Please don’t misconstrue, I’m not worried about our relationship but working at home will definitely change the dynamic of our journey up to this point and is yet another chapter of our lives together – cue violins.
I’ve mentioned before that I tend to get looks and concerned comments when I tell people, especially the ones I’m related to, what our long term plan is. A lot of the intrigue that’s generated around our business venture is the fact that we are both going to be at working at home together. People seem so curious about how this is going to work out, as if watching a science experiment. Here are my well thought out reasons why I want to work from home with Elijah:
- I won’t have to get up at a godforsaken hour in the morning
- I can wear my sweatpants to work, provided we are not leaving “the office”.
- We will be able to save some money, not having to worry about transportation expenses.
- I will have more time and energy to focus on other things I’m passionate about, like design and art.
- Elijah and I will learn and grow together in many ways.
- Down the road, when we have a family, we will be able to spend lots of time with our children.
- Our family will function as a sole unit. Working, living and loving together.
I can tell you from experience that in today’s world of “each parent off to a separate place of employment” the family unit is broken down significantly. For example, both my parents worked for the same company but in different positions, and in order to save money on a babysitter for my brother and I, my parents worked opposite shifts. My mother worked from 6:00 am to 2:30 pm and my father worked from 4:00 pm until midnight. Between the time my mom arrived from work and my dad was getting ready to leave, they had half an hour every day to see each other. I couldn’t imagine only seeing Elijah for 2 1/2 hours each week. Not to mention the fact that as children we barely got to spend time with our dad, except on weekends. I would prefer not to reenact this scenario with my own family, which is why I want to have my home and profession be of the same entity.
Let’s explore this concept shall we?
Its seems as though the concept of working from home or working with your partner is “new” or “trendy”, when in reality it’s the way the family unit functioned for most of our existence as humans. Throughout history the family worked, and played together. It was unheard of to leave your loved ones for any reason, let alone to work, and in any situation where productivity was essential for survival there was evidence of a family involvement. Think about working on a farm where the family is an economic , as well as social unit. It is only with the industrial revolution that home and workplace became a separate entity – each with it’s own set of guidelines and relationships.
Elijah and I have always felt that we “gelled” and worked exceptionally well together. Every challenge or large project we’ve taken on in our relationship has been successful. We’ve always been on the same page and it’s crucial to share the same passion or vision when attempting to go into business together, therefore maintaining focus on the bigger picture allows you get past all the smaller issues.
There are several guidelines available to working with your life partner from home. At Uplift.com, Alicia Fortinberry has been working with her husband Bob, for almost 20 years. Here is some of her experience sprinkled with my words of wisdom and interpretation:
- Don’t separate work from the rest of your life. It will never happen as smoothly as you want it to, so view the work as a continuum of the relationship. If you share the passion, then it isn’t a burden. Elijah and I talk about the business a lot and it’s as much a part of our family as our cat Shandy is.
- Work with other people. This makes so much sense to me. Working with other people keeps the juices flowing and provides fresh ideas and a sense of support – as well as mental break from your loved one’s brain.
- Maintain a nexus of friends outside of the core relationship. This is so important, even in a non-work relationship. One person cannot meet all your needs, no matter how great and supportive they are. Women need the presence of women and men need the presence of men. It is common these days that couples who work and live together fall into the trap of neglecting outside relationships, whether it is because of lack of time or trust. Allowing the other to “step out” of the relationship and just be with friends or family is important at every stage in any relationship.
- Explore and maintain shared beliefs. In our society, as well as throughout history, common belief systems are the most significant bonding tools. This is true in any single relationship, where if there is no basic agreement on core values and matters of faith, there is little chance of the relationship surviving. Although this topic is not always on the forefront of the success of a relationship, it definitely plays and important part in the endurance of one.
- Develop relationship rituals. These are things that as a couple you do by agreement and awareness. Going for breakfast every Sunday or going for a walk every evening are examples of rituals. Don’t confuse these with habits. Habits are things that are done without even consciously thinking about them. Rituals renew your sense of togetherness and commitment to each other. The breakfast date is one of the things that Elijah and I try to do as often as we can. Going to bed together at the same time is another one – although he usually gets up after I fall asleep to blog and brainstorm into the wee hours of the morning.
- Work out mutually agreed roles. This clear definition of responsibilities is necessary because it eliminates confusion and hostility. Having clearly defined roles in the business and in the home life allows each partner to know what they are responsible for and what they have authority over. As a couple, Elijah and I should try to figure out who is better qualified for each task, and then let eachother focus on it. We’ve never been practitioners of gender based stereotypes and that won’t be starting when I eventually quit my job. These roles shouldn’t be considered concrete either, they will change and shift as time moves on and life progresses, allowing us to complement each other when needed. Balance.
- It is also important to remember that while the roles and tasks are divided, there may be times when one person may have to work harder than the other. This may result in anger or animosity, however it is the natural cycle of life. Even at my day job there are times when I am much busier than my colleagues and I get jealous of their momentary freedom, but eventually it switches.
- Be honest and concrete about what you need from each other. It is never ideal to second guess what your partner wants or needs. This again applies to all relationships. You can’t expect him or her to decipher the code of facial expressions or subtle grunting noises. Communication is so important in any relationship, business or personal, so never be forced into the position where manipulation is necessary to get what you want. Communicate as clearly and as often as you need to.
This list definitely puts things into perspective for me. This new venture is not going to be all butterflies and roses – it’s going to be something that we have to work very hard at. I have a couple of points that I would like to add to this list that I’ve picked up along the way:
After working at a residential summer camp in many different positions, and for many years, I learned that there’s no time for laying blame when things go wrong. Shit happens and there is not much you can do about it except find a reasonable solution as soon as possible. Here’s and example of what I mean:
Task: Sixteen kids all waiting to go on a canoe trip.
Problem: The canoes floated away after not being tied up correctly.
Solution: Quickly organized a beach day with games and swimming.
When it comes to kids quick thinking is mandatory, and with business I think it works the same way. The more responsibilities and tasks we add to each others roles, the more problem solving is going to be required. Better to get good at it now instead of when things are much busier.
I also think it’s incredibly important to keep having fun with each other. This is the reason that our main goal with the online business is to be mobile and travel. I’m so excited to experience new things and explore places I’ve never been, and even more excited to do it all with the man I love. Eliminating the staleness of the day-in- day-out will keep the relationship fresh and vibrant. Even if travel is not possible immediately, trying new restaurants, or exploring a part of your city that you’ve never seen together will be something you’re sharing that’s not related to work.
I recently came across the term used for defining what Elijah and I, and many of you are attempting; Copreneurs. It is used to categorize couples who are exploring entrepreneurial paths together as a team. I like this term because it highlights the fact that we are a team – which is something Elijah and I have always thought of ourselves as. Our successes are so much more rewarding because we are able to appreciate them together, and realize that we wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for each other. If one of us succeeds, we both succeed.
We’re on our way to starting this journey together, and there will definitely be highs and lows – but I think if we can keep focused on our goals, and each other, this will be the smartest thing we’ve ever done. So here’s to practicing what we preach.