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Challenge: Back to School 2020

Can Working Couples Have It All?

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My husband, Jeff, and I have been on a three year journey asking the question: Is it possible to change the world, stay in love, and raise a healthy family? We were curious and wanted to ask other dual-career families if it was all possible? When we researched historical heroes that are shining examples of creating societal change, we noticed that the mission was the primary focus at the cost of the family unit. Could purposeful work be done in a different way? Weekend by weekend we interviewed couples. Another story, another interview, another point of view. The stories were adding up and we saw common threads in the responses to our questions. Similar concepts of how to build a healthy life where love and work were possible were bubbling up. There was a story here that needed to be shared.

We conducted one hundred interviews. As we rambled along from interview to interview, in the back of my scientific brain, I kept thinking, “This is not enough information to make an accurate assessment.” I’m definitely a closet nerd. But humor me (and my geekiness): one hundred subjective stories is helpful, but what if we surveyed a much larger group of people to understand more deeply this navigation of love and work? Enter: A nationwide survey of 1501 participants.

So, what did the research reveal?

83% of couples say that work has made them better parents.

Record screech. Wait. What?

That was the last thing we expected to uncover with this survey. We imagined that working made everything more difficult in the home. That working plus kids’ schedules, practices, activities, homework, and general chaos made parents crazier, not better. Yet, when unpacking my own life, I see that work has given me purpose, a place (away from home) to use my gifts to contribute to a community beyond our bubble. Work tethers me back to my true self, the individual person before kids, the unique identity I always will be. Work is a part of me, but not all of me. Mothering is a part of me but not all of me either. They both have their significance in important and different ways, and they both matter.

Another interesting statistic uncovered:

Only 3 in 10 people feel encouraged by their partner to pursue their work and dreams.

This statistic hurts my heart. As couples on the same team, only about 30% feel encouraged by their partner to go after their dreams! This number needs to be higher. We believe that learning to love the purpose of your partner is one of the greatest gifts you can ever give. But this is a learning process. As individuals, we may be drawn to very different work (I am a first responder and Jeff is a non-profit founder), we can still be drawn toward each other. It is in loving each other, loving what we do, and loving each other’s purpose that a lifetime of true partnership is created. A lifetime of partnership means as you progress together through highs and lows, paychecks and gaps, moments of courage and moments of fear, changing seasons of opportunities and losses, you will support, celebrate and fight for your partner in their journey of finding their purpose.

25% of MEN say their spouse has sacrificed their work/interests for their job as compared to 13% of WOMEN who say their spouse has sacrificed for them.

This statistic stirred up a lot of questions in our partnership. Why are women sacrificing their work more than men, almost twice as much? Are we still following gender norms in regard to work? Whether we’re looking at the 25% or 13% stat, aren’t these low percentages? Something has to give, but who is actually giving and sacrificing?

During this Covid season, there has been a lot of talk about how this pandemic may force working moms out of the workforce. This statistic right here might be where we need to pause and take inventory. Are we stopping and listening to our partner and helping them pursue their dreams as much as our own? Are we encouraging each other to dream and pursue the passions within us? Are we letting society (and gender norms) tell us who should sacrifice?

In the time of Covid-19, we are ALL learning that we need to sacrifice. Many of our kids are home and in virtual school, many of us have virtual jobs now, many of us have lost jobs now. There is a lot of sacrifice and strain that is happening within marriages and families right now. May we hold onto the “SAME TEAM” mentality, that as working couples we are in this together, as partners that love each other. May we encourage each other and sacrifice for each other in the same breath. Same Team. Together.

This exclusive national research study is featured in a compelling new book entitled: Love or Work: Is it Possible to Change the Wor, Stay in Love & Raise a Healthy Family by André and Jeff Shinabarger. Purchase your book today.

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