I was once a medical malpractice attorney. My office was on the 26th floor, and I had an amazing view of Peachtree Street in Atlanta. My daily emotions rotated between intimidated, capable, determined, and eager.
I was young, newly married, and my husband worked at an even bigger law firm. Our lives pretty much revolved around work, and I thought that was the way it was supposed to be.
Fast forward a few years, and I found myself with a colicky baby in my husband’s hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. I did not want to go back to work. The billable hours, the ridiculous pace, the occasional chauvinistic encounters, the tension and anger of litigation . . . I told everyone that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom instead, and I quit.
But I had no idea what that involved. I treasured my days at home with my two young boys, but in hindsight, I felt a bit lost. It took me years to figure out that what I needed to find my true north again was a paying job. Motherhood is a job, no doubt. I thought it would satisfy me in all ways. Turns out, I needed something more, something else. I am still surprised.
My story doesn’t end with me returning to a flashy job in a fabulous office, though. I found work much closer to home. My husband opened his own firm in 2010. I helped him behind the scenes as any spouse of a small business owner would: straightening files, running to the post office, and bringing coffee.
We discussed business strategy, and he showed me spreadsheets. Work and family life began to blend. The boys learned how to play quietly (kind of) in the hall outside Daddy’s first office, and they often accompanied me to Staples for “one more thing.”
As the firm grew, it became obvious that we needed an office manager. My husband wanted it to be me. I resisted mightily (In law school we swore we’d never work together! I don’t know how to do it! We need separation between work and home!) but it turns out that my excuses didn’t have much foundation. It’s not essential that work and home be separated.
I learned that falsehood when work was so taxing, and I was doing it all for someone else. In our situation, where my husband was trying to build a business, the opposite was true. This was our thing. It was essential that I get on board.
I am uniquely qualified to help him, he wants me to be there, the kids are old enough, and I needed the change. Not all husbands and wives should work together, I know. But for us, the timing and circumstances were just right. My excuse list ran out.
Now I have a desk in the back room of my husband’s office. I’m there in the mornings, back in the carpool line in the afternoons. It’s nowhere near Peachtree Street, but I’ve never been happier.
I am challenged on a daily basis, and I can still make a school luncheon. I know what is going on in my husband’s world, and he knows what is going on in mine. Work and home life are blended, and for us, it is working out just fine.
Courtney works part time, when the kids are in school. She’s learned so much from “giving in” and working alongside her husband—mostly that Quickbooks will not kill her. Also that working towards something together is awfully rewarding and kind of sexy. She blogs at A Work in Progress.