managing self

Dual-career households: some reflection

Every now and then I’ll write a blog post that is a little on the personal side. Yesterday, or last night rather, I wrote a post on my ‘other’ blog reflecting on a recent article from INALJ (I Need A Library Job) about negotiating dual-career households, but I think it is equally relevant to be posted here too. So here it is….

An interesting blog post popped in my RSS feeds from INALJ (I need a library job) about negotiating dual-career households. In this blog post, Alphild Dick shares her experiences and tips about juggling her library career with her husband’s career in the military.  I recommend reading this post as Alphild covers some considerations around the impact of decision making and compromising when you have a dual-career household.

This blog post had me reflecting on some of my thoughts and discussions my boyfriend and I have had with regards to our careers. We have very different careers – I’m in the library and information sector and he’s an accountant. We’re of similar age and career stage. And we’re both very independent, passionate, career-driven people. Our situation is probably not uncommon, particularly as us girls have been for years now, told at a young age that we can achieve whatever we want. There are some keys I think, to negotiating a dual-career household. However these are yet to be fully tested as we potentially move to the life stage of having a family.

Respect for each other and each other’s professions

We have very different professions and in particular, will have very different pay scales and earning potential. While I am fiercely independent and currently insist on ‘pulling my weight’ by paying half of everything, I need to realise one day that I will likely play a game of snakes and ladders in my profession. This will mean moving sideways, diagonally downwards then up, up, then down again. I will potentially never earn the same as an accountant. Luckily, I don’t participate in my profession necessarily for the money (though of course there are financial commitments). Moving sideways, etc doesn’t bother me. I seek satisfaction in my work, my contribution to the profession and seeing the potentially positive impact on people’s information experiences and learning.

There is also respect by the way of what we’re required to do to get the job done and/or succeed in our professions. My boyfriend was incredibly supportive of my completing the Masters degree and the other professional involvement I participate in, including writing here and my professional blog, Flight Path. He has seen me present at events and can appreciate the passion I have for my work. Vice versa, he has times when he comes home crabby or has to stay back late or work weekends to ensure his outputs are delivered and delivered well. Respect for each other is about some realisations and some give and take.

Knowing there are other outlets than the workplace to make a contribution

I’m coming up to a time when I need to start thinking about (though really, this is years away!) how I will continue to contribute to the profession while raising a family. A few years ago I freaked out with the thought that my career would be over once I have children and I need to jam in as much as possible before this happens. Well, now I just find this thinking a bit silly. Firstly, my work is only one part of me. I have other roles I play in my life, as well as interests and hobbies. Having children won’t be the end of my life as I know it (or will it? 🙂 ) We, as in nowadays, have tools and avenues available to 1) keep in touch with the profession, and 2) continue to make a contribution while away from the workplace. We have Twitter, blogs, conferences to attend, online webinars and chats, etc to keep in touch with industry trends and issues, as well as people in our networks. There are other ways and arrangements available to share and grow knowledge, to contribute, and I guess you never know where these might lead! What I aim to achieve is to keep up some pace, some momentum throughout my career. Whether this means from a laptop at home or at my desk in a workplace, I’ll find an outlet for my passion.

Understanding the need for ‘wriggle room’ when opportunity comes knocking

It is unlikely my boyfriend will be transferred somewhere at a moment’s notice. But we have considered, and have plans for working overseas together….some day. In addition to the places where we’re willing to live and due to our very different professions, there are certain areas of the world where we can both enjoy good job prospects or career incentives. For example, I’d really, really like to gain some experience in the Trinity College Library in Dublin with digitising, preserving, cataloguing and promoting historical items. But there is little to no career incentive for my boyfriend to do this beyond a couple of months or so. Similarly with other parts of the world, there are places I wouldn’t enjoy benefits for my career where my boyfriend could. So if we were to live and work somewhere overseas for something like 12-18 months, we need to compromise, find the ‘wriggle room’  to find a happy medium. What if that isn’t possible? Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. What if something is too good to pass up? We’ll find a way. Neither of us could ask the other to give up on something completely.

Alphild asks some really good questions to think about when negotiating dual-career households. My favourite is “What are your long-term plans for your career?” I think it could be easy to get caught up thinking about the short or medium term, that we may lose sight of what we ultimately want to achieve. When something comes up in either person’s career that prompt thinking about ‘your team’, following this question, then next would be, “What else would I be happy doing?” There’s always a need for perspective.

Thanks Alphild for a thought provoking post.


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