We’re in the middle of an interview I did with my husband, Jack. If you missed Part 1 on Faith, definitely go back and check it out after you read this section on work/life balance. You’ll get to know Jack, and you’ll get an even better feel for our dynamic, and gain even more insight into how and why I write.
I would encourage you to share that faith post with ANY person you know who is struggling or skeptical in their faith, or anyone who desires to grow their spiritual life with their spouse. I admire couples who do this comfortably and naturally. We weren’t that couple then, and we’re still learning now.
These Part 2 questions are interesting too because work/life balance is an ever-changing flow for us. We’ve lived every scenario under the sun – both working outside the home, 1 of us working from home, both of us working from home, and only 1 of us working. We’ve learned a LOT from making it work and I think you’ll appreciate Jack’s perspective on how to prioritize your life so the right people and things get the best parts of you. (News flash: sometimes we suck at it.)
I think the idea of balance is self-defeating. If everything balances, the scale stands still. And who wants a stand-still life? Rather than balance, we embrace the ideas of harmony (where all engines hum according to their priority at the moment) and equilibrium (where all things constantly shift with ease). Those feel a lot easier to me than balance.
But because balance is what we’re accustomed to saying, here are Jack’s man-swers to questions on work/life balance!
How do you find balance as a work from home dad?
Jack: I’m very fortunate that my job is a lot of planning, prospecting, networking, and of course making the sales. I have busy times of the year. But for the most part, I’m able to set my own schedule. I can prioritize things that are important to me and to my family.
I work really hard to maintain this balance, but it has not always been that way. Work always came first until it almost cost me my family. I literally think and repeat to myself each morning a simple mantra. “God first, family second, career third.” That’s cliche, but it’s important and helps me structure my day.
There are, of course, times where I may have to go meet with a client instead of go to softball practice. Or I may need to rush a Sunday lunch to go show some houses. These situations are usually pretty few and far between. I make it a point to let my clients know what is important to me and that I will be there and do a great job for them, but I may not be available 24/7. I may lose a little business that way, but what I find is that the clients that don’t respect my family time or have similar values are probably people I don’t want to work with anyway.
Mom and Dad guilt hits us just as hard as if we worked outside the home. The kids lay it on thick when we miss a practice or a game because of a conference or a client. We remind our children – and each other – that because we have flexible jobs that allow us a lot of freedom, sometimes we have to show up for work in the evenings or on a weekend. It’s an easy trade-off when we can take a day off to go to the zoo or bring them lunch during the day. We want them to understand that life is choices.
How do you and Jessica balance responsibilities?
Jack: This is another one that we had to learn the hard way. I used to expect her to do all of the traditional womanly things around the house, and I would rarely help out with cleaning, laundry, and all of that other stuff. I thought it was a pretty good trade-off since I was handling the finances and making sure that the house and cars were in working order, lawn maintained, trash taken out, etc.
However, what I learned was that Jessica felt overwhelmed with all of the things that would pile up – dishes in the sink, backlogged laundry, dirty toilets, and whatever … these things would stress her out and made her resent me. And they are so easy to do. On top of that, they are easy for either of us to just tackle when they need it.
With our schedules, and mainly our kids, we have a calendar that we share on our phones, iPads, and computers where we can both see each other’s schedules and we can coordinate the kids schedules. We usually have a weekly meeting, usually at our coffee club, where we talk about what’s coming up and who needs what and can be where.
The bottom line is that we work the best together when we are sharing responsibilities and helping each other out. We work as a team on the little things as well as the big things. This ends up giving us more quality time together because one of us is not too tired. What it also does is makes us feel like we are in everything together, which has been the biggest step forward in our marriage.
By the way, I still hate doing laundry, and I love it so much that my wife does the laundry for me and our whole family.
Everyone has an “8th level of hell” chore and laundry is mine. There was a season that I paid a wonderful woman to come into our home and do our laundry once a week. It gave her an opportunity and income, and it gave me peace. It really was life-changing. If there is a task in your home that causes such anxiety it leads to distress in your marriage, ask for help. Neighborhood girls would love to earn an extra $20. Buy your balance. Then there is more “you” left over for the things you actually want to do.
How do you balance the stress of your job?
Jack: This is difficult for me to answer. In all honesty, I thrive on stress and chaos. That’s where I shine professionally, and I have always been that way. I think it has something to do with the adrenaline and the natural fight or flight instinct. It is not in my nature to run away from things, and it is in my nature to face a challenge head on. I guess I see stressful situations this way.
However, the biggest thing that I have learned in my life is to try to anticipate the stressful times and plan ahead with Jessica and my family. I have to prioritize in these situations, and sometimes that priority has to be at work. Jessica completely understands that and does a great job of stepping up to pick up my slack when it is needed. But I can’t expect her to just know when those times are coming, I have to communicate them with her and let her know what I need and what my expectations are.
That may sound controlling, but it’s not. We are a team, and I am so appreciative of her when she can step up and take care of stuff when I can’t. I make sure I show my appreciation, and I hope she knows that I will do exactly the same for her when she needs it from me.
I think that the biggest problem that marriages face is when expectations are not met. And usually expectations are not met because we assume that our spouse knows what our expectations are. It’s really a simple conversation to have too. In fact, we actually have a conversation when something new comes up. It may go something like, “I’ve got baseball practice and games with Jackson every night this week. We need to leave at 5:15 each day. It will really help me out if you can make sure he’s ready to go so I can pack the truck. I would love to be able to eat a quick dinner before we leave also.”
In this scenario, Jessica knows what I need, and I know where she is going to be able to help us out. And she may say that she can’t do part of that, which helps me plan out my afternoon…maybe I pack the truck in the morning so I don’t have to worry about it after work and school. The important thing is to just be honest and communicate with each other to figure things out.
In 2019, rather than a resolution, I decided to give myself the gift of time. We make a concerted effort to map/plan out our day and prepare waaaaaaay in advance so nobody has to scramble. Scrambling at the last minute led to lots of resentment on both sides. Particularly when I was lagging so far behind schedule that I made us late. I am still growing in this area but punctuality is the easiest way to show someone “you matter.”
What are some creative ways you balance work with time for each other?
Jack: For us, it’s pretty easy. We both work from home, which can be really isolating. We set up shop at our kitchen table and rock our work day together. That way we can bounce ideas off each other, help each other with things, and pass the baby back and forth.
The best thing that we decided to do was to start going on regular dates. I would recommend it to anyone. When we were in the dumps, we went all out and went to steakhouse type dinner dates every weekend. If I knew she was upset with me, I’d take her to a movie so she wouldn’t have to talk to me. You don’t have to spend a ton of money. It’s really just about the quality time that you spend together. We actually work mostly in quantity of time with each other, and we have moments of major quality time in there too. But sometimes we just sit outside together drinking coffee in the quiet and stillness of the morning.
We start our day with coffee club. Our goal is to get up before the kids and spend about an hour of uninterrupted time with each other. We do this outside on our back patio. One of the things that Jessica screamed at me when we were at rock bottom was that she wanted me to bring her coffee in the morning. Looking back, that was a really funny thing to say, but it is true. She just wants to know that I think about her enough to take care of her first thing in the morning. This is where our coffee club came from and we make it a point to do it every day, even when we are on vacation. The kids know coffee club is our time and they don’t interrupt us if they are up before they are supposed to be (usually!).
Jack: We have a regular Wednesday lunch date. We usually go to the same burger joint, order the same food, and sit in the same booth for a quick 45 minutes. Sometimes we set up shop and work in a coffee shop together before hand. Sometimes we are coming from different directions. This time is sacred. So unless there is an extreme situation, I make sure it’s clear on my calendar each week.
Another thing that we do as much as we can, is to run errands together. We used to do this when it was just us. But it got harder to balance once we had kids and schedules got busier. So it made more sense to divide and conquer, but the result was we spent almost all our time apart. Now instead, if I need to drop something off across town, I’ll invite Jessica to come with me for the ride. She’ll do the same. Sometimes we talk, sometimes the passenger is working on the phone or iPad on the way. But we are together, and that is important to us.
Regular date nights are important. It gives you an opportunity to go out and be the young kids that fell in love all over again. Get a great sitter that can handle problems so you don’t even have to check your phone if it buzzes. I actually have set up a special vibration and ring for our babysitters so I know if it’s them. That way I can focus completely on Jessica and our time together.
I don’t remember screaming about coffee… but I definitely cried about it. And I may have said some words really loudly. All I wanted was his time, and a few quality minutes in the morning, and to know that he cared. It’s so simple. I think most of us are that simple. Find what makes your people feel special and just do it.
How do you unwind or de-stress?
Jack: This is a great question. We are all so bad about this. I have to think really hard to make a commitment to work in some de-stressing time. For me, running is my biggest stress relief. I am not a runner by any means and honestly, I’ve been out of the running game for a while. But when I am running, I can go for a quick 2 miles and I feel like I can take over the world when I am done. My heart, lungs, mind, and body all just feel better. I listen to my Christian playlists when I’m running, pray, and think through what is going on in my life.
It’s pretty funny that for the first 1/2 – 1 mile of my run as I’m getting going, my ankles and knees are hurting, my muscles are aching, my feet are killing me and the voice in my head is saying, “Stop. Walk. You know you want to.” This is when I’m thinking about all of the stressors in my life. As soon as I’m able to push through those pains and thoughts, I get into the physical zone where I feel great and my mind clears. That’s when I feel like it’s just me and God and where I have the best conversations with Him.
My other major de-stressor is coaching Jackson’s Baseball team and Grace’s Softball team. That is my happy place. That is where all I think about is practice, the game, and the kids. Time literally stops and I have no other thoughts in my mind other than what is currently happening. I don’t have any other thing in my life where I just lose myself in what I am doing. When we finish a practice or game, I am so relaxed that it takes me a while to get back into real life. I know it may sound weird, and I would have never expected it, but this is where my troubles disappear. In fact, the first season that I coached Jackson’s Tee Ball team was the year our marriage was a wreck. If it wasn’t for that dang Tee Ball team, I’m not sure I’d be here today.
If you’ve never watched your spouse in their element, figure out what it is and go watch. Be willing to sacrifice if it’s not “your thing” because this is all about balance anyway! Your heart will explode watching them at their very best and most authentic, confident, free self.
Part 3 of this interview is honest answers to questions on EMOTIONS. I can’t even believe I got him to do this. Stay tuned, it’s coming Friday 3/8! Check out Part 1 and join us in our Facebook group. AND be sure to subscribe to our email list too for fun behind-the-scenes treats from me!
J (and J)