Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Society of Women in Engineering’s WE18 conference in Minneapolis. This is the world’s largest conference for female engineers with close to 14,000 in attendance this year! It was an empowering three-day event that over 150 Emerson women and men were able to attend. One of the sessions I attended was titled, Dual Career Families – How We Make It Work. The panel was driven by three successful female leaders at Emerson and included their husbands. In this blog, I will share some of the key pieces of advice each couple offered and provided a recap of the interactive question and answer session with the audience.
The panel was moderated by Amy Johnson, a Director in Product Management, who has been with Emerson for 36 years.
Tips and Tricks to Successfully Managing a Dual Career Family:
Jennifer and Karl’s key pieces of advice:
Kelly and Keith’s key pieces of advice:
Melissa and Chris’s key pieces of advice:
Audience Q&A Session:
Q: How do you encourage collaboration with your spouse when it comes to household tasks without it coming off as pestering?
Kelly: Each spouse needs to be a true partner. One might be better than the other at a certain task, but both partners need to be open to doing tasks that you don’t always want to do. Thank your partner when they do something that is helpful.
Q: How do you manage guilt while traveling and being away from your children?
Melissa: Mom guilt is real! Chris has a flow when he is at home with the children and sometimes I call and mess up that flow. So, I started texting to plan the best time to call or Facetime with the kids. On the other hand, I think it is important for my children to see me as a role model and see that you can have a family and a successful career at the same time.
Karl: Pictures are important – use today’s technology (Snapchat, Facetime, etc.) and make it a family event.
Kelly: My son told me after he was grown that he had amazing respect for me as a child because of my career; cherish the fact you are being a role model for them.
Q: When female engineers make more than their male spouse, how do you deal with that?
Karl and Jennifer: We have gone back and forth with who makes more money our whole careers. We’ve always looked at our salaries as “family money” – not Jennifer’s or Karl’s money.
Q: Does your employer do anything to support dual career families?
Melissa and Chris: Emerson has flexible work policies, so you just need to learn to use them! I am a room parent for my son; this is a priority to me. Communicate with your boss to help them understand your priorities outside of work. Find a company and a manager that gives you flexibility.
Chris: If an organization doesn’t understand that couples are dual career families, try to educate them. Today, companies need to change to hire new and talented people. If they can’t change, find a company that gives you the flexibility you need.
Q: Do you have any tips for building a new village (moving your family away from an established support system)?
Karl: Get to know your neighbors! They have become an extended part of our family.
Keith: There may be others at your work with the same situation; get to know them and see if you can leverage them and their relationships.
Q: Mealtimes/food prep – What is your strategy for making meal time important?
Chris: It’s okay to eat out instead of always having a home cooked meal. Wherever we are eating, we put technology down and talk to each other.
Kelly: The most important thing about a meal is the time together, not what the food is. When my kids were young, I created a breakfast menu for them. The options weren’t fancy, an English muffin, a waffle, etc., but I think they enjoyed that it made breakfast time more of an experience together. *
*Side note: Kelly’s son was in the audience, he told his neighbor he had forgotten but was thrilled to recall the breakfast menu days.
Keith and Jennifer: Sunday is prep day. We prep easy grab and go snacks and meals and look at the next week’s calendar to see where a home-cooked meal can fit in. Also, take time to plan special meals.
Q: Have you had an opportunity to relocate for one spouse where you then have to find a new opportunity for the other spouse – can you give tips on how to do this?
Karl and Jennifer: Jennifer has done this many times over the last 20 years as I have relocated. Keep your resume updated and look at it as a growth opportunity for yourself.
Kelly: Take turns with your spouse when new career opportunities arise. I recently heard a couple say they went by the ‘10-year plan’. For 10 years, her career was their priority and then in 10 years, the family made his career their priority, etc.
Being part of a dual-career family myself (my husband and I both work for Emerson), this session gave me a lot of good ideas for navigating our professional future. What are some of your dual-career family tips and tricks? Share in the comments below!