From Dr. Jane's Notebook
When Couples Work Together at Home
Since the beginning of time, many couples have chosen to work in "Ma
and Pa" businesses as entrepreneurs. While this joint effort is an extremely
efficient approach to earning the familys livelihood, learning how to work together is
often harder than it looks. What does it take to succeed as spouses and co-workers?
Here are a few thoughts on the matter.
- We each have a "personal self" and an "occupational self". When spouses kiss each other good-bye and go off to work, they typically take "time-out" from their personal lives in order to focus on their work. The mental boundary is important because it is difficult to work when one is concerned about personal matters. The physical separation is important since a little bit of absence makes the heart grow fonder. This being the case, when spouses work together they must give each other adequate mental and physical space. This requires an understanding that there are times when we work and times when we play, and those times are separate.
- When work and home are in the same location, invisible boundaries must be developed. When spouses leave home to go off to work, it is clear that they have temporarily left the "family circle". This makes them somewhat unavailable to address household matters, such as washing dishes, vacuuming, taking out the trash. But if home and work are on the same premises, other types of boundaries must be established. Boundaries such as "work" clothes versus "play" clothes, and "work" time versus "personal" time are helpful ways to focus your energy, and communicate to others whether you are available or unavailable at this time.
- It can be easy or difficult to be in two places at one time. Working at home is similar to changing sets on the stage of a theater. We all know that the stage is the same, but we also accept that a stage can be changed to serve more than one purpose. Once again, the key lies in scheduling and cooperation. Just imagine the chaos that would erupt if two different sets of actors wanted to occupy the same stage at the same time. Similarly, in order to work at home, family members must be willing to cooperate with a stage that changes, and respect the fact that work is taking place during business hours.
- Relationships between spouses and co-workers are not the same. At work, there are chains of command to follow. Each person has a separate job to do, and organization is an important key to building a successful business. In the workplace, we usually speak to our co-workers with a non-emotional tone of voice, and it is understood that disagreements are not personal. Likewise, when spouses work together, they must learn to respect each others talents and treat each other as respected colleagues. Spouses should avoid pulling rank on one another, or expecting special treatment. Rather, it is better to think of each other as teammates working toward a common goal.
All in all, working together is great unless it interferes with your love
relationship. Beware... if you are tired of being together at the end of the day, if you are biting
your tongue to keep from criticizing each other, or if you begin wishing that your spouse
was an employee who could be fired! Remember... At the end of the day, it will be time
to resume your relationship as lovers. Couples who work together must also be able to
ęCopyright, 2000, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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