It seems working with your other half comes with a whole bunch of health warnings. Supportive comments were received in abundance from friends and family when we told them that we planned to go into partnership. There was of course the genuinely supportive who wished us the best and shared our excitement. There were those who cared and would laugh with me at what going into business with the man you’re with might actually mean. There were the sarcastic ones. The ones who cracked up about who would be working for who, who would be making the tea, who would be whose secretary… You get the gist and as mostly well-intentioned I will leave my feminism gable in the kitchen drawer for now. Particularly as my own father was the main culprit.
The easiest to come up against however were those who had a firm standpoint that it was a huge risk both financially and to our relationship. Again, it all came from a good place but the reality was we never had any concerns ourselves. Not in terms of our relationship. Financially perhaps, particularly as our shopping habits are in constant competition. But we never actually did have the perhaps sensible discussion around how sensible working and living together really is.
Ironically the months are flying by and I’ve not found myself reflecting over whether any of the potential issues have raised their heads. So considering the few that jump out:
Point 1 – The Struggle for Equality
I can confirm, you funny lot, that I do not make the tea. In terms of the tally I think his tea making well exceeds mine; in quantity and quality. The reason for this very much being my quality of tea making but it works. I also do not work for him and he does not work for me (ironically I left out the second ‘not’ in that sentence initially. By accident of course). Somehow the balance is there. There are times we know more and times we know the same and times we really do both need to take time out to learn something new together. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t the occasional joke but then that’s how we keep the spirit in the day. Although comments like ‘good girl’ are well and truly banned.
Point 2 – Utter Boredom
He’s an integral part in the morning rush as we respond to the demands of the little ones who take us by surprise every morning by either being overly enthusiastic about life or dramatically refusing to emerge from under the duvet. He’s also who I unwind with after that harrowing early morning experience with when we walk Bryn most mornings. And during the day we don’t generally go our separate ways but have a whole barrage of other issues to deal with – these ones vital to paying our way in life. And at night when everyone’s finally tucked up in bed, Bryn looks close to exhausted and I’m ready to flop on the sofa with a glass of wine, he’s frequently the one co-ordinating the snacks.
Truth be told I’m not bored at all. We have a million and one things going on, and a lot of wonderfully distracting people popping in and out of our lives each day. The hilarity that comes out of the daily grind if frequently enough to be going on with and means we’re constantly learning something new. Even now we seem to find an awful lot to talk about and, at times most importantly, we know when we just need to sit with our own thoughts. Plus if we need to laugh we just go to the driving range and watch other patrons run for their lives.
Point 3 – We’ll Be Consumed by Work
Collectively we’re far from lazy but I think there is a gross unlikelihood this will ever be us. The balance is just too important to us as a couple, as parents and as individuals. Several people have asked if come 5pm we put an embargo on any work chat. Well…no. Perhaps we should but we also don’t put an embargo on talking absolute drivel and nonsense throughout the working day. At this point we find the business exhilarating so when we do chat about it over dinner or on a ‘day off’, we’re talking about the good stuff. It’s positive and exciting. But then we also find the Apprentice and, thanks to two Tractor Ted obsessed boys, the various types of farm machinery you can get exciting. Our conversations are a mixed bag. As is our relationship. A mixed bag of which the business is very much a happy part of.
Point 4 – Too Much Pressure on the Relationship
Sometimes when the pressure of real life is really on the business proves to be a good distraction. For instance just today after a particularly difficult morning with a 2 year old it has been lovely to switch off and not to have to parent for a few small hours. It’s also been lovely to be able to chat to Darren about something other than parenting strategies. Jo Frost can only go so far in keeping a relationship alive.
That doesn’t mean we don’t ever feel the pressure of the business. Cash flow can be frightening it seems and we don’t always agree nor do we always take comments from the other as they were intended. These moments are in the minority though and I tend to forget they happen. In fact at lunch with a friend recently I uttered the words, ‘We never argue about the business…actually we did this morning.’ It has yet to result in crisis chats about our relationship though.
The link between our relationship and the business is something I rarely think about and I’m reassured almost daily by the number of clients we have who are couples and have worked together successfully for many years.
Funnily enough I started writing this blog post 3 months ago and never quite got round to finishing it. Every time I looked at it I would worry my mindset would result in it being too critical or too cheesy. I didn’t want to claim that working together is perfect and right for everyone, nor did I want to badge it as a miserable, exhausting experience when it’s not.
In some ways I think I have finally just got to grips myself with how I feel about being in business with Darren.
This morning I felt entirely ‘under the cosh’. The pressure had not been coming from the business but a rollercoaster of 12 hours with one of the boys, ever growing demands on both my work and personal diaries, an email to write which I keep avoiding and to top it a particularly tricky work situation. I was feeling as we all frequently do – that our own needs are absolutely falling by the wayside.
My mood changed however when I realised I was sitting next to someone who was sharing my own frustrations and who has the shared ability to rant and to be ranted at. As the morning ticked by I noticed I was out of my grump and laughing. Together we plotted out a plan of action which has lifted a massive weight. The cherry on the cake is that Darren is going to help me write that difficult email this afternoon just to take the load off a little. You see he’s not just my colleague or business partner, he’s much more and when work gets on top of me he has the full perspective because he’s living it with me.
That’s exactly why today I choose to forgive him for mocking my crankiness, lying about finishing my juice and then leaving his socks dumped in the middle of the floor…again.