A couple successfully manages work and kids through a give-and-take approach.
Audrey and Matthew McClelland, Brown University grads, have created a unique and progressive work/life arrangement. The young couple takes turns with their careers, depending on the timing of their individual opportunities—and they’ve been pulling it off for more than five years. In 2000, Audrey wanted to move to New York City to take her dream job at Donna Karan. Matt supported her aspirations and sought freelance production gigs.
But in the wake of September 11, 2001, Audrey was ready to return to her home state of Rhode Island and start a family but Matt asked her to stay put. He had just taken a new job at Urban Zen, another company owned by Donna Karan. They struck a deal: Audrey and Matt delayed a move and stayed in New York. (In March 2002, she took a nine-month leave of absence from her job and spent weekdays in Rhode Island, collaborating with her mother on their book, Preconception Plain & Simple.) “I knew it was his turn,” she says. “It was a great opportunity for him.”
Two kids and five years later, the couple has restructured the arrangement yet again. In January 2006, they traded in their one-bedroom apartment blocks from New York’s fashion district for a family friendly four-bedroom colonial in Warwick, RI.
Living a stone’s throw from the beach, their young sons’ play dates now involve sandcastles and swimming. Matt is flourishing in his job at Urban Zen, and was able to negotiate a deal that allows him to work from home, provided he travels to New York for business once a month for one to two weeks at a time.
Audrey misses her husband during his city sojourns, but his absences provide her time to work on a second book with her mother and develop their online baby-related business, Pinks & Blues. And, at the end of the day, Audrey focuses more on her husband’s time at home than his time away. “I can have lunch with my husband, which was unheard of when we were both in New York,” she says. The two also aim to complete their workdays by 6:00 P.M., so they have evenings to spend with their children, and they have committed to a weekly date night. “We go to the movies, go get some coffee, or even go on Target or Home Depot runs,” Audrey laughs. The activity isn’t as important as having the flexibility to carve out time together on a regular basis.
Key for Success: Decide whose career will be the focus, outlining the duration and scope for each “turn,” and what each other’s exact role will be.