Working With Your Spouse aka How To Get Away With(out) Murder
Okay, so that tile is total clickbait, but seriously in this blog post, I am going to share what it is like to work with my husband and how we make sure we don’t kill each other.
First, I’d like to say that Andy and I have both had to work from home in a studio apartment before I started this business, so the fact that we have doors to our offices now is HUGE! Secondly, neither one of us is naturally combative so we’re not big fighters to begin with. If anything I’m a get quiet and lick my wounds in the corner until I’ve cooled down kind of gal.
That being said, I started this business back in April of 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic and with an infant just starting to crawl. It wasn’t really the ideal time but here we are. Andy was also at a transition in his career when realized that the pandemic wasn’t going to help his job search. It was about at that time that I realized I wanted to move beyond just doing custom portraits and into selling products. It became clear very quickly that there just wasn’t enough time in the day to get things done at my desired pace (lightning speed is preferable, if not, super turbo will do). It just so happened that Andy knew how to do all the stuff that I didn’t know how to do.
This brings me to the first thing that really helps us work together. Rather than dancing all over each other trying to get things done, we both have our zones. I do the painting, dream up the products, write the copy for emails, blogs, and social media. I take the product photos, handle money, prep and count inventory items, interact with customers and leads, and deal with any custom work inquiries. Andy takes my paintings and digitizes them. He is in cahoots with all of our vendors and does the research to make sure we are getting the best prices. He does the website and adds items into all the shops. He also does all the packaging and shipping as well as running out for any errands like picking up our paper products or dropping off larger packages.
By delegating certain tasks to each other, we are both the expert in our various areas--it is not a competition. As a recovering perfectionist, I am working on trusting him to do his job well (he always does) without micromanaging everything. This, especially as a small business owner is super difficult. I am definitely not good at relinquishing control, but I know that in order to grow, I cannot do everything.
The second thing that helps is having a regular weekly meeting and a system for communicating about projects. We have meetings either Sunday night or Monday mornings when the nanny is here so that we can make sure we know what we need to accomplish that week and keep track of all the balls that we’re juggling. I like to do a quick snapshot of the month to come, but mostly focus on week to week. I lead the meetings but make sure I give Andy a chance to offer feedback. We are both not great at estimating how long something will take (we both think we’re going to get way more done than what is physically possible) so I think we both are able to give each other a lot of grace if the other needs more time. That being said, we like to make sure we have a hierarchy of what NEEDS to happen this week and what would be a nice bonus.
We keep a list in Trello to keep track of weekly and long term tasks. There is also a board for questions if we have things come up during the week that we want to discuss at our weekly meetings. This was a game changer--before we were just texting, emailing, writing notes, and hollering across the house if we had any ideas and we were just all over the place. Now there is a centralized location where all the tasks funnel through.
The third thing that really helped was meeting with a life coach together. The life coach was able to help us look at long term goals together and how that reflected back on our family values. She helped guide us to pick a word of the year “grounded” which helps keep us focused. This was a big turning point for me. Before meeting with her and Andy, I was focused on turbo work mode and it wasn’t healthy for anyone. I was getting burnt out. Andy was getting frustrated with trying to juggle all the other parts of our life that I was not tending to. It wasn’t great. But once we took a step back and realized that our number one goal was to create a life that allowed us to be home with our family and to express and share our creativity--it helped make everything more clear. Usually in a business, it is recommended that this is sorted out before you start--what are your goals and values, but at least we have them now.
The fourth thing that is super helpful is making a rule of not talking about work in bed. (of course sometimes we (ahem I) slip up because I am so excited about an idea I have, but for the most part, we try to table it and talk about it in the morning. I’ll often text myself to remember to tell him first thing! LOL. I’d like to eventually work toward not talking shop after 5 PM, but right now, a lot of our work time happens after our daughter goes to bed, so that isn’t super realistic at the moment.
The fifth thing that helps is recognizing and appreciating when the other person needs a break. In the beginning I would get peeved with Andy if he was watching YouTube videos or playing a video game while I was still up working in the evenings. I felt like I didn’t get to take a break so why should he. Well, the truth was that was my fault entirely. As the boss, I could take a break whenever I wanted (and probably should have taken more advantage of that). Recently I’ve been needing to take it easier since getting pregnant with our second and he doesn't get irritated when I prioritize a mid-day nap. Since we have our weekly meetings, we both trust each other to get the work done in time. This trust is not easy for me--I was always the kid who did the whole group project--but it is imperative!
The 6th tip is that Andy brings me coffee, drinks, and snacks often and I go in and rub his shoulders every time I pass by. This is our little way of showing each other that we care about the human side of things. We try to reserve at least one night a week to date night too. Don’t worry, I already cleared it with HR!
Ultimately, I think the big theme that runs through all these points is that I trust Andy and he trusts me to get our tasks done, communicate as clearly as possible, act in a professional manner when working with outside people, and stay true to our family values.
So to recap:
- Have clearly delineated and separate roles
- Regular meetings and systems for communicating tasks
- Make sure your goals are aligned
- Have a sacred work-free space
- Recognizing and accepting when the other needs a break
- Acts of kindness
Here’s a little worksheet to help provide some of that clarity. This can help if you are working with a partner or a close friend. I’ve also included a template to our weekly meeting notes. Fill out the form below to get your Free PDF.