21st Century Problems: Balancing Dual Careers

In October of 2012 I made an unconventional decision.

I had just spent five years with the same employer, and a year and a half of that managing a grain facility in Southwest Nebraska. However, I decided to resign my job, sell my house and move to Austin, Texas with no job prospects.

This is not a life plan I would endorse or encourage anyone else to follow, but let me explain a little more about my situation.

My wife is a veterinarian, and at the time we lived in Bird City, KS, population 450. Due to the remote location, the closest clinic she could find that had an opening was 80 miles away. Eager to use her vet degree, she took the job and worked hard every day despite the brutal commute.

She had an opportunity to join a small animal clinic in Austin that would allow for better hours, a MUCH shorter commute, and great pay. But Austin, although a great city, is not a hub for agriculture, which is my industry.

So goes the life of a professional couple. Finding that ideal fit of professional and personal fulfillment can be a huge challenge, especially early on in your career and your marriage.

The fact is that this is the 21st century, where both men and women are expected to have thriving careers and a rewarding personal life. If you read my previous post on being open to relocation, you might be asking yourself “how in the heck are my spouse and I supposed to BOTH chase our career ambitions equally?”

True, the chances of you both getting to chase your ideal opportunities simultaneously in the ideal way is not always possible. Especially when moving to a rural area like we did. Nobody said it was going to be easy, right?

What has worked for us has been prioritizing and taking a leap of faith.

When we decided to move up to Bird City my wife didn’t have a job. When we decided to move to Austin I didn’t have a job. But we made it work. There is something to be said for choosing to be certain about one thing and working the rest out as you go.

What I mean by this is as soon as we made the decision “we are moving to Austin”, that became a certainty. By becoming certain about that one thing I embraced uncertainty in several others. Meaning I was uncertain about what I was going to do, where exactly we would live, what my next career step would be, etc.

However, there is power in being certain of one thing. Having one priority and making the rest work. The key for us is we were both 100% on board with moving to Austin. We were both willing to put that first.

Since moving here over three years ago, we have both left our initial jobs and I started a business. We have needed unexpected medical expertise for our daughter that we would not have had access to where we used to live. You can believe what you want, but I choose to believe this certainty we had came from a higher power.

So my encouragement to you is to find your one certainty as a couple. The one uncompromising certainty, and redesign your lifestyle around that. Maybe it’s your wife’s employer that you are absolutely going to stick with, maybe it’s your husband’s business, perhaps it’s a specific location like us, or maybe it’s one of you going back to school.

That does not mean one person’s career is more important than the others. What it means is part of marriage is prioritizing as a couple. Looking at things objectively and deciding what is best for the family, and rallying behind that one certainty.

Whatever it is for you, GO ALL-IN as a couple on that one thing and figure the rest out!

Finally, you don’t have to know what every detail of the rest of your life looks like. Chances are, it’ll be better than you’re imagining it. Decide together on that one certainty and figure it out over time! It doesn’t have to be perfect right away.

The most important thing is to communicate, get on the same page, and attack the challenges as one unit, bonded by that one certainty. I will warn you that it will not always be easy, but it can work!

What’s been your experience trying to balance a marriage between two professionals?

Some of my thoughts on this came from one of my favorite books “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. Highly recommended!


Tim Hammerich

Tim is a strategic communications consultant, founder of AgGrad, and the host of the "Future of Agriculture" podcast. Originally from California, he is now based out of Boise, Idaho.