My husband and I live together and work together, and it’s definitely not something that works for everyone. It also doesn’t come with handbooks or three month reviews so you have to make your own guidelines. This is not necessarily easy and my husband and I after our first year of doing so, came up with five tips for making it work. The most important thing to do is whatever makes it works best for you. If you similarly work and live with someone, please do add your own tips!
1) Have your own individual hobbies – as daft as it may sound, when I have an hour to myself, I like nothing better than a cup of tea in my pyjamas with an episode of Grey’s Anatomy or an hour of DragonAge
on the Xbox. And my husband thoroughly enjoys the tranquility of painting or drawing. These are not exclusively things we won’t allow the other to do, but is an example of the things we do when we have some time on our own. When living and working (mostly) together with a baby, we don’t have loads of time on by ourselves, which is by choice, but when you have some time, make the most of the head space and find something that works for you!
2) Communicate! With the amount of ad hoc stuff, travelling about and the administrative side of what we do, there’s often periods of high stress. As a naturally irritable person when I’m tired (and especially when I’m hungry!), I can sometimes get quite snappy. Likewise, with lots going on, if my husband has a bad day, I’m the one around to be moaned at. The important thing is to let each other know as and when these bad days happen! You’ll be amazed how much easier it makes things with a simple “I’m in a foul mood this morning because I’ve just seen how many emails there are, love you”! With one small sentence, the other doesn’t have to worry they’ve done anything, can give you some space or help out or even just give you a cuddle which can make you feel much better anyway! By talking to each other you’ll know where you’re at and can handle the tough times.
3) Allow for change. One of the first things we said when we started working together was that if it interfered with our relationship, we’d stop doing it. Family is far more important than work and if it meant we were going to be bringing work problems home, it definitely wasn’t worth it. We also said that we should keep changing how we do things to make sure it’s always working best for our family. For example, at first we dealt with emails whenever they came through, but as is common in theatre circles, it means we often receive messages late at night. As soon as we realised we had no definable ‘home time’, we set ourselves ‘office hours’. We may receive emails round the clock and we’ll often be working at unsocial times but in terms of administration and organising things, we strictly run between 11-5pm Mon – Fri. Anything else can wait till the next day or after the weekend. It’s a flexible rule as we inevitably have to deal with some things as soon as we hear but for the most part, evenings at home together are kept protected! We’ll continue to adapt and change the rules depending on Scarlett’s needs and our family priorities.
4) Keep work and home life separate. Not happy with the change in schedule that’s been made for you? That’s something to discuss with your business partner not your spouse. More often than not, it’s a natural work gripe but if it’s brought into your home life, add that to home life stresses and you could easily end up just constantly rowing. Very early on my husband and I arranged regular meetings outside of the house; we had one after our first course finished, to discuss what worked and what didn’t, we hold meetings about contracts to accept and how to work in the things we individually want to take on. And we’ve got really good at ensuring that the meetings or any work issue stays there. One of the ways we do so is to really make the most of home life; we play games, make theme dinners, go for a drink. As our work life is so hectic, it’s easier to appreciate our home life, but keeping the two sides separate makes for being much more productive and happier in both!
5) Protect yourselves and each other! When self employed, you have no pension, annual leave, or even necessarily two days off a week. When you have a family, or when your work and personal life are with the same person, being protected in the future or being able to take time off is much more important. When possible, try and make sure you get at least one day a week off, and if that means having a bath and sitting on the sofa with a cuppa when your partner is hard at work at the computer, don’t feel bad or make your partner feel guilty. It’s really important to not point score or feel bad if you’re relaxing when they’re not. Taking different days off will probably be a necessity but the best thing you can do is either go elsewhere so you don’t feel tempted to help out when it’s your day off; or if you’re hard at work at the computer and your partner comes downstairs in their pyjamas, remember how much you both deserve downtime and don’t ask them to ‘quickly check this’. Likewise, look into creating your own pension, and have a separate account to put a bit aside each week or each month. With a little bit saved away regularly, you can then give yourselves some annual leave without having to worry about being short. It’s really tough to not dip into it when you’re having a tight week but when you’re sat on the beach in Portugal with a cocktail in hand not having to worry that you’re not working that week, it will be worth it. We make Christmas and one week in the Summer our official annual leave to make sure we get some time off together, and we save for both, it’s not easy to be disciplined and we often slip up but its so worth it. As self employed people, you don’t have designated time off, pensions, health plans or even lunch hours! But if you protect yourselves and each other, it’ll be much easier in the long run.
Living and working together is a rather intense way of life but can be hugely rewarding, especially when you’ve got twice as many people working towards the goals you want to achieve. However you make it work for you, always remember the reasons you chose that person as your business partner, and more importantly, why you chose them as your spouse!