People are often shocked when they find out my husband and I work together. They alway say, “I could never do that!” or, “we’d kill each other,” or “I need my own space.” But for us it’s never been an issue.

Maybe it’s because I don’t know anything different. My parents worked together my whole life. My mom is the office manager at my dad’s podiatry practice. They work together in the same office, but do different roles, so they don’t see each other all day long. They drive to work separately because my mom often spends her day running errands and they are at work different hours. It works well for them, and they’ve always had a great and supportive relationship.

My husband and I have worked for the same companies since our internships, so I’ve never worked a professional job without him. However, we’ve never worked the same role, so even though we might work in the same office building and for the same company, we usually have had different bosses, worked on different floors and don’t see each other for most of the day.

For a short time we did have offices located right next to each other. This was during our rotational roles, and we spent a lot of time with our mentors or in the field, so we still didn’t run into each other too often.

We almost always have carpooled to work. The only times we haven’t were when I worked at the gas plant, because I was no longer working in the office with my husband, and now because I work part-time so my reduced hours are not aligned with the nine-hour work day of my husband’s full-time job. In Australia we didn’t drive to work, but we walked into work together everyday.

We have always ate lunch together too. The only exception, was again when I worked at the gas plant and it was impractical for us to meet for lunch. Even now, with my part-time schedule we eat together everyday. On my days in the office I pack us lunches and we eat together in the break room at work with colleagues. It’s a nice time to get away from our desks, and catch up on each other’s day and with some work friends. We live only 15-20 minutes from work, so on days I work at home my husband comes home for lunch so he gets a little extra time with our son during the day.

I like packing a lunch for work because it helps us eat healthier during the week and we save a lot of money too, versus eating out everyday for lunch as many of our colleagues do. But, I always find it challenging to think of new, easy, healthy, and delicious lunch ideas. Pinterest has helped me a lot in the last few years. I’ve started a Pinterest page for Engineering Emily where I’ll be posting some healthy meal ideas, so be sure to follow me on Pinterest (@EngineeringEmi) if you’re interested in creative and healthy lunch recipes (and I also post engineering memes, quotes, tips and inspiration).

During our first job working together, my husband started a rule to not talk about work at home. Because we’re already spending the whole day at the same office with the same people, it is better to step away from the work life when we’re at home. For the most part we have always tried to stick to this rule. Occasionally, like when we’re making a major decision about moving to a new job, or major changes are taking place in the office, we will discuss work in the evenings at home. But after normal days we do not discuss work.

In fact, a lot of people are surprised to find I don’t know all the details of what my husband does at work. I know his job title and his major responsibilities. I know he works hard and is well-liked at the office, but all I know about his day-to-day work is what I hear about in work meetings and by watching his presentations at work. He doesn’t come home and tell me all about his latest workover on a well, but I don’t come home and tell him about my latest production forecast either.

So even though we work together we do keep our work-lives separate. We want to be viewed as individuals at work, not as a team package. We both have worked hard to be good at what we do and we want to be evaluated on our own merits rather than together. We don’t mind that our colleagues know we’re married, and I believe that being a couple has helped us find jobs because they can hire two top-notch engineers with only one relocation package. I also think, companies believe if we are both working for them we’ll be more loyal to the company and less likely to leave.

So far, we have both successfully been able to advance in our careers as individuals. We have never been held back by each other’s ambitions. In one of my first job interviews before I graduated college (with a company who I did not accept the offer), I was told if my husband and I both worked there, eventually in our careers we’d have to choose to have a leading and lagging spouse. They didn’t see an options where we could both progress to our fullest potential, they wanted one person to progress quickly, while the other person slowed their progression so they could follow the leading spouse around as they took on new roles.

The idea of leading and lagging spouses sounded so offensive to me at the time. I thought, why can’t we both progress our careers equally if we are both qualified? My husband completely agreed with me and did not like that idea either.

And although we didn’t want it, now that I’ve chosen to work part-time we have almost naturally moved into a leading and lagging spouse scenario. My husband has continued to work full-time and is steadily progressing his career. Since I have chosen to work part-time, my career is currently on a plateau. I can’t really progress until I can put in more hours and take on more projects. But I am completely ok with this for now because I am not giving up my career and my son will always come first.

Have you ever worked with your spouse? Did you fall into leading and lagging spouse roles?

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