Gainesville working couples who “Lean In” together
The tech community collectively grieved last month when Dave Goldberg, CEO of SurveyMonkey.com and, more famously, husband to Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, suddenly passed away. Sandberg is credited with starting the ‘Lean In’ movement, which uses research to shine a light on gender differences in the workplace, and offers practical advice to help women achieve their goals.
Sandberg routinely credited her husband for being a supportive partner and very much a part of her success. In fact, she encouraged men and women to Lean In Together, noting that men who were engaged in the home and family and supportive of their wives careers in fact had happier marriages/domestic partnerships. She noted that when husbands share in domestic chores, wives are less depressed, marital conflicts decrease, and satisfaction rises. The couples even tend to have more sex. The research shows that, in couples where a wife earns half the income and household chores are split 50/50, the risk of divorce is reduced by about half.
With Goldberg’s passing, we lost an opportunity to see the long-term effects of this quintessential work-life partnership, but it made me think that perhaps we have examples of husbands and wives ‘leaning in together’ right here in Gainesville?
I went out in search of couples here in town where full time working parents split household chores and child rearing 50/50.
Warren and Nickie Doria are parents to Dylan, age 6 and Delanie, age 2. They describe their relationship as 50/50 with managing their home life and child rearing. She has a demanding job as a marketing and public relations coordinator for UF Health Communications that sometimes requires long hours and travel, while he works as a member services representative for Sun State Federal Credit Union.
“We have always approached our marriage as a partnership,” she said. “He splits all of the household duties with me, and gives just as much as I do with the kids. We sort of have an unspoken understanding that we are equal in all of this. This is our crazy life, and we are in it together.”
They have made adjustments to achieve the even split they have. Warren made a job switch two years ago, leaving a lucrative 13 year career in the automotive industry. It was a career that he loved, but one that also included long hours and weekend work. He made the change to improve their family life.
“It wasn’t too bad when we were young – not married, no kids, she said. “Even married with Dylan it was OK. But, as Dylan started getting older and Delanie came along, I was struggling! I needed him.”
Nickie says that the decision for Warren to change jobs was a difficult one, but it had a positive impact on their home life and allowed them to be equal partners in the home. Even though he handles exterior things (yard, trash) and she is more likely to do interior things (mopping, cleaning), it’s a fair balance in the end.
“It’s great,” she says. “My job is high-pace, high pressure. I’m not sure how I could balance it with a quality home life if Warren weren’t as devoted and giving as he is. ”
Another local family successfully managing a true 50/50 split is in a household that includes older children. Michael and Sherry Kitchens would also describe themselves as a 50/50 couple. Michael is President of Coldwell Banker MM Parrish, a real estate company. Sherry is President and CEO of the Child Advocacy Center, a safe place for abused and neglected children. They are parents to Avery, age 15 and Tori, age 10. Both have always worked full-time, but have a lot of flexibility in their jobs.
In the beginning, they were able to use that flexibility to share early child care, and today they use it to attend the kids’ functions. And there are a lot of functions since Avery runs cross country and Tori is in gymnastics and cheer, and she plays the violin.
“If I am not there, he is there,” Sherry said. “But we both try to be there. We are both leaders in our organizations, so we have a greater understanding when things come up. Our jobs are not 8-5.”
They credit some of their success to being willing to renegotiate. For years, Michael would take the kids to school, but now Sherry does since they have learned that Michael prefers to work out in the morning. This leaves evenings free for Sherry to exercise. So, Michael is the house chef, preparing dinner for the family on most nights.
Of course, things don’t always go as planned. Sherry often gets work calls at odd hours and Michael explained that he had to take a call recently during a family Sunday dinner.
“I understand that, because I know that the next time, it could be me,” Sherry said. “I think we have a greater respect for and appreciation and understanding of each other than we would if we had a more traditional split.”
“If we were more of a traditional household we would both go nuts,” Michael said. “We went into this marriage 22 years ago knowing we would support each other and that our family and careers were both important. We’ve made some sacrifices, but we’ve made it all work.”
This is clearly a trend that is growing with each generation. Ask around, because you probably know a lot of working couples for whom a 50/50 split of child rearing and home management is a reality. Look for their smiles, because, given the research, these might be some of the happiest couples you run across around town.
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