Sharing Working From Home Values

iHubbub has been looking at .... what makes or breaks couples working together.

We have found some excellent advice in many areas from how to stay positive and productive right up to a meaty list of success factors for ensuring a productive and vital working living relationship when starting up or running a joint home based business.

If you work with your partner running your own business you must read our Home Business Couples feature!

Then we found a Dad who was happy to share his experiences of working with his partner. Matt Buttery, who is CEO of the Family Matters Institute works alongisde Sarah Fletcher, an independent social worker and co-founder of Walking Tall. 

Read Matt and Sarah's story ...

 

We have found some excellent advice in many areas from how to stay positive and productive right up to a meaty list of success factors for ensuring a productive and vital working living relationship when starting up or running a joint home based business.

Sarah and I live, sleep, eat, raise a family, foster and work together.  At work we develop and deliver training to early years, parenting, education and social care professionals. 

We also both run separate charities; mine is responsible for the largest online community of Dad's in the UK.

Sarah is a co-director of 'Walking Tall', developing a new model for working alongside young people who have experienced sexual harm.  We have 4 + kids, where the '+' changes depending on foster children. 

So, you don't need to be a genius to see our life is busy.  It's also emotionally challenging by the very nature of the type of work, the stories we hold and the nearness of trauma recovery in work and in our home.  

What Makes Us? 

1.    Shared Values

We both come from northern working class families that had 'made good' moving south and successfully climbed professional ladders. We felt that we shared history and that isn’t always the case for those we love but it did give us things we hold very dear from our roots.

We share values such as the centrality of family, importance of community, social justice, independence, faith, work ethic, strong women, kind men, they were woven into each of us in our families. Those have had to be examined, adjusted and moulded as we have created our own family. We met on a project working with people that were homeless and shared the comedy and tragedy of life from the very start.

The first time that Sarah met my Mum, an uptight resident of the shelter was choking me and Sarah hadn’t noticed!!  Picking a partner that shared values and was committed to living a values-driven life has been key to ‘making’ us and getting through life’s ups and downs and the decisions that crowd in. We took time to explore values, before we got together and even did a ‘marriage preparation’ course which was hugely helpful in flushing out our differences and areas that could break us so early on.

We learnt quickly that life moves in seasons and we change a little along the way, so those values also have to be able to flex and grow and not to be nonnegotiable in their sharedness.

2.    Time

By this I mean: Time-for-us and time-for-ourselves. As many couples do, we hit a crossroads, some years ago where things got badly out of balance.  A friend recommended a coaching ‘Life Review’ so we took a weekend out with a coaching couple, which helped us see that sustaining a fast-paced shared life could only be successful if we carved out time for us as a couple and us each as individuals. 

We had to change our lifestyle – taking a morning a week off work together to give us space to walk, talk and even make love.  At that stage with a houseful of children and teenagers, getting our own space was at a particular premium! 

We also began to book a weekend away together each year – it’s ranged from Florence to a tent in Sussex; the venue isn’t that relevant, its just a way to be us without labels. Time for ourselves as individuals has also been an important part of life, and understanding that it’s not real to be everything for one another.

We’re very different in the way we do this, I mostly potter around bookshops and cities like Cambridge or Oxford – Sarah prefers to share that time with her closest friends.  Making and protecting time like this has not always been easy, but again we would say its one of the things that ‘makes’ our relationship.

 

3.    Flexible Commitment To Family Life 

The final piece for us has been a shared commitment to investing in family.  We are both in senior roles, with ‘buck-stops-here’ responsibility for people and the work itself.  We have always fought hard though to be each other’s biggest supporter and both make sacrifices and adjustments to ensure that family has come first.

Sarah didn’t do her degree when she was younger so that she could work and pay for our life, which meant studying in the small hours after the children were born. When the kids were smaller I was offered several jobs along the way that would have involved long commutes, but opted for lower paid ones more locally.

We had decided at the start that we were not willing to move our children geographically for job reasons, so that has had an impact on both of our job options. As a father, being around in the mornings and for family teatime have been key priorities, so as to have meaningful relationships with all the children.

During “settling in” periods for new children, or if our kids are having hard times, we alter our patterns and we spend more time working from home or working evenings to enable stable bonding to build. I also try to share my work with the children if there are projects that we can discuss.

So, to achieve this flexing approach there have been various seasons of life where one or the other has laid down career opportunities to allow the other to grow and shine and where the children have agreed to be a bit more tolerant of us being more absent.  

What Breaks Us? 

Well, largely the reverse of the above. The risks of jealousy, competition, taking one another for granted, anchoring each other instead of letting each other fly. It has been a fight at times, and there have been moments we’ve considered getting a ‘work-divorce’ and times where each of us have guiltily wished that we had chosen a partner who was fulfilled by working in the home full time!

It is likely that our paths may diversify in the future in work, but with both us working in a related areas its always likely to have some overlap, and regardless I suspect the above three areas will still play a key role.

You may want to read some books on relationships.

Matt Buttery has been CEO of the Family Matters Institute (www.familymatters.org.uk) since 2006, transforming its size and establishing a reputation at national level, particularly in the areas of fatherhood, practitioner training, research & sharing evidence-based practice.  Matt co-founded DadTalk.co.uk in 2008, which FMI merged in 2012 with dad.info to create the largest online father-focused web-service in the UK, with DAD.info providing information, advice & intensive support to over 560,000 fathers in 2012.  

Sarah Fletcher is an independent social worker who has worked with families and children in a wide range of contexts.  She is a senior trainer for Family Matters Institute, writing and delivering on a range of programmes.  Sarah is also the cofounder of Walking Tall, a not-for-profit organisation that works alongside young people who have experienced sexual harm.  She is also involved in chairing local authority foster panels.
Matt and Sarah have four children and foster for their local authority.