1. Hands-on parenting meets hand-in-hand relationships
So, you’ve found the love of your life, the person you want to support through thick and thin and maybe even start a family with. Your partner even feels the same about you! Congratulations — that’s the easy part.
Welcome to the great juggling act, the main event in the three-ring circus of modern American family life. For today’s professionals, marriage and children more often than not mean keeping two hands constantly circulating between (at least) three crucial objectives: steering an ambitious career; hands-on parenting; and maintaining a loving, hand-in-hand relationship with one’s partner.
Nobody said it was going to be easy, but has it ever been harder than it is right now? Among the latest challenges: 24/7 connection to employers and clients through mobile devices, ever-expanding extracurricular obligations for today’s busy grade-schoolers, and an increasingly globalized business world that can put partners on different continents at a moment’s notice.
Consider the case of Darryl ’11 and Sandra Moreno Shazier ’12 — alumni who, like all those featured here, found love among the Bison. They met during Sandra’s first-year Orientation, in line for sno-cones at a carnival day for incoming students. When Darryl decided to propose in 2013, he brought Sandra back to campus and hired a sno-cone machine to recreate the mood of their first encounter. Needless to say, their relationship is rooted in romance, but that alone doesn’t solve the problem of balancing work and family — especially since daughter Savanna, 2, arrived on the scene.
“The biggest challenge is making time,” says Darryl, an account executive at Jopwell, a tech startup focused on diversity recruitment. “Another big challenge is disconnecting from work. We both have very demanding jobs.”
“Work is crazy — long days, many hours,” agrees Sandra, a wealth management professional at Goldman Sachs. “A lot of times we have to bring work home. But we both try to make time every day to focus on each other, our daughter, our family.”
One simple way the Shaziers have found to compromise and work together toward shared goals is to split pickup and drop-off duty for Savanna’s day care. Darryl handles drop-off in the morning so Sandra can get into work as early as possible. In the evenings, Sandra takes charge of pickup, so Darryl can stay a bit longer at work if need be.
This approach reflects the reality of family life on two highly competitive career tracks. “We’re both at places where people want to constantly improve and thrive and move up the ladder,” Sandra says. “Even in something as simple as pickup and drop-off, we have to keep finding time to move ahead in our careers, in every moment we’ve got.”
2. Doing Double Duty
Justin ’01 and Catherine Rasch Miller ’01 met at ROTC orientation camp in August 1997. Called to service and to each other, they went on to become active-duty Army officers. They legally married in 2003 but waited to throw a wedding until 2005, after both had returned safely from tours of duty in Iraq.
Now Justin and Catherine are raising three young kids while Justin serves on staff at The United States Military Academy at West Point, in upstate New York, and Catherine pursues a Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. After completing her degree, Catherine will teach at the National Intelligence University in Bethesda.
“Some things are out of our control,” Catherine says. “The military has final say on our assignments and does not have to keep the two of us assigned to the same location at the same time. We do our best to select assignments that will keep us together while also meeting the needs and requirements of the Army.”
The pair were separated frequently early in their careers. Even now, Catherine travels a few days a week to attend classes, leaving Justin in charge of the kids. It’s a difficult arrangement, but, according to Catherine, the upside is that, unlike in some marriages she has seen, both partners fully understand the value of domestic labor.
“Many women in dual-career couples continue to bear the majority of the domestic labor burden, known as ‘the second shift,’ after returning home from their work outside the home,” Catherine says. But that’s less true in the Millers’ relationship, where sacrifice and teamwork are values that have been drilled into them since their earliest days together.
“It’s important to know what your priorities are, and your spouse’s priorities. Talk about your priorities, life goals and career goals, so you can figure out how to accomplish those goals as a team.”
Catherine Rasch Miller ’01
4. On the Same Track
The family of Richard ’03 and Monique Boley Alexander ’05 bleeds Bison blue and orange. The pair met on the track-and-field team as student-athletes. Richard is now a coach for that same track-and-field team. After spells in northern New Jersey and Detroit, the pair returned to Lewisburg in 2010, not long before the birth of the older of their two children.
Like the Millers, the Alexanders find themselves in a situation where one spouse — Monique, who teaches at Slippery Rock University, more three hours away in western Pennsylvania — must commute long distance a few days per week to pursue her career. The decision for Monique to take that job, and for Richard to remain at Bucknell, was difficult, balancing career goals and the best interests of the children. But, Monique says, “If we sit back and look at our lives right now, we’re both doing things we really love.”
Monique warns that two-career, two-kid families can be stretched pretty thin when it comes to child-rearing energy. “The hardest part is keeping up physically and mentally with two kids who just want to play and be loved and need nourishment and don’t want sleep,” Monique says. “But we have mastered most of the hurdles of our schedules. It took a while. We were both very, very tired in the beginning.”
5. Mutual Supporters
“Be each other’s number-one supporter. Sometimes that means being the one who needs the support — for instance, if you’re making a career change — and sometimes it means you’re the one taking a step back from your path to support the other person.”
Kate Foy Cole ’03
6. Globetrotting Partners
Caroline Sevier ’03 and Tom Elliott ’03 met on their first day at Bucknell, in 1999, though they took their time getting married, waiting until 2011. Today, they represent a 21st-century phenomenon — the intercontinental marriage.
Caroline is vice present for strategy, defense and space for Airbus, Europe’s leading aerospace company. Her career has taken her family to postings around the world, so much so that their soon-to-be three children will have been born on three different continents — the oldest in Canada, the middle child in Korea, and a little one on the way now in Spain.
Meanwhile, Tom runs a startup, Grabien, which provides and edits sound bites and news clips for thousands of broadcasters, producers and news consumers worldwide. His work is tied to the U.S. news cycle, so he goes to sleep and wakes up on American time. The upside is that he can work from home and doesn’t have to travel much — unlike Caroline, who can be pulled away from home at the launch of a rocket.
“Scheduling trips and other time together — opportunities to reconnect — gives us something to look forward to and helps restore our real-life connection.”
Tom Elliott ’03
According to Caroline, their biggest test came when, living in Seoul, Tom worked all night and slept all day, while she was pregnant with a second child and working to keep up professionally in an extremely foreign environment. The one small advantage of their arrangement was that Tom’s schedule enabled him to take the “night shift” in caring for their first baby, allowing Caroline to keep a normal sleep schedule.
“We knew it was a finite arrangement and powered through,” Caroline says. “Tom made the largest personal and professional sacrifice.”
Tom looks on the bright side of their current arrangement. Their romantic connection at Bucknell, he says, was forged through a creative-writing class, AOL Instant Messenger and letter writing. Frequent spells apart allow them to return to a mode of connection that has always come easily to them.
“We’re constantly writing each other, and, at least for me, connecting through writing is what’s always drawn us together,” Tom says. “Scheduling trips and other time together — opportunities to reconnect — gives us something to look forward to and helps restore our real-life connection.”