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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

on the job. together.

I never thought I'd be the type of person who could work with my spouse. When Tim first broached the idea of me joining him in his business, the idea was intimidating. I told him I wouldn't do it.
There were lots of factors playing into the situation. One of us had to move to be near the other, and we decided together that it would be in the eventual best interest of both of us for him to not give up or displace his business (we knew we were probably getting married). That meant I had to quit my job and move to Chicago. Coincidentally, all this happened during his biggest year yet in his wedding photography business, and he needed help. All signs pointed toward me working with him, but I was resistant.
In the world of wedding photography, it's pretty common for couples to work together. But I wasn't in that world yet. It wasn't the idea of working with him that scared me, it was the idea of working for him. I loved boundaries and independence and earning my own wage and dropping it in my own bank account.  I also loved catching my own mistakes early and fixing them before anyone else saw my error. I knew I would have a lot to learn and I would be putting myself on really shaky ground by having my boyfriend be my boss and letting him teach me a new trade and give me a paycheck. It didn't sound safe. 
As we made plans for my move, I started applying for lots of jobs. Looking back, I was ultimately acting on distrust for Tim and pride in myself and fear of failure as a photographer. I wasn't getting any job offers, and Tim was patient and intent on proving himself to be trustworthy. He kept letting me know that he wanted me to be happy in whatever job I chose to do, but his offer stood open in case I wanted to work with him.
Then he asked me to marry him. There's a lot packed into that question. It's really a question of many questions, a whole book of questions, and one of them is: "will you trust me to take care of you?". Also; "will you allow me to provide for you?". And I said yes to him, so some strongholds that I needed to survive being single had to fall away. I agreed to work with him.
So, Tim works from home five days a week. This I knew. This meant that we would be together all the time. Forty plus hours per week of time together spent on work alone, not to mention free time and wedding planning time and dating-each-other time. We'd never even lived in the same city at that point. It was going to be a steep transition, and I was afraid of conflict. But we moved forward. I cried tears of loss as we drove away from Kansas City with my life packed in my car, and cheered for the joy of a new beginning when we saw the Chicago skyline. The next day, we started working together.
He handed over client communications to me first, and I mean really handed it over and let me do it all without looking over my shoulder. For a girl who majored in Interpersonal and Public Communications, and who was also planning her own wedding, I couldn't have asked for a more well-suited job than emailing with brides to put them at ease about our part of their wedding day. I loved the work, Tim had hated that part, and suddenly he had about 20 more hours per week to work on editing pictures. I could see the immediate difference I was making in improving his workflow and stress level, and I loved it.
And then he put his cameras in my hands. I didn't even know how to use them (I had plenty of experience being an amateur with my own DSLR, but none with his professional grade equipment) but the clients were only paying for Tim's services, so whatever I added to their wedding pictures was gravy and it was a low-pressure environment to learn. It was kind of like getting thrown in the deep end of the pool with a couple of arm floaties. On our way to our second wedding together, Tim told me that he would usually get that pitted feeling in his stomach right before every wedding, but with me by his side he wasn't nervous anymore. I started to realize that he wasn't measuring the support I brought to him from a purely monetary perspective like I was.
I shot twenty weddings with him that first season, all for free to the clients so I could learn all that I needed before we added my second-shooting services to his new contracts. I learned so much during that time and gained a whole new confidence in myself as a worker in a new field. I started calling myself a photographer. This didn't feel like dependence, that icky word I feared as a single person. It felt like partnership. 
We've been at this for over a year now, closing in on our second wedding season together, and we've gotten really good at being a team. I can tell when he's under pressure and I know how to help him. He can tell when I'm struggling with a new technical situation and he always has the answer. 
And we have so much fun. If I had any idea how much fun this job would be, I never would have resisted in the first place. This is a no alarm clock job. We get to attend dance parties every week, we see people at their very best and happiest (...usually). Even when it's hard, it's still fun. We work until we're so tired it's hard to make it up the stairs at night, but we like working hard and we like working a lot.
We gets lots of different reactions when we tell people we work together, and they always make us smile. We know we've got a unique dynamic going on here, but it's perfect for us and if we wanted to change it, we would. 
It takes humility and gentleness to make this work relationship work. All that we do on the job is on display to each other and that can be hard, because we can't hide our mistakes when we make them. I get grumpy when I get tired, and he gets grumpy when he gets hungry, and being tired and hungry is part of almost every wedding day, so we get stretched and have to work not to hurt each other's feelings, and then be quick to apologize when we do.
But as long we keep putting our client's and each other's needs ahead of our own, working together doesn't cost our relationship anything, it only adds to it. All the time we get to spend together--have to spend together--is a good thing. My fears of not being able to survive without copious amounts of alone time (classic introvert here) evaporated somewhere along the way of settling into our marriage and work arrangement. 
And some people still think I quit my old job and didn't pick up another "real one". And that's okay. I am a stay-at-home wife just as much as Tim is a stay-at-home husband. We're just usually doing the above all day long at our stay-at-home job.
Except when we're busy trespassing and such :)


  1. Love this. And you all. Seriously awesome. Also, can you please come over for tea soon?

  2. Bethany-reading your blog makes me smile and brings joy to my soul. I wish we would have known each other better when you lived in KC. I enjoy your life from afar.