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Couples reveal secrets to balancing work, family

"Like a sailboat, the balance responds to the slightest gust of wind or the biggest wave," she said.

Sponsored by Lehigh University’s Women in Business Club, the panel consisted of three dual-career couples who shared their thoughts on how to balance work and non-work activities while maintaining challenging and successful careers. The presentation was well attended by Lehigh students, faculty and staff.

The couples, whose careers ranged from the non-profit arena to Wall Street, noted that college life and work life were extremely different, and the change initially placed a strain on their relationships.

"While at Lehigh, I was able to balance studying and having a good time, but my career dominated my post-Lehigh life," said Jennifer Malatesta, ’94, who participated on the panel with her husband E.J. Johnson. Malatesta currently works for BearingPoint, Inc. (formerly KPMG Consulting, Inc.), and serves on Lehigh’s Business Advisory Council. "For about four years after college, I missed birthdays, dinners, and family events."

The Three P’s and Three C’s

For John and Maria Chrin, who met while at Lehigh and graduated in 1986, the birth of their first child while they attended Columbia Business School proved to be an additional challenge to keeping the balance. The couple said prioritizing was the key to maintaining successful careers and personal lives.

The Chrins, who work at JP Morgan and Goldman & Sachs, respectively, rely on "the Three P’s and the Three C’s" in order to achieve success as parents, community members, and business professionals: preparation, planning and prioritizing, and choices, compromises and communication.

"At the end of the day, you can’t do everything," John Chrin said. "Being a supportive spouse means making personal sacrifices, and placing family as a critical priority."

Maria Chrin added that preserving balance means maintaining control and keeping an eye on the big picture.

"Avoid being myopic," she said. "Ask yourself what’s important to you, and what’s going to make you happy. Ask yourself 10 or 20 years down the road, what’s going to keep you happy?"

Grounded in community service

Moderator Farrington, director of staff and resource development for Library and Technology Services, pointed out that all three couples were active in their communities.

"Including community service as part of our path makes it easier to stay balanced," said Peter Carpino, president of the Lehigh Valley United Way. "The contrast between the corporate boardroom and ‘the street’ keeps me grounded."

The couples also noted the benefits of being active in the community for their families.

"Involvement in the community models for our children the behaviors we want them to aspire to," said Carpino, who attended the event with his wife, Mel.

All panelists agreed that time management is essential in balancing careers and personal lives. Luckily, today’s employers are recognizing the importance of family to their employees. More and more companies offer flex-time and other opportunities for employees to have more freedom in their schedules.

Despite these improvements in the professional world, dual-career couples must come up with creative ways to deal with the demands of life. Some of the panelists outsourced help with tasks like cleaning, taxes, and child-care. All of the couples agreed that exercise was central to their routines, keeping them sane and healthy.

--Sarah Piperato
smp6@lehigh.edu

Posted on Tuesday, August 26, 2003

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