How to Have a Successful Career AND be Married to a Chef – Part 1

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On the blog, I spend a lot of time writing about our chefs and how their career impacts our lives and the lives of our family. I even wrote an entire ebook about supporting them. But what about us?  What about our career?  What about our dreams and desires? I know there are 2 of us in the relationship.  I haven’t forgotten about you!How to have a successful career and be married to a chef The other day, I received a comment on this post that really got me thinking.  As I read it, I began to think of everyone I have made connections with this past year and wondered if many of you were thinking the same thing this reader was. Here’s what she asked:

“Is it possible to be a working wife of chef? Someone’s got to give and I gave up my career when I moved, only to start something else that is taking off. How do you prioritize? What about your own feelings and your contributions too? I realize that the kinder and more patient I am, the more considerate he is. And when I’m a total grouch, all hell breaks loose. I know acceptance is key, and we all know managing a chef’s ego is a delicate issue. I still find it hard to accept the age old stereotype that the wife has always to be the one making sure all is in perfect order for the chef to come home to, because in all honesty – it’s pretty hard too working, running the household, and those with kids, it’s like triple shift work!”

So leaving kids out of the equation, let’s talk about that for a bit. Is it truly possible to have a successful career and be married to a chef (or dating one)? I believe it is . . . with a lot of work.  And by work what I mean is totally open communication about what you both want out of your careers. In my opinion, if both of you are working and both want to move ahead in your career, you have to be in agreement that both careers are important. Otherwise, one of you will always feel like you are giving something up. I know for us, we needed both of our jobs to pay the bills and my job also provided our medical insurance.  We were both in agreement that our jobs were both important and each sacrificed a little when we needed to.  I think there needs to be sacrifice from both the chef and spouse or significant other (easier said than done, I know) or feelings will be hurt.  If you are not both 100% supportive of each other’s career, it will never work. Having an open and honest discussion about what you both would like to see happen in your careers is going to be essential.  The more you know about the desires and dreams of your other half, the better you can support them and vice versa.  It goes both ways. The hardest part of the discussion might actually be finding the time to have it.  Never, never, never, never, never, EVER, under any circumstance, try to have a discussion with your chef about this (or anything else important) when they are exhausted (which I know is the majority of the time). If you both are putting 110% into your careers equally, make sure to include how you are going to work on your relationship and see each other with your limited time together AND who is going to take care of things around the house. It might be that you are the one doing most of the things around the house because you work less hours.  If that’s the case, I would encourage you to do so joyfully (Philippians 2:14) and be grateful you have the time to take care of those things so you can spend time together when your chef is off.  I’m not saying this is easy.  I know it’s not.  Who wants to come home and clean stinky chef coats after working a long day?  (OK, who want to clean stinky chef coats any time?  Not me!  But I did.  Otherwise my chef/husband would have had to do them on his days off and I would have missed spending that time with him.)  I struggled with this a lot early on in our marriage.  You can read about my Princess Complex over in this post and how I had to get over it or miss out on a lot of time with my chef/husband. With all that said, just make sure and talk about it and don’t just assume the other person is thinking the same thing you are!  If you don’t ever talk about who is going to clean or grocery shop, you might end up with piles of laundry, a filthy home and an empty refrigerator because you just assumed the other person would take care of it.  Communicate!  🙂 With two successful and busy careers, you’re both going to be pulled in different directions all the time.  You’re going to have to fight for your marriage and for time together.  Think outside the box when you are trying to find time together.  Take advantage of technology.  Why not spend 10 minutes video chatting on one of your breaks before your chef goes into work?  It might not be much, but it’s better than nothing!  If your marriage and careers are important to both of you, communicate well and often and you can make it work! I’m sure talking about this will not be the easiest conversation to have, but like my reader said in her comment, the kinder and more patient we are, the better things go. Just because we are married to a chef doesn’t mean we can’t have a career and excel in it. It might be more of a challenge in that we won’t have as much support at home as someone who works the same hours as their spouse or significant other, but it can be done.  (And remember to not compare yourself and your relationship to others!) Now adding kids into the equation . . . I’ll be honest, I have no idea how to do that well.  I have only worked outside the home one day a week since we’ve had kids and it was really difficult.  (Although I think working 1 day might be harder than 5 as it just totally disrupted the flow of everything.  At least with 5 days, you get into a grove and have a routine.)  I know many of you have figured it out (or are trying to.)  Feel free to send me an email if you’d like to guest post and share your experiences with others. 

So what are your thoughts?  Do you agree with me?  What am I leaving out?

(You can view this entire series here.) From one chef’s wife to another, Jennifer    

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  1. Jaime

    I’ve been waiting patiently for this topic to come up! I have scoured the Internet looking for chef wife blogs giving advice on this. My husband is a chef (executive sous) so he works ALL the time, and is exhausted when be isnt… the usual for that life. But I’m also out of the house for about 55 hours a week between my career and commute (“standard” financial industry hours as you will). And then we have two young girls on top of that (3 years and 5 months). Plus house maintenance, normal errands, etc. We get by with it all, but the responsibilities are tremendously skewed. And I’m not sure how well we really manage it all… but we don’t have another option right now so we do what we have to. But I too have to wonder, is it possible for the long term to have two working parents and kids when someone is a chef? I can’t find any written words of wisdom or advice and would love to hear that I’m not alone. Hah, maybe I am?

    • Jennifer

      I’m sure you are not alone! Unfortunately, I have no experience with this, so I can’t write about it. 🙁 Sorry!! I would LOVE for someone to guest post on the topic and will keep asking on Facebook and Twitter to see if we can get a conversation going about that topic. I’ll leave another comment below when I have something else!
      Jennifer recently posted…The Best Way to Communicate with a ChefMy Profile

      • Jennifer

        Jamie – I had two other chef wives volunteer to write about how they have a career, kids and are married to a chef. The first one is up on the blog today and the next one will be up next Monday. I hope they are encouraging to you. 🙂 The link is below.

        Jennifer recently posted…How to Have a Successful Career and be Married to a Chef – Part 2My Profile

  2. Kristen

    My situation is a little different, but I do understand how you feel, Jamie. My husband is the chef, AND we own the restaurant. I also work full time. We also have six kids between us. 🙂 On days I do not have my boys (50/50 custody) my commute is only 25 minutes, but those are also the days that I run errands, grocery shop and clean. Days I do have my boys my commute is about 2-3 hours (round trip) depending on traffic and how long it takes me to “extract” the kids from after school care. The upside is that the restaurant is only open for dinner…and only 5 nights a week. So that greatly reduces his hours, so I am really lucky in that respect, it could be a lot worse. However, just because he isn’t at the restaurant doesn’t mean he isn’t working. Emails, reservations, ordering, menu planning, staffing, etc are 24 hours, which I’m sure you guys are aware of. I am a full time graphic designer and I have a degree in marketing…so I’m sure you see where this is going. In addition to the 40 hours a week at my salaried job (which also provides our health insurance) I clock regular hours at the restaurant filling in for hosts/bartenders (I refuse to wait tables again LOL), designing and printing menus, running social media, doing the weekly email newsletter, maintaining the website. And then there’s the house. And the kids. And the laundry. I swear the only thing that helps me is because I was a single parent for several years. I got used to doing everything- although I do have a supportive and active coparent in my ex, so I did have time without the kids.But I swear those years prepared me for this. We are also very lucky to have local grandparents that are quite available to help with kids, rides, etc. I rely on friends and family for support that I used to rely on a spouse for, again which I learned during my divorced period. It IS hard. And I do get mad sometimes, and jealous when I see people out on dates, on vacations, etc. But I know that we are getting there and in the meantime, we are building something together which is pretty cool. My kids aren’t as young as yours (we have boys 13, 11, 7 and 7 and twin 5 year old girls), so that helps too. Those are TOUGH ages. I mean, they are wonderful – but demanding on you. Hang in there!

  3. Jessica I

    I haven’t always worked full time. This past holiday season, I worked my chef’s hours on the weekend and finished up my 40 hours during the week. I was laid off for a month with 2 weeks of it paid and…well, I took a look around and realized that we limped along. Just did the essential chores. Our bedroom was a mess. One week towards the end, I worked almost 60 hours! It was rough and now that I have been recalled back to the same job, I feel like I have a better idea of what I will do differently.


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