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Balancing act: Don't forget to work on in-house balance, too

With one or both spouses in your family holding down full- or part-time jobs, you\'re always on the run.
With one or both spouses in your family holding down full- or part-time jobs, you\'re always on the run.

It was well after regular business hours, and my partner and I had barely spoken since the night before. It had been another extremely busy day.

However, we really needed to discuss a few things, so we carved out some time to sit down together and plan upcoming events.

The next day's calendar was full: both of us were booked with meetings and activities. We needed to work out some logistics.

After the regular give and take, we figured out how we could cover everything. Then we took just a couple of minutes to talk about long-term strategy for our enterprise.

Feeling exhausted, but satisfied that we had dealt with the most pressing concerns of the day, I gave my partner a kiss and trudged off to bed.

Such late-night meetings are fairly routine for "Kratz Family Partners," the organization my wife and I apparently founded when we were married in 1991.

During the last 21 years, we've added four "employees" who act like children most of the time. Probably because they are.

And we've learned that running our family "company" can be resource- and time-consuming to the point that it sometimes feels like we really are just partners trying to run a small business.

That worries both of us, but I think it's fairly common these days.

Can any of you relate to this? With one or both spouses holding down full- or part-time jobs, you're always on the run. Add in children to shuttle to and from school and various extracurricular activities, and the "partners" running your family business may feel like two ships passing in the night.

When you do have time to talk, you're so consumed with figuring out who is going to take which child to what activity that you don't work on building your own relationship.

I admit that my wife and I have had days (sometimes weeks!) like this during our decades of marriage, and it's easy to tell when we've moved too far in that wrong direction. During those times, we seem to be alone together only briefly each day, usually late at night when both of us are tired and barely have enough energy to plan for the next day. We feel like we have too much going on to make time for a date night. And, as a result, we start to lose touch with each other.

The good news is, since we're aware that this can happen, we've been taking steps to make sure it doesn't. Here are a few things we're trying that might work for others.

Enhance the nightly "business meeting." We still get together for a few minutes at the end of each day to go over the next day's calendar and discuss any burning family issues. But we also use that time to read together and talk about things that aren't related to running "Kratz Family Partners." I freely admit that we do better at this on some nights than on others, but at least we're trying, and I feel like we're seeing the benefits.

Look for opportunities for "mini-dates." Now that our two oldest daughters can babysit the younger children, my wife and I take advantage of chances to get away together, even if it's only for a few minutes. This might mean driving to the store to pick up a gallon of milk or running a couple of errands. Despite the short time we have together, we've found this to be a good chance to chat about what's going on in our individual lives and our life as a couple.

Make "date night" a higher priority. We've failed at this for the last month or so, thanks to an end-of-summer vacation and the start of an insanely busy school year. But we generally try to go out together, either alone or with another couple, at least every other week. It's almost impossible to avoid talking about family stuff if we're out to dinner, but we try to make a point of discussing "us," too.

Listen, listen, listen. I need to do a better job of this, but the key to making any of these plans work is to focus on your spouse when you are able to steal a few moments together. If you start getting distracted and drawn into a discussion of family issues that you can talk about during the "business meeting," make an agreement to call yourselves on it and get back on track. Remember, this is important!

This is all commonsense advice, I know, but sometimes it's helpful for me to hear someone else express what I already should know. And I'm finding that, just as it's important to find balance between my life at work and at home, I also need balance in that home life in order for me and my family to be happy.

I'm sure some of you have even better tips or ideas to help avoid this kind of unbalanced home life. If so, please let me know, and I'll share your thoughts in a future column.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go chat with my wife. The children are all reading or playing a game, so it's the perfect time for a mini-date!

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