Several days ago my wife and I attended a celebration. It was an exceptional affair for a former work colleague of my wife. It was her 65th birthday and her 45th year working at Mayo Clinic.

Sandy Severson invited a whole bunch of people. Attending were members of her family, friends, classmates from Wykoff High School, members of her Redeemer Lutheran Church family and work colleagues. A delicious buffet dinner was served and we danced to the music of The Reunion Band. It was a party.

I did not know Sandy, but before dinner was served I listened to her reflect about her life in a way that was meaningful and inspirational. Sandy wanted to celebrate this transition in her life with the many people she loved.

Baby boomers are at a time and a place in our lives where we enjoy celebrating. Occasionally we also look back and wonder how the heck did we do it all -- dual careers, marriage, family, life, and for the most part we kept it together.

Two careers, single purpose

Several days ago I read an article by Jennifer Patriglieri. Jennifer is an Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the European graduate school INSEAD. She is the author of "Couples that Work," a new book on how dual-career couples can thrive in love and in work.

Jennifer’s recent column in the Wall Street Journal was about this topic of dual-working couples. Very early in her relationship with the man who is now her husband, she wrote that one day they “Stopped at a small harbor, clambered down to some quiet rocks and opened a bottle of wine.” During that moment ... they ... drew up a contract.

What? Certainly that was not what I expected. This was in 2005. Professor Patriglieri said it was more romantic than it sounded. Not a legal contract, but a psychological one of sorts. They each made a number of statements, like “What I want is...” or “What scares me is...” That was an extraordinary step to take early in a relationship. Jennifer and Gianpiero were married 18 months later.

Jennifer’s column pointed out that dual-working couples will face major transitions in life. Each time, they need to revisit how their relationships and careers fit together. She made points in her story including that she and her husband agreed that their relationship would come before everything and they would invest in each other’s dreams.

Communication is the key

When my wife and I graduated from college in 1975 and were married in September 1975 we were absolutely ecstatic. I don’t think we had dreams, per say. We both had jobs, were out in the world together, making our own money and our own decisions. We were living our dream at that moment.

The key to life transitions in my book is communication. Our focus was our family. We always talked things out while also considering the future. When our daughter and son were born, my wife moved into part-time work as a nurse.

Opportunities came for me to transfer for promotions, but after discussions we felt those moves were not right for our family. Money did not drive decisions. Every dual-working couple will indeed face transition moments in their lives.

Back to Sandy’s party. She was hired by Mayo Clinic when she was 19 years old with a two-year nursing degree from Rochester Community College. Always learning and up to challenges, Sandy went back to college and received her four-year Bachelor of Science Nursing degree from Augsburg College in 2014. She feels blessed in her life and reflected on the many opportunities she has had with Mayo and the love of her work in research.

Even though Sandy has worked an extraordinary 45 years, she still has a passion for what she does and will continue working part-time. Sandy and her husband, Terry, have always had dual full-time careers. They have worked issues out and supported each other in various ways in their 23 years of marriage. All of this is worth celebrating.

Also at Sandy’s party was the pastor who married them. Faith has been an important part of their life together.

Times have changed. Contracts may be more of a norm in our society today, but for many boomers our vows were our contract. The more transitions we went through and the longer we stayed together, the more that our contract became set in stone -- “Till death do us part.”

Loren Else lives in Rochester and also writes the Post Bulletin’s Day in History column. Send comments and column ideas to Loren at news@postbulletin.com.

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