Inside the Operations of a Dual Mid-Career Household


It’s after 9pm on a Wednesday, both kids are asleep, we finished our first home improvement project in the new house and we finally have time to talk…  Haha.  We, Mary and Josh, are new-ish parents of two little girls – Arabella, 2.5 years old, and Theodosia, 1 year. Both of us are MIT Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) alumni (Mary in ’12 and Josh in ’16) in the midst of careers in operations. By the time we get the girls down and prep for the next day, we kind of just want to sleep.  But while some may get over the fear of missing out in grad school, we still attempt to maximize every moment of free time we have.  Whether taking the girls camping, flipping homes, or traveling the world – we’re not very good at sitting still.

Here’s our quick summary of how we got to where we are today (with visual down below). Our first dual career decision came when Josh decided to go back to graduate school full-time, while we were both working at Caterpillar (thanks Dan ’07!).  Unable to find a suitable Boston-conducive role, Mary left Caterpillar.  When Josh graduated, Mary attempted to find roles either at the same company or in the same geographical area; we weren’t exactly successful.  Mary took a job running a distribution center at REI (a dream company for both of them, thanks Vik ’05!) and Josh figured out his next role as we moved to Seattle.  After three years of loving Seattle and starting our family, Mary was offered a VP of Ops role in California at a growing wellness company. The chance to run operations and supply chain seemed like the perfect challenge at a good time career-wise for Mary. We decided to uproot the family for a bit more sunshine.  No big deal.  To pull it off, Mary just had to commute with a baby for four months in Airbnbs in Los Angeles while Josh sorted out our multiple Seattle homes. We had no less than two nannies on retainer at any time during those four months.

When thinking about our major career decisions, we both reflect on advice Josh received from Denise Johnson while we both worked at Caterpillar. She referred to managing dual careers as being a graceful dance where the partners lead at various points.  We continue to come back to that thought, though we often dig in, wanting to resist either of us feeling like we’re taking a “backseat.” Why can’t we both win all the time?  As two engineers who love optimization, we’re learning that optimal for the family may be less than our individual optimal options (case in point – review our hiking track record post kids ☹ ).  When Josh’s most recent startup required a lot of time and effort, in and out of the office; Mary was able to do more on the kiddo front.  In the move to CA, we were cognizant that this needed to shift. Mary’s role now is the more demanding, with Josh having more flexibility in his own startup.

We’ve found that operations can be an “all hands-on deck” sort of career depending on timing.  At the REI distribution center, Mary worked more weekends and nights in one year than she did the prior decade.  When Josh ran operations for two startups, the amount of weekend work in the field and direct customer engagement meant everyday felt like Cyber Monday in a distribution center.

We’ve had some amazing childcare.  We are on our sixth nanny (including overlaps) in two years.  The idea of sick kiddos and the accompanying middle of the day emergency daycare pickup feels more daunting than sourcing the perfect nannies.  Even with this great help, our kids still come to the office. Once Arabella “helped” in the middle of budget season.  Another time Theodosia serenaded a board meeting with her tears.  Bosses who both support their driven employees and have kids of their own helps, though realizing there is often a difference between a working mom and working dad is key for bosses to understand as well (ie. what worked for you, as a dad, may not work for me, as a mom).  Also, being able to laugh at yourself while being vulnerable helps make you a better leader for your teams and your small humans, as they strive to get their own board seat one day.

We think the silver lining is that we’re bringing kids up in a different age, where dual careers are a known challenge and companies outwardly aspire to be supportive.  We talk about kids as we’re recruiting.  Mary interviewed at seven months pregnant.  If you wait for the perfect timing with kids, it’s not going to happen.  While maternity and paternity leave is hardly time off, it does give us a chance to take longer family trips. We turn down jobs because of family obligations.  We take lower pay for balance and the right role at the right time.  It’s not a sacrifice. We’re clear on our priorities: our kids’ happiness, all of our health and well-being, and our kids knowing their parents.  Arabella joined Mary as she spoke at her first Women’s conference, with Josh in the wings for childcare (and to add some diversity to the female audience at the Forte conference).  Theodosia breast fed during a supplier meeting when a backup nanny bailed.  Life happens.  

As our birth class teacher tried to teach us before baby one, we’re attempting to lower our expectations.  Josh says, “Mary, lower your expectations”; Mary replies, “Do more with less time.”  We’ll figure it out someday. We talk to others about how hard this is.  We cry.  We laugh. And then we start again the next day.

About the Authors

The Jenitos at the 2019 LGO Conference in Seattle (From left to right: Arabella, Josh, Mary, and Theodosia)

Mary (’12) and Josh (’16)  Jenito, Jensen + Anito :), are MIT LGO graduates living in sunny southern California. After LGO, both have moved on to careers in operations management, with Mary taking a corporate path at Caterpillar and REI and Josh, going the tech start-up route, running operations at Peach and Flyhomes and most most recently starting his own company, Inspectify. Outside of work, Josh and Mary love spending time with their two little girls, Arabella (2 1/2 years) and Theodosia (14 months) and their loveable Siberian Husky, Hachi, exploring the world by plane, train and car.