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I’m a big fan of wives and husbands supporting the careers of each other. It’s important to find ways that make sense to your specific family situation in order to support each others career development.

Below is a guest post from Emily Shill about how she is supporting her husband’s career development to become a doctor (talk about a looong educational journey). She does a lot to participate in his education and career development, so I asked her to answer some questions about how a wife can support her husband. Thanks for the great thoughts, Emily!

How can a wife support her husband’s career?

Here are three ideas:
1. Listen. My husband is a talker, so getting him to open up is easy. Early or late, half asleep, fully engaged, or distracted, I try to stop and listen. Why? It’s simple. I want him to keep talking to me. Talking is how we enter one other’s worlds.
2. Do as much for him as possible. We have both learned to take time to understand each other’s needs and create forward momentum. Understanding that the give and take in a relationship will not ever be equal in any given moment is essential; but, when we are both giving as much as we can, it all evens out and we propel each other forward. Early in his medical training, I took on more responsibilities at home to free him up for studying. He often spent his down time relieving my work load, giving me space to create and time to invest in my personal and professional pursuits. Whatever a partnership’s situation, if we both do all we can to relieve each other’s burdens, we become a stronger team as a result.
3. Make his goals, passions, and interests your own. We often have the illusion that we can’t choose our passions and interests. My dad, a small town wheat farmer, often said of my mom, a classical music loving city girl, that he learned to love going to the opera because she loved it. He always figured that if she found something to love in it, he could find it as well. The same goes for supporting our spouses in their careers. We derive power in embracing our own ability to choose. We strengthen our marriages by harnessing that power to unite in common pursuits, passions, and vision.

How does a wife successfully participate in her husband’s career?

As the wife of a medical student and now resident, uninterrupted, focused, quality time together is a luxury. I have found that we must be purposeful about our investment in each other to avoid becoming two people leading separate lives under the same roof. We have made conscious decisions along the way to regularly enter each other’s worlds.

One example of being a deliberate part of my husband’s career during medical school was simply a matter of knowing when his big tests were. It was a strength to us that I was aware of what grade he needed on every test to pass a class, and was just as anxious as he was to hear each result.

Sometimes participating in his career meant staying up late reading through practice questions together; not because I knew any of the answers, but because I knew HIM. This enabled me to help him see both his weaknesses as well as his strengths and abilities, even when he stopped seeing them in himself. Often it meant attending events together. In addition to creating opportunities for some fabulous date nights, expanding his network meant expanding mine as well. 

Whenever possible, I become involved in his causes. When he organized a national pre-med conference, I was there to speak at a break out session, serve as the official event photographer, and have a front-row seat to his success. When he began residency, I met with the program coordinator to: help organize a 2nd look weekend for the new applicants and their families, come up with ideas to improve the program’s outreach to families, and form a spouse’s support network. The more I invest in his world, the more I become a safe place for his worries, fears, successes and failures alike. We know whatever we face, we face it together. Participating in my husband’s career has been the reason I’ve said without thinking, “We went to medical school,” and “we are in residency”. It’s not because I profess to be a doctor or take credit for the degree itself, but instead because it truly has been a two-person journey.

What is your #1 recommendation for a wife to find joy in the journey of her husband’s career?

How have I learned to find joy in the journey of my husband’s career? Don’t be afraid to dream big. Finding joy in my journey has come as I have continued to invest in myself and grow personally, while sharing a joint vision for our future. For me, it started at the beginning. When I met my husband, we both had successful and respectable careers that brought us a lot of pride and satisfaction. Eight years later, we are both invested in careers and lifestyles that look very different than our pursuits of days past.  

The beauty of it for us is that as we planned our lives together, the shape of our personal dreams changed, and merged into greater and bigger dreams that we could only achieve with two of us. I loved my days working as an RN in a big-city ICU. He loved his days of business and marketing. Instead of pursuing these paths, we changed course completely. He went to medical school, and I stayed home to raise and educate our children full time. Along this path, I’ve started a photography business, published my first book, and taken on home schooling our children. Together we made it through medical school; and, together we’re raising our children, taking part in each other’s side adventures along the way, and putting our family first. 

I know the day I choose to go back and be a hospital nurse, he’ll cheer me on all the way. But the magic of it is, I don’t think I need that anymore because together, we’ve got bigger dreams in mind. Dreams that include shaping the future for our children, dreams that include taking a stand on new ways to approach medicine and education. Dreams of using both of our medical backgrounds as we take our family abroad and start international businesses together. Dreams that include publishing books together, public speaking together, and sharing our passions for the things we’ve learned together.

Medical school and residency have had their fair share of difficulties and sacrifices for both of us. There are failed tests, thousands of diapers, lonely days, weeks and months, arguments and misunderstandings, extreme fatigue, days when routines feel mundane and life feels less than magical, and learning to hold each other up when energy wanes and there is little left to give. But the joy comes in realizing that each of these little things, good and bad, are the building blocks that make up the beauty of your life together.

Joy in the journey is not being afraid of the adventure. Joy in the journey is choosing the adventure. Joy in the journey is reminding each other of the vision when days are long and pressures are high. Joy in the journey is never settling for mediocrity and pushing each other to greatness. Joy in the journey is overcoming enormous obstacles together, and growing stronger for it. Joy in the journey is most joyful when you have someone to journey with.


About the guest blogger:

Otto and Emily Shill

Emily Shill is a Registered Nurse that spent four years of her career in an Intensive Care Unit both as a bedside nurse and a charge nurse. As part of her role, she led a committee that involved ICU managers, pharmacists and physicians throughout the hospital system in the Salt Lake Valley to improve patient safety. She married her husband Otto in 2010, and has kept her nursing license active, while temporarily changing her focus to raising and educating their three children. She also does photography, education research, writing, and speaking on the side.  You can follow her work in photography at, and her work in education at Otto and Emily currently reside in Des Moines, IA, where Otto is completing his Residency as an Internal Medicine Physician.