Q It Up: Balancing the Home Life With the Work Life

Q-It-Up-Logo-sep95Q It Up: This Q It Up question is in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. Production people tend to put in a LOT of hours at work, and in many cases, these long hours continue at home in the home studio. How does your significant other handle this? How do you balance the home life with work?

Mike Wilcox [mikew[at]triplej.abc.net.au], Triple J FM, Sydney, Australia: I sent your email through to “my other half” to get a first hand written response, but upon reading her reply, I’d like to offer MY translation of her comments!

She said: I wish he came home earlier than he does. (Translation: I wish he’d pull his weight around the house and do some chores after work.)

She also said: Then again, if there’s work to be done, he should stay until he’s finished at the office, no matter what time it is. (Translation: There’s nothing better than having the house to myself for a few hours after work each night.)

Go figure! :-)

Michael McGurk [mmcgurk[at]earthlink.net], KRTY/KARA/KLIV, MAJK Creative and Production: I’m lucky enough to have a wife who understands that my home studio is probably our future. With all of the consolidation going on, there are fewer and fewer station jobs available. We both work for the last privately owned and operated facility in San Jose. We suspect, since the other stations in town seem to be well staffed production-wise, that when this job comes to an end, which we hope is not soon, that free-lancing from home will be our best bet. We’ve already built a small but stable list of clients. But with our full-time jobs, we have not been able to expand that core at this time. I also am lucky enough to have a big enough yard that I was able to build a stand-alone studio outside the confines of our home. That way I can work in relative quiet. I’ve also found that the very short walk from home to the studio can have the effect of separating the two demands...that of home and work. I try not to carry home into the studio and vice versa.

The only reason this set-up works out is my wife. She understands that my free-lancing extra work today may be our meal ticket tomorrow. She has never questioned an equipment purchase I’ve made and has never said, “are you going out there again?” Did I mention she’s up for sainthood this year? Our home studio is not just a hobby, and I think that makes a world of difference. We share the vision.

Donnie Marion [dmarion[at]104krbe.com], 104 KRBE/Houston: The work/family balance hasn’t been too bad over the last few years. The more listeners you have, the more dubs you get, the less time you spend slaving in front of a computer screen trying to make a commercial. With the advances in technology in recent years, now we don’t even have to spend time threading a reel onto a tape machine, so that has sped things up for me, that and having competent and reliable dubbers.

But back in the old days (when we had a 3 share) more of the commercials were direct, which meant I wound up producing them. My wife and children still needed to see me as much as I needed to see them. I’d make 2 or even 3 trips a day from home to work, so I could see the family and get the job done. I stayed up late and got up early.

From the office end, having some policies and guidelines for production also helps manage the load when time is short and the “to do” stack is tall: Copy (dub) has to be in at a certain time to air the next day. We have a 24-hour window for producing spots. If we write the spot, 48 hours for copywriting, then 24 hours for production after the client approves copy.

There are other guidelines, but these are the major ones that help me get home before the kids have to go to bed. But with three daughters, maybe once they get to dating age, I might be a 2nd shift type Production Director. That way when the girls say goodnight to their dates, there will always be the thought of Dad driving up the driveway. That should keep things pretty short.

Craig Jackman [creative[at]chez106.com], Rogers Radio, Ottawa, Canada: I asked my spouse to answer this question. She said, “In general, I compensate for the extra hours by making my one-on-one time with our daughter extra special. That way, the time goes by faster and much more pleasantly.” That however didn’t really cover it, as a lot of the extra hours seem focused on holiday time. She then added, “A spouse needs to realize that the producer’s motivation for the holiday in question will be muted as they’ve been dealing with it daily for anywhere from one month ahead. Patience is the key, and also it’s knowing that there’s no way he’s going to forget the holiday!”

It’s all to easy for me to fall into working 12 hours a day 7 days a week. I could do it in a heartbeat. However, if I did that, I wouldn’t wind up being very good at it as I’d be resenting it constantly. Balance is a good word, in that if you are only focused on one thing you’ll be a pretty boring individual. You grow as a person in many ways when you have many interests. You have to decide what’s really important to you and make time for other things, and family is just the most important of the other things. When the occasion arises that you have to take time away from the family, you then have to pay back that time debt, if not in matching time, then in the famed “quality time.” It means maybe telling the PD or Sales Rep “NO!” on occasion, or taking the kids so your spouse can get a break, too. It may even mean setting up a VCR and snacks in the voice booth so you can take care of the kids and get that important promo finished at the same time... and that’s happened more than once.

Dennis McAtee [denmac[at]gorilla.net]: I’ve usually worked fifty to sixty hours per week, sometimes more, in the fourteen years that I’ve been married. How has it affected our marriage? By the time the February RAP comes out, we’ll be parents...for the sixth time!

Richard Stroobant [bigdick[at]cjay 92.com]: Balance. It’s not just for gymnasts. Everyone, even producers, needs to have balance in his or her life. And to achieve balance, you need to ask yourself one question, Do I live to work, or do I work to live?

If you get up at 6am and spark up ProTools or SAW and squeeze in a couple hours before you head to the office, then work from 8:30am until...whenever, working feverishly while you cram a sandwich in your mouth ‘cause you can’t drag yourself away for lunch, then head home long after the sun has gone down and go directly back to the home studio just so you can “put the last few finishing touches on that spot,” then after your eyes are ready to bug out from looking at the monitor for so long you crawl up the stairs and get into bed at 1am, still not happy with the mix yet…if this is your life, well, excuse me for saying this, but maybe you should “GET A FREAKIN’ LIFE, PAL!!!!”

Come on guys (and gals), THIS IS ONLY RADIO, for crying out loud. You’re not finding a cure for cancer here. Sure, it’s nice to love what you do. But, HELLO! If the last time you went anywhere with your kid was when your wife called you (while you were busy mixing in your home studio) to pick her and your brand new child up at the hospital, perhaps you might have a problem. And no, there is not a fine line between loving something and being obsessed with something.

If you never do anything but sit in front of a board and computer all day and all night, how do you expect to experience “life,” and in turn, get a perspective on what the people you are targeting your spots to, do in the outside world. I am not a union flag waver. I love (not obsessed with) what I do. But I have been a producer for 15 years, and I have left the office everyday at 5pm-ish. (OK, maybe not EVERYDAY. You have to stay later once in a while, and yes even on the occasional weekend you need to come in. When I am asked to “go to the wall,” I will. But that is the exception and not the rule.) I will NEVER have a home studio (unless, with technology moving as fast as it is, we work FROM our homes and do our production there instead. And even then, I promised myself, if that ever happens, the studio is closed from 5pm until 8am weekdays, and closed on weekends. After all I’m not a convenience store.)

But who am I kidding? You’re probably too busy working on that final mix to read this article anyway.

All hate mail can be sent to Richard at bigdick[at]cjay92.com. But don’t expect him to answer right away; he’s out walking his dogs, or at a movie, or watching TV, or playing catch with his kid.

Todd Richmond [ToddWMPI[at]aol .com], WMPI-FM, Scottsburg, IN: Fortunately, my wife is a very patient, understanding person. She never gets mad or upset about the amount of time I spend at work. I, on the other hand...

Actually, she does understand, after almost seven years of putting up with it, that I never do get home before she does. A lot of that has to do with the fact that I work the afternoon air shift here and that goes until 7 PM. I don’t usually start on my production until after my air shift, so I usually stay until at least 8 PM. Then, of course, I told her that part of my job duties included research at the local casino boats until around 1 AM...

RMR Media Works [production[at] rmrmedia.com]: Great question! First of all, being in the broadcast industry, you’re already married...to your job! Now, throw in a great spouse, and you have all the elements to be very happy or unemployed and out of radio.

I’ve found communication and planning is the key. Remember, “your” poor planning is not your spouse’s last minute headache.

Get a system. Know your promotions in advance and plan accordingly. If you wait to get the promotion started 2 days before it airs...your in the doghouse.

Make your spouse part of what you do on a daily basis. Dinner’s a great place to talk. Explain in great detail what the heck you're doing and here’s how you can help sweetie. Just don’t tell her the night before.

I watch the kids Wednesday nights. The wife goes out with girls and gets a break. My night is Monday. I work late, but I check in with her to let her know what’s up.

If you make her feel like radio (just as important), she’ll help see your plan through. Behind every great announcer there’s a great woman!

Jim Kipping [jkipping[at]texas.net], LBJS Radio Austin, Voice Over Austin/Powerhaus Productions: Wonderful question! First off, being in radio since the age of 14, I have learned one thing. Most of us are NOT in it for the money. And when you look at the rate of turnover in radio, it’s no wonder that each of us doesn’t have a U-Haul (or Ryder, which I prefer) truck as part of our personal fleet of automobiles. I moved more in radio than being a military brat growing up way back when!!! Nuf said! No more. Since diving into the production end of radio back in the late early 90’s, I have found that I do spend quite a few hours at what I do. And yes, couple that with an extensive home studio, and I have to force myself to stop working and do something else. A hobby? What’s that? (You will be happy to know I am starting my first batch of home brew, and the first batch of Vino, goes in tomorrow!!!)

But to your question, it’s all about perspective. My wife Peggy and I have been married now for over 13 years. During that time, I have drug her around so often that every 3 years she’s ready to pack, wrap and go! Since being in Austin from 1992, we have found our place to call home for good. She has supported every move we have made together. She has had to make changes in her schooling locales over the years. Has it been tough? Sure! We do not have kids, and that makes it easier. I can imagine that this industry would be pretty tough if you do. But to make up for the lost time, we always plan a big trip each year, usually to Europe. In fact, a 2 week trip to a place I spent growing up, Italy, is on tap for March 1. We take a few little trips around the US other times of the year when we can. Plus, I sometimes tag along with Peg when she goes to her conferences too.

Peggy is a Speech Pathologist by trade. She spent many years in school, then practicum, then more tortuous tasks to become licensed to practice in her field. Plus, there is the continuing ed. work she has to do to continue to keep her license. Then there’s her endless volunteering to her local and state organizations. So............ she really doesn’t get mad at me because of my work--seeing how I make more on the SIDE than she does in her full time gig. DDOoooooooggggghhhhhh!!!!

Seriously though, being best friends doesn’t hurt either. Peggy also helps me out with a needed voice here and there as well. It’s all good. A toast! To all the radio production widows!! Prost! Salute’! Make it work!! Be funny! It’s your job!

John Milford [jmilford[at]prodgod .com]: Since I started supplementing my meager radio income with side work very early in my career, a home studio was an inevitability. Considering the long hours put in at the station(s) and the additional hours with outside production, I would’ve never seen my family without the home studio. What started as just a corner in one room, became part of the plan when buying homes, and eventually I produced most station production from my studio until I didn’t the see the point in driving to work everyday.

I’m writing this at 4am, after which I’ll get several hours of work done before my family awakens. I always try to get a jump on my workday in order to spend some semblance of quality time with my family. Although I’ve considered moving to office space, I know that I could never properly balance home life with work without the home studio. Let’s face it; production is not an 8-5 job. Sometimes it’s early mornings; sometimes it’s late nights. Home studios allow you flexibility that you can never get from “working for the man.” Not to mention, you never have to kick someone out or get kicked out, and your custom settings are never tampered with. Besides, I equate working from your home studio like using your home bathroom; sure, you’ll use other facilities, but they’re never quite as comfortable, are they?!! Although my wife has always been supportive of the home studio, she was a little apprehensive when I decided to leave radio to chase this dream full-time from home. Now, several years later, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

Kat Morgan Gaines [studiokat[at]earthlink.net], WWL/WSMB/WTKL, New Orleans: Well, here’s one from the female perspective. Long hours, last-minute change in plans because of some late-arriving order or overlong studio session, calls at home, pages, maybe even an hour or two daily commute—you just get tired of it sometimes. I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic and a perfectionist. It was difficult learning to slow down and shift priorities. I’ve been in radio for 17 years; only the past three have been spent with my husband. Fortunately, his background in video production helps him relate somewhat. He’s very understanding and supportive, and that’s made a world of difference. He’ll offer critiques and suggestions, listen to copy ideas, and encourage me in whatever way possible. (Yes, that includes being suckered in for the occasional extra voice!)

Even still, vacations, weekends, and time away in haven become all the more important. We try to get together for lunch whenever we can. Short emails and voicemail is great for quick little reminders and keeping in touch. With all the weird stuff that happens in this business, he’s my reality link and keeps me grounded. The balancing act’s not always easy; there are still the occasional lapses into old habits. Sometimes I have to stop and ask, “Will the world really end if this doesn’t get finished tonight?” 99.9% of the time, the answer is no. I think the more time you make for your spouse/significant other, the more patient and understanding they become when you DO have to spend time on that other .1%.

For now, it’s just the two of us plus a wonderful extended family. I couldn’t begin to imagine keeping up this pace as a mother with young children. Anyone with kids has my utmost respect, and that could be an entire topic in itself. Great resource material, to be sure!

Stations and studios and owners and jobs will come and go. (Consolidation, anyone?) Ultimately, it’s the relationships that make you stronger, enrich your life, and give you more perspective. Being surrounded by people you love, and who love you in return, makes all the work worthwhile.

Adam Garey [gareyport[at]hotmail.com], KMET-AM: I am not married, yet just the time that I spend in whatever radio related capacity just goes beyond a normal explanation. I have spent long hours, without even the thought of calling anyone of my whereabouts! We get so caught up that time really does fly. I admit I do get carried away and forget that time has gotten away from me. And as for the Understanding Factor: it is seldom there when the relationship has radio not in common. So, my friends, I bid you a Happy Valentine’s Day celebration and a tip: Tell your significant other about your OTHER passion before you forget. He/She will be grateful when you get home seven hours late! If you need to record some great sound effects, say nothing. The yelling and/or screaming may follow. However, I recommend that you consider my advice.

Johnny George [jg[at]johnnygeorge.com], Susquehanna Indianapolis: Don’t know which came first...the chicken or the egg?

Since I do so much work at home with my studio, outside VO work and bookkeeping, my wife brings some of her work home also to keep her occupied and works on outside projects for the medical packaging company she works for. And my son ends up in his room working on his homework. Guess you could say we all go to our respective corners and work independently.

We do however, spend dinner together each night. And my son is on the “honor roll,” so we’re doing something right.

Now, about these poor single guys that have no lives and spend every waking hour in the studio...

Don Elliot [voiceovers[at]earthlink.net]: The answer in my case is pretty subjective; I involve her. My wife writes the majority of the material I have ever won any awards for. And she’s a walking history-book of the music business, even Country! (She worked at R&R a long time.) I’ll get the concept idea and punch line, and she’ll reverse-engineer the back story. In other words, I do the “I was talking to the duck,” and she’ll then manufacture the thing starting from “A man walked into a bar...," etc. and everything in between.

In return, I’ll help on whatever I can in her field of Copyright Law, or cook, or take her out to dinner, movie, etc., at least once a week. A standing date always works, and PUT IT IN YOUR SCHEDULE right along with the clients’ recording or work times so you have to honor it!

I’ll try for a backrub while she’s studying and request the same for me when I’m editing. It adds togetherness. There are times, of course, where I just have to be “in the cave,” like after a Friday in sweeps. You need to either go for a walk by yourself, have a beer with the guys, or just plain stare at a spot on the wall for a couple hours. That can bring the “you” back together so you’re better for her, as well as yourself. Keep pads all over the house for ideas, so that when you get that inspiration, you can free your mind and get it down safely. Great ideas are often fleeting. Wracking your brain to retain lists or trying to remember things can drive you and your mate nuts. So, WRITE IT DOWN!

And no matter what your personal situation, learn to work smarter and more efficiently. Learn faster ways of doing things on the computer. Strive to hammer the case home on deadlines! Hone your skills—personal and professional! Even at home, there’s no case like hone!

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