Interview: Dinah Nicholson

Ladies, meet Dinah Nicholson. Those of you wondering if it’s possible to raise children while you and your husband are working full time will want to pay close attention to this interview. Dinah and Steve raised three children together while they both had full time jobs. Last week, she was kind enough to spend some time chatting with us and share some wisdom on how to make a dual career marriage work.


4word: Tell us a bit about yourself. How do you know Diane?

Dinah: We’re both Oregon State University grads, and both of us served as trustees of the OSU Foundation at one point. It was one of the foundation members, Aaron, who brought us together. I commented to him one day about how I wanted to write a book, and he said, “Oh, you need to meet Diane Paddison.”

So I did, and it turned out we had a lot in common. We have similar backgrounds – I grew up on a dairy farm and Diane grew up on a fruit farm – and we were both home economics majors at OSU. We did end up in different fields, though; I became a certified financial planner, and Diane went into commercial real estate.

4word: And you have another thing in common: you both made the “dual-career family” work! Did you and Steve always intend to be a dual-career family?

Dinah: We decided early on that it would be fun to come home every day and each have a different story to tell. And, this is funny to say now that we’ve been married nearly 30 years, but I think we were a bit concerned about becoming boring to the other person! We each wanted to have our own identity.

We had our first baby after we’d been married only 14 months, and we had three kids within three and a half years. There was definitely a temptation to ask if one of us should stay home, but we decided not to.

4word: How did you juggle raising three children while both of you were working?

Dinah: We formed some very important habits early on. Every night at bedtime, we would each spend 20 minutes alone with each child. All in all, it took about 90 minutes to get everyone to bed each night, but it was worth it.

I would tell any working parent to do that. It’s about the quality of the time, not the quantity. Plus, sometimes your kids tell you things in private that they would never tell you in any other situation.

Another thing we did was to take each kid on a fun mother-daughter and father-daughter outing once a year. We’d usually go somewhere simple, like to get ice cream. Our kids never cared about the activity; they just wanted to spend time with mom or dad.

4word: That’s great advice! And what about you and Steve’s relationship? How did you take care of your marriage while you were working full-time and raising your kids?

Dinah: Most importantly, God and our church have always been the centerpiece of our marriage. We have worshipped at Sunset Presbyterian Church since 1990, and we host our care group every month at our home.

Also, we learned fairly early on that nothing productive happens at the office after 3 pm on a Friday. So, every week, we would meet at 4 pm at a happy hour near the kids’ day care for about an hour and a half. During that time, we would share our week – the good, bad and frustrating – and plan for the weekend.

We learned the necessity of planning the hard way after a number of weekends where we were all mad at each other by the time Sunday came around. After that, we started using those Friday afternoon dates to plan something fun to do with the kids that weekend. And those weekend activities are some of the best memories that our kids have.

Steve and I would also go once a year to a marriage retreat or to hear an inspirational speaker together. We also sit down together once a year and write down our goals for that year in five different areas: career, financial, health, personal/family and spiritual.

When the kids were little, we’d go to a restaurant to do this so that we’d really have the time to think, talk and pray over our yearly goals. Now that the kids are grown up, we don’t have to go to a restaurant any more, but we still sit down once a year and share our goals with each other.