Editor's note: Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican, represents the 3rd District of Utah in Congress and is appearing in CNN.com's "Freshman Year" series, along with Rep. Jared Polis, a Democrat from Colorado. Here, his wife, Julie Chaffetz, talks about how she copes with the challenges of her freshman year as a "congressional spouse."
Julie Chaffetz and her husband, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, pose in front of a view of Washington.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In reality, there's a lot more to serving in Congress than simply voting on the House floor. There are plenty of tasks -- technically optional -- that are essential for someone who wants to do this job well.
No one makes you read the bills, but to do the job right, you must. There are constituents to meet with, letters to answer, staff to manage, media to respond to and new bills to research. These duties can eat up as much time as I can give.
I'm learning to balance the workload. The real challenge for me is setting the work aside. My family is still the center of my life. I look forward to that flight home every single weekend.
Through trial and error, Julie and I have learned some important strategies for making our family time count. I have learned to schedule time individually with each of my children. I also schedule time to date my wife. We met at a wedding in Arizona and started dating shortly after when I was a senior and Julie was a junior at Brigham Young University in 1989. We married in February 1991.
Julie's challenges are different from mine. I'll let her explain what it's like to be a congressional spouse.
Julie Chaffetz: As I sit down for a moment to type, I'm strangely aware that 10-finger typing is much harder than thumb texting -- a symptom of my life. Time seems to be flying, as the saying goes, and it is fun. Since Jason was elected to Congress, I have learned to adapt to many new challenges.
Perspective is everything. Jason loves his job; I love my job. Raising three children to be healthy, happy contributors to society is my quest. Nurturing our 8, 13 and 16-year-olds is a lesson in constant motion -- or rather, commotion. It's important to me that they feel centered and cared for. Although I'm not a perfect mother, I've got great kids who reward me with hugs, smiles, occasional pouts and late-night chats.
Planning is crucial. Before Congress, I tended to deal with things day-by-day. Now, time is precious. During our campaign I received some sage advice from Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake's wife, Cheryl. She recommended that when Jason is in Washington, I spend time doing the things I need to do on my own, such as errands, volunteering, time with friends, helping with homework, and home projects like learning how to repair a toilet -- and yes, I mastered this skill! So, when Jason is home, we can use our time as a family working, reconnecting and having fun.
I'm a people person. Family and friends are a big part of my support. I'm the youngest of six and I have an amazing family. My parents and siblings are settled everywhere from Minnesota to Arizona. Fortunately, Utah is a great midpoint. We regularly have company; so much so that we've earned the nickname "Hotel Chaffetz."
For day-to-day support, I'm lucky to have two very close friends. Our kids have grown up together and my friends are always there when I need anything: from picking my kids up from school if I'm running late, tending our dogs when we travel, or giving me a pep talk just when I need it.
I also belong to a book club of six women. We have been laughing, counseling and spilling our guts to each other once a month for the past 16 years. And we still manage to read good books, too. One of my recent favorites is "The Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls.
Above all, I have learned to be flexible and keep my sense of humor. Recently, I was in Washington with Jason when he decided the right thing to do was to fly to Antigua and help some Americans out. Although I was tempted to be bugged, I chose to be flexible. I spent the rest of my day without Jason, flew home alone, and arranged for a ride home from the airport. Good friends are priceless. I'm the CEO of Utah Chaffetz and lovin' it!
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jason Chaffetz and Julie Chaffetz.
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