This photo essay features images of Melissa Eich, a speech pathologist in Charlottesville, Virginia, taken by her husband Matt Eich. In Matt’s words, here’s how the essay came about:
When we met in 2005, I was 19 and Melissa was 18. I was a sophomore studying photojournalism and she was a freshman pursuing early childhood education. She has been my best friend — and muse — ever since.
Fast-forward 11 years: We are now 30 and 29. I work as a freelance photographer and my wife is a speech-language pathologist. We live in a modest townhouse with our two children, ages nine and four.
Like many couples, we part ways each morning with little knowledge of our partner’s day. For The Atlantic’s project, I proposed something close to home. Instead of documenting the work/life balance of a stranger, I wanted to better understand how my wife managed her work/life balance.
On an average day, Melissa is up before the sun, her alarm set for 5:18AM. Some mornings, her alarm does not even go off, she just shoots out of bed in a panic at 5:15AM. I bury myself deeper in the sheets while she dresses in the dark. She cherishes this quiet period; she reads, gathers her thoughts, and caffeinates. By 6:15AM the girls are up, and the morning ritual of getting them dressed and out the door commences.
At work, her job is essentially to trick kids into communicating clearly. Some of the students have articulation issues, while others have more difficult obstacles with expressive language skills. She treats them all with equality and fairness, but sets different goals for each.
When working with students, Melissa becomes animated and full of excitement. When working on paperwork, she is subdued and focused. It is easy to allow our jobs to influence every aspect of our lives and Melissa’s happiness is directly linked to how things went at work that day. Was there a conflict? Was it resolved? Did she experience a breakthrough with a student? Was there fun therapy time, or too much paperwork?
I feel incredibly fortunate to have a partner who loves her job, even when she is challenged by it. As we grow older, I continue to learn new things about her, and how she manages the delicate balance of work and motherhood. I never want to stop learning about her.”