After their daughter Annie was born, Gail McGovern and her husband established what came to be known as the “kitchen calendar rule.”

At the time, McGovern worked for AT&T overseeing 10,000 employees; her husband ran a large unit of Hewlett-Packard. They both needed to travel regularly for work, but one of them also needed to be home for Annie.

“We had two monster jobs,” recalls McGovern, who today is CEO of the American Red Cross. “In the beginning, we fought about who got to take a

[particular work] trip. Then we instituted the kitchen calendar rule: Whoever booked it first got to take the trip.”

During those years—ones where McGovern recalls her house as “always a mess” and her cooking as “a lot of take-out”—McGovern left the office at 6:30 p.m. to relieve the nanny and spend evenings with Annie. Once Annie was in bed, McGovern was on conference calls until midnight. Despite their demanding jobs, McGovern and her husband never asked the nanny to work overtime, and they never missed one of Annie’s school assemblies, recitals, sporting events or parent-teacher conferences.

McGovern, a former Harvard Business School professor who also held top management jobs at Fidelity Investments, acknowledges that it wasn’t always easy. “You have to love to work, and you have to love to parent…. If you choose your employers wisely and choose your mate wisely, there is no question in my mind you can hav