My husband has been in school since the day we met (six years ago!) And guess what? He’ll be in school for maybe 5-7 more years. Here are a few things I’ve learned from this experience so far and what has worked for me!
1. Accept the fact that you will not have your spouse at your disposal whenever you want
When I first met my husband, it was blissful summertime. We got serious pretty quickly, and then school started. My husband got extremely busy with school, (trying to get into dental school is difficult!) and suddenly he wasn’t giving me all the time with him that I wanted. I was young and immature, and this was hard for our relationship. Slowly over time, and a lot of serious discussions, we figured it out. And then we got married, so I was in it for the long haul. I learned slowly that my relationship with my husband was not going to be so much long walks and candlelight dinners as long nights and warmed-up dinners. But my attitude of acceptance has really helped me to find creative ways to still enjoy our relationship.
2. Discover Yourself
This can be very testing for a young couple who decides to move away for the spouse to attend graduate school. You may be left at home while your spouse goes to school all day. You don’t know anyone in your new area, you may not have a job yet, you may be a stay at home mom. But regardless, your spouse in school will be busy morning, noon, and night with school. There will not be a lot of time for togetherness, and you will have a lot more time to fill. Don’t just sit in front of the boob tube, go discover something that you really love doing. Try a new skill, take a night class.
3. Take Shortcuts and Ditch the Guilt
When you have kids and a spouse in school, it’s something akin to being a single parent. Your kids will wear you out. Now is the time to save your energy and not make life harder than it needs to be. Don’t feel like you need to be Martha Stewart, Betty Homemaker. You don’t need to have organically grown home-cooked meals every night. You don’t need to can everything in sight and grind your own wheat. Your kids don’t even need to be in cloth diapers. And your house doesn’t need to be spic and span. I love those Clorox Wipes for everything. I try to cook two big meals a week and eat left overs the rest of the time. And you better believe that my desserts are store-bought cookie dough and boxed mixes. I’m not ashamed of it!
4. Get the Kids to Bed Early
When your spouse doesn’t come home from school until 9:00 (or later!) at night, you will be doing nearly 100% of the child care. That is exhausting. If you can muster up the energy at around 5 pm to crank out a dinner, feed and bathe the kids, and get them into bed by 7:30-ish, you can have the rest of the night to crash. Plus your kids will be better rested and less whiny. Have older kids? I heard of one woman who told her kids that she was “off duty” at 8 pm, so if they had any questions or things she needed to do for them, they had to do it by then.
5. Get a Support Group
One of the best things about a spouse being in school, especially graduate school, is the fact that there are so many others just like you. Attend school events to meet other school spouses, get phone numbers and start planning group hangouts. That could be in the form of a kids play group, crafting night, or just a night out together. Forming bonds with people in the same situation as you is essential in survival.
6. Keep Two Eyes on the Budget
The word “student” is basically synonymous with the word “poor.” Now is an excellent time to learn how to manage your money. You may even be living exclusively on student loans. Sit down with your spouse and decide how much money you need to dedicate to each area and set a monthly budget. Then discuss your finances each week with other and see what is working and which areas you need to watch more carefully. And if your budget allows, try to give each other a small personal spending budget that you can use to spend money on whatever you want.
Money Saving Tips:
- Shop for clothes, especially children’s clothes at thrift stores and garage sales. Buy new clothes when they are on clearance.
- Use coupons and price-matching at the grocery store
- Buy furniture from Craigslist and re-finish it yourself. Buy paint that is “Oops” paint
- Try doing a Joy School for your preschooler instead of paying for preschool
- Negotiate rent with your landlord each contract period to see if you can lower your rent.
- Research various power programs in your area to see if there are programs for lower-income families or programs that enable you to monitor your own power usage.
- Lower the heat on your water heater during the hot summer months. Try to shower just after being outside or exercising so you don’t need as hot of a shower.
7. Schedule Time with Your Spouse
You will have to make a bigger effort to maintain your relationship with your spouse. Arrange for a babysitter on the weekend so you can go out. Agree on a time each night when you can talk and re-connect, away from distractions (phone, TV, and computer!) Discuss your children and plan family activities together.
8. Just Do It
As hard as it may be to accept, and as much as it goes against present-day equality in marriage, you will probably have to just do most of the housework. This is a hard one for me still, especially when my husband is at home while studying. However, our lives are always a lot happier and less stressful when I take care of most of the housework. My husband helps out when he has more time, but during those busy times, asking him to do additional work only stresses us both out. And like I said before, if there are nights when you are just too tired to do the dishes, just leave them for the morning. No one will know. No one will care. The Domestic Police are not going to raid your house first thing in the morning and arrest you for a dirty sink.
9. Connect with Your Community
This has also been something I’ve struggled with. During the time we’ve lived here in Arizona, I always had the mindset that this was just temporary. Therefore why should I bother to get to know the area or form connections with residents? But the more I discover new fun places to go and connect with people here, the more at home I feel, which helps you to forget somewhat that you are still in the student phase of life.
10. Remember That It’s Not Forever
This is a sacrifice that you will have to make for now, for hopefully a better future for your family. Frequently it doesn’t really get less stressful, per se. My sister told me that when her husband was in grad school it was more of a break, since his jobs are very busy and demanding. However, you will have an income, which always helps things. Hopefully that income can help you purchase a house and establish more comfortable and stable lives.