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10.04.2012

{on being a graduate wife}


I'm married to a graduate student. 

I've mentioned it on my blog before, but I don't know that I've ever actually explained what that means for me and my family.

My husband is 23 years old, and I feel like most people think that he's still in college when I mention that he's a student. He actually graduated with his BA two years ago, and got into a PhD program at UC Santa Barbara. I'm really proud of him for this. He was the first person in his family to graduate from high school. Now he's 23 with a Master's degree. 

I get asked a lot if he's almost done with school, mainly by coworkers and other acquaintances just trying to make small talk. Honestly? He isn't even halfway done. The program takes at least five years, though that fifth year is an internship. That means that in two years, we don't really know where we'll be sent. I would love to stay in Southern California for the rest of my life, but I know that I need to support him and be okay with the thought of living somewhere else. 

A friend of mine told me recently that when Robert first got into grad school, he and another friend of mine talked about how they felt like I shouldn't have given up on my dreams of going to law school. This is the same friend that tells me that he thinks the two of us could be president and VP, even though we're on complete opposite sides of the political spectrum. I think he's right. 

I know I would have been an amazing lawyer. And who knows. Maybe law school is still in my future, but it's definitely not in my immediate future. 

I've heard it from a lot of people, really. An old friend once told me that she couldn't support my life choices, and I see it all over the internet: as modern women and feminists, we should be fighting for our rights, not chasing boys around the country and becoming housewives.

But see, in my mind, being a feminist means supporting the choices of other women. This is my choice, and if someone doesn't want to support me, then that's their decision. I'm doing what's right for me and my family. I'm doing what makes me happy. 

This life is not easy. Being a full time graduate student means that my husband does not have a full time job, which means that I have to work enough for the both of us. He gets a stipend for part of the year, but those months that he doesn't are really difficult. This is one of those months, and I'm scared. But we've survived before, and we'll survive again. 

Robert told me yesterday that he is going to take his comprehensive exams this fall, rather than wait for spring. It's probably a good decision in the long run, but it kind of brought me back to the reality of what it means to be married to a graduate student. Over the summer, we got to spend a lot of time together. He worked twenty hours a week as a bartender, but other than that, he was home. 

Now, on top of the homework for classes, papers to grade (he teaches too), and clinic hours to fulfill (he's getting his degree in clinical psychology, which means that he has to get therapy hours), he gets to study for what very well might be the biggest test of his life. Oh, and did I mention that he's still bartending three days a week? 

It may seem strange to some that I've chosen this life for myself, but I don't think that everyone necessarily understands the relationship that Robert and I have. We were high school sweethearts. We grew up together, and we've supported each other through a lot: death of family members, living hours apart, job loss and debt, and depression and illness, among other things. We both agree that if it weren't for me, he very well may not be in this program right now. And if it weren't for him, I very well may be still living with my parents. Some may feel as if their lives are defined by their careers, but I don't. I believe that our lives are defined by the choices we make and the relationships we have. We've both sacrificed things by staying together, but I know that I wouldn't be nearly as happy if I didn't have him in my life. 

These past two years that he's been in graduate school count for barely a quarter of the time that we've been together. And in the long run, the five years that it takes him to get his PhD are nothing compared to the years that we'll spend enjoying the benefits of him having an education.

So I'll support him, now and forever, in any way that I can.  I do this by continuing to work, and by making my little apartment into a real life home. I cook for him and clean up after him, and it brings me joy. He is able to focus on the things that really matter right now: working toward his degree. But it's not just one sided. He supports me in everything that I do, and I think that's what makes this relationship work. 

Are you married to a full time student? I'd love to hear your own experience. 

If you have any questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments.

36 comments:

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

You guys are adorable. I'm sure you two will get through this and continue to thrive! Being an undergrad student at a liberal arts university isn't nearly as demanding for me and my mister, but I'm hoping to get a PhD someday, so maybe this will be us in the future. Best of luck to you guys but I really don't think you need it. :)

-Lindsey

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

"being a feminist means supporting the choices of other women"

you have no idea how much that applies to my life right now. I feel like other women are constantly judging me because of my choice to be a stay at home mom. I constantly struggle with it. And even though I can't relate on the grad student husband thing, I still can totally see where you are coming from.

You're a superstar! <3

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I like this post quite a bit. I am not married to a graduate student, but I've been in a committed partnership with one for the last 3 years. And I am also a full-time PhD student. Since we are both working on our PhDs neither one of us can work "full-time". But we have to make the monies somehow, so in addition to our full-time classwork/teaching schedule, we work a couple of part-time jobs at school to supplement our loans. As a result most of the time we spend together is when we are working in our home office. Oh the romance!

And it is hard.
I guess what I'm saying is that I can appreciate how difficult it can be. And, more importantly, it is possible for both of you to follow your dreams if you're willing to have a rough couple of years. wish good luck to you both!
xoxo Nicole

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Giiiiiirl, I feel you. Sometimes I still can't believe that I'm supporting my husband and myself all on my own. And that I quit my "real job" during this time too! But I think we do what we need to do- and you are so right about supporting the choices of other women. When I tell other people that my husband is in chiropractor school, and it's full time, often times they're shocked. And the people that do know that he's in school, every time I see them, they ask me how long he has left. Which has in turn caused to start counting down until he graduates. And thinking about it now, I'm realizing that counting down the days is probably putting a ton of stress on him- not only to graduate, but to also get a job and take over the role of supporting us. So thank you for sharing this, because it made me think about my position as a "graduate wife" too! :) xoxox

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

WOW. This is strikingly similar to a post I'm posting in the next week or two. Strikingly! My husband and I have an age gap, and it's like, suddenly, people forgot how independent I am. They assume I was FORCED to move to a different state for him. I chose to move to TX. That's what a marriage is. You support each other, and sometimes, compromise. Oddly enough, his opportunity was disappointing, and he left it, but I have fallen into a career... and graduate school! This move has been more advantageous for ME than him. I don't mind not living in San Diego. I don't think I'll ever move back, actually. :) I also don't believe people have the right to throw around opinions like "I don't agree with how you're living your life" unless it's a life-threatening situation or there is a MUTUAL benefit. It's rude for people to share opinions like that for the sake of venting or just saying it, you know?

As for you, it's sad that a friend would respond to you as if you sit and home and do nothing. You run your own business, for crying out loud! I think that's pretty darn ambitious! Plus, I know a few grown men who work in law who adamantly advise AGAINST law school. I was shocked, but they listed a host of reasons why. In the end, it's all personal preference. More importantly, life is a series of choices, and those decisions should be made by the individual and her/his partner.

Live for YOU, Joelle. :) Make the choices that best fit YOUR family. THE END.


Oh, and you're awesome.

siddathornton said...

your support of your husband & his support for you are so inspiring. you both are so lucky to have each other.

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

My husband is actually a graduate student as well. Technically he's full time since he is taking 4 classes, but he has a full time job as well. It's a little difficult, since I don't see him until 11 p.m. on Wednesday nights, but I honestly think we have it a lot easier than other couples who are students. Except for that fact that we moved to Texas for his graduate program, that has been extremely hard. For two people who have lived not more than 2 hours away from their parents their entire lives, moving a thousand miles away was, and is, a shocker.

The main point is, I'd gladly not go to graduate school or move across the country for my husband because I love him. I can see the same in you. You are so strong and I'm so glad that I see so many similarities in our stories!

You rock :)

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Joelle, I love this post! I don't even have the right words it would take to properly agree with you like I wish I could. Does that ever happen to you? Every now and again, I'll read a blog post and I just want to say "I agree with allllll of this!!" but even that wouldn't suffice.


This was me last year. We got married while T was finishing his degree. (Even though I'm years younger, due to a variety of circumstances, I graduated first.) And next year, if everything goes according to plan, we'll be switching roles and Thomas will be the one supporting me while I'm pursuing my PhD...All of that to say, I know what you're going through and I think it's wonderful. He's a lucky guy to have you there to support him :)


My favorite part of this entire post was when you talked about your take on feminism. I think about it very similarly, in the sense that I believe feminism to be about women supporting women. You phrased it beautifully!


And now that I've written you a whole letter... forgive me if there are typos because I'm not proofreading ;)
xoxo! eliza

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Amazing post dear! I am a single mom but it did not stop me from pursuing my law studies. I am so fortunate that my parents still pay for my expenses, but not everyone gets the chance that I have. I hope that you still pursue law school despite all the things that has been going on with your life now. I am sure that you'll be a great lawyer who'll be fighting for women's rights. :)

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I can totally relate, my fiance is in an MBA program and runs his own business. When it's not a paper to write, it's an employee to deal with or an insurance adjustment to make. It never ends. Icing on the cake is that I start my own MBA in the spring and just got a promotion, meaning longer hours and probable travel. Life isn't easy. Sharing your life with someone else is that much harder. Sharing your life with someone you barely see is almost impossible. You're doing it all, sweetheart, and I want you to know that I think you're doing it exceptionally well. You are truly an amazing woman. You bust your behind for the both of you because you love and appreciate what you have. One day, when the roles are reversed and you're in law school and Robert is doing everything he can to keep the household running smoothly, people are still going to have something to say about how your roles work. Don't even sweat it. They're just upset that you two have figured out a system that works better than theirs. Good luck with your exams, Robert!

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I was actually on the other end of this...as the student. My husband was my rock. We barely saw each other for years and he never complained. You are an amazing gal and commend you for all you do :) I agree wholeheartedly with your feelings that supporting choice, whether it be to law school or home, is the heart of feminism. Wishing you both the best!

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I am a PhD student full time with a fellowship as a TA and my husband works full time and is getting his MS part time. We are definitely busy, but it will be worth it. Thankfully we both know that school is important to each other so if one of us has to spend the evening studying, that's fine. It isn't the most fun all the time when it would be nice to not to have to do school on weekends, but that's where God has called us right now. And I can relate to the comprehensive exams-- mine will be in about 1 year and a half or so, right before I start my dissertation. Good luck to your husband for studying and you for coping with that!

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I will attest that getting my Ph.D. was the single most important and defining moment that I have had as an individual. I say this as a married woman. My having the Ph.D. motivates my students (I teach at an all girls school) and inspires them. It's not that they never thought of getting one before, but living with it every day (we spend a lot of time together - sometimes 10 hours a day, 6 days a week as I coach), makes it seem like: oh, doesn't everyone get one? I love that. Every bit of schooling makes an individual strong. Applause to your husband for pursuing a graduate degree. And applause to you for supporting that goal.

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I'm so glad you posted this - and I think it's amazing that you've decided to support Robert in pursuing this :) In the end it will be so worth it and you guys will both have a better life for it. Also, so cool that he's studying clinical! Jurg did his PhD in Industrial Psych which is a psychological registration here, and I'm also studying towards Industrial. If I ever study part-time in the future again, I'll definitely go for clinical too :)


xxx
Jenna

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I love this post so much! I feel like our society puts wayyy too much pressure on centering our lives around a career. I thought for the longest time I needed to have some high status job in order to feel successful and happy. But really, all I need is my fiance and my family. Neither one of us are still in school, although I am planning to start my Masters in January, and am quite nervous considering I will still be working full time. Good luck to you and your husband!

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

What a great post. So much of what you said is true. My husband is in medical school - talk about full time student!! We moved from Utah to Vermont so he could get the best education out there. Never once have I even questioned that choice, and neither should you :) By supporting him now, you are securing both of your futures. Things are difficult now, and believe me, I know how that goes. There will be a day (in like 10 years for me, sooner for you!) that you will be able to accomplish every single thing you want to, and it will be because you have a stable household and family. The word "feminist" can be used so many different ways, but I like how you use it - as supporting the choices of other women no matter what they are. The best thing a woman can do is set up a solid foundation so that she and her family can be safe and successful for the rest of their lives.

Sometimes I feel like I am totally alone, and that I am the only struggling, working housewife with a full-time student/husband. I read other blogs (and enjoy them, don't get me wrong) where their husband is in school, but they still can go on fancy vacations and buy a house and get new clothes every weekend ( in all honesty I am probably just jealous) but I feel like that is not always real life. Rather - that is just not MY life, so I really appreciate your post :)

On a lighter note, you would love this blog. It was created with med-school in mind, but I think it is fitting for any school-going family! I laugh my head off every time I go here http://whatshouldwecallmedschoolspouses.tumblr.com/

Happy weekend!

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I definitely know what you mean Natalie! I try not to judge other blogs when I see that they are able to go on vacations and buy nice things when the husband (or wife) is in school, but that's just not reality for a lot of us. I think that there is a big difference between getting your Master's degree at night, and doing it full time, mainly because of the money. We struggle some months, and some months we're able to eat out a little bit more. But it's never stable 100% of the time, and I think that's the difference :)

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Thanks so much Katie! I love that you came to your own conclusions about your life without letting anyone else influence your decision. Good luck with your Master's degree my dear! xoxo

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Aw, thanks so much Jenna :) These past few years have definitely been a roller coaster, but it's absolutely been worth it! It's good to know that I have a few people, like you, who understand where I'm coming from.


xoxo,
Joelle

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Thanks Shelley! I don't know that getting a doctorate is right for everyone, but I definitely feel like everyone should have the opportunity to get one if they want to! Congrats for having your own, and thank you so much for supporting the goals of others too! xoxo

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Thank you Jessica! I think that the foundation of a marriage is supporting each other, and it sounds like you two really have that. Good luck with your education! xoxo

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I think it's equally hard, but in different ways, for both the student and spouse supporting them. Good for you for getting your degree, and kudos to your husband for supporting you! xoxo

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

This comment really means so much to me EJ, truly! You're right that someone is always going to have something to say, but we can really only do what's best for us :) xoxo

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Haha thanks Mish! I'm not sure that law school is really right for me at all, but who knows what the future will hold ;)

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I really do wish you the best Eliza! It's hard to remember that there are other people out there who do what it's like, but it's always nice to be reminded :) I just get kind of upset when other women feel the need to comment about my decisions in life, so thank you for letting me know that I'm actually doing an alright job!


xoxo,
Joelle

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Thanks Whitney :) I think the experience is different for everyone, but I understand how hard it can be to not see him some nights. I think this semester is going to be especially difficult, since he works as a bartender 4 nights and in the clinic 2 nights...I told him that I needed him home at least one night a week!


And while we moved only a few hours away from home, I know that it's going to be difficult to move across the country. I'm impressed that you were able to do that! I wish you both the best my dear :)


xoxo,
Joelle

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

what a great post!! and i love your take on what feminism is all about. if you set the expectation that a woman shouldn't give up a career path, then how is that different than the antiquated expectation that she should be a homemaker? we should feel free to create life we want, whether that's staying at home with 5 kids or working a corporate job.


i think what you are doing for robert is a living example of partnership in a marriage. there very well might be a time in the future where his career provides for you both and allows you the flexibility to try something new. and who says "support" has to be financial? the emotional support he shows you now is just as valuable, if not more so.
my mom gave this piece of advice to james and i before we got married and i love it: "marriage isn't 50-50; it's 100-100."

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I love that piece of advice! Marriage might be work, but it wouldn't be so rewarding if it weren't! We support each other in so many ways, regardless of our financial situation :)


And I'm so happy to hear that so many women agree with me on this topic of choice. We are modern women, yes, but that doesn't mean we don't want to stay home or care for our families!

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I really look forward to reading your post Lindsay! All of our experiences are different, but we it's really nice to know that I'm not in this alone. I may have had to give up friends in the past because they didn't agree with me, but I've gained even more by being myself! And I think a lot of the people that used to say those things about me don't really think that anymore, since I do have a business now. It makes me so much happier than I ever would have been in law school, which is the important part!


Thanks so much for being so supportive of me Lindsay. You really don't know how much I appreciate it :)


xoxo,
Joelle

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I found a blog a while ago called "The Graduate Wife," which is where I got the name from. I think it fits :)


It's nice to know that I'm not in this alone. It really sounds like there are a lot of us out there, and that definitely helps! We need to support each other, so I'm really thankful for people like you Lauren!


xoxo,
Joelle

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Plus, I'm really impressed that you were able to quit your job and do what you love full time, while he's still in school! I hope that'll be me soon too :)

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Thanks so much Nicole :) As difficult as it is to have one of us in school, I'm sure that it's only much worse with both of you working toward your degrees! I wish you both the best my dear :) xoxo

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

It makes me so sad to hear that there are so many women out there who judge other women for just making choices that might not be so mainstream. In my mind, that's just as terrible as someone who feels like a woman has to stay home! I think you're doing what's right for you, and that's all that matters. Thanks so much for the support Alyssa, and I hope you know that you have my support too! xoxo

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

I'm unmarried but I'm a grad student in the process of writing my PhD dissertation. I have many friends in their late 20s/early 30s who have been postponing raising a family or their own professional pursuits to support their husbands. Others I know have tackled raising a family and working and supporting a spouse in school. I have so much respect for you and everyone who supports a graduate/professional student because the position we're in as students can be unique, uncertain, and challenging (it would drive me crazy when someone referred to me as a college student because they really don't grasp what it I'm doing but I've learned to let it go as they'll never get it). Your mutual support of each others dreams (even when others don't get it) inspires me and gives me hope.

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

Just found your lovely blog, girl - beautiful photos and heart! You're such a wonderful wife!


Excited to read more :)

XO
Erin


sweetnessitself.blogspot.com

Joelle :: Something Charming said...

By the way, I'm pretty sure I was horrible whilst finishing my diss, so you deserve a lot of praise for being a supportive partner. Just needed to say that. I'm going to go tell my husband that, too, now.