Grad school from the perspective of the supporter
By Sarah Fader
Published January 19, 2012
Eileen is a speech pathologist, a mother of a three-year-old and a mama-to-be; she is pregnant with a second baby. Her husband, Brad, is a lawyer and was in law school when she was expecting her first child.
Brad completed law school while their son, Kieran, was a newborn. Eileen talks candidly about what it was like to have her partner enrolled in law school while balancing a family life.
1. What were some of the challenges you experienced having your husband in law school when your son was a newborn?
The biggest challenge, as one would probably expect, was having enough time. Time to spend as a couple, time to spend as a new family, time to yourself all while trying to figure out your life in this new role as a mother. Most people, I think, probably find this time, but with a husband in law school it presented an extra challenge. It was difficult knowing you both are sacrificing and spending lots of money on school, and at the same time being so frustrated when he was at the library for three days in a row (literally sometimes). It was a constant challenge to remember that this was going to be worth it! That the decision to further his education was helping our future and that this was temporary. This was especially difficult to remember during 4am feedings! Law school can really feel like "the other woman", and you have to remind yourself that its not.
2. When did you find time to be together as a family, while your husband was in school?
We really tried to make one or two routines a week, even if for just for a couple hours that we got together, we scheduled it so that it would happen. Usually Friday nights were set aside for pizza night, just the three of us, and then Brad and I could relax together after Kieran was asleep. Even if it was just a silly TV show or movie and a bottle of wine on the couch, it was VERY important that we had that time together. Sunday mornings were also generally a good time too, we would force ourselves to not fall into the rut of, "Should we go to Home Depot and pick out that paint?" and just have a leisurely breakfast and long walk as a family. These few hours a week were crucial!!
Flexibility was key too. Sometimes, law school called all weekend, so we would try and make sure at least one night a week we did a "pizza night", even if it meant it was Tuesday.
3. What advice would you give to new mothers whose partners are enrolled in law or graduate school?
Some advice I would lend is:
- Remember that this is temporary. Law school or graduate school in general, while it might feel like it, will not go on forever. Soon, you'll be back to a more normal feeling life.
- It will be worth it in the end. If this is really what your partner wants to do, he or she will be a happier person day to day, and that makes all the difference in your world as a couple, family and individuals.
- Schedule date and family time at least once a week, even if it’s just a couple hours; do it!
- Accept help offered and/or get help. If you can afford it, hire a housekeeper to come in every now and then (even once a month is good), to do the big cleaning. Take casseroles from family and friends or check out places like "Let's Dish" that prepare or let you prepare a bunch of meals ahead of time so you can just pop in your microwave. Your sanity from not feeling like you're only taking care of everything else will hugely help your relationship.
- Do at least three things for yourself a week. I made an effort to read a chapter in a book, pick up a magazine, get a manicure, grab a coffee and drink it at the café, or go to the gym. Even if sometimes it meant getting to the gym at 6:30 a.m., it totally made the rest of my day easier.
- Take extra long showers. Sometimes it’s the only personal time you get!
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Sarah Fader holds a bachelor’s degree from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study with a concentration in ancient theater and philosophy. She is currently raising two children while applying to graduate school.