Expectations · Family · Patience · Sacrifice

Another day in the library

Let me paint you a picture:

  • Dishes piled sky high in the sink.
  • Toddler who wants your full attention all day long.
  • Lots of emails in your inbox concerning an exciting project that you are contributing to that need to be answered sooner rather than later.
  • A shiny new book that arrived two weeks ago from Amazon, and still hasn’t been cracked.
  • Laundry overflowing in the hampers, and lack of clean laundry for all.
  • Pouring, I mean pouring rain outside. Nowhere to go but inside.
  • A list of creative toddler rainy day games with every single one crossed off…at least twice.
  • Dinner to prepare…then cook.
  • A phone call or two that needs to happen.

And then … (You can’t deny that you’ve done this too) … a picture pops into your weary, discombobulated mind: A picture of your husband. Alone. At the library. The quiet library. Researching. Reading about his interests, his passions. Quietly strolling through (in our case) the ancient adorned halls of the Oxford Bodleian library. Smiling, thinking deep, intellectual, powerful thoughts…alone. And I can’t help picture a smoking pipe in there as well. Or maybe your picture involves your spouse off doing fascinating field work in some exotic place…or doing a med school residency with a new rotation full of exciting, interesting new people teaching him/her life-saving skills.

Now, while I wish I could say the idea of my husband being in such a wonderful setting just raises my spirits and encourages me to get through the day, I have to be honest: it makes me a bit jealous and indignant at times.  When that picture comes to my mind at times, my first thought sometimes is not “oh how nice”, but rather, “oh how unfair“.


It happens to the best of us. It has happened quite a few times to me lately, and I want to share some pointers if this starts happening to you.

1) Talk about it! The second that envy and jealousy start to creep up in your heart, share it with your spouse. Do not let these things fester and do not let silly, unrealistic pictures of his academic lifestyle continue to grow in your head.

2) Don’t jump to conclusions! He is not off playing Angry Birds! (And if he is, check out ML’s amazing post from last week). He is working his booty off for a degree that half the time he can’t even remember caring this deeply about to begin with. He is not off reading Bill Bryson with a pipe and a latte. He is knee deep in research and EndNote and endless PDFs and sometimes it feels more like a prison to him than an opportunity.

3) Be realistic! They don’t say “It isn’t meant to be easy” for nothing. Graduate school is hard work. Hard, hard work. And trying to balance that work on top of family and other commitments can sometimes be a lot to manage.

In short, I just want to say that for me, I have realized that maybe one in every five days of working in the library is relaxing and exciting for my husband. I feel like the other four are more like an isolating 9-6 office job that he has to keep pushing through, all alone, in order to get closer to an exciting, but far off finish line. And when he gets home he is usually needing encouragement from me (or an honest conversation about where I am at), not a whiney and jealous spiel about how hard my day seemed.

When these thoughts come, take a deep breath. Try to be thankful for the work that both of you have been given to do during this season: playing marbles for the 30th some odd time, singing Old McDonald again, scheduling conference calls while your kids are sleeping, or researching Lorentz’s views on relativity theory.

Cut them some slack.

This is a season.

Talk about it openly.

And know you are not alone in feeling this way every now and then!



What Do You Do When the Writing Stops?

-written by ML, a current graduate wife

I came home from work to find that my graduate student husband had spent the day playing video games again, instead of writing his dissertation. It would be so easy to yell, so easy to tell him off. Why? I’m at a job I dislike, we’re living in a town we dislike, so he can follow his dream…and he isn’t working on it. It would be so easy to lose my temper, so easy to run away, so easy to give up on this grad student wife life.

But I STOP. I stop before I yell. I stop before I even speak. I stop and think about, “WHY?”

Why isn’t he working on his dissertation? It isn’t because he’s lazy; it isn’t because he’s being mean; it isn’t even because he doesn’t want to. It’s because he’s hit a rough spot.

He loves to teach, he loves doing field work, and as a professor he’ll get to do both. But in order to get there, he has to do research and write a dissertation.

While he was initially researching, we set up a system of deadlines and rewards. Finish X research by Monday, and we go out to eat. Finish Y research by July, and we go to a soccer game. It’s a system I recommend trying if you’re in a tough spot, but it comes with a warning: I too want to go out to eat and go to games and the few times deadlines were missed and we didn’t get to go, I felt like I was being punished too. I remedied this by doing other things, say going to museum he wouldn’t want to go to on a day I had off while he was teaching class. I made sure to do things he wasn’t interested in so as not to pour salt in the wound.

However, when the research was done and it was time to write, I quickly saw that no matter what the reward was, the deadline was missed. You see, my husband is a perfectionist. When it comes to writing, he feels like every line must be perfect before putting it on paper.  This led to basically zero writing getting done.

When you really think about it, it’s not easy to run or give up on this grad wife life. It would mean being without him, and that would be terrible! Since we live 2,000 miles from family there’s nowhere to run to. Thank goodness! Instead of hiding and continuing to be angry we are stuck in a tiny apartment together, forced to find a solution to get over our anger.

A quick search revealed there are actually books to help with dissertation writing, I chose, The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing, and Defending Your Dissertation” by Carol M. Roberts. Knowing that he wouldn’t read it because he had a lot going on, was bordering on depression, and just wouldn’t – I took it upon myself to read it to him a bit every night. He went from skepticism to wishing he’d read it at the beginning of grad school. First it pointed out that he isn’t alone in how he feels (much like this blog did for me). Then it explained the graduate process. Then it had some extremely handy lists as to what each chapter should contain.

It would be easy to treat him like a child—take away his video games, force him to sit at the desk and put something on paper or no dinner; ultimately though, that would make the situation so much worse. He’s already going through a rough time; he doesn’t need his #1 fan belittling him.

We still go through the book together (it’s not one you simply read through, it’s one that is read in parts as the dissertation moves along). I help him check things off the lists. I encourage him to just get something on paper and we’ll smooth it out later. I make deals like I’ll wash the dishes for him if he’ll write while I do it. I’ve gone from a pretty pessimistic person to his own personal cheerleader.

All-in-all, my solution is to STOP before you say anything, think about the real cause of why he isn’t working, try to find a solution together, and be encouraging instead of belittling and angry.

As a graduate wife, how have you dealt with a spouse who seems to be putting off writing or researching their work?

Community · Expectations · Finances

The Ups and Downs of my Grad Wife Life

written by Angeline, a former graduate wife

I’m Angeline, and I didn’t start out as a Graduate Wife, in fact I was a graduate myself. My husband and I met at Oxford, where he was studying for his PHD. We met, married and began our life together as students. After 5 years in Oxford together, we’ve just made the move to the big city (London) to begin life as professionals­­…well almost. Between you and me, my husband still has one more chapter to write.

 When I first was asked to contribute to this blog I immediately said ‘yes’, full of enthusiasm and certain that with many years under my belt as a seasoned Graduate Wife, the stories would flow forth freely. The reality was quite different – I had the most difficult time trying to decide what I would write.

Why? Because I began to realize that being a Graduate Wife is more than one role. In fact, you wear many constantly evolving hats all at the same time. After some reflection, I’ve compiled a ‘pro/con’ list from my time as a Graduate Wife.  I hope some of things I learned along way will be helpful and reflective and even being aware of some of my ‘con’ points might prevent them from becoming that for you.


1) Community

Moving is always hard, but compounded by the fact that your husband has a built-in friend and support network and you don’t, can feel very lonely at the beginning. I think it’s always difficult when you feel like you are putting your life on hold, to support someone else and it can easily start to mess with your identity and feelings of self worth. So far this point isn’t sounding like a ‘best’, is it? However, the best thing about my Graduate Wife experience has been the community I’ve found. For us, it was being connected into a post-graduates society at our church, where people were all going through the same experiences either as the partner or graduate. Eventually, this place really became our home and the sweetest and truest of friendships were forged. Our community in Oxford became our life – we found people we were able to call friends, mentors, brothers and sisters.

2) Time & Flexibility

This was probably the only time in our lives that you didn’t have to play by the rules, and we took advantage of it! My job provided me with the ability to control my own schedule, so I synchronized my time with Jed’s (who happens to be a night owl). It just so happens, he does his best writing and thinking from the hours of 7pm-6am. This season of time flexibility allowed us to sometimes stay up and watch movies all night long if we wanted to, or have picnics on the living room floor at 3am or take naps.  We felt like kids at time getting to ‘break the rules’ of time.

3) The Budget Game

After we got married, I realized for the first time that I had to face the ‘b’ word. It’s strange being newly married, on your own for the first time, responsible for another human (!) and having to manage your own money – these were all new concepts for me. We decided to turn budgeting into a game of sorts.  Not letting it control us, but trying to make the most of it and enjoy it.   We were constantly reminding each other that this was just a very short chapter in our lives and that we wanted to gain all the wisdom we could about frugality, living within our means and being responsible. In fact, we both feel that this is one of the most valuable things we got out of our experience as married grad students. What could have been a wasted time of ‘making do’, was a really excellent training ground for our marriage.

4) Bonding Experience

I firmly believe that moving away from everyone you know is a very good thing for a couple when they are first married. You have no home to run back to when someone is getting on your nerves, no way to avoid facing issues as you are probably stuck in a smaller space than you are used to – you are in it together and it’s the both of you against the world. We loved that feeling of unity, oneness and support found in each other. It’s not quite the same now that we are living in the ‘real world’. The time of being students was the sweetest time of our marriage so cherish it and squeeze it for all it’s worth!

5) Once in a Lifetime Experience

While there is still a list of ‘worst’ to come below, even taking all that into consideration, this was such a special time for us. Being able to support your partner in achieving tangible goals, taking time out of the real world to do so, being surrounded with likeminded people – it is the best experience and we would do it all over again without a second hesitation! The dark, long, exhausting times will pass…and indeed you will miss this season when it comes to an end.


1) Not much money…

There’s nothing wrong with being ‘student poor’, it is all part of the experience – however, this girl had a lot to learn. Those lessons were (beyond valuable as mentioned above) but incredibly difficult and relentless, I’m not going to lie.

2) Becoming the Breadwinner

One thing I really struggled with was being the primary breadwinner when I was done with my masters and my husband was still in school. My husband was on a scholarship, which provided a stipend, but I was still keenly aware that I was the only one working to make ends meet. It was not an issue that he wasn’t the one working, more that I felt troubled by feeling the weight of the responsibility of being the breadwinner. It really challenged a lot of my fundamental beliefs about gender roles in a marriage.

3) Uncertain future

I don’t know about you, but I am a planner. This was probably the one thread of ‘con’ that ran through my whole experience – I want to know what this all means for us! What next, what city, what position? Because being a student is a transient state, to a degree you have to be able to let go of knowing – and this I found very difficult. (Writers note: it all worked out more perfectly than I could have even planned it myself – and I believe it always does).

4) Living in a transient community

This was the second most difficult thing about living a Graduate Wife lifestyle – everyone else in your community is going through the same thing. Which is good on one hand, but it also means that people are constantly moving and there is a revolving door of friends, hellos and goodbyes, which after awhile can really take a toll on your spirit.

5) Identity

I don’t think that this issue is exclusive to being a Graduate Wife, I think it is one of the circumstances in life that highlight it. It is a subject we will always struggle with I believe, but being a Graduate Wife challenges you on it in a very aggressive way. For me it brought to the surface questions like ‘what makes me feel important?’, ‘what do I value?’, ‘what actually makes me, me?’. It is easy to feel like you are playing second fiddle, especially when married to a national treasure like my husband. :) After lots of soul searching, I realized there is nothing wrong with being Robin to the Batman, especially since realizing that is exactly the way my husband views himself in my show. There is zero competition between the two of us, and we both play supporting roles to each other. The reason this is in the ‘con’ category is that going through this journey of identity questions can often be painful before it becomes helpful and flourishing.

What are some of the things you cherish most about this season in your life? W­hat are some of the things you find most challenging?

Expectations · Inspiration

Savor the Here and Now

written by Sharon, a former graduate wife

Newly married and with hardly a penny in our bank account, my husband and I moved to North Carolina for him to get his MBA at Wake Forest.  Our decision was based in part on a scholarship and also on the appeal of being on our own, away from our families in Chicago and Annapolis.

We had a plan.  Two years in Winston-Salem and then a move to a more metropolitan area.  There was no tug of war between my career and his and I never saw this time as a sacrifice.  We mutually viewed it as an investment.  My heart’s desire was to be a mom and I frequently joked that after these two years I wanted my ROI, or return on investment.

In order to work right away I began an hourly job through a placement agency, just covering living expenses. It was not until after a year that I was able to use my degree in a salaried marketing position.  Like most newlyweds and grad students, we lived on a tight budget and saved our pennies for fancy date nights at Taco Bell.   We moved into our first apartment with a mattress, Phil’s velour dorm room recliner, a kitchen table, and two suitcases. Our budget was small, but some of the funniest memories from this time in our lives came out of learning to live cheaply.

Our mindset in coming to North Carolina was focused on a means to an end.  We wanted to get through this stage to the next.  Phil felt tied to his role as a student and I felt tied to my job, keeping us from enjoying this time as much as we could have.  Graduation, job, house, dog  (the kind on the front of an LL Bean catalog), baby, and a reupholstered recliner – we did all of those things and in that exact order.

Four kids, three different houses, two Golden Retrievers, and four jobs later I find myself looking back on the simpler days of Taco Bell and our velour recliner with a new perspective.  Twenty years later, I see each of these as things to enjoy and not stages to check off.

With two kids in college and two in high school, I have also begun taking classes for a master’s degree.  I’m not sure what the next few years hold, but this time around grad school is not a stage to get through. This is a time to enjoy my studies as I also enjoy my home and children. Present moments turn into past moments that I cannot get back.  So, for now I am not treating grad school as a stage separate from the rest of my life.  The next step?  Well, I’m not quite sure.  Finishing my degree? Maybe, maybe not – and that’s okay. As God has proven to me in the twenty plus years since my husband graduated, the next stage will always work itself out.

What thoughts or expectations do you have of the future that are hindering your joy in the present moment?

What checklist in your life keeps you from celebrating the blessings before you today?

Expectations · Family · Vocation/Gifts/Calling

Grad Wife to Farmer Life

Written by Catherine, a former graduate wife

Jonathan, our 9-month-old daughter Charlotte and I left Omaha, Nebraska in March of 2007 to begin our graduate journey at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia.  When Jonathan began the Master of Divinity program, intended for those planning to enter formal ministerial positions and/or pursue advanced degrees, I would have never imagined that 5 years later we would be back in Omaha, running a farm as well as a non-profit organization focused on educating people in sustainable agriculture, organic farming practices and healthy living, both in the U.S. and in Nicaragua.  My narrow expectations of what life as the wife of a M.Div. graduate would look like had me thinking of the stereotypical pastor’s wife: overly modest dress, children quietly in tow, a casserole always ready at a moment’s notice to deliver to a family need, playing piano in church, working in Sunday school weekly… I had begun to resign myself to the fact that this is what life intended for me (not that any of those things are bad-just not for me).  I wondered if I would be the wife silently working to support her husband’s work and letting go of any other dreams I might have had or the hope for something not so stereotypical for my life.

Hallelujah, for this is not what happened.

Jonathan comes from a family of pastors. Seriously, his great-grandfather, grandfather, father, uncle, and brother are all pastors.  It gets kind of intense whenever this bunch starts a theological conversation.  Jonathan’s main motive for starting the M.Div. program was to learn as much as he could so that he could dominate these theological discussions that seem to occur every time the whole family is together.  However, during the third (final) year of his program, a church in Vancouver started taking interest in him becoming its lead pastor and we seriously considered taking the job.  After 2+ years of living on my measly earnings as a nanny and office support staff, I was thrilled with the idea of my husband finally having a ‘real’ job with a livable salary, benefits, financial assistance to buy a house, etc.  These things made the ‘pastor’s wife’ idea not seem so bad…I was ready to have a steady income and stay home with our then 2 children.  I was also happy that my family would be able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that my husband would be gainfully employed in a job much more financially supported than his pre-grad school job of working at a homeless shelter.

As you might be guessing, this job didn’t happen for us.

It didn’t fall through – we consciously made the choice to move in a different direction.  As excited as I was for my husband to be offered such a promising job, we felt moved to start working with a longtime friend’s missions organization, WEGO (Worldwide Evangelical Gospel Outreach).  One of WEGO’s projects is an orphanage in Nicaragua and a gift had been given to WEGO’s director to start a coffee company, selling Nicaraguan coffee in the U.S. and using the profits to support the orphanage.  My husband volunteered to help get this company started and we packed up our things, left Vancouver and drove across the U.S. to Florida, where WEGO is situated. We had no salary and had to rely on support from family and friends to survive, something we should have raised before moving.  My expectation of the salary with benefits was quickly gone and I soon began wishing I was wearing a ‘Little House on the Prairie’ dress and delivering casseroles to widows.

However, I believe that God wastes nothing and I believe His plan is always greater than we can see.

While selling the Nicaraguan coffee at farmers’ markets in our area of central Florida, Jonathan began connecting with local farmers and learning about growing vegetables and raising animals.  We also, during that time, rented a small house on 4 acres that had a stable and a large field.  We didn’t want to waste the space we were paying for, so we decided to use the stable as a chicken coop and some of the field as a garden.  “Oh, so you must have grown up gardening and growing things” you must be thinking.  Not at all.  It just seemed like a fun idea.  Very long story short, what started out as a ‘fun idea’ turned into a working farm with egg-laying chickens, meat chickens, goats, a pond stocked with fish, and a ½ acre garden, all organically/naturally done.  Naturally, M.Div. graduate + French major wife from California = perfect farming couple.  We asked people in the community for help when we got overwhelmed and ended up with 8 interns, a CSA (community supported agriculture) program, monthly community work days, and a non-profit organization birthed from it all.  My expectations for what our life was ‘supposed’ to look like were again being challenged.  Did we really move to Canada and spend $XXXXX on graduate school just for my husband to wear overalls and us to work in the Florida heat and sandy soil trying to run a farm?

 Yes.  And his education was used in more ways than we ever could have imagined.  What we found was that many of the people who ended up volunteering on our farm were questioning deep theological issues and what they needed was someone who was theologically trained to question and with whom they could bounce ideas around.  It was Jonathan who was there to challenge ideas, propose new ones, get to the heart of issues, to teach, and it was us together who were there to love people, open our home to lonely hearts and to offer food to the hungry.

We have now come full circle, back to Omaha, where Jonathan has recently taken a job with a church as a missions pastor, men’s discipleship pastor and campus pastor of the church’s satellite campus.  It is busy and it is demanding but he is always happy to come home to our 5 acres where we are already starting a new farm.  It has become a part of who we are – it was the farm experience in Florida that strengthened our marriage to where it is today and grew our family to now 3 children.  My expectation for what life should have looked like was thrown out the window a few years ago and although it has constantly been challenged I would never give up a single part of the journey that has made me who I am today.

How much do you hold on to your expectations?  When your expectations are not met, what does your attitude regarding the situation reflect about your ability to be open to new possibilities?

{To check out Catherine’s family’s non-profit, click here}

Expectations · Inspiration


Today’s beautiful post comes from a woman I’ve had the privilege of getting to know here in Oxford.  She has not just sacrificed career choices or zip codes to help support her husband’s plans in graduate school, she has moved countries, cultures and even languages (English is not her native tongue) on her journey thus far, and this is only the beginning of where their graduate school path will take them. Having never traveled outside of her own country before she met her husband, she has since traveled and moved a great deal.  I hope you enjoy a small part of her story as much as I have and I hope it gives you perspective and encouragement while taking a moment to step back to marvel at the unique and beautiful ways our lives have take different paths than we might have anticipated.  –M.C.


“ What a nice weather!  How lovely they are.   I am watching the old couple who is sitting in my next bench. The husband is holding his wife’s hand tightly.  They are looking at each other with love and smelling sea breeze together.  It seems by years. I am watching that lovely picture and smiling.  And thinking what is my future husband going to look like.  How tall he is? What color his hair is? Where does he live now? What is he doing right now, right now!?”

This was one of my notes I wrote a long time ago before I ever met my husband.

When I wrote these notes, I had a completely different life than now.  I was sure I had already completed my full self-development…all I learned was enough and I was pretty sure I knew how my life would turn out. But there were other surprises for me!

When I met my husband, it was an ordinary day like others.  All I wanted to do was find the cheapest carpet and I found more than a cheap carpet at that souvenir shop!  I found my most special thing!

Not long later we decided to marry.  I’d never left my country before, I’d never had any opportunity to travel around the world.  Life wasn’t very easy for me, and for my generation.  I felt I always had to study and achieve something, I had to deserve my family’s effort for me and I always had to hold in high honour.

That wasn’t their wish for me to marry a foreigner sometime. To let me to leave my country, leave my culture, leave my family? It should have been a nightmare. It was a long and painful period to deal with them and with my friends. That wasn’t just my family who was against the idea, my friends, my relatives and my professors. I decided to not finish my masters degree. That should call “Cultural Shock!”

But thankfully with patience and love, everything changed.  Yes, I had to given up lots of things.  Now I am in a different culture, different language, different side walk, with different friends, different traditions and that wasn’t a picture I thought when I was watching that old couple. But the picture and frame which I have, I love it! There are somethings that still needs to repair in picture but with faith and love nothing is impossible.

“You are my gift from God!” that is what I wrote in my husband’s wedding ring with my hand writing, and that is what he wrote in mine in my language.

God is always ready to give gifts and ready to help us to find the best frames for our pictures of life. It doesn’t matter on which wall it hangs. The wall doesn’t affect the way picture looks, but the picture in a nice frame effects the wall and the whole atmosphere of the room tremendously.   On your graduate wife journey, does your picture look like you had planned it?

Expectations · Patience

Saturday, 11th February

Originally written two weeks ago… :)

So it’s February 11th.  It’s just a normal, ordinary, lazy Saturday in chilly ole’ England, right?


 It’s the Saturday after my mom left the UK after a wonderful 8 day visit.   It’s the Saturday that I just don’t want to be on this graduate wife journey anymore.  It’s the Saturday that two of my most treasured friends in the entire world are getting married.  To each other.  They are getting married in my beloved DC…with loads upon loads of my other dearest friends getting to stand witness to their beautiful vows.  It’s definitely the Saturday that I don’t want to be living in Oxford, England.

 Even if you aren’t living overseas on your grad wife adventure, you might be living across the country and you might just not be able to afford flights to see family all that often….or even to experience the joy of watching two precious friends join their lives together.


 I’m so thankful that we have a ‘celebrate’ category on here.  It’s absolutely vital to celebrate the joys in life, especially the joys on this grad school journey, such as passing exams, getting scholarships, etc.  But, it’s also sometimes hard to celebrate, isn’t it?  I don’t at all want to wallow in self-pity here…but at the same time I just wanted to voice the reality that: sometimes it is really difficult being on this journey.

 Sometimes I wish I didn’t have to have my friend Molly skpye me into a wedding ceremony via her iphone.

 Sometimes I wish I had a car.

 Sometimes I wish my husband worked from 9-5 and could come home at the end of the day and ‘forget’ about his work.

 Sometimes I wish I  knew our ‘5 year plan’ and could be fully at peace with it.

 Ahh…I could go on, and I am sure you could add many of your own.

I guess it’s only fair to share not only the wonderful ups, but also the downs with each of you.  Many of you have done the same and shared deeply personal successes and failures and I want to be true that as well.  So, yeah I don’t want to complain, but just voice …today is a stinky day to be a graduate wife in my book.

But alas…I am thanking God for family visits (even if they are just visits) and for the amazing gift of skype (even if it involves decoding a muffled wedding ceremony while it is streaming from my friend’s pocket).  Deep breath. Tomorrow is a new day.


Expectations · Inspiration · Moving

What I wish I had known… {part III}

-Written by Mandy & Julia

Today we are featuring the third post on the series: “What I wish I had known” going into my graduate wife journey.  Please see the first post here, and the second post here.


  •      Pick and choose carefully when packing those boxes.

o      Consider the climate carefully and realistically. If you’re moving to the UK like we did, you might as well leave behind those flip-flops, bathing suits, shorts and sundresses. This girl paid to move all those things, only to end up stuffing them in a suitcase headed back to the US for the holidays.

o      Pack lightly. Are you really going to need all those t-shirts? Could you purchase Tupperware more cheaply than moving it? Sure that crystal vase is nice, but really?

o      On the other hand, I wish I had brought our wedding album and that quilt that has been in the family for three generations. Those extra special items will bring comfort when homesickness hits.

  • Don’t put off the paperwork.

o      If you need residence permits or visas, know the requirements and get started early. Unless you want to be like us, running through the streets of downtown Chicago during the two hour time slot you have before your friend’s wedding in order to get a same day passport.

  • Brace yourself for the (extra) cost.

o      There are layers and layers of fees and unexpected costs, from setting up Internet to paying for a TV license (what? a license to watch TV?). Make room for this in your budget.

o      A furnished flat/apartment could come without a kitchen table. You’ll probably need some extra cash for that trip to Ikea or Walmart [insert local substitute here].

o      When you’ve first arrived and you’re exhausted, emotionally and physically, it may be worth grabbing a taxi and throwing your grand plan of walking the last mile and a half to your new apartment out the window instead.

  • Investigate your destination city.

o      Don’t settle on a mover or a bank or a grocery store until you ask for others’ experiences, even if they are strangers on the Internet (You’ve struck gold if your destination city happens to be featured on The Graduate Wife’s survival guide section.).

o      Don’t be afraid to ask questions, as your elementary school teacher once told you. Seriously, others have gone before you. Seek them out and get some help settling.

Dealing with Internal Battles:

We came here for the purpose of my husband’s education, and that education came at a cost for both of us, and for our family and friends back home. I had wholeheartedly agreed to this new adventure prior to our coming, and I plunged into the job-hunt and life-making once we landed in Scotland (okay, so I cried for the first couple days).

What felt romantic and adventurous while still living in the US, however, quickly became hard. Figuring out a new culture, going through the process of student teaching in Scotland and again in England (since my American credential didn’t transfer) and enduring a climate that happens to have really hard, dark, wet winters were some of the challenges. Add to that the fact that we moved from Scotland to England to Germany and back to England within three years, and I was tired. Really tired. And my emotional trap was to blame my husband, as if the challenges surrounding the decision to study abroad were his doing. It hasn’t been easy to work through my misplaced anger when enduring a particularly tough season.

The best advice I can give is to turn off the DVD player and start talking. Work through it, regardless of how hard the conversation is. Otherwise, the bitterness is at risk of festering and creating resentment. My companion on this journey is my husband, the one who was by my side through every move and bad day at work and hard winter – we must work hard to protect and enrich our alliance. Without his companionship, I simply could not do this another day.

Simplifying your life:

My brother once asked me if it was true that European and British residents rode bicycles to work and often wore the same outfit twice in one week. Emphatically, I said “yes, and it’s awesome” (okay, maybe a slightly smug exaggeration, but still).

Six years living here, and we may have a tinge of this beautiful outlook on material possessions: you don’t need much to live comfortably. Of course, this outlook is not confined to Europe. Anyone on a student budget can tell you that saving money wherever you can breeds simplicity. This is refreshing, and it is conveniently conducive to the student lifestyle.

So, grab a bike and wear that ten-year-old pair of jeans without a second thought, and do it every single day.

Holding on to your own dreams:

So if you are the one putting your husband or wife through school, it may be the case that a dream of your own has been put on hold. For me, I’d like to go back to school. My husband’s doctorate and six years later, this dream has not been realized.

I’ve come, however, to understand that waiting to pursue one’s dreams doesn’t have to mean that they diminish, ‘dry up’ or even ‘explode’ as Langston Hughes famously penned. Rather, the waiting has refined my goal, changed its direction and enriched its beauty. The dream deferred can turn into an aging wine rather than a raisin in the sun. And in this space of waiting, I’ve seen other aspirations blossom and flourish: having children and starting a family, establishing traditions of our own, getting to know another culture.

If you could pass along any lessons learned in your own graduate wife journey, what would they be, and why?

Expectations · Inspiration · Moving · Sacrifice

What I wish I had known… {part II}

-Written by Mandy & Julia

Today we are featuring the second post on the series: “What I wish I had known” going into my graduate wife journey.  Please see the first post here.


Work:  When my husband and I made the decision to go to graduate school, I committed to support us. I have worked the entire time we’ve been in school, and have had some really wonderful (but often difficult) jobs along the way.  It’s not easy putting your other half through school, either emotionally or financially. There’s a lot of self-sacrificing involved.

I’ve had several fellow graduate wives work some pretty incredible jobs to be that financial support – everything from clown, journalist, nanny, and lawyer. Usually when I hear their stories, my respect for them, no matter what they do, triples.  If you are working, and your other half is in school AND working, how do you find the time to support each other? I don’t know about you, but time is a precious commodity in our house.

Here are some things we’ve done over the course of the last few years:

  • Be supportive of each other. When my husband has a deadline coming up, I know he’s going to be incredibly stressed. I’ve learned the best way I can support him is to step out of his way, and give him the space he needs. (This means not nagging him whenever he hasn’t taken the garbage out or vacuumed)! He does the same for me whenever I have a deadline at work.
  • Work as hard as you can…then let it go. There are never going to be enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished. Decide what it’s important, and do that. Let everything else go. (For this perfectionist personality, that was a hard one)!
  • Communicate. When we first started school, almost every night we watched television while eating dinner. We both soon realized that with our jobs (in addition to my job, he was going to school full time and working three part time jobs), we weren’t seeing each other. Why were we wasting time doing that, when we could be spending it with each other? We finally turned the television off. We don’t even own one now.
  •  You will be living in different worlds. Unless you are working at the school your other half attends, then more than likely you’ll be in a much different environment than he is. Case in point: during our masters’ program, my husband had friends who were keeping their air conditioning off (in Florida), because they were worried about paying their bill. I, on the other hand, worked in an office where colleagues were buying yachts. Nothing is wrong with either of those scenarios, but it meant we had to work doubly hard to understand and be patient with each others worlds.
  • Celebrate the little things. When you’re both working, hardly seeing each other, it’s worth taking the time to celebrate a good review at work, a good meeting with a supervisor, or a deadline met. So put your work aside, pop open a bottle of champagne, have some chocolate covered strawberries, and celebrate!


Avoiding Pitfalls:

I do love the sense of adventure that the graduate journey has brought us, even through the most difficult times. One of the things I haven’t particularly enjoyed is moving. I don’t like having our ‘stuff’ strewn through two States at parent’s homes; I don’t like not knowing where things are (even though, I did at one point have all our storage boxes labelled by number that corresponded with an excel spreadsheet – so literally at any time, I could go call my Mom to say, “Will you go to box 16 and mail me ____?” I obviously had too much time on my hands before we moved); and I really don’t like the fact that nothing in our current flat seems like it’s ‘ours’ right now.

When you move and start over, there are always pitfalls to avoid as you wouldn’t want to end up in a crappy apartment with black mold growing down the walls or a neighbor whose favorite past time is playing Jay-Z’s new song, Glory. At 3 am. To full volume. (No offense to Jay-Z, or to Glory).

How do you plan accordingly for moving to a new city? A lot of this will seem like common sense, but there are some things on this list we didn’t do before we moved, and paid a dear price for later on.

  • Research. Seriously? Yes. Research the heck out of your new city. Take the time to learn its quirks, even before you arrive. Pick up every piece of information you can find, from the internet, to the library, to a book store. Buy a special book or journal, and make that your “New City” book. Keep any key pieces of information you’d like to have on hand in your new book.
  • Learn from other people’s experiences. My husband and I are contemplating another move at the moment. I am in the process of meeting or communicating with several people (some I’ve never met) who have lived in the city (or nearby) we are considering. It seems strange to start an email with, “Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m friends with blah blah blah…” but you know what? Most people are eager to help you on your journey, because they were in your shoes once. The information they pass on to you will be priceless…and perhaps something to put in your new book! MC and I met over the phone, and spent 8 months talking about Oxford before she actually moved here.
  •  Plan carefully, but be willing to take a risk. Plans are never foolproof. Something will always go wrong. There are going to be times you’re going to have to make a decision blindly. When you do, roll with it. Chances are, things will turn out just fine. If not, then you’ll have a wonderful story to tell your grandchildren someday.

Traveling:  Hands down, the biggest regret that my husband and I have since living here is that we haven’t taken the time to travel more in the UK. We have an intimate relationship with Oxford, but haven’t made the time to visit very many other places in the UK. (We have managed to travel through a bit of Europe).  Now with a toddler running around, it makes things even more difficult.

With all the groupon coupons, living social coupons, etc you should be able to afford and make the time to travel to other places in the area, State, or country you live in. Get to know the city you live in – visit the museums, hang out in the coffee shops, visit the restaurants. When I first worked in Oxford, I visited a news agent so frequently, that I became friends with the owner.

Our excuse for not traveling was my husband’s schedule. Looking back, would it have mattered if it had taken him another month or two in the long run to finish his dissertation? The answer is NO! So pack your bags and go!

Expectations · Inspiration · Moving · Sacrifice

What I wish I had known…

Written by Mandy & Julia

Today we are staring a three part series on “What I wish I had known” going into my graduate wife journey.  Mandy and Julia have almost 16 years combined experience of being graduate wives and they have moved almost 8 times to different institutions between the two of them.  Today’s post focuses on ‘intangible’ things they wish they known to expect, Thursday’s post will focus on more ‘tangible’ things they wish they had known to be aware of, and finally we will close next week with a post sharing a bit of both.  I have read through this and am incredibly encouraged and thankful for the advice.  I hope it speaks to you on the journey as well! – M.C.

Uncertain Future: The world of academia is a chasm of uncertainty. Open posts are few and far between; our other halves constantly compete for posts against their friends, and inevitably watch their friends win; and most of the time, 250 applications (or more) will be filled out before one interview is granted. I can attest to the fact that most of time, our lives feel like one big question mark after another.

For you graduate wives just beginning your journey, the ‘end’ is the light at the end of the tunnel; it’s the present that’s difficult as you try to make it through with a husband, fiancée, or boyfriend who spends way too many nights in the library with his new mistress, the dissertation.

For you graduate wives ending your journey, you’ve proudly watched your other half step across a platform to be granted a degree, your heart nearly bursting with pride. Now, you’re watching him slog through application after application, and you have no idea where you’re going to be living in six months.

 How in the world do you navigate that?

I wish I had an easy answer. This was only supposed to be a three-year gig when we began our journey (sometime I’ll tell you that whole story). Instead, we sit here eight years later, with no idea of what’s around the corner for us. The best reminder that I’ve received from an older graduate wife is this is just a season of life. And it is. Sometimes, when I am incredibly weary, I get tired of hearing it, and I worry that my husband will never find a post, and that none of my dreams will ever be actualized. But, you know what? Something WILL inevitably work out. It will more than likely look completely opposite than what we had in mind, but it will be right for us. And, it will be right for you.

Remember this as your graduate wife story is being penned: This is only a season of your life.


Familial Alienation: For me, it initially felt easier to leave the stories of our European adventures in Europe when visiting family back home. My rationale went like this: “If I tell them about all the beauty we’ve taken in, I come off as bragging and just plain old obnoxious. Worse, if I tell them about the weekly ritual of scrubbing mold from our furniture, clothing and walls, won’t they just think I am simply ungrateful?”

This way of thinking may have worked for the first year or so, especially when I had one foot in Target and the other just teetering on the edge of Tesco’s (a big grocery chain in the UK) doorstep. But then my marriage, my children, my career – my life – rooted and blossomed here. What then?

I had to get over my insecurities about sharing our world with our families so that our families knew us. It’s hard enough to leave your loved ones behind physically – don’t fall into the trap of leaving them emotionally as well.


Community: If you read this blog, you know we harp on building community. We do that because MC and I have seen the benefits of what happens when you’re willing to share your life and story with other people traveling the same journey. We’ve previously focused on how you cultivate community, but haven’t really touched on the emotional why parts of it.

The first part of our graduate journey was spent rehashing that lesson again and again and again; I refused to put down roots in our new city, and in the first year of school, I (we) went back to see our friends in Atlanta six or seven times. I had one foot firmly planted where my heart was, and the other foot planted because it’s where I had to be. It wasn’t healthy.

After many discussions (I use that term loosely ha ha) with my husband, we agreed it wasn’t emotionally healthy or balanced to try to maintain a life in Atlanta when we did not live there.  It seems like a fairly simple concept now, but at the time I truly felt like, once again, my world was being ripped from my hands. We made the decision together that we would not return to Atlanta for one year.

By investing in the city or community you live in, you are choosing to live in the present. If you spend all your time wishing you were somewhere else, then you may miss an important part or piece of your life’s growth process. That’s not an easy thing to do when you’d rather be somewhere else.  When I began the process of actually getting to know the Orlando community, I discovered it wasn’t such a bad place to live. When I started investing in relationships, I realized there were some amazing people that were worth getting to know. I look back now, and often wonder what life would be like today, if we hadn’t made the decision to cultivate community and plant our feet firmly where we lived. When we moved from there in 2007, we left some wonderful friends that I was genuinely sad to leave.

I do think it has been one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned along this path: Live in the present and invest in those around you.