Job Search · Patience

REPOST: Once Upon a Time, I Was A Planner

-written by ML, a current graduate wife

When it comes to short term things I’m pretty spontaneous, but in life I’m a planner. I might decide when I wake up to go to a museum that day, but I want to know where I’ll be at this time next year. Needless to say not knowing where we’ll be next month is really taking its toll.

I didn’t freak out around October when the other wives started to, “I can roll with not knowing until January” I said. But… it’s May! Not just May, the middle of May! Not all of the jobs my husband applied for are academic. I didn’t think about it at the time, but that means while others secured their faculty and postdoc positions last winter, we’re just now getting emails saying his application wasn’t discarded with the first round and in a few months they’ll have a short list.

But, but, but, we need to know if we should renew our lease for another year soon. What if we renew and then have to move? What if we don’t and move in with someone while we wait and then he doesn’t get any of them? What if we pay for a move to crash in someone’s basement and then have to move to a totally different area for a job?  What will we do financially?

This has done something interesting to my planner mind. This has caused me to plan and stress out about five hypothetical situations, ready to put into action the one we’ll need: If we move there we’ll be poorer than we are now, but if we move there we will need a second car, but if we move there I won’t be able to find work…

I bought guards for teeth grinding. I stopped going to department social events because I just can’t tell the same people over and over “No, we still don’t know, just like we didn’t know last week, just like we didn’t know the week before.”

We have a back-up plan, but even that is stressful when you don’t know if or when you’ll need it and that you probably won’t be happy doing it. I’ve written before about how we don’t like it here, yet the prospect of a term job here has helped quell my panic attacks to one per week when I think about the things I’ll miss when (if?) we leave. It helps to talk about it to each other. We haven’t solved anything yet but bouncing ideas off each other instead of bottling it up helps. Telling my parents not to ask me about it every single day helped.  Getting caught up in a book helps.

I don’t have any insightful answers to this. I don’t have an “it all worked out” ending yet. It’s not an easy life we chose, but given the option I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

As a graduate wife, how do you deal with uncertainty? If you’re a planner, how do you deal with not being able to plan ahead?

Advertisements
Job Search · Patience

Once Upon a Time, I Was A Planner

-written by ML, a current graduate wife

When it comes to short term things I’m pretty spontaneous, but in life I’m a planner. I might decide when I wake up to go to a museum that day, but I want to know where I’ll be at this time next year. Needless to say not knowing where we’ll be next month is really taking its toll.

I didn’t freak out around October when the other wives started to, “I can roll with not knowing until January” I said. But… it’s May! Not just May, the middle of May! Not all of the jobs my husband applied for are academic. I didn’t think about it at the time, but that means while others secured their faculty and postdoc positions last winter, we’re just now getting emails saying his application wasn’t discarded with the first round and in a few months they’ll have a short list.

But, but, but, we need to know if we should renew our lease for another year soon. What if we renew and then have to move? What if we don’t and move in with someone while we wait and then he doesn’t get any of them? What if we pay for a move to crash in someone’s basement and then have to move to a totally different area for a job?  What will we do financially?

This has done something interesting to my planner mind. This has caused me to plan and stress out about five hypothetical situations, ready to put into action the one we’ll need: If we move there we’ll be poorer than we are now, but if we move there we will need a second car, but if we move there I won’t be able to find work…

I bought guards for teeth grinding. I stopped going to department social events because I just can’t tell the same people over and over “No, we still don’t know, just like we didn’t know last week, just like we didn’t know the week before.”

We have a back-up plan, but even that is stressful when you don’t know if or when you’ll need it and that you probably won’t be happy doing it. I’ve written before about how we don’t like it here, yet the prospect of a term job here has helped quell my panic attacks to one per week when I think about the things I’ll miss when (if?) we leave. It helps to talk about it to each other. We haven’t solved anything yet but bouncing ideas off each other instead of bottling it up helps. Telling my parents not to ask me about it every single day helped.  Getting caught up in a book helps.

I don’t have any insightful answers to this. I don’t have an “it all worked out” ending yet. It’s not an easy life we chose, but given the option I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

As a graduate wife, how do you deal with uncertainty? If you’re a planner, how do you deal with not being able to plan ahead?

Expectations

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?

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Everyone has a Story

So you are standing in the massive line at Tescos, ready to check out, watching the clock to make sure you catch the bus on time, and your toddler starts to whine a little.  Maybe it gets a bit louder…and it becomes more than a whine…it turns into a full on cry.  You try to comfort, give in to temptation and try to bribe them…nothing is working.  You are exhausted in a hurry and have your hands full.  You just take a deep breath and try to make it through to the checkout.  The man behind you starts sneering.  He sneers some more and then it turns into criticism of your parenting.  He is grumpy, old, up tight and he has nothing better to do than to be angry at you for something you really can’t control.  Seriously…did he ever have kids?  Doesn’t he have anything more important to fret about?

Does any of the above scenario sound familiar?

In moments like this I find it easy for my anger to start building… especially in the heat of the moment when the man is getting grumpier and I start getting more annoyed.  However, over the past year or so I have started understanding something really important.  Something that is incredibly hard and something that involves stepping outside of oneself and really trying to ‘give the benefit of the doubt’ to another.

I came across this video recently and it really spoke to me.  Everyone has a story.  Everyone of us has a past and everyone of us has been shaped and molded by it.  We can never assume we know it in all about someone by a brief encounter…or even if we’ve known that someone for many years.

I hope this leaves you with much food for thought this Christmas season.  It’s a busy time of travel, hurry and family.  If you are stuck next to a grumpy gills on the plane, or are having a hard time relating to a difficult family member…. remember that everyone has a story, we just have to take the time to read it (or at least recognize it).

 

-M.C.

Sharing 'Worlds'

‘Carry me home…’ & more thoughts on ‘sharing worlds’

‘Big wheels keep on turning…carry me home to see my kin’ 

These famous words are running through my ears as I start the tedious task of unpacking our suitcases that are tightly squeezed into my daughter’s closet (because we have no room elsewhere to store our summer clothes than inside these suitcases) and re-packing them for our Christmas visit that starts on Friday.

I have done all the laundry, thought through all the bare essentials I will need on my trip back to the states (because let’s me honest, you know I am needing all the space I can get in these suitcases to bring back some American treats on our return).  I hear my husband telling me what a great packer I am and I try desperately to keep my daughter entertained with my bracelet drawer from my jewelry box so she won’t start to un-pack all I’ve managed to squeeze in at this point.

Carry me home to see my kin…

I am going to Alabama on Friday.

I am going home to see my kin.

There is always a rush to make it to the awaited deadline of  ‘traveling home’.  So many dinner dates, lectures, evensongs, and coffee dates to squeeze in that we almost tire out before we get to the finish line. We sometimes feel like we try to squeeze every ounce out of the last few weeks before leaving.  We look forward to the time away…the time at home to rest, re-group with ourselves and our families and to feel refreshed.  Although, I know that  for some of us, this isn’t always the case.

 We live really interesting lives don’t we?  We graduate wives.  Many of us have moved away from our family and close friends.  Almost all of us have started over in a sense.  Almost all of us have forged new community around us (or are trying to) and forged  new friendships….which have become like ‘family’ in many ways, when we do find ourselves geographically distant from our actual families.  We have learned to live with many sacrifices and learned to live with much less than we thought we really needed.  We’ve learned how to support, how to give space, how to understand and how to communicate with our husbands in ways we would have never known if not for the graduate journey experience.  We’ve learned a lot about ourselves (and are daily doing so).  We’ve been stretched, challenged and shaped.  And most of all, almost all of us have…..changed.

We’ve changed.  We’ve lived some interesting, hard, wonderful, strange and fascinating stories. Try as we might, it is sometimes hard to communicate on skype just how drastic or significant the change in our lives and hearts might have become.

Sometimes there develops a large gap between our past ‘shared’ lives and our current lives as graduate wives.  For some of us the journey has been painful and it’s been easier to keep the heartache inside rather than try to share with family or friends back home.  For some of us the journey has been more enriching than we had ever imagined and we haven’t know just how to articulate the joys and highs with family or friends back home without making them feel ‘left out’.

With many of us traveling home for Christmas (yeah!) we thought we’d share the below.  It’s just a few thoughts that have helped us along the way as we’ve tried to share our graduate wife journey with those back at home.  I hope you will chime in with any insights or thoughts of your own as well!  Merry travels and enjoy your visits home!!

1)   Be as intentional as possible about sharing ‘your world’ before your trip home:  This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but I have found it so incredibly helpful to share little bits, even if it is just a quick email or a photograph or a one liner on the phone, about my life here.  I then have a seed planted and look forward to the chance to develop it more when I see the family/friend in person.  All it takes is a conscious effort to share things so that when you go for a visit it won’t seem a daunting task trying to fill in gaps on your life over the past months/year.

2)   Make a ‘thanksgiving list’ listing what makes you thankful for your home and your family/friends there:  This is incredibly helpful if you haven’t seen your family in a while and if you have become happily immersed in your current role of a graduate wife in a new environment and setting.  It is refreshing and helpful to remember where you come from and what joys you are getting to return to on your visit.

3)   Bring pictures, items, and souvenirs from your life now Pick up some of the traditional ‘local favorites’ of your new home.  If in England, bring home some tea to share, or if you moved to a new area of your country, bring home a regional cookbook or some local artwork.  Have a slideshow on your computer of pictures of your lives in your new home and point out the faces of new friends, your colleagues and the University.  Be creative on how to visually share your graduate adventure with others.

4)   Don’t set expectations that are too high:  Let your family be your family and let you be yourself!  Don’t try to force anything, don’t come with a long list of things you feel like you have to talk about or share.  Come prepared with lots to share of course, but don’t push it and don’t expect it all to come out at once.   Relax and try to just enjoy the time rather than always having an agenda.  When we are far apart it is so easy to want to pack in 1,000 things into the week or two of our visit, but try to limit that…allow for time to just ‘be’. And don’t expect everyone to ‘get’ you and your lifestyle, now.  Give them space to see and understand the changes you might have gone through.  This can be especially hard for someone who’s family isn’t all that familiar with ‘going back to school’ and lifestyles and research requirements that come with graduate programs. It might take time for them to process your new graduate wife/student lifestyle.

5)   Give them time:  Similar to what I just stated, step back, relax and give your family and friend’s some space.  Just like I shared in my first piece on ‘sharing worlds’, let them share first.  As my husband always asks about my day, before sharing about his, do the same with your family.  Ask, question, listen and learn from them and then give them space to start the process of digging into your life.

6)   Don’t compare your life to others: Beware of this.  It is so easy to do and before long you start wishing that you or your husband wasn’t in grad school and start to question why you ever decided to follow your dreams in the first place.  It’s tempting to look at friends with big houses, with no student budget and who don’t deal with the stresses of graduate school and get envious.  Maybe it is a good idea to even make a ‘thanksgiving list’ of why you are grateful to be a graduate wife and keep it handy as you are home and around friends and family that aren’t ‘in your shoes’.

-M.C.