Grad Wife Tips! · Marriage

Making Room for Date Night

Date Night-Written by Jackie, a current graduate wife

I don’t know about you, but it took me a while to figure out the importance of date night. All of my friends with kids kept stressing the need of a date night, but I just didn’t think my spouse and I needed it. That is, until a couple of years ago when life got really busy. We had just completed our first year in our new city and also moved a little bit further from city centre. We wanted to prove to ourselves that the move wouldn’t impede on our new, and fragile, social life. But it was too much. We were exhausted and felt like we hadn’t been able to spend quality time with each other in weeks. Enter in, date night.

It took a while for date night to take roots and really make a place in our schedule but it eventually did. We started to see the value in setting a night aside to focus on us and can see the difference it has made in our relationship.

Of course, being in the “postgrad stage” we don’t really have the budget to go out to a dinner and a movie every week. So, I’ve listed out some of the things we have done for our date nights that keep the wallet, and the heart, happy:

Go out for just dessert/drinks only.

You don’t have to go out for the full meal. A little treat can be just as special.

Cook a meal together.

Pick a fancy-ish meal, something you’d find in a 5-star restaurant, and make it together. And then enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Put a ban on the computer.

I don’t know about you, but I can get just as easily sucked into the computer as my student husband. So, we’ll make sure that the computer stays off unless we’re both using it to watch a movie. Sometimes we’ll put a ban on electronics and we’ll play games or work on a home project we had been meaning to complete.

Go outside.

Go on a walk around a different part of town or a sunset hike. Or you can take dinner outside and have a picnic. If you both enjoy sports, you can toss a football or pass a soccer ball or play catch. This one’s great especially if you’re both stuck indoors 40+ hours a week.

Night Trip.

Is there another city/town close by? Not all trips out of town need to take up a whole day. Arrange to meet at the train/bus station and check out a neighbouring city/town for a few hours.

Research.

Groupon, Livingsocial, and Itison all have deals for restaurants or outings every week. There are websites like 5pm.co.uk that offer weekly deals or lunch specials. Also, take advantage of the student life by asking if there’s a discount for students. A lot of venues will offer 10% off. Scan your local cinemas’ websites or your mobile phone plan. Sometimes cinemas will offer deals during specific days of the week or for certain movies. Or maybe the local pub hosts a quiz night, or the comedy club has a deal on nights when they’re showcasing new talent. There are always things going on but you have to dig.

I hope these ideas help you guys out some. Remember, the whole point of date night is to have intentional time with your partner; to hang out with your best friend. That doesn’t look the same for everyone, but it is important for everyone.

Do you have any ideas for date night?

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Inspiration · Marriage

REPOST: Pockets of Time

-written by Keeley, a current graduate wife

It was Valentine’s Day of the first year in our marriage, and we were living in Cambridge, Mass. in a little apartment halfway between Harvard and Central Square. I was scheduled to work the closing shift at Au Bon Pain, a bakery chain that’s very popular in the Northeast. Instead of having a fancy dinner, I decided we’d do a special lunch before I went in to work, composed of meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes (incidentally, the supper my mom fixed on my husband’s first visit to our home while we were dating). It wasn’t until the phone was ringing did I realize how silly I was being, calling my mom at 7:30 in the morning to ask her how to make a meatloaf. It was one of those dinners I had made about four times growing up, on those nights when my mom was coming in late from work and I had to pinch-hit, so I couldn’t remember the details but could have sworn it took 3 to 4 hours to cook. Fortunately for me, she was awake, she is ready any moment of the day to share how to make a meatloaf, and it doesn’t take nearly that long! We will never forget the Valentine’s Day morning we spent watching a movie and enjoying our home-cooked lunch before walking to work through a snowstorm.

That Valentine’s Day, and that year, will always be special to my husband and me, partly because it was our first year of marriage, but partly because we made such an effort to spend pockets of time together whenever we could. Finding these pockets is a skill which only grows more valuable as time passes and a temptation to take one another for granted subtly sets in, particularly once children arrive, so I’ve heard. I remember our Monday afternoons, especially. I had work at Au Bon Pain from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., and Jason had work at City Sports, about a block away, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. We decided to meet in the middle and spend the hour together, sitting on the grass and enjoying the occasional treat I was able to mooch from work, sometimes a scone or a “practice” sandwich I had learned to make out of the extensive lunch menu. We were creative and resourceful about our time, because for whatever reason, we felt compelled to make the most of every moment.

Our rhythm has lost some of the urgency of that first year–we’ve moved and are now in the fourth year of Jason’s PhD program and have settled into something of a routine. But I am grateful for the habits that we formed so early, particularly sharing meals together. Breakfast, dinner, and the occasional lunch will find us at the little round wooden table we found at Target the summer we were married, one or both of our cats looking on curiously. We both are great appreciators of food anyway, but it’s also a time when we are completely focused on the conversation between us, looking directly at one another as opposed to having a computer or two in the way, as is so often the case!

My work schedule is odd because I work retail, so my day off is Monday. Just this week, we packed a simple picnic lunch and found a new hiking trail that led to a small pond, where we enjoyed skipping stones and looking for frogs. I haven’t had regular Saturdays off since we first moved to Massachusetts six years ago, but it’s fun being able to have a special outing on an otherwise nondescript Monday. Because Jason is at the writing stage in his program, every day is pretty much the same–full of writing with a few breaks!

Another tradition we have is to take a day trip sometime around our anniversary. This doesn’t have to be expensive, although it will of course depend on where you live. We’ve enjoyed getting away and seeing some of the sights around where we have lived, whether it’s to the mountains or the beach, or to Amish country. A few times we’ve saved up and stayed in a bed & breakfast, but other years we’ve just taken a day off to spend together in a different setting.

One thing that I hope we never forget is the reality that we will always be busy. We will always (hopefully!) have work to do, other friendships and relationships to pursue, and chores to get done. But for us, finding a moment here and a moment there has made our marriage a lot stronger than I think it would otherwise be, and has made us a family, operating with a sense of unity and a mutual rhythm in how we live our days. I am grateful for a husband who values this as much as I do, and pray that we will continue to find ways to take advantage of these pockets of time as we grow and pass through the seasons to come in our life together.

What are some creative ways that you make the most of the time you have with your spouse? Do you have any weekly/monthly/yearly traditions that you feel have especially enriched your marriage?

Inspiration · Marriage

Pockets of Time

-written by Keeley, a current graduate wife

It was Valentine’s Day of the first year in our marriage, and we were living in Cambridge, Mass. in a little apartment halfway between Harvard and Central Square. I was scheduled to work the closing shift at Au Bon Pain, a bakery chain that’s very popular in the Northeast. Instead of having a fancy dinner, I decided we’d do a special lunch before I went in to work, composed of meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes (incidentally, the supper my mom fixed on my husband’s first visit to our home while we were dating). It wasn’t until the phone was ringing did I realize how silly I was being, calling my mom at 7:30 in the morning to ask her how to make a meatloaf. It was one of those dinners I had made about four times growing up, on those nights when my mom was coming in late from work and I had to pinch-hit, so I couldn’t remember the details but could have sworn it took 3 to 4 hours to cook. Fortunately for me, she was awake, she is ready any moment of the day to share how to make a meatloaf, and it doesn’t take nearly that long! We will never forget the Valentine’s Day morning we spent watching a movie and enjoying our home-cooked lunch before walking to work through a snowstorm.

That Valentine’s Day, and that year, will always be special to my husband and me, partly because it was our first year of marriage, but partly because we made such an effort to spend pockets of time together whenever we could. Finding these pockets is a skill which only grows more valuable as time passes and a temptation to take one another for granted subtly sets in, particularly once children arrive, so I’ve heard. I remember our Monday afternoons, especially. I had work at Au Bon Pain from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., and Jason had work at City Sports, about a block away, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. We decided to meet in the middle and spend the hour together, sitting on the grass and enjoying the occasional treat I was able to mooch from work, sometimes a scone or a “practice” sandwich I had learned to make out of the extensive lunch menu. We were creative and resourceful about our time, because for whatever reason, we felt compelled to make the most of every moment.

Our rhythm has lost some of the urgency of that first year–we’ve moved and are now in the fourth year of Jason’s PhD program and have settled into something of a routine. But I am grateful for the habits that we formed so early, particularly sharing meals together. Breakfast, dinner, and the occasional lunch will find us at the little round wooden table we found at Target the summer we were married, one or both of our cats looking on curiously. We both are great appreciators of food anyway, but it’s also a time when we are completely focused on the conversation between us, looking directly at one another as opposed to having a computer or two in the way, as is so often the case!

My work schedule is odd because I work retail, so my day off is Monday. Just this week, we packed a simple picnic lunch and found a new hiking trail that led to a small pond, where we enjoyed skipping stones and looking for frogs. I haven’t had regular Saturdays off since we first moved to Massachusetts six years ago, but it’s fun being able to have a special outing on an otherwise nondescript Monday. Because Jason is at the writing stage in his program, every day is pretty much the same–full of writing with a few breaks!

Another tradition we have is to take a day trip sometime around our anniversary. This doesn’t have to be expensive, although it will of course depend on where you live. We’ve enjoyed getting away and seeing some of the sights around where we have lived, whether it’s to the mountains or the beach, or to Amish country. A few times we’ve saved up and stayed in a bed & breakfast, but other years we’ve just taken a day off to spend together in a different setting.

One thing that I hope we never forget is the reality that we will always be busy. We will always (hopefully!) have work to do, other friendships and relationships to pursue, and chores to get done. But for us, finding a moment here and a moment there has made our marriage a lot stronger than I think it would otherwise be, and has made us a family, operating with a sense of unity and a mutual rhythm in how we live our days. I am grateful for a husband who values this as much as I do, and pray that we will continue to find ways to take advantage of these pockets of time as we grow and pass through the seasons to come in our life together.

What are some creative ways that you make the most of the time you have with your spouse? Do you have any weekly/monthly/yearly traditions that you feel have especially enriched your marriage?

Balanced Life? · Children · Marriage

What Does a Balanced Life Look Like? Part VI (Fanning the flame)

The below question and responses were compiled by fellow graduate wife reader, Laura Lee.  She surveyed several women on the journey and is sharing with us their answers. You can see her original post here, where she outlines her journey towards discovering the answers of a ‘balanced’ life during this season of being a graduate wife and beyond. This is part VI of the ‘What does a balanced life look like?’ series.  Enjoy!


5) Part of a balanced marriage means allowing for time alone with your spouse to connect and share experiences together.  How do you spend time with your husbands in the midst of their intense studying/working schedules?  What are some big and little ways you connect and keep the flame alive?

  • Spending time with husbands – I don’t know if anyone else can relate, but my husband is a massive perfectionist, and would work 12-16 hour days if I’d allow it. But, all that to say, we’re both fairly independent people, so most of the time, I don’t mind him working so much. However, sometimes, it does get to be a bit too much; but luckily, we’re both fairly astute at identifying it. We tend to spend most of the day on Sundays together, and once a week, we try to do something together like watch a movie, take a long walk, etc. Other than that, having dinner at night and fun emails and texts throughout the day is the way I feel connected to him. We try to do a date night once a month too, which I’ve found helps. When he does have a big deadline looming, I tend to give him his space, and let him do what he needs to do, so he’s not receiving any added pressure from me. I do find that during that time, it’s really difficult for me, because I often feel like a single parent. But, I also realize it’s only for a short season.
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  • My husband and I spend time each night after our daughter is in bed (usually around 7:30ish). However, there are times when he’ll have collections/tutorial essays to mark for the next morning or a lecture to prepare. And Saturdays are workdays for him, though they are ‘flexible’. He works from home, and we do something together as a family either in the morning or afternoon. Sundays are family days. Breakfasts and dinners are good times for us to connect, too.
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  • During the week my husband and I spend from about 7:30-9:30pm together.  We enjoy watching a show on our computer, talking, reading the bible, etc.  On days when he is going to be home after 6pm he tries to eat lunch at home so that he can see our son and we can have a little time together.  We are very blessed because he gets to eat lunch at home about three out of five days.  Saturdays he usually works part of the day and the other half we do something fun as a family.  Sundays he usually takes off most of the day.  There have been the dreaded weeks when he’s been working a ton and we don’t see each other as much.  Those weeks are hard usually because our toddler is a lot of work when you have him 24-7 on your own…I think all toddlers are!  But my husband will usually make it up to me by watching him one afternoon so I can have some “me” time.  What’s worked best for us is always talking about our needs and expectations, and compromising.
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  • Ever since my husband began graduate work (2006!) we have worked VERY hard at treating his studies as a job.  It’s 8:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday for him.  That way when he comes home he is a dad/husband and not a 24-hour student who is taking a short intermission to tuck his kid into bed. (That wouldn’t be fair to any of us.)  The truth is, once we leave school, life isn’t going to slow down and get easier.  There aren’t going to be less pressures on his/our time and energy.   The truth is, there is ALWAYS going to be more to read, research, study, write, DO. Everything isn’t going to magically become perfect once this grad school phase is over.  So for me, it’s important that we work hard to maintain a healthy (for us) work/school/job balance NOW and make it a habit.  And because of this, (I believe) he is more disciplined/focused during the days.  That’s not to say he doesn’t work some nights and weekends or that he doesn’t send emails in the evenings or cram in some more latin homework the night before class – he does.  Believe me, he does.  It’s just the exception and not the rule.  This commitment frees our nights/weekends up to play games, bake cookies, work in the garden, watch our favorite TV shows online, go punting, take our daughter on outings, do crosswords, etc.   Some nights we just sit next to each other on the couch reading and on those nights, while I’m reading some riveting novel, he will most often choose a book for school.  Which is fine – because we’re both reading.  But there’s not much of a worse feeling (to me) than when your husband has been away from you all day reading books at the library and then he comes home and he would rather keep reading those same books night after night after night than spend time with you.  I hate feeling like I have to either A.) Reluctantly DRAG him away from his books or B.) Live my life alone.  The truth is, I WANT him to like what he does.  I’m GLAD he loves his work.  I just want him to show that he likes me (and our family) more.  So his efforts to stick to an 8 to 5 schedule helps maintain my sanity and makes me much more gracious and supportive when working hours must be expanded (for whatever reason.)
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  • Well said above… things aren’t going to get easier once PhD is over and hubby has a job. If anything, from our experience, it is just the opposite! It only gets busier and more pressure packed once they have a job. My husband has been so good at setting boundaries for work. I am very thankful for this. There was a time during his first masters (in the States when there was tons of coursework) that I had day dreams of putting his computer in the bathtub and then just smashing it to bits! :) We’re in a much better place now, and it started when he was doing his PhD and we’ve carried that through. We connect by having dinner together as a family every night. He always does the dishes (I cook, he does the dishes) and then we put the kids to bed together. We’ve always said, our favorite time of the day is when the kids wake up in the morning and when they go to bed at night! We put them to bed early (usually by 7) and then enjoy our evening together. I love just chatting and hearing about his day. I feel important when he wants to tell me stuff or ask my opinion about something. He doesn’t enjoy watching tv so our evenings are tv-free. We talk, read, relax…enjoy our quiet house!
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How do you spend time with your husband during this graduate season?  How do you make time and what do you enjoy doing together to connect and get away from busy work schedules?