Is your husband going back to school this year?
Many of us are in the throes of back to school season with our kids: packing lunches, buying new notebooks and pencils, decorating lockers.
But for some of us, it’s not just the kids heading back. Some of us have husbands heading back to school, too!
One woman recently asked me:
Can you write a post about supporting your husband during a busy season of your life? I’ve been married two years, and within the next year my husband is going to try to go back to school and go on to get his doctorate!
Yep. That’s busy!
My husband Keith never went back to school per se, because he never STOPPED going to school for about six years after we married. He had to finish medical school and then he did four years of residency, where he was working about 100 hours of week and then had to study for really gruelling exams, all while we had babies.
But as hard as that was, I think it would be even harder if a husband stopped working and decided to finish his degree–or start a new one.
Starting school when you’ve been used to him working and bringing in an income is a big adjustment!
So I asked on my Facebook Page for tips from readers like you whose husbands are going back to school, and here’s what they said–mixed with some tips from me, too!
1. Be as Ridiculously Frugal as You Can
For many families, a husband going back to school means a huge drop in income. He’s probably only working part-time now at best, plus you have the added tuition costs.
That’s a lot of financial stress on top of school stress. Anything you can do to keep the family expenses low, then, can be such a big help. Research how to cook more cheaply. Institute Use What You Have months or no-buy months and actually use what’s in your cupboards (and below your bathroom sink!). Organize a clothing swap with friends instead of buying new clothes. And if there are things you really don’t like–your couch, your kitchen, the carpet in your bedroom–decide that you won’t complain about it or mention it to him while he’s still in school. Give him the gift of your own contentment during this time, because it is only a time.
One woman whose husband headed back to seminary decided to learn some new skills!
I learned crocheting and baking. These were simple and cheap ways I could make gifts for others. So, I’d encourage to use the time you’re apart to minister to others. It’ll help fight the urge to complain about not having him around and take away the desire to focus on self.
2. Start Your Own Study Session at Night
He’s going to need time to study, and you don’t want him to feel like you resent that time or wish he could spend more time with you. Besides, chances are you have some paperwork to do, too!
During his study hours, grab your calculator and the bills and do your finances and reconcile your budget. Grab your Bible and your journal and do your devotions. Decide to start studying an interesting nonfiction book at night (three that I just love are Your God Is Too Safe; Waiting on God; Boundaries). Or do a study of your own! My wonderful friend Pam Farrel (who wrote the foreword for The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex) just sent me her brand new study Discovering Hope in the Psalms, which I’m excited to delve into this fall.
3. Allow for study time in your family schedule
If he’s at school full-time, he’s going to need time to study at night and on the weekends. If these are set times, when it’s known that Daddy is studying, then he’s more likely to be able to get in a routine and get things done!
One woman really stressed the importance of scheduling both study time and couple time:
Make sure to have time set aside for being a couple. It can get so easy to get into the swing of “loads of homework that needs to get done NOW” and forget couple time until one or the other feels neglected. Also, it’s helpful to have have set home work times. Like, 4-6 is dinner/family time. 6-9 is homework and 9-10 is couples time then bed. Just examples. Fit into your family dynamic as needed. I am a 4 year husband in school vet. We have 3 kiddos and I homeschool them.
4. Don’t let him feel like his studies shouldn’t impact others
If he’s going to study on Saturdays, for instance, that may mean that he can’t take the kids to hockey practice like he usually does, or to gymnastics. And some families may not like that. Often in these types of situations I hear things like: “my kids shouldn’t have to suffer just because I decided to go back to school.”
I’m not sure where we got this idea that children must never be inconvenienced or must always have perfect lives. Dad is going back to school to eventually benefit the family. It’s okay if the family sacrifices for that for a time. We’re all in this together, and sometimes I feel like families believe that the parents exist to make the kids happy. Not true. We exist to serve God together, and if God is calling Dad back to school, then He’s also calling the family–even the kids–to support him.
5. Keep track of his due dates for papers and exams, and put them in a family calendar.
Stick that family calendar up in a prominent place, like the kitchen. Then don’t plan anything for the week before those big dates! Give him some breathing room before the stress.
6. Keep a Long Term Perspective
It’s easy to start feeling lonely, or overwhelmed with all the responsibilities that fall on your shoulders. It’s easy to start thinking, “We never get any time together anymore”, or bemoaning the fact that the kids have become almost your entire job. One male student left this comment on Facebook:
He’d much rather be with his family, so complaining about him studying just defeats him.
Yep. He probably feels the same way! So instead of thinking about how unhappy you are now, visualize what it is that you are working towards as a family. Each day gets you closer to that goal–and each thing he’s able to study for gets you closer, too.
7. Help with Study Habits (If you can do this without hurting his ego)
Back in the 1960s, before computers, wives often typed their husbands’ essays. But even today many wives find they can help their husbands study! One woman said this:
Honestly sometimes he can organize his papers better when he’s speaking it and I type it up. When he types- he tends to focus more on typing & making sure it’s grammatically correct (don’t worry- he does all the editing and revising, I literally type what he tells me to type… )and then it takes him a lot longer to get his thoughts out on paper. He works full time, helps me with the house & our 5 kiddos, and is remodeling our bathroom…. so if I can help him type and it takes him only a few hours to hammer out a paper instead of all day- I’ll do it!
When my son-in-law started taking harder courses at university, my daughter helped him figure out how to write research papers (she learned from the best. ? ). And he aced his courses, too! If your husband struggles with writing essays or papers, my daughter has a complete guide to writing a research paper. And when you sign up for my emails, you’ll also get a link to my free subscriber library, where I have a printable on how to write an essay!
8. Be Careful about Editing Papers
My tendency when helping people with homework is to always edit for them. Some husbands may appreciate this. But I remember one instance when my husband was writing a super important letter for work. It was about a very serious matter, and he had a bunch of other doctors sign their names to it, too. Keith agonized over that letter. Then he gave it to me to type up. Of course, as I was typing I could see how sentences could be reworded to give them more punch. So I reworked the whole thing. I was so proud of myself.
But when I showed it to Keith, he was crestfallen. He had spent so long trying to write this just perfectly, and it was as if I was saying I didn’t believe in him.
The moral of the story: If your husband WANTS you to edit, then edit. But if he just wants you to support him from the sidelines, resist the urge to get too involved, lest it makes him feel that you don’t believe in him.
9. Bring him something to drink!
I was surprised at how many people mentioned this, but it’s a good one! It’s easy to get dehydrated, and drinking water helps you stay awake. So when he’s studying–bring him a drink every now and then. It’s just a sweet thing to do, and it says, “I notice what you’re doing.”
10. Tell Him You Believe in Him
Another woman on Facebook left this comment:
When I taught at a college with a large adult student population, I had quite a few men in my classes. I often asked my married students how their spouses helped them be successful. Married women’s responses varied a lot, but the married men all said the same thing: “She tells me she believes in me, even when I don’t believe in myself and I think I’m too old or dumb to really do this.”
I think that’s a great one to end on!
Do you have a husband heading back to school this fall? Have any other advice for us? Or if you’ve ever been a student, what do you want spouses to know? Let’s talk about it in the comments!