[Guest Blog] Priorities change when you combine an MBA, marriage

My husband is not someone who makes a decision lightly.

We used to joke that we had a common-law marriage because we were together more than 8 years before he proposed. He’ll go back to a shoe store three times before committing to one pair of slip-ons, and I refuse to play Scrabble with him because he takes an outlandish amount of time to commit to his next word.

Choosing a business school was no different. He studied tirelessly for the GMAT to secure a score that would make him a great candidate in an extremely competitive landscape. He chatted with friends pursuing the same career path, spent hours on admissions forums, checked the U.S. News and World Report rankings, and visited campuses with top MBA programs like the University of Chicago (Booth) and Columbia University. Poets & Quants became his homepage.

When he began classes this fall at one of his dream schools, reality started to set in. As a newly married couple, we would not be charting the same course that so many of our peers were at this stage in their lives. It became increasingly clear that our priorities were shifting, and it would be at least two years before we started tackling the “normal” next steps.

The following are a few areas in which we’ve hit the pause button in favor of my husband advancing his career:

Starting a family. When you’re together as long as we were before getting married, you start to get the “so when are you guys going to tie the knot?” question. A lot. Then, just when you think you’ve quieted the peanut gallery, you’re faced with the inevitable baby question. While many of our friends are taking this next step, business school has put the brakes on it for us. While it is an exciting time in our lives, it is also a stressful one, and I think adding the extra pressure of a newborn would simply be too much. Not to mention the lack of space in our tiny, one-bedroom apartment on the Upper West Side, and the fact that we’re currently depending on one income.

It is important to note, however, that I do know of at least a handful of people who are making the MBA/parents thing work, so it can be done — it just isn’t something we’re willing to commit to at this time.

Buying a house. When you’re living in a place like New York City, buying real estate is not for the faint of heart. Not only is it extremely competitive with high turnover rates, but also you’re paying for a piece of one of the most desirable cities in the world — and it’ll cost you. While friends around the country are securing beautiful starter homes, house hunting is not even on our radar at this point in time. Again, with so many unknowns, it doesn’t make sense to be tied down with a mortgage. What if he doesn’t land a job after graduation? What if we decide to move again in a few years? Renting works just fine for us.

Furthering my education. While it’s tough for me to imagine being back in the classroom after a handful of years as a working professional, I’ve pondered it from time to time and would strongly consider pursuing a master’s degree in a field like marketing. However, the thought of both of us taking on more debt and being full-time students simultaneously doesn’t sound all that appealing. That’s not to say it will never happen, but it’s simply not a viable option right now. Perhaps at the end of his two-year journey, I can revisit this idea, or simply take a few classes in the meantime.

I’d love to hear from some fellow “better halves.” What are some sacrifices you’ve had to make that, perhaps, your other married friends haven’t? How have you been able to cope?

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Erica Moss is the social media outreach coordinator for the online masters in nursing program at Georgetown University, which has one of the nation’s leading nurse midwife programs. She is passionate about photography, community building, and University of Michigan football. Follow her on Twitter @ericajmoss.

  • http://twitter.com/angelineevans Angeline Evans

    I’ve been in a similar boat. I left NYC (my dream city) after finishing my master’s degree and reluctantly moved to a podunk agricultural college town after I got married to join my husband for his last four years of grad school. Since he’s an academic, we knew that his job search would be nationwide (if not worldwide) so we sort of just waffled for those four years…couldn’t really put down roots or anything. We watched friends all around us snap up houses and pop out cute kids, but we just couldn’t imagine adding that to our imminent uprooting.

    He finished last June, and sure enough, the best offer was across the country, so we picked up and shipped off. While we’ll likely stay put until his tenure review (year 7), we’ve moved around so much as adults so far (I’m on my third state in six years) that we’re still waiting for our sea legs to get steady before we move ahead to the house/kids stage. It’s actually sort of a shock to my system to potentially be in a place that we might not move away from soon.

    I highly recommend finding other wives or significant others to commiserate with. Although most of the people in my husband’s grad program weren’t married, I was able to meet some other wives-of-graduate-students through church and other activities. We went through the newlywed grad school transition together and the uncertain job search season together and eventually following our husbands to their jobs together (from Northern California, we’re now in Kansas, Florida, and Germany). Most of the other couples did take the plunge and bought houses and had kids even in the short time we were in NorCal, which was a good reminder to me to live in the now and not wait for everything to be “perfect” before moving on.

    Like you said, it certainly can be done. And while there have been sacrifices, they’ve been well worth it to be able to take things at our own pace and pave our own way.

    • Erica Moss

      Well said, Angeline! A lot of people say I’m a saint for following my husband to the Detroit area and then to New York City, but when you’re married and committed to someone, you don’t think about it, you just do it. It’s not easy, it’s definitely not always glamorous, and it’s not a well beaten path. But you just have faith that the rewards will be far greater than the sacrifices.

      And your assertion that you should seek out other “better halves” is a great one. It’s something I did myself, and have two very solid new friendships as a result. We swap war stories, share advice, and find comfort in the fact that there are others who face the same challenges — and triumphs.

      Thanks so much for your comment; I wish you and your husband the best of luck!

    • Anonymous

      Angeline:

      It is great that you found a group of wives/significant others who find themselves in your shoes — sometimes just having support from someone else going through the same thing makes the experience a bit easier. So what if you’re not doing the marriage/house/kids/etc.. stages at a certain pace? You two are doing what works for you. Carving your own path and doing it your own way is refreshing (and awesome) to see.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your experience. All the very best to you and your husband!

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