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Married to an MBA

When my husband first applied for an MBA program, we had just moved to Seattle, were newly married and childless.  He was elated when he was accepted and they made sure to pursue him hard and lure him with tempting promises.  For reasons I cannot remember we decided that it just wasn’t the time to enter the program and so, in spite of all the treats dangling before him, he declined their offer.

Looking back now it was most definitely the right thing to do at the time.  We never could have known how much time, and energy, our first child would suck out of us equally.  If I had had to go it alone for 2 years with little Mr. Personality Plus I may not have made it.

Fast forward to early 2012, we had just moved and settled into our new home in Vermont.  Life is slightly slower paced here and Michael needed something to fill his time.  Because telecommuting for a company in Seattle, traveling back every other month, pastoring over a local church, and raising a family (1 son with another on the way) just doesn’t fill all the time up in a day.  But as we evaluated our lives and where we were at we began to realize that there never is going to be an ideal time to do something like thisSo….

mba

Michael began his MBA program at Babson College in October 2012.  It’s funny because it’s the same program he applied to while we lived in Seattle.  Back then he would have been attending their West Coast satellite campus but now he would be attending their Boston campus.  It actually seemed like an ideal situation, if ever there was going to be one.  He’s in Babson’s Fast Track MBA program.  What that means is he does the majority of his school work from home, via Skype with his teammates, or on web-ex class calls at night.  Every 7 weeks he travels down to Boston for his “face to face” time.  He leaves on a Wednesday afternoon so he can be at classes for Thursday – Saturday.  What this does is allow him to continue to work a 40 hour work week instead of quitting his job and attending school full time (which is how most MBA programs are).  We even have close family in the Boston area so on occasion the kids and I can go down and stay with them and visit all the ECHO partner museums.  This couldn’t be a more perfect set up!

We are now almost a year in…almost…and we are both losing steam.  The past 10 months have been draining on my husband mentally and physically.  They’ve been draining on the kids and me in every which way possible.  The months Michael has to be in Boston or Seattle or both are exhausting for me, I don’t know how you single moms do it but I salute you, your job is hard!  More than once we’ve had the conversation about whether or not we quit and in my eyes there is just no option, there will be no quitting!

If you’ll notice I just said “whether or not WE quit”, that’s because when Michael entered this program we knew that it would take a lot of sacrifice not only on his part but on my part and on our son’s part as well.  This is a family sacrifice and fortunately it’s one I believe very strongly in.  If I didn’t believe in my husband and his desire to pursue his dreams then this whole 2 year process would be a moot point.

Are any of you ladies out there in this MBA boat with me?  Or are your husbands (or wives) thinking of entering a program?  Here are a few tips for navigating the rocky waters for 2 years.

  1. Debt vs. Investment.  Don’t think of it as accumulated debt; rather think of it as in investment.  Not just in your spouse’s life and career, but in yours and your family’s as well.
  2. Figure out a time management system.  True fact: those nights you used to sit on the couch cuddling catching up on episodes of your favorite TV show are now on hold.  Unfortunately when your spouse is not in class or at work his teachers are going to expect him to be hitting the books.   You need to be more proactive about family time, eating meals together, working out, and date nights.  If it’s going to happen you’re going to have to schedule it. Do it at the start of the program, at the beginning of the month, just do it!
  3. Along those lines, be intentional about sex!  Yep, you read that right.  You’re probably going to need to schedule that too because between work, class, and homework that’s going to be one of the first things to go.  Scheduling is not necessarily romantic but it’s known to be a stress reliever and it’s designed to bring couples together.  Just be intentional because this is not an area of your relationship you can afford to sacrifice.
  4. Dealing with “new friends”.  Michael had been so excited to introduce me to his teammates for a long time when we finally were able to get dinner together.  I truly enjoyed meeting them and putting faces to the names but the majority of the evening was spent dissecting last week’s class, or criticizing the teacher, or talking about grades, and on and on.  It’s hard because I really want to be able to connect with him and support him in every way during this program.  But truth is, I can’t.  I’m not there, I’m not in it, and on many levels I can’t relate.  But these new friends can and it’s these relationships that he’ll need to lean on, as well as you, for these 2 years.
  5. Payoff:  I’m fully aware that a lot more businesses fail than succeed.  I’m also aware of the job market situation out there.  This school can’t guarantee that Michael will graduate with a new, higher paying job.  It doesn’t guarantee that he’ll have a successful business platform, with a product that everyone will want, with investors.  But it does guarantee that for 2 years he will have one opportunity after another to create a network that will support his entire career from graduation forward.  And I’m ok with that, because you never know who knows who.

I hope this helps some of you out there who might be trying to make this incredibly important decision and sacrifice.  Or encourages those of you who are in it, just knowing that there are others out there who know what you’re going through.  Stay strong, be intentional, and be the best, most encouraging support system your spouse could ever want.  

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7 Responses to Married to an MBA

  1. Miyuki August 14, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    What perfect timing for this article! We’re about to embark on the journey of gradschool. I think I am in denial of how challenging it will be for our family, but the article helped bring perspective on the reality of the cost of my spouse pursing his MBA and how we can answer that challenge. I especially appreciate the last sentence. I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks!

    • Shannon Ly
      Shannon Ly August 14, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

      Miyuki, it will most definitely be challenging but there’s such satisfaction that comes from working together on something this big as a team. You’re in it just as much as he is and don’t forget that. Good luck!

  2. Liz Marsha August 14, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    My husband applied to grad school last summer and was accepted but decided to push it off until further notice because at the time he was accepted we were looking at new homes, were 9 months pregnant, it was expensive and all the unknowns were just too scary. Now, I’m glad he didn’t do it because 2 months later he got the job that he thought he’d need to go to grad school to get and with a little one running around, and a house being built, I can’t imagine trying to do any of it alone! I do think that one day we will both go for our Masters and I will now start mine before he does (my new job pays for it!) but today is not that day. And I’m ok with that. I can’t imagine missing any more time away from my little man than I already do! It’s a huge commitment from the entire family and you can do this! Best of luck!

    • Shannon Ly
      Shannon Ly August 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

      Liz…Yeah, I would agree that will all you had going on at the time it just was not right. And congratulations to your hubs on scoring the job. Masters degrees can get you a lot but not everything and sounds like your husband did just fine on his own. I often think about going back to school but like you, I can’t imagine missing all these special days with my little ones. We are fortunate enough that for most of the week my husband works from home so he too can share in the life of our littles. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Brian August 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    This is all totally true, even with teenagers. I am missing college tours and family vacation time to hit the books. I am fully committed to the process though and have the full support of the family. I [think] they are proud of me. Anyway, I am trying to set a good example of what hard work can do for good grades as my teenagers approach the college application process. : )

  4. Shannon Ly
    Shannon Ly August 14, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    Brian…Good for you for going back to school (never an easy decision to make) and for setting the example for your kids. Your kids can learn a lot from your determination and hard work ethic. Hope it rubs off on them. Keep going, there is an end in sight!

  5. Meredith October 14, 2016 at 9:40 pm #

    I’m a fellow Babson MBA ’07! I learned a lot about women in business in the program. I was single at the time and took on 100% of the debt alone… so there are pros and cons for everyone-such as not having any backup resources. MBAs can be hard on families and there were mothers in our program… I point this out only because most MBA programs (specifically)are already 75%+ male so our voices should be heard to make it more family friendly for everyone-men and women! Programs like the Fast Track MBA at least aim to address this without moving a family around. There are options!

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