I’ve been tossing around the idea of grad school for quite some time, until finally deciding that I’d like to be in an MFA program three years from now. The rub: I had to figure out how I was going to earn money in the meantime. I certainly did not want to go back to working as a litigation paralegal. The job was wrecking my health, values, sanity — you name it, the job defiled it. I was the wrong guy for the job.
There weren’t many other options left for a guy with a psych B.A., many years of legal experience and general burnout. Rather than be lost and miserable, I decided that I must go further with my vow of creativity in order to have a satisfying career. A brief certification program through my local community college was the most affordable and pleasing choice to get a new set of skills. Of course, I had to take into consideration how this all affects my partner.
Time: Many adults who go back to school find themselves in evening classes, which can lead to an opposite schedule with your partner. This impacts how partners make time for dinner together, household chores, leisure, sleep schedules and personal time.
I have night classes Monday through Thursday. Some nights I get home earlier than others. Late nights we eat separately. On early nights Zac and I have dinner together and split up the duties. I’ll get groceries or prepare raw ingredients before class; Zac takes over the cooking when I’m on my way home. If he ends up doing all the cooking, I do the dishes. No fights, no fuss.
Some couples may want to come to agreement on how chores are split. There’s no point in arguing about who has the longer day and who should be exempt from chores. From personal experience, Zac and I are equally exhausted by the end of the day / week, and neither of us is enthusiastic about vacuuming or scrubbing the bathtub.
Leisure, sleep schedules and personal time are the greatest challenge for a couple when a partner goes back to school. Much give and take is required. Zac took advantage of flexibility in his schedule to carve out leisure time with me. He now goes to bed and work later so that we can veg out together. In return, I give Zac top priority when I have free time. Balancing personal time for friends is still something I’m trying to sort out.
Money: Tuition, supplies, living expenses, lost wages. How does the couple cope?
The best solution may be different for every couple. Since Zac and I still have separate finances, I decided to change nothing about how I contribute for our shared expenses such as rent, utilities and groceries. I’ll also be responsible for my own education costs.
For me, it came down to a simple question for Zac: How do you feel about me going into more debt and having less money for the next year?
Since I had Zac’s full support, the decision to go back to school was a no-brainer. I was able to do well financially at a job I hated. I no longer wanted to imagine how much better I could do if I actually followed my interests and passions; I decided to take action instead.
I’m rather confident that going back to school will pay off financially. I love all of my classes right now, and Zac loves to see me happier than he’s ever seen me. In this case, a partner going back to school is making a relationship richer. A year from now, my bank account will be richer too.