The past year has been a crash course for me in MBA living. I’ve experienced the highs and lows the prep books don’t tell you about.
Because I know most MBA types and their significant others are big on planning and research, here is what I wish someone would have told me before we began our journey.
You don’t enjoy being alone.
You’re going to be alone. A lot. If you have kids they may be the only company you have twelve to fourteen hours a day. If your significant other is on a recruiting trek or traveling for interviews you may be alone for days or weeks. It’s rough and takes some getting used to.
There are ways to combat the loneliness. Most schools have excellent programs for partners, spouses, and families but if you have small children it might be challenging for you to find the time and motivation to get out of your apartment. Getting involved with the local community helps. Stay on top of local events and make an effort to attend at least once per month. You will make new friends and so will your kids.
Connecting with friends and family via the Internet helped me, too. I Skyped with my family, Tweeted like a madwoman with other MBA spouses when my husband was out of town, and shared my experiences on my blog. Find what works for you and stick to it. Set up weekly video chat dates with a friend. It will give you something to look forward to and will eventually become a great habit.
Your relationship is not secure.
Your partner will spend all of his or her time with ambitious and intelligent members of the opposite sex many of whom you’ve never met before. There is no way around this. If there are cracks in your relationship before you arrive to campus they could be magnified.
If you’re the jealous type or have a reason to distrust your significant other this is not going to be a good time for you. The only way to prevent this issue is working on your relationship before moving with your partner to his or her new school or by buying this and stealthily following your significant other around campus.
It is perfectly natural to be curious about your partner’s new friends and classmates. Get to know them yourself. Don’t be shy. These people might become lifelong friends or colleagues and could become a significant part of your life for years to come. An added bonus is deterring any would be creepers from moving in on your partner. It’s not fool-proof and you definitely don’t want to become a crazy, uninvited guest; at the end of the day, if your partner isn’t commiteed to you nothing will change that, but at the very least you’ll make some friends.
Don’t forget that this experience is equally stressful for your partner. Set up a dedicated date night where you discuss anything but business school.
My husband and I hired an undergrad as a mother’s helper/babysitter and it was a huge help. We used the time we booked her to grab a coffee or enjoy a rare breakfast at a restaurant. It’s well worth the $10 an hour and if you don’t have kids there is no excuse. Get out there and have some regular fun. Just the two of you.
You don’t handle uncertainty well.
The first year of business school is full of question marks. Your partner may have applied with one post-MBA profession in mind and may change his/her mind two or three times before accepting an employment offer during second year. Nothing’s guaranteed; the company that hired your significant other for an internship may not extend him or her a full-time offer, for example. MBA life is exciting, but the uncertainty is taxing.
Some sage adviceIf you have grown accustomed to a life of routine and habit, it is time to prepare yourself for a year or so of adventure and mystery.If you have grown accustomed to a life of routine and habit, it is time to prepare yourself for a year or so of adventure and mystery. Your partner’s time at business school will be filled with opportunities for self-discovery and growth [for you both!] which will inevitably lead to changes in plans. Your flexibility and support are major factors in turning these opportunities into benefits for you and your significant other. Trust your partner’s judgement and keep the faith. The end result is worth a short period of uncertainty.
After struggling with this issue for months I forced myself to let go. I stopped the countdowns, constant question asking, and looking forward with uncertainty. I made a sincere effort to live in the moment and let go of my anxiety about the future.
Business school occupies a sliver of time and it passes quickly. There is plenty to enjoy and I didn’t want to waste once in a lifetime opportunities by obsessing about the future. I’m much happier this way. I take the adventures as they come and live in the present. I don’t know what post business school life holds for my family but I have faith that it will be wonderful.
Photo courtesy Technori Pitch, o5com (all Flickr).