Much like most of life’s big changes, the transition to being the spouse of an MBA student does not come with a detailed instruction manual. There’s no one-size-fits-all set of rules for every couple to abide by, and it can add a certain level of stress to a new marriage.
Depending on the school selected, it can mean moving from the only state you’ve called home, giving up your car, seeing your spouse less than you’re used to, and a whole host of other challenges that can seem overwhelming at times. It doesn’t have to be, though, if you manage your expectations and set yourself up for success.
If you’re new to this world, however, and you’re looking for a toolkit that can help make the transition a little bit easier, I offer the following suggestions:
Skype. If joining your MBA student at school means moving, there is no better way to keep in touch with family and friends than a computer with webcam access and Skype. I realized this pretty quickly, and since my mom’s desktop PC wasn’t equipped with a camera, I bought her one and shipped it back to Michigan with a note saying I looked forward to chatting with her as often as possible. Yes, phone calls are great, but nothing replaces seeing the fam face-to-face.
Google calendar. This has been a lifesaver. When your MBA student is running between informational interviews, class, group projects and rugby happy hour, it’s easy to lose track of where they are on any given day. A shared Google calendar will give you a general idea of their class schedule and any major upcoming events. This saves you from having to send multiple texts or make phone calls asking if they’ll be home for dinner or not. It’s also a great way for you, the spouse, to plug in important dates that might get overlooked by your stretched-too-thin student.
Library card. Everybody likes books, right? And if you’re a reading purist who prefers to have that book in your hand — as opposed to, say, a Kindle Fire — the library can be the perfect place to spend some quality time while your student is busy with his MBA duties. And if you live in a trendy city like New York, for example, it’s kind of cool to say you’re a card-carrying member of the New York Public Library.
Business cards. If you move to a new city, and depending on your status, you may be pursuing a new job. In addition to utilizing social media to jump-start your search, it’s always a good idea to have business cards with you at all times. You never know who you might run into at one of your spouse’s networking events, and your fellow better halves are excellent resources as well. Just know that having to write your name and number down on a napkin for someone who’s interested in you tends to look unprofessional, so visit a site like Vistaprint.com or Moo.com, and have some quality business cards made for an affordable price.
A pet. I would never advocate adopting a pet out of boredom, but if you’ve seriously been considering adding a dog or cat to your family, the time during business school can be a perfect opportunity. If you have the patience and resources to devote to a pet, they can provide unconditional love and companionship (and excuses to exercise), which really comes in handy when your MBA student’s responsibilities keep them out of the house for extended periods of time. Puppies are great, but can add additional stress, so consider adopting an older pet, one that is already housetrained and simply looking for its forever family. Petfinder.com is a great way to find vetted, adoptable dogs, cats (and more) by zip code.
Valid driver’s license. Having a current driver’s license is important for significant others because it ensures that you can rent a car — or drive your own — whenever you have the desire to get out of dodge for a few days. I swear some days my apartment walls are closing in on me, so knowing that I have the option to rent a car if I need a quick getaway is a big deal. If you’re not living in your home state, or if you’re in a city with convenient public transportation, it can be easy to forget this minor detail, and there’s little you can do about it at the last minute.
I should add that I polled my fellow better halves while writing this post, and one item was, by far, the top must-have tool in one’s arsenal: wine. What else would you add to the list?
Erica Moss is the wife of an awesome Columbia Business School student, and mom to a lovable English bulldog named Mona. She is also the social media coordinator for the online MSN Degree program at Georgetown University. Follow her on Twitter @ericajmoss.
Photos courtesy erix!, AndyRobertsPhotos, osde8info (all Flickr).
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