Another day in the library

Let me paint you a picture:

  • Dishes piled sky high in the sink.
  • Toddler who wants your full attention all day long.
  • Lots of emails in your inbox concerning an exciting project that you are contributing to that need to be answered sooner rather than later.
  • A shiny new book that arrived two weeks ago from Amazon, and still hasn’t been cracked.
  • Laundry overflowing in the hampers, and lack of clean laundry for all.
  • Pouring, I mean pouring rain outside. Nowhere to go but inside.
  • A list of creative toddler rainy day games with every single one crossed off…at least twice.
  • Dinner to prepare…then cook.
  • A phone call or two that needs to happen.

And then … (You can’t deny that you’ve done this too) … a picture pops into your weary, discombobulated mind: A picture of your husband. Alone. At the library. The quiet library. Researching. Reading about his interests, his passions. Quietly strolling through (in our case) the ancient adorned halls of the Oxford Bodleian library. Smiling, thinking deep, intellectual, powerful thoughts…alone. And I can’t help picture a smoking pipe in there as well. Or maybe your picture involves your spouse off doing fascinating field work in some exotic place…or doing a med school residency with a new rotation full of exciting, interesting new people teaching him/her life-saving skills.

Now, while I wish I could say the idea of my husband being in such a wonderful setting just raises my spirits and encourages me to get through the day, I have to be honest: it makes me a bit jealous and indignant at times.  When that picture comes to my mind at times, my first thought sometimes is not “oh how nice”, but rather, “oh how unfair“.

Yep.

It happens to the best of us. It has happened quite a few times to me lately, and I want to share some pointers if this starts happening to you.

1) Talk about it! The second that envy and jealousy start to creep up in your heart, share it with your spouse. Do not let these things fester and do not let silly, unrealistic pictures of his academic lifestyle continue to grow in your head.

2) Don’t jump to conclusions! He is not off playing Angry Birds! (And if he is, check out ML’s amazing post from last week). He is working his booty off for a degree that half the time he can’t even remember caring this deeply about to begin with. He is not off reading Bill Bryson with a pipe and a latte. He is knee deep in research and EndNote and endless PDFs and sometimes it feels more like a prison to him than an opportunity.

3) Be realistic! They don’t say “It isn’t meant to be easy” for nothing. Graduate school is hard work. Hard, hard work. And trying to balance that work on top of family and other commitments can sometimes be a lot to manage.

In short, I just want to say that for me, I have realized that maybe one in every five days of working in the library is relaxing and exciting for my husband. I feel like the other four are more like an isolating 9-6 office job that he has to keep pushing through, all alone, in order to get closer to an exciting, but far off finish line. And when he gets home he is usually needing encouragement from me (or an honest conversation about where I am at), not a whiney and jealous spiel about how hard my day seemed.

When these thoughts come, take a deep breath. Try to be thankful for the work that both of you have been given to do during this season: playing marbles for the 30th some odd time, singing Old McDonald again, scheduling conference calls while your kids are sleeping, or researching Lorentz’s views on relativity theory.

Cut them some slack.

This is a season.

Talk about it openly.

And know you are not alone in feeling this way every now and then!

-M.C.

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5 thoughts on “Another day in the library

  1. Ugh, I even feel this way while Matt is at the office working 10-11 hour days! Thanks for the encouragement. Love you (and your pipe smoking hubby too)

  2. Yes! Very true. And it doesn’t end in the graduate season, starting your career can be very demanding too. My work often ends when the kids are in bed and the kitchen is tidy, but Will is still working away.

  3. Yes! I can sympathize somewhat, even though we don’t have children and Jason is the one who “gets” to stay home while I am away at work. I’ve definitely caught myself feeling jealous as I’m rushing around getting my lunch packed and heading to work, thinking, “I wish I got to stay home and sit in a chair, snuggling cats and drinking coffee and reading all day,” when the reality is that Jason does those things as well as researching, preparing to teach an online class, trolling the internet incessantly for *any* possible job opportunity for this next year (enter all the ensuing worries mentioned in Monday’s post), oh and, writing a dissertation. You’re so right about not jumping to conclusions–while he does get a fair bit of cat-snuggling in over the day, I think our cats are probably significantly to thank for his continued mental health!

  4. I really enjoyed this post. My husband is working on his PhD at Aberdeen University, we have two small children (and another on the way) and we’ve definitely had this conversation before. However, I am also a PhD student, and one thing that really helps our marriage is the opportunity to switch roles even for just a few hours. Having to research and write makes me so impressed with the discipline and efficiency my husband displays in the office when I tend to want to read blogs or Facebook instead of write my essays. Likewise, my husband comments how he doesn’t quite understand how to do cleaning and crying children at the same time without a glass of wine or some form of happy distraction! I don’t know how feasible an option it is for some wives/husbands, but I do think a role reversal is a helpful aid in our marriage. Both sides need a break and an opportunity to appreciate each other. Perhaps the wife could nip away to research an academic or theological interest of hers– we need to renew our minds, and I’ll bet just a few hours at the office will quickly restore a grateful news for our husbands right away.
    Just my two pence anyway. Thanks for the post, I really enjoyed reading it.

  5. Pingback: His “Work” | the graduate wife

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