So I am not a big fan of books that seem like ‘self help’ books. And I am also not a big fan of books with cheesy titles or even worse, cheesy cover designs. So when I was first married and someone handed me a copy of ‘The Power of a Praying Wife’ (with an awkward picture of an open window and a lily on the cover), I cringed. However, after a few months of marriage I quickly learned that it’s not quite a piece of cake and I decided to pick the book back up. To my surprise it was really indeed quite ‘powerful’ and offered a lot of insight and good food for thought.
I know many of you might not share a similar faith as I do, but I do think we probably all share a desire to support our husbands and to be together as a team on this crazy journey of marriage, especially through this season of graduate school. So when I recently stumbled across my old copy of this book and began to thumb through the pages, I thought I’d share. There are around thirty little sections or chapters in the book that each focus on a various topic to pray through for one’s husband. Surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) the first topic listed from this extensive list is ‘His work’.
In this section titled ‘His work’, the author begins by illustrating two differing extremes. In one situation the husband is quite lazy and the wife does all the work and then some. The second situation describes a husband who is a workaholic and doesn’t ever take time out for his family or his health. She goes on to describe a healthy balance between the two and says, “What causes a man to go to either extreme can be, oddly enough, the same reason: fear. That’s because a man’s identity is often very tied up in his work. He needs to be appreciated and he needs to win, and his work is often a means of seeing both happen. It frightens him to think he may never experience either. If he is doing work that is demeaning to him, he feels devalued as a person. If his work is not successful, he feels like a loser.”
I started to think about how my husband would consider ‘his work’ and how I consider ‘his work’. I find that sometimes I write off ‘his work’ as just ‘school’…or I tend to sometimes just picture him chilling out in the library drinking lattes and being all cool and philosophical. I am almost continually reminding myself about how exhausting and challenging his PhD work actually is and I have written about that here. I have to remind myself how much his work affects him and how the excerpt above really does apply to his grad school work. His work doesn’t look like say… a big shot businessman’s right now, but it is very much the same thing. It really is something that shapes and fuels and defines him in so many ways.
So to conclude, if their work really is all that important and actually does offer them so much identity (and there about 9,000 journal articles out there that suggest this), then we should be taking this seriously, right? We should be thinking about how to make sure our grad school spouses are feeling fulfilled and encouraged, and we should be thinking through how to help them keep a healthy balance and perspective on their work.
What do you think? How does your spouse/you view their ‘work’ in grad school?
How have you handled this work-identity issue when dealing with your grad school spouse? (Especially if one of you is working full time outside academia, so that you can support your spouse who is in school.)