His “Work”

his work

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.)

-M.C.

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4 thoughts on “His “Work”

  1. Really great post. I think for me, the best way I’ve learned to support his work is to try to do what he does for me and mine: listen, remember what he says, and ask questions about it. Even if I don’t understand all the intricacies of his topic or follow all his trains of thought, I know he appreciates the effort (and I think the external processing helps his work to go faster, incidentally)! On another note, a friend gave me a copy of “Praying Wife” this past summer and I found it amazing. When I finished it I just started cycling back around and praying a prayer each day, and I must be on the 5th or 6th time through by now…also keeps my perspective clear.

  2. My “graduate partner” experience came out of the blue, as him applying to do a DPhil was not really on the cards. We are in the first year of it. It is getting better for me, but I am still struggling with the feeling that I’ve had to put my interests and ambitions “on hold”. We also have a 15 month old. We were meant to share the care 50-50 so that I can work on things and he can work on things, but that hasn’t been happening. He is older than me and more established in his field so his work always seems to take priority. I think we are getting closer to striking a balance, but it ain’t easy. Thanks for this blog! (I love the home made deodorant by the way!)

  3. S! So glad you found the site! Hope it’s encouraging and helpful to read through all the great tips and stories on here. I know the balance of kids, work and both of your careers. It is indeed tricky! Let us know if you’d ever want to share on the blog about your journey or any tips/advice you have gained along the way!

  4. Keeley,
    Yes! Great point about just listening well and then asking questions again and again to keep him going and to make sure he is doing ok. I agree! And glad you like the book too. It’s really a great resource!

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