Don’t put your life on hold

Screen shot 2013-10-23 at 9.35.19 PM

This picture will forever make me laugh.  It was taken two years ago, on a crazy-long (over 24 hours) trip back to the US.  It was our yearly winter visit, and for some reason everything on this trip went wrong: flat tires, delayed flights, missed flights, you name it. But what’s so funny about this picture  (besides my sad/disgusted/hilarious expression) is that my then-20-month-old daughter is sleeping soundly under the airport chairs.

Yep.  Her sweet, healthy, clean little body is laying on the floor under the nasty, dirty, I-don’t-even-want-to-know-what’s-under-there, airport waiting chairs.  I remember resorting to this after she had been awake for some ridiculous number of hours, and this was the only way we could make a dark enough environment for her to fall asleep.

I laugh because this picture captures what travel seems to do to our family.  For some reason, time stops, reality stops, and a strange survival mentality of ‘anything goes’ starts to emerge.  By around hour eighteen I find myself saying things like, “sure honey, go ahead and eat the raisin that dropped on the airplane floor, that’s fine” or “just let her sleep on the floor” or “I say we buy one of those oversized M&Ms bags for $20 and eat it in one sitting.” Gross, right?  I’m actually a very clean and organized mom, but for some reason when the stresses of travel start to wear on me, I seem to slip into a strange ‘anything goes’ mode.

 Have you ever felt like this?  A season where time just stops and it seems your idea of ‘normal’ life is on hold?

I remember reading an article on the pressures of a being a ‘caregiver’ to someone, either as a family member or as a career.  What struck me about the article was that the best caregivers were the ones who don’t put their own lives on hold in order to care for the life of the other.  It’s one thing (and such a incredible sacrifice) to give up everything for a sick family member and become their carer every waking moment.  But I suppose it’s another thing (and incredibly hard) to care for someone constantly, while at the same time trying to maintain a healthy sense of one’s own life as well.  I think I face the second kind of struggle with parenting.  And similarly, I’m convinced that I’m a better mother to my daughter when I set aside time to take care of myself, or to be involved in areas of interest outside our family circle –basically, when I don’t wear my ‘mom hat’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

I feel like we’ve touched on this topic on TGW a few times, but as the new term is kicking off and we have some new readers, I just want to encourage you not to let time stop while your spouse or partner is in graduate school.  It’s a strange, isolating, and sometimes confusing time, but don’t give up your entire life in supporting your partner in his or hers.  If you’ve made career sacrifices by moving to a new place, start work as soon as you are able, or volunteer or take some classes on a new or old hobby.  Over and again, people have shared with me that a part of their dreams died when they signed on to be a supporter through grad school for their significant other.  Don’t do it!  Let the dreams take new shapes and avenues, but don’t let them die, and don’t put them on hold too long.

And don’t ever buy the $20 bag of M&Ms – it’s so not worth it! :)

-M.C.

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2 thoughts on “Don’t put your life on hold

  1. lovely post and so very pertinent at this point tonight! this week, I’ve been out of the house for 12-13 hours every single day, and have had to put my life on hold. i am mentally exhausted by this, as I haven’t had time to decompress or spend time with my husband. he is in the midst of job applications and is coming down with some crazy illness, and I’ve been so busy that I can’t even begin to help him in the slightest. our life is on a very miniscule hold, until next week, but I think you hit it right on the head about not sacrificing everything for your significant other.

    I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to find something that I love to do while my husband finishes up his PhD, but the same could not have been said when he started his masters program 8 years ago. It’s exhausted and sad to look back at that time, when I put everything on hold for him. I’ve grown so very much from those experiences and have learned that I’m just as important in this relationship. A happy wife is a happy life!!

  2. Great post about such an important topic. If you don’t at least think about what it is you would like to do, your dreams and passions, aside from being passionate about being a good wife and being supportive of your husband/partners dreams, one day you will “wake up” and realize that somewhere along the way you lost yourself. Staying engaged in your passions and talking with your partner about it will make it a much happier healthier journey. Thanks!

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