Happy Graduate Student Family Life

Enjoying a (free!) picnic/outdoor movie screening

In her comment on a recent post, KT wrote, “I was wondering if you would consider doing a post advising on, or asking for advice for families that operate on a low income due to a husband in grad/law/med school. We are about to embark on this journey and I would love some input on how families with kids make it work on such a small budget. Any tips, advice or encouragement would be greatly appreciated. I work part time now with a 2.5 y/o with the possibility of adding another baby in the summer, how do people do it? Thank you!”

Many of you are at least as qualified to discuss this as I am, so please share your own thoughts! I went straight from college to law school, and then my husband began his history PhD program immediately after I finished law school. My husband and I will have chalked up at least 9 consecutive years of graduate school when all is said and done. We’ve been a student family since we were married 6 years ago, and we have maintained a typical orthodox Catholic family growth rate throughout these years. We have relished the adventure. The simplicity, creativity and togetherness fostered by student family life have defined the earliest years of our family.

(1)   Themes: simplicity and creativity

Simplicity means we live in small spaces, which, practically-speaking, means we live with very few possessions. More possessions means more time and money spent maintaining them. I like the old saying “use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.” We aren’t poorly clothed or unhygienic, and we don’t deprive ourselves of normal enjoyable experiences. But we do delay gratification. We don’t buy many “wants” (Starbucks, stand-up mixer, name brands, cool baby gear). We often wait on “needs” as well (new printer, winter jackets), praying, waiting, watching Craig’s List, listening and asking around to see if something comes along. Our needs are always met.

Creativity means we live super-well but in low-cost ways. We repurpose and multitask the things that we already have. Unused nice wedding gift towels are layered into moderately attractive room-darkening curtains. The few household objects that we already have spend their days as learning toys. None of these solutions work just right, but they’ll do for now. We don’t pay much for amusements ever. Instead, we look for local Italian street festivals, cheap choral or symphony performances at the university or historic churches, fruit orchards and pumpkin patches, outdoor movie screenings, picnics, bike rides to Dairy Queen (with coupons in hand), family movie nights at home, and many, many Sunday afternoon family parties with friends with plenty of good food and drink. For our annual family vacations, we wait and watch travel emails for specials until the perfect thing falls in our lap. We go somewhere within driving distance, where entertainment is exciting and also free (for example, Washington, DC’s free sights and museums; Virginia Beach on the boardwalk during beach festival season); we always squeeze into 1 bedroom suites (we’re pros at this); we make our own meals on vacation rather than eating out. We can’t do everything, but by exploring creative options, we end up trying better things that we may never have gotten around to if we could afford more expensive entertainment. And, of course, our favorite way to add new sparkle to our family life is by adding a baby! Graduate school in general is no reason to postpone children; student family living is all about making the most of the life right within our home.

(2)   Non-negotiable financial priorities: tithing and help

Ten percent of our sub-poverty-level income is set aside for tithe. This creates a perspective of “everything is God’s, and our money is His business, not ours.” I am super-frugal, borderline miserly, so I need this. Otherwise, I stew over every penny. Tithing for me means financial freedom. And, as so many others will attest, God FAR exceeds our generosity and blesses our faithfulness. For example, one year our massive tax refund covered an unexpected expense almost to the penny.

We set aside a second, variable chunk of money for hiring help. (For my philosophical reasons behind this decision, see our discussions here and here.) Sometimes this takes the form of daytime babysitting so I can bill hours for my part-time legal work. Often it is for a break for me, to go to Mass alone, pray, and run. And always, it is for my husband’s and my date nights. We go out together at least once a month, usually more, depending on our friends’ social calendars, our own occasions to celebrate, and local events. We always get young teenagers, because they are so cheap and diligent. We put our toddler to bed before the sitter arrives, get the older kids all bathed and fed (so that I don’t worry about drowning or choking), set up a new activity for them to do with the sitter, and they love it. When we’re eating out, with or without friends, we almost always use Restaurant.com (buy several online when they offer $25 gift certificates for $2) to get heavily-discounted meals at amazing restaurants, usually BYOBs.

(3)   Major expense categories

  1. Food
    1. WIC—Federal Women, Infants, and Children Supplemental Nutrition Program; all pregnant and nursing mothers as well as children under 5 will qualify when their income is below a certain level (and all student families on a stipend will qualify!); we receive vouchers to use at the grocery store just like cash to buy vast amounts of free milk, cheese, eggs, tuna, natural peanut butter, beans, fresh fruit, whole grain bread, nutritious cereal, juice
    2. Planning
      1. Shop only from sales, coupons, and discount brands: I sit down every Sunday night for 2-3 hours with my running grocery list, a notebook, the weekly grocery store circulars, and coupons; I make a note of all the excellent prices on the things that I buy and how I can use coupons; I do not buy disgusting, poorly-made food—that is not necessary; from my notes, I plan meals for the next seven days, including breakfast, lunch and dinner; then, I make a grocery list for each store
      2. Planning a week ahead facilitates buying in bulk, and it avoids waste and last-minute inefficient use of ingredients; it also avoids multiple trips to the store which waste time and lead to overbuying; it also avoids ordering take-out
      3. Two personal planning tips: we always do some kind of home-made pizza for Friday dinner and a simple dinner like burgers and brats for Sunday so I can enjoy the Sabbath too
      4. I buy produce in bulk from a produce-only wholesaler; grocery store produce is too expensive and not fresh enough to last a week
    3. Shopping
      1. I shop from a list only, unless once I’m in the store I notice that things that I buy regularly are on clearance
      2. I shop alone on Monday nights between 8pm and 10:30pm when my husband is home and the kids are sleeping—shopping with kids is a recipe for disaster on every level
      3. I do not spend money on packaged junk food (like snack packs of Keebler cookies) or bottled water or those types of convenience items, even if they’re on sale, except for on long trips and for family movie nights
  2. Clothes:
    1. Children: I almost never buy clothes for the children; most families have children’s clothes that they are not using, and they often are looking to clear out drawer space, especially when they know there is a grateful recipient. We make it known that we happily accept any and all hand-me-downs, and we get excellent quality clothes this way. My kids love the variety. Several of the other Builders have even generously passed along lovely clothing that their children were not using. Also, our families give the children some new items for gifts that we can’t get handed down.
    2. My clothing: I am more liberal in this category, because I think it’s important for mothers to look good for their own self-esteem, for their marriages, and for their children. I wait until I identify an item I need rather than just “going shopping”. Then, I usually shop for deeply-discounted fashionable clothes at TJ Maxx and for good quality staples at The Gap after combining sales and coupons.
    3. My husband’s professional clothing: we have found that this is an excellent gift request category; men’s clothing sizes are fairly predictable, and our moms and sisters have great taste, so my husband comes back from Christmas and birthday celebrations suited up for another year as a suave academic.
  3. Medical
    1. My children qualify for state-funded insurance because of our income level; we have no co-pays and no medical expenses for them whatsoever; I also qualify when I am pregnant.
    2. For when mom is not pregnant, most states have a highly-subsidized state program for low income adults; ours is through Blue Cross.
    3. My husband’s medical insurance is free from his university.

(4) Support your Superstar: it is crucial to support your husband in his academic work. He should leave early in the morning and return for dinner, no earlier. There is a temptation with graduate student families for the husband to stick around the house helping because of the flexible deadlines and ambiguous schedule. This is the costliest lifestyle of all, because suddenly grad school has lasted a decade, the dissertation is incomplete, and funding has run out. Families of student-dads must treat graduate school as professionally as any other job and frequently express that they believe in what dad is doing.

I hope this post is helpful and not just a lot of boring details about my home management practices. God bless you current and soon-to-be student families, as well as all you other heroic families who serve us with your friendship and generosity!

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  • Anonymous

    JM,nnThis is a great post, with a lot of helpful information for those entering the grad school life. You are great at working on a budget! We also took advantage of many of the things you wrote about when we were young and married and both in law school. I admire your determination to push through years of the grad school lifestyle, especially with children! We need good holy fathers in academia, and it truly takes great sacrifices from the entire family to make it work. nnAnd I COMPLETELY agree with your sentiments on tithing and hiring help. God Bless you for speaking out so strongly on these issues!!

  • Thank you so much for this post! We are currently staring down the inevitability of my husband’s return to academia for PhD next fall…and our first child is on the way. Knowing that pursuing this will mean a move, change (or lack) of job for me, and less income is a bit daunting. Your post has given me hope that, no matter where we end up, together we can make it work.

  • Jane

    Juris Mater, thank you for writing about this! My husband and I are just embarking on this path of him returning to school, and it’s so helpful to hear of other perspectives. As we were trying to figure out how we could possibly make it work, we grew frustrated many times. However, we’ve entrusted it all to God, and so far He has provided for us in so many beautiful ways. We really wanted me to be able to stay home with our 18-month-old, so I have found a job watching another child. The mother loves that I am a mother as well because her child is getting an experienced caretaker as well as a playmate! And my daughter loves the interaction too. We’ve also found major ways of cutting costs in groceries. I recorded food prices from our receipts and with a little work, figured out what meals would be cheapest for me to make (while still meeting all of our nutritional needs), and which grocery stores had the cheapest prices for items my family frequently buys. In terms of child items, Freecycle has been a lifesaver! We almost never spend money on entertainment, but instead enjoy the simple pleasures in life: playing in the park, reading books aloud to each other, and renting classic movies from the library. I could write so much more, but I’ll just say this: it has frequently helped us to remember that we have chosen this lifestyle. No one forced my husband to go back to school, but instead we have freely chosen it with the hope and belief that it is God’s will for our lives. We trust that we will not always live this way– it is only for a season of life. And I think when it is over, we will probably remember it fondly!

  • Mary Alice

    This is really terrific advice. We lived through three years of graduate school and used many of the same tactics. We actually graduated with less debt than many of the singles around us. We opted for cheap University housing, which provided comraderie as well as shelter and saved us about $500 a month over where most of the other law students were living. Vacations were spent visiting family. In our program, summer work is possible, so we were able to stretch that income by choosing jobs near family and living for free during the summers.nnAlso, I really think that being married in graduate school is a huge advantage. The student works harder when they know what is riding on it, and while family obligations take time they actually don’t take nearly as much time as a social life and dating would take, and are less of a distraction.nnI wanted to point out this article:nhttp://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703618504575459994284873112.html?mod=wsj_share_facebooknnFrom which, this quote:n”Across all social classes, in fact, Americans now believe that a couple isn’t ready to marry until they can count on a steady income. “nnI have found just the opposite to be true, it is the marriage that encourages the settling down to a steady income, and I wish more people knew this.

  • KT

    Thank you!nThis is all wonderful advice. Unfortunately we already own a home a few more things than if we were just starting out but even within those perameters I still think there are many ways we can cut down the costs. The bottom line, I agree, is simplicity. We have so much already that we don’t need, we certainly won’t need to add to it with more! My biggest struggle is meal planning and I think I am up to the challenge of making a week’s worth of groceries last rather than giving in to exhaustion and relying on take out. It will certainly be better for us all around.nAlso, thank you Jane for pointing out that this is a lifestyle we are choosing for ourselves. I have a feeling I may need to repeat that as a mantra to myself in the coming years when certainly sacrifices will be at an all time high.nThank you for such a detailed response. It helps tremendously, even in the knowledge that this is something that people do everyday with more children than I have and still somehow find time for their marriage to thrive.

  • Renee

    JM, great to read your posts and hope you all are doing well! It’s been a while since I’ve seen you and some of the other Builders on the post-college wedding circuit, but I’ve been enjoying the blog very much while on maternity leave with our new little daughter. You and your whole gang are welcome at our house if you come to DC any time!nnMy husband and I spent the first 2.5 years of marriage with one of us in grad school, and he (an urban planner) would want me to add a suggestion to this discussion. Many times it’s possible for families to make do with one car instead of two, which is a huge savings, if one spouse is willing and able to rely on biking and/or public transportation. My husband biked to his grad school (12 miles away) last year, loved it, and is now exploring the wonderful world of biking in a suit to work. Just a thought!

  • Erin

    We were also married in law school, and now living on a Public Defender’s salary for a few years. Renee, I second the single-car lifestyle! We only had one car until our second baby was born four months ago, and it was awesome at (1) saving money, and (2) living simply! When #2 came and I quit work, we decided on getting a second car which we found for (very) cheap. Its made some things easier, but for 4 years I was always surprised how well we did with one car and a little planning. rnrnI have found a weekly “menu” before grocery shopping a must. If I stick to ingredients for our 4-5 planned meals, and do left overs one night, our grocery bill is drastically less than just grabbing what I think we will need for the week. rnrn

  • Anonymous

    MaryAlice, such a good point about grad-dads working harder. Additionally, in terms of time management, I found that, when I was a full-time law student and full-time mom for my final year of law school, it was easier to work hard and use my time well precisely because the obligations and joys of caring for my baby organized my time for me. You really buckle down for baby’s 2 hour nap time when that’s all you have and when you have baby playtime on the other end to look forward to. Family obligations force good time management in all happy ways.nnAnd I have found the absolute same thing about family life encouraging settling down to a steady income. I’d venture to say even that it’s parenthood, not marriage, that does this. We know plenty of aimless married couples who still behave like thrill-seeking adolescents. Parenthood means you suddenly love little someones more than you love yourself and those little ones are worth going to work every day for, whether or not your work is your self-actualizing “dream job”.

  • Kate

    Finishing up my Master’s Degree with my first, I found the exact same thing. Studying was “almost” easier (ya know, kinda) when you fit it into those naptimes. And I will also say that all of my professors were extremely understanding and flexible about the occasional late paper or missed class with a new baby at home. I do recall some amusing times trying to edit a paper while a toddler tried to bang on my keyboard (which is why what JM suggested for Dad’s study schedule is a great idea). I will also say to all those ladies out there contemplating grad school while pregnant…THAT was hard. Soooo tired and you have to work ten-times harder to get your brain working, but I always got the comfiest seat in class because at 8.5 months pregnant I couldn’t fit behind the desks anymore :)nnGreat post JM and good advice for all of us during these tough times. I’m hoping to see our country turning back in this direction and learning to enjoy simpler things!

  • Helen

    My husband has been doing grad studies since we married, and we have baby #2 due in a matter of weeks! We had to make the decision for him to move overseas to do another MA and a doctorate because he wants a career in academia and back home (Australia) the programmes in his field are really limited. Initially I got stressed out about the financial side of things, especially the huge fees that international students have to pay (as opposed to being paid to do a doctorate back home!) But when you trust in God everything seems to fall into place, as JM says. Now I just don’t worry about the finances because I figure that these ‘poor’ years are setting a foundation for our family’s future together, and besides, we don’t really need much more than we already have!nnI also agree that the student needs to treat his/her day as any professional would, otherwise they end up falling into the trap of sleeping in (that’s what students do, right?!), and getting distracted with the daily craziness of the household, and before they know it half the day is gone! I find it far easier to concentrate on my daily tasks if my husband is out of the house. Sounds bad, but I distract him, he distracts me, the toddler distracts him…and nobody gets anything done!nnI also agree with Mary Alice that family grad housing is a goer. We’re in Oxford and the private market is 30% dearer than our housing! We also get extras like free water and heating, free internet access, and a caretaker who fixes things as soon as they need to be done. We have no problem with noisy neighbours and have made friends with other families in our development.nnSetting oneself up for a career in academia does require many years of tough slogging, but I think we’ll look back on this time and appreciate the blessings that have come from it.

  • Helen

    I agree about the car thing too. We decided to start without a car and see how things went. In fact, we don’t even have bikes, we just walk everywhere! Being in my 3rd trimester the walking thing is a bit tiring at times, but at least it’s keeping me fit for labour :0) nnAs for the grocery thing, I’ve just started doing a weekly menu plan and it has lifted a huge amount of stress from my day. We get the big things delivered (as JM said in a previous post, grocery delivery is a normality in the UK!) but with meat, veg, dairy and bread we shop as we need to.n

  • Mary Alice

    We also only had one car most of the time, and while it took some juggling, it was a helpful savings.nnA small tip that someone gave us was to use “cash back” option at grocery stores rather than an ATM if there is going to be a fee. If you are moving for grad school but keeping an out of state bank, these fees could add up quickly, so that is a savings. Another really small sacrifice that helps is foregoing buying coffee and snacks, I try hard to bring my own, and pack a lunch for outings, because paying for that stuff adds up fast but doesn’t have the joy of a real restaurant meal, I try to save my “eating out” budget for date night or pizza when I have really had it at home!nnA huge savings for us has been using our LOCAL LIBRARY rather than buying books. I use goodreads to keep track of books so I do not feel the same need to have them on the shelves, and ask for books for gifts for the kids (and myself), but I try to limit the number of books I buy.nnIf sports are not a big issue, I would skip cable TV and get a netflix subscription instead, cheaper and more fun.nnFind out whether families have privileges at the University gym — my kids could swim at the UVA gym and I could work out there.

  • Lav16

    Thanks for detailing this out, this post was great! I didn’t find it laborious but rather very helpful and informative. This is especially relevant in light of the current economic “crisis” when many young families our age are 1) losing jobs, 2) opting for school over jobs because of the job market, 3) putting off having children due to some ambiguous notion of what they “should be” earning/spending. In many ways I also feel like it ties in with an earlier post AWOL mom did on home economics. A common thread I see in so many of those tv shows/articles etc. highlighting families in crisis is this–a real failure to take home economics and home management seriously. Whether it’s Supernanny, Clean House, a Suze Orman special on family debt, etc. the real issues always seem to be that the couple (or family) has never sat down together to create a real plan, budget and routine. They don’t even know where to start. Sadly this seems to be the case whether both parents work or one stays at home. rnrnA couple topics you touched on in your post that i’d like to see more of:rn1) suggestions on cheap/free family activities–in our area it just seems like everything costs money. I want my son to have lots of fun childhood experiences, but why does it always seem like “experience” is synonomous with “highway robbery”. I especially have difficulty with the issue of my wealthier friends planning activities for all of us to do together. $10 -20 per activity really adds up for me but I don’t want to seem antisocial by not participating. rn2) I know many of you have experience working and/or going to school while pregnant or mothering. Advice on time management in those situations would be so helpful! What advice would you give to us moms who are working FT, taking care of the kids, and also planning to finish grad school FT (besides “Just Don’t Do It!” LOL)

  • Mrs C

    Inspiring and impressive post. Mr C and I also like much of the advice in Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover. I can’t recommend it enough. nnOne of the things we do is run the house on cash. I take out my budgeted amount for the week from the ATM on monday and then that’s it for the week (unless it is a discussed special buy). It helps me stick to our budget because I have it in hand and I’m less willing to part with it. For some reason I find that it’s always harder for me to realize that I am indeed spending ‘real’ money when I use the cards. n

  • Mrs C

    KT – I struggle with the meals too. It makes me feel terrible as a wife.

  • Kate

    Some thoughts on your commentn1: I would argue that most things that cost money aren’t probably great childhood experiences 🙂 This weekend I contemplated taking my son to Sesame Place…then looked at the prices and realized that this would probably be a crazy and only semi-memorable day as it was. Instead this labor day he and his dad had a camp out in a neighbors back yard, projected a movie on the back of the house and made s’mores, ate popcorn, etc. The next day we found a great kids hike in our area (google search your county or state and kids hike) which was so much fun. The library is always offering free events. Most museums have free days or kids free days. AND a new thing libraries are getting into is offering membership cards to museums, zoos, etc to borrow at the library for the day. This usually involves pre-planning but can be a great money saver. If you have a small-town paper check out their calendars, if you live in a big city you probably have tons more options 🙂 and the internet is your friend.nnUsually 2 or 3 friends make any trip more exciting and I bet there are other moms who are hankering to hang out and connect and “share the burden” of an adventure with another mom.nn2: Work full time, babies, and school full-time. Whew girl, that sounds like a lot. Seriously I did part-time work, babies, and seriously part-time school and it was painful. I would recommend first off, balancing your course load. I only took 2 classes a semester when I knew they complemented each other in terms of work (more papers in one, more hands on in the other) and for really really hard classes (I only had 2) I got permission to only take a single class. It stretched my degree out but was worth it sanity-wise. Also, TALK to your professors, they want you to learn, not go crazy. You may be able to wiggle some deadlines if you have big home-life issues that will interfere. I could go on, but my final advice is…if you don’t sleep you will fail at all three of these things (home, school, work) so rest rest rest. nOh and a great “free activity” is to find a playground with a sandbox and ignore your kid while you do all your course reading, seriously, it’s great 🙂 Good luck!

  • Bridgetbullio

    I very much appreciate this post! My husband has been in grad school for 8 years and we’ve been married for 6 and have two kids. I have found that we have lived more responsibly/ frugally since we’ve had children and I quit my job to stay home with them. All the suggestions are wonderful and, since we do almost all of the same things, we have been able to do grad school essentially loan free. So, to all those other mamas out there who are considering the path, it can be done! I second JM’s sentiment when she says, “The simplicity, creativity and togetherness fostered by student family life have defined the earliest years of our family.” And I’ll add that they have been absolutely wonderful years!!!nnIf the Builders could also pray for us, we are now entering a very stressful time of “going out on the market.” Jobs for Philosophers are tough right now, so if any of you have extra prayers, we would appreciate them so much!nnGod bless,nnBridget

  • Kat

    I’m chiming in late here, JM, but I was nodding my head in agreement to everything that you said here! My hubby went to business school, and I get the sense that it is one of the more “social” graduate school experiences out there. Many of the time commitments are centered around social events, with the premise that networking is one of the great benefits of business school. For those who have spouses contemplating business school, I thought I’d just share the difficulties that our family faced:n1) Many classes were night classes, and many events were evening events, so the “leave after breakfast and return at dinnertime” routine didn’t work for us. There were many days when ET would leave after breakfast and return home after night classes at 10 p.m., but there were also some days when he tried to come home for a couple of hours in the late afternoon. This was just stressful – we lived close to campus, so he always could have come home during breaks, but this was when he was supposed to be “networking,” going to lectures on campus, and oh yes, doing his work!n2) Because business school was so social, ET felt a bit disconnected. There were a good number of married people but only a handful of families, so ET really missed out on a lot of the socializing. He went to evening events when he felt like they were worthwhile, but otherwise skipped out on a lot of them.n3) The cost: There are lots of events that ET just couldn’t be a part of, but were considered a part of the “b-school experience”. Poor guy :(nnThe benefits:n1) Because b-school is so social, I would bring the kids over to campus as often as I could to visit ET and meet his friends. We loved being a part of daddy’s school life and he loved it, too!n2) We had the chance to meet lots of other great b-school families and formed a GREAT community – miss all of them a lot!n3) We had the chance to minister to many of ET’s classmates who were considering getting married or starting a family, just by being a joyful family.nnGod bless all of you who are starting down this road!

  • Lana

    Dh and I have just finished a 7 year long med school/training journey. We had three children during that time, and I stayed home because it really would have been impossible for us both to be in school (I was studying for a phD at the time, but I quit). rnIt was really tough. I kept seeking out the kind of community some women here have mentioned they found, but never really found it. My husband worked shifts (which means frequent weekends) and it’s really lonely on Saturdays and Sundays while others are having “family time.” Occasionally, I would find women whose husbands were away for business, or who also worked shifts, but more often than not I was on my own at Mass with the kids and all that.rnI learned a lot during this time, and I know that there is so much in my life that is richer because of it. Still, it was at times very lonely, and in the end we decided that living near family would be the best option for us, and my husband transferred residencies midway through (this is frowned upon, professionally speaking, but it was necessary for the good of the family!). rnrnI look forward to being able to help other families who are living this kind of lifestyle in the future. Having been through it myself, I know all too well the day-to-day difficulties, and I now know that others who have not lived it do not really understand all that is involved. rnrnThere is an attitude in the medical community that the student/resident is just “paying his dues” and working like a slave but that the money and payoff is just around the corner. Here is what I think that attitude does: it means that those who are in a position to be most empathetic end up caring the least. Second: it makes money the solution to everything.rnThird: It does not address the present needs and only demands that the student/resident and family just “suck it up.” Basically, it’s the old “job is more important than family” culture. This makes it extra difficult for the student/resident who feels somehow caught in the middle. I think my poor husband suffered a lot of stress about this and there were probably things the program–and his wife–could have done to help out more! (this is one thing I felt was different with his program–it was just a matter of “doing one’s time” in school and residency and then graduating; there were fewer variables than with a PhD and an end in sight, even if it was 8 years away.)rnrnStill, in whatever little way we can, my husband and I hope that we will be able to turn that culture around a little bit and help young families in the future. Sometimes I felt that it was not so much about logistics, but the burden of feeling as if I was on my own trying to juggle budget, calendar and childcare. Phew. Thank God for good friends, and good blogs, to know that you’re not alone out there!

  • very excellent post, i definitely will be bookmarking your site

  • JulieMarx

    We are entering our third year of law school and the biggest help to me has been finding a support system. My husband attends a Catholic university so we expected to find some like-minded families with which to spend or time. This proved impossible as they were very few Catholic families to begin with and most didn’t practice their faith. We wasted a semester lamenting this and eventually looked to other programs and we are so happy we did.nnAny mother’s group will be happy to have you. There is a great sense of community among university families so don’t be afraid to call someone from another program and invite yourself along on an outing. Call the dean of students in your program and ask if there is a parent’s group and if there isn’t start an informal playgroup at a local park so you can swap doctor and babysitter recommendations. Everything is done by email so it could be as simple as asking for the list of married students and going from there. Make sure you invite families who have been there longer, they will be an invaluable source of information about everything from navigating WIC to student health plans.n nIt can feel very isolating to move to a new place and have to settle your children while your husband is busy and stressed about school but don’t forget to lean on him when you need his support. You will need support too so don’t be afraid to ask for it. Good Luck.