So, your partner is starting his or her Weekend Executive MBA (WEMBA) at Duke. How awesome is that? Congrats! Now what does that mean for you?
Well, first thing’s first. Kiss normalcy goodbye for the next 18 months as you both try to figure out how to ride this roller coaster together and remain standing at the other end.
What to Expect During the Program
Earning a master’s degree in any field can be demanding, and with the WEMBA program it can be grueling for your partner. Long hours in condensed classes, study time, video conferences with teammates, papers, midterms, finals, networking, all on top of family responsibilities and a full-time job. Expect that your partner will not be able to contribute as much to family needs, events, chores, household maintenance, etc. as what was once normal. One-on-one time with your partner will diminish. But on the other hand, now is a great time to explore new hobbies or work on new skills for yourself.
Expect your partner’s stress and anxiety levels to increase, and at the same time her sleep to decrease. The result? Meet your new sleep-deprived zombie friend. You might find yourself pulling your zombie friend out of bed after she’s hit the snooze button no less than 15 times. Expect less recreation travel and less extended family visits with your zombie friend by your side. Expect that even though you may start feeling more distant as a result—your job will be to unconditionally support your zombie to the best of your ability. Because in the end, the accomplishment will be worth it for your family. Just make sure your zombie does not get complacent with household duties once the degree is earned!
What Kind of Support to Offer
Earn your Masters of Household Chores (MHC). Imagine how much more study time you can buy your partner if she did not need to do laundry, cook meals, do the dishes, clean the house, mow the lawn, change diapers, walk the dog, etc. How wonderful would that be?
Be the defense lawyer. Inevitably, family will question and not understand why your partner cannot make it to your out-of-town nephew’s first birthday party because of her studies or cannot travel to the beach on Labor Day due to taking finals. Be the therapist. Your partner will run the gamut of emotions from time management anxiety, to grades, to frustration with her groups, to guilt for less involvement in chores and family time. Remember, there’s nothing you need to say to your partner while she is in this whirlwind of emotion to help her stay focused and on track other than words of encouragement and silent embraces.
How to Make the Most of the Time with Your Zombie
Master the art of creative multitasking! One tip that came from the 2016 Duke MBA partner Q&A panel was to have your student partner massage your tired and sore back (from doing all the extra chores), while you read assigned Managerial Economics articles to her (genius). Your zombie friend must eat brain food at some point, so why not eat together? Schedule date nights or lunches, once per week, or at least once per month. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. Do some chores together as a team. Study with your zombie. You never know, you might learn something! Hug…often.
How Your Partner Can Support You
Managing the WEMBA program, work, family, life, and other activities is very time consuming for both of you. It’s crucial that your partner not forget her biggest supporter and number one fan—you! Maintaining regular communication is so vital whether she’s just checking in, saying I love you, or letting you know that she is thinking about you. These are all small gestures, but they go a long way.
My wife and I agreed that she would let me know when she’s back in her hotel room, safe and sound, during her residency weekends (no matter how late). Sometimes it’s a text, but often it’s a quick call to say, “I miss you.” She also texts me throughout those days and reminds me that she is thinking of me.
We started a Sunday afternoon cooking date where we support each other by cooking our meals for the week. This benefits both of us, because we don’t have to worry about it later. We come up with a shopping list, I’ll do the shopping while she studies, and we both do the cooking!
And most importantly, your partner can buy you some “me time” so that you can take care of yourself—take a hot bath or go for a long bike ride. Self-care for both of you is very important—if you’re not OK, how do you expect to be of any help to those you want to support?
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
It’s the key to success. As cliché as that sounds, it’s a fact. In my experience, miscommunication is the number one reason for 95 percent of arguments and misunderstandings. When there is a lack of communication there is an increase in assumptions and speculation. That’s never a good thing, as it leads to drama. You nor your partner has time for drama, and drama leads to less open communication. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page with both of your needs, thoughts, feelings, and perspectives before and during the program.
After Graduation… Now What?
Now that your partner (thanks to the boat loads of support from you) has earned this prestigious degree and celebrated like it’s 1999, it’s time for some payback! I think having your partner do 100 percent of the household chores with added back and foot massages for at least two solid weeks is a good start!