Surviving Life with a Graduate Student in the Family

. November 1, 2016.

Rumor has it that there is more than one reason why Ann Arbor, more specifically the University of Michigan, is part of the Big Ten. Because of the abundance of graduate students in the city, spouses and families tend to see their grad student a “Big Ten” minutes each day… if they are lucky. Why is that? With the University of Michigan offering many of the top programs in the country, in conjunction with the city being so family-oriented, it is an appealing place to endure the arduous journey through graduate school. Oftentimes, spouses and young children tag along for the ride. Instead of merely surviving these years occasionally seeing your spouse, why not embrace this time? Each day, my goal is to get out of the house and do something, whether big or small, so that me and my two-year-old, who believes the hospital is her dad’s home, can leave Ann Arbor with the richest experience possible.

Research and go!

When we first got to Ann Arbor, my husband worked 90 hour weeks so I was (and still am) in desperate need of activities. Luckily, Washtenaw County has many useful resources to help avoid the hunt. For instance, the Ann Arbor Family’s Calendar has an Events tab where you will find a list of daily activities with links to more information.  I have learned that the more I sit around and wait for my husband to make it home, the more frustrated I get. So, whenever my schedule is open for the day, I simply pull up the Events, choose one that fits our schedule and head out.  Some of my favorite activities I have found over the past year have been the annual Taste of Ann Arbor, Top of the Park, Saline Fair and the Halloween Parade on Main Street. No matter the family size or stage of life, there is an activity will suit you. Simply, research and go!

Adapt to the seasons

Because Ann Arbor is such a melting pot, it is hard for some to grasp that life goes on from November through April when temperatures plummet. For instance, as an Arizona native, it was pretty hard for me to figure out what that cold, white stuff was falling from the sky. Or that people have “air conditioning” units that blow warm air instead of cold! A key factor to survive a new city with your loved one studying or working outrageous hours is to adapt to the seasons. As fall and winter approach, some of our favorite activities are to visit all of the pumpkin patches and cider mills in Washtenaw County.  The combination of engaging kid activities coupled with warm cider and freshly cooked doughnuts is enough to keep me coming back week after week. Another go-to outing, especially when it gets colder, is to head to the various libraries in town. Children’s Storytime, learning stations, and of course the books are a few of the reasons why we can’t get enough.   The local Ann Arbor Museums also provide great entertainment for both adults and children; one visit to the Hands-On Museum and you will know why a membership is a must. Rain or shine, 0 degrees or 90, there is always something to do.

Find support

There are so many interesting people in Ann Arbor with diverse cultures, backgrounds and stories to tell. Why not get to know them? Of course it takes some effort on your part, but by exerting that extra effort, you may find new friends and a surprisingly strong support system. I have found a great deal of support through the church I attend, fitness classes at the YMCA, as well as outlets provided by U of M such as Side By Side. Because Ann Arbor is one of the most educated cities in the country, a large majority of people are either going through or have previously gone through what you have. Ask questions, seek advice or just enjoy the fact that you are not alone as you trudge through these fun but difficult years as your support your grad student.