Pursuing MBA post marriage: An Unconventional Path for Spouses

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on August 04, 2013

The one year MBAs is a comparatively new phenomenon in the country. Most B-schools have a requirement of a minimum work experience of five years. No wonder why, typically the batches of these programs have students who are well settled in their personal lives, many even have kids. It is very difficult at the stage of career to take an offbeat decision. Be it the family pressure, or spouse’s job consideration or financial liabilities, the roadblocks are many. I myself contemplated doing a one year program for almost a year before making it to the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. Leaving a settled job was not an easy thing to do; this, when I was single and even had no financial liabilities. But when I met the couples on campus, I realized that for them to be taking this decision was even more difficult.

Questions like where will my kids study, what will my husband/wife do when I go to classes had made a lot many couples decide to stay apart for a year. For those who had left their jobs and moved along with their spouse, the question always remained what would they do the entire day. While one of the partner got too busy in his/her classes, assignments and exams; the other struggled with boredom. From staying in big houses to suddenly getting used to a one room space was another big shock. Once used to lavish spending, going out and eating regularly, shopping and going to movies every weekend; a sudden adjustment to the limited availability of financial resources was easier said than done. Add to that, the uncertainty of the future…The one year MBA is definitely not just a professional decision but a major one on the personal front as well.

To begin with, we will try to analyze each of these challenges from the point of view of real people who have been there and tasted these realities. Though, I must confess, every couple’s situation is unique and there are no hard and fast ways of handling them.

The first and the biggest dilemma is of the other spouses’ job. Should you continue to work and stay separately for a year or should you both leave your jobs and stay together? The question is a complicated one and needs to be looked at from various angles.

The first consideration is the issue of financial stability. When one of the partner decides to take a break, it shakes the entire financial calculations of the family. It comes with an additional educational loan for most people. For a family with children, it becomes even more difficult. Hence, the mathematics needs to be clearly done. In case where there are existing loans of home, car, etc.; it probably makes more sense for the other partner to continue working to support the family’s expense for the next one year. Otherwise, the stress of financial uncertainty makes things difficult to manage and in worse scenarios, even impact the studies of the person.

The other big issue is that of the emotional discomfort being felt by the spouse of the student. One year MBA programs are highly time constrained. In such a time pressed situation, if the other half has left his/her job and moved along; he/she would definitely need more time. In this case, not planning beforehand, what your spouse would engage in that one year can be stressful; more so in the cases where the person was working beforehand. The couple is advised to visit the campus, talk to people already staying there to find out what are the opportunities for the spouses of the students on campus. These could vary from spouses’ club to part-time jobs on or around the campus. But pre-planning would avoid emotional distress for the couple once they get into the campus.

For the couples who decide to stay apart, maintaining a healthy long distance relationship is a tough choice. While the partner at home has a predefined daily routine and awaits a call every night; the one on campus would have assignments to complete, early morning classes and may not always be available. Whereas, earlier one could easily talk as and when one felt like, things can be challenging in this one year. I have seen cases where such misunderstandings get complicated and lead to serious fights between the two. Staying apart needs a greater degree of maturity and understanding among couples than ever before. Trust is tested to the extreme. But the up side is that it even helps people understand each other better. At the same time, the student must find time to give to his spouse at-least once every week, must keep the spouse involved in his MBA, tell about what is happening on campus, how he/she fared in the exam, etc. Such things, though may seem trivial can go a long way in a happy one year away from each other.

For couples with kids, the kids need special attention. The entire decision matrix may change for couples with kids. For example, I know of many couples who decided to stay together just for the kids’ sake. For others, lack of good schools/infrastructure/medical facilities around the campus led to them staying in separate cities. Whatever it is, the kids need your time under all circumstances. If the kids move along, they are suddenly brought into a new environment and need to be made comfortable and settled. Such couples must try going to the campus a few days in advance. Even when there are too many assignments and stress, try not carrying it home. As far as possible, the kids must be enrolled in some nearby school. If however, the kids are staying away, the sudden distances will upset them. Regular chats with them on Skype, short phone calls, sending gifts to them are definitely needed. Even if you cannot visit home, they can visit you. So call them over so they don’t feel left out in that one year. The role of the other spouse becomes especially more critical here.

And lastly, it is important that all such decisions are taken in total agreement and are not forced on each other. You have made a choice you wish to study. Let your spouse decide what he/she prefers. Forcing him/her to move along with you may not be the best thing to do for either of you. Pay special attention to each other as and when you get time, keep a check on your finances every month, and be open and transparent with each other. Small valuable tips which will go a long way to make the one year a smooth sail..

(The writer, Disha(IIM Calcutta Alumni) is an author of a novel, My Beloved's MBA Plans: a must read for couples planning to take an unconventional decision in their lives. The same can be bought through Flipkart or Infibeam and all leading bookstores.)

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