I thought now was a good time to pop in with part two of Married to a Med Student. The last time I wrote, Nathan was nearing the end of his first semester of year two. Now he is mid-second semester of year two, but almost more importantly, he is just two months away from his Step 1 exam.
The season of preparation for Step 1 began in early December. It has been like watching him cram for a test for almost four months straight now, even though the real crunch time is yet to come. Scratch that – it’s not even like cramming for a test. The amount and way he is studying for this test is unlike anything I’ve ever seen…and he still isn’t doing “enough” by some med profs’ standards. (AKA – the ones who send out 10-12 hours a day study plans on top of lectures, labs and, oh yeah, life.)
All the breathing room we used to have – for a random walk before dinner, watching an episode of How I Met Your Mother together, or just taking an hour off – has pretty much ceased to exist over these past few months. Dates have also become pretty sparse…we find ourselves planning them a few weeks out for special occasions but otherwise there isn’t a lot of flexibility there. (Unless you count a study date to Starbucks, of course.) We have remained diligent with our weekly Bible study group and going to church, so I’m happy about that. But all in all, I will be VERY glad when this phase of med school is over!
(I should note – I’m very, extremely, unspeakably proud of how hard Nathan is working. I just can’t believe how much med school demands of people and it is really eye-opening to witness it. I really don’t know how they do it!)
So…a typical Saturday (like the one that’s happening today):
- Alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m. for him to get up and start studying (it’s 45 minutes later than we get up during the week…but still early on a weekend.)
- 8 a.m. – noon: Study upstairs. Headphones in, binders open, lecture playing.
- Noon: Make lunch. Take it upstairs to eat while continuing to study.
- 12:15 – 5:30 p.m.: Study. Study. Study. (Notice a trend?)
- 5:30 p.m.: Get ready to leave for dinner with the family.
- 6 – 8 p.m.: Dinner with the family. (Taking 2 hours for dinner is an exception/special occasion thing…During the weeks it’s usually half hour before heading back to the books.)
- 8 – 10:30 p.m.: Study downstairs on the couch. Sometimes around 10:30 he’ll take a little break before going to bed, other times he’s so worn out he’ll just hit the hay.
So…what do I do while he studies like this, especially on the weekend? I’ve always been pretty independent, so I have my own projects I’m working on (bridal shower planning for my best friend’s wedding, baking three-layer cakes, writing weekly emails for church, etc.). I also use the weekends to clean the apartment, go grocery shopping, meal prep and do laundry like usual. Work has been as busy as ever still, so sometimes I’ll have things for that to take care of on the weekend too.
All in all, it’s an interesting circumstance to be in during our first year of marriage. With me starting my first full-time job and him preparing for Step 1, we are often both left feeling slightly overwhelmed. Luckily, we have each other to lean on, and that makes all the difference.
Here’s what I would tell someone else in my shoes to prepare for this phase:
- Find things you enjoy doing on your own. Try a new hobby, start learning something new or get back to old pastimes that you used to enjoy. I’ve taken up scrapbooking again, begun writing a story and tried countless new recipes. These are just a few examples of ways that I’m trying to do this.
- Learn to save up what you want to talk about during the study breaks. One thing that’s been really hard to learn is that we can’t just talk nonstop like I was used to. I’m learning to go back to the long-distance days where I would make lists (yes, really) of things I wanted to tell Nathan when we got to be together again or got to talk again. This phase is like a mini version of that because I just save it up for his study breaks (or try to), but it’s almost harder because he’s RIGHT THERE and I have to bite my tongue. (And for any of you who know me…biting my tongue/not talking is not my strong suit!)
- Figure out a time to connect. While our dates have certainly become rare, I try to focus on the little bits we get together each day: time in the car on the way to work, half hour at dinner, the few minutes before bed. These are all still times when it’s just me and him and I try to focus on those moments (and make sure that we’re committed to them) rather than thinking about all the other time that we don’t get together.
- Try to pitch in with the housework/cooking/etc. if you can. I’m not sure how med students go about grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc. when they don’t live with someone. I know Nate feels like he falls behind just by taking the time to sleep every night, so I can’t imagine how guilt-inducing making a trip to the grocery store would feel. I’m really glad I can at least help out (in some way) by taking care of all this stuff during this phase.
- Plan something fun for after Step 1. The daydreams I have about our life after Step 1 honestly keep me going. He’ll have a couple weeks entirely off before rotations begin, and I’m holding out hope that we’ll get to take a fun trip sometime then to celebrate.
So there’s a little slice of life right now. Pretty glamorous, eh? All I know is that there is NO way I could handle med school, and it is astounding watching someone whom I care deeply about experience it. Between the competition, stress, workload and pressure…I know I would’ve cracked long ago. Lucky for me I married a superman who is handling it like a boss 🙂
What are some of the ways you handle stressful times in life? Funny story, Nate literally broke a stress ball the other day. If that doesn’t say it all, then I don’t know what does!