Reader Submission/ Life Advice

By Celeste and Rich

I was sent this message on Friday:

I’ve been wanting (and trying!) to get married for forever (it seems) and thus, doing everything I can to prepare for it, i.e. reading articles/blogs, talking to married ppl, going to marriage prep classes, becoming a better person, dating a lot, etc. But I also have a unique situation where the Lord has told me I need to prepare for a career. So I’ve been working on that the last 3 years and I’ve finally found a career that works for me – counseling. Unfortunately, this requires many more years of school and training for certification. I don’t want to delay marriage and especially parenthood but I’m having a really hard time imagining how I would do it w/ school.

I read in your blog that you have a M.A. and Rich is going for his Ph.D. – which are amazing accomplishments, let alone with 3 kids!! How did you guys manage (and are managing) it? Especially financially? I’m caught between finishing school fast with a lot of debt and working thru school (twice as long) with as little debt as possible.

Anyway, I’m sure God has a plan and He won’t withhold fulfilling my righteous desires while I’m trying to follow His directions. Would love to hear your thoughts on any of this.



Dear reader,

Celeste: 
Wow, thanks for thinking to ask us life advice!  I don’t really feel qualified to answer most of your questions, but since you asked, I’ll offer my two cents.  Just know that I’m no expert in these things, so grain of salt and all that. 

Ok, first off, I’m super impressed with your preparation for marriage!  I’m sure it will pay off and your expectations of what marriage will be like will be much more realistic than had you not done all of those things to prepare.  Onto your next point:

I don’t want to delay marriage and especially parenthood but I’m having a really hard time imagining how I would do it w/ school.

I don’t think you need to feel one bit guilty about expanding your education at this point in your life.  And don’t feel guilty for working hard on your education either.  For the Strength of Youth says:

Education will prepare you for greater service in the world and in the Church. It will help you better provide for yourself, your family, and those in need. It will also help you be a wise counselor and companion to your future spouse and an informed and effective teacher of your future children.

You can’t very well sit around twiddling your thumbs just waiting for a husband to show up.  So, I’d say keep doing what you’re doing.

Rich:  To be honest, no matter who you are, regardless of your gender and the likelihood of marriage, I think that everyone should be preparing for a career, simply because marriage plans, and even life after marriage, rarely goes how we expect.

So I don’t think the general idea of career preparation is abnormal. The specific career/plan though might require some specific considerations.

Celeste:  Agreed.  How about this part:  “I read in your blog that you have a M.A. and Rich is going for his Ph.D. . . . How did you guys manage (and are managing) it? Especially financially?

Rich:  “How do you manage it?” is actually something that I get asked a lot in my graduate program. It was something people asked a lot when I showed up with a 5 month old baby at the beginning of my PhD program and then even more when kid number 2 came along. After kid three I think people stopped asking (perhaps assuming that we stumbled upon some leprechaun gold, or pirate treasure, Goonies-style).

The real answer is really that we’ve been really lucky in the following ways: 1) Celeste was able to finish up her program before we had to make any decisions about where we would move for MY future school, 2) Celeste already knew that she wanted to have kids and stay home to take care of them and 3) both of those programs (Celeste’s Masters program and my PhD program) paid a small (but significant) stipend. Without any of those things being true I wonder if we’d be in the pretty OK financial situation we’re in right now.

Celeste:  Ha “pretty OK financial situation” is an apt description of it – no debt, no loans . . . aaand no money :)  Well, ok some money.

Rich:  Right. And even though those are three of the BIG reasons why our situation is as good as it is (financially/career-wise), there are a ton of smaller things that Celeste does on in her day-to-day that make the small amount of money I get stretch further.

Celeste:  Yeah, we do things like share contacts (we have similar prescription), get EVERYTHING second hand and complain a lot about being poor (we find when we do this packages of kids clothes magically appear on our doorstep… we have nice friends).   Also, living in Iowa with it’s low cost of living helps.

Anyway, none of that was probably helpful to your situation as far as the going through school fast with debt or slow with no debt.  Without being really at all knowledgeable about your situation (and being the miser that I am) I would lean toward slow with no debt?  HOWEVER, if that causes you to be stressed out, overworked and exhausted all the time juggling school and work, then you should probably think about cutting back. 

Rich:  Being debt free is great – absolutely. But if you take out some student loans with a firm and concrete plan to pay them off quickly, then that’s something you should consider. And it’s really important to point out that we’re not saying “because WE made it work, there’s no reason why anyone else can’t make it work.” We can only speak to our own (limited and fortunate) circumstances.

Decisions about marriage and starting families in the middle of careers and school are really hard. Like I said above, I think we’ve been luckier than most. But I think that it’s absolutely true that no matter what your situation, program and career your ability to have a successful marriage and family is possible, even if it’s not simple. My co-worker (whose wife is also a post-doctoral researcher) was seriously considering being a stay-at-home-dad, because his wife has greater money-making potential and it would save money on child care for their two sons. Some other people I’ve met moved to Iowa from Canada so they could both work at the same institution. They recently got offered jobs back in Canada so they’re headed back.

The point is, I think in every case, including ours people absolutely had to make sacrifices (a spouse staying home with kids, moving to a remote location for work). But we/they didn’t ultimately have to sacrifice everything in order to have it all. So maybe you CAN have it all, you just have to make sure your list of “it all” has some room for interpretation.

Celeste:  And just as you said, “I’m sure God has a plan and He won’t withhold fulfilling my righteous desires while I’m trying to follow His directions.”

You said it perfectly. I’m a firm believer that so long as you’re praying and doing your best, God will help you figure out all those tricky details of life. And those tricky details tend to look differently for everybody. So, just keep praying and move one step at a time. You’re doing great!! I’m sure God will reward you for all of your righteous desires and efforts (just maybe not how and when you would want exactly, but when and how God wants, which tends to be better anyway 🙂

Thanks for writing in! 
If any other readers have any questions, we’ll do our best to offer more of our two cents.  Shoot an email to athingcalledloveblog@gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Reader Submission/ Life Advice

  1. Ha yeah why don’t you spread a little of that leprechan gold my way?? I was wondering how you guys were doing it. It all makes sense now…..

  2. Good advice. Particularly this part “no matter what your situation, program and career your ability to have a successful marriage and family is possible, even if it’s not simple.”

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