When I first told people about our family's plans for this past year with Jessi heading to school and Jack staying in Montana with me, there were a lot of puzzled looks. For some men, there was a long pause as they went through several things in their own mind (wait, who is going to feed you, do your laundry, pick up after you...?). I think they were fearful for me and my own wellbeing. For some women, there was also a concern for how I would survive, but they also recognized that this would be hard on Jack.
My answers to those questions and concerns was always the following:
1. Jessi didn't come up with this on her own. She didn't wake up one day and tell me she was considering moving away and doing a PhD. I am the one that suggested she look at applying over a year ago. Knowing she wanted to do this ever since she got her master's degree in 2004, it was important for me to encourage her to pursue her goals and dreams.
2. For those who wondered if I could survive without someone taking care of my everyday needs, they learned that I normally do all the cooking in our family, I've done my own laundry since I graduated from high school, I change diapers and I know how to clean (that doesn't mean I do it often enough). I talked about this early in Jessi's school year.
3. Jessi would still be coming home on most weekends, and I had help from her parents and another caregiver during the week while I worked my full-time job. On a few days when I had no coverage during the day, I took the day off of work. Without the help from those folks watching Jack, Jessi wouldn't have been able to be away. Big kudos to them.
4. Although we recognized this would be hard for our family to be apart, two things were certain: 1) this was a temporary deal; and 2) it was never going to get easier to do this in the future. Jessi had put off the PhD thing for years, mostly because of Jack's early birth and his medical issues. Without those day-to-day concerns for his health present, we knew it was best to make it happen sooner rather than later. It would have been better if a PhD program in her field was available in Montana, but there isn't and it's not likely to be created anytime soon. Utah was the next closest place.
In all of those discussion with people, I never heard anyone question our decision. Everyone seemed to express support for what we were doing and encouraged us throughout the process. That probably wouldn't have been the case in a different era, but hey, we live in a time where people appreciate the importance of pursuing your dreams. If anyone doesn't get that, it's probably because they aren't pursuing theirs.
Despite the fact that we've made it through this very different kind of year without major obstacles, we will certainly be celebrating the end of the split residence arrangement. Jack and I are proud of Jessi's hard work, focus and drive that has enabled her to be on track for a successful PhD completion in the coming years when she finishes the coursework, takes her exams, and starts her dissertation.