My husband went through power school and prototype when he first joined the Navy, before I met him. This was his second time going through power school, last time enlisted, this time officer. I think he had an idea of what to expect from power school, but I had no idea... The blog post "Navy Nuclear Power School Rundown" helped some and from conversations with my husband I knew there would be long hours studying. However, living something is very different than hearing about it.
So what can you expect from power school?
First of all, there are some long, long, long, long hours. Long hours with no cell phones since they cannot bring their cell phones into the school house. If you have to get a hold of him, you call the duty phone and, if it is after school hours, you better know where he studies or they may or may not find him for you in a timely manner.
The other hard thing is that the school hours are not actually very long. Some days start earlier, like the PT days, but for the most part the school hours were fairly reasonable, like 7 am to 3:30 pm/4:30 pm. What makes the day so long is all the study hours. Some guys are required to study a certain amount of hours each week; some have goals of where they want to rank in the class and so they study an insane amount of time to reach that goal; some study and study and study just so they feel comfortable with the material and confident for the next test; some put more time in on certain days so that they can put in less time on other days. All of this was hard for me because it took us awhile to figure out a schedule that worked for us. When my husband felt done studying, he wanted to leave school and come home to relax and take a break. He would come home unexpectedly, play outside with the kids, stay for dinner, and then want to leave when he was ready to head back-- except I was pregnant and the kids were all riled up from playing with Daddy, the kitchen was covered in dinner dishes, and bath time was still 2 hours away! I also really disliked when he would come home for a break, head back in for awhile, and then come home shortly after I put the kids to bed. I loved having some one on one time with him, but, man, the days were so long and I could really have used his help putting the boys down instead of him showing up half hour after they were sleeping! It took us awhile, but we eventually found a schedule that worked for us. I completely understood that sometimes he just needed a break from studying and he completely understood how frustrating it was for him to come home each night just after I had put all the kids to bed by myself. Since my husband is a more of a morning person, he started waking up early and studying before school when he was freshest, finishing his homework after school, and then coming home for the evening. On days when felt he needed to study more, he would bathe the kids and put them in pajamas while I cleaned up the kitchen. That way I just needed to read stories before putting the kids to bed. It was a routine that worked for us. There were also a lot of times that he needed to study on the weekends. Figuring out a time on the weekends took us awhile too. We thought we would like getting studying out of the way early in the day, but it ended up working out that I was waking up by myself with the kids 7 days a week and feeling burnt out. If he had a lot of studying he needed to do, he would wake up early and go in. If he just needed to study some, he would head in after breakfast so we could all eat together and have some face time with him. Going in for 4 hours on a weekend morning after breakfast worked better for us than going in for 4 hours before we woke up. It really did take us awhile to figure out what worked best for us.
The other thing that was different for us is that we were more of the exception at power school. A lot of people in his class were newly married or dating. There were a handful of people with kids and most of them had 1, maybe 2, kids. Often, if 2 kids, they were pregnant with the second. I was pregnant with our 4th child and my husband was STA-21. Sometimes I felt awkward making friends and getting together with other couples was a bit challenging at first. When we were invited to our first backyard barbecue with friends of ours that were newly married, we were so excited and nervous. We really wanted it to go well so we would be "accepted" by these couples-- amazingly enough, it went awesome! The kids were so well behaved. We hung out at their house until just after 9 pm-- big for our boys that fall asleep at 8 pm on the dot. My husband and I high fived each other as we walked home that night! Turns out we didn't have anything to worry about. Once the ice was broken, we easily made friends with other couples in the class. However, I have noticed that the other people in his class-- dating, newly married, single-- really have explored the area much more than we have. When he was gone in class all day long, my pregnant self was tired by the time he came home and really looking forward to a quiet, family dinner at home, not battling traffic to try a hole in the wall downtown. When he had time off on the weekends, we eventually took advantage of nearby beaches and found some family restaurants, but often he was catching up on time that he had missed during his busy week-- playing basketball with the boys, working on his woodworking projects, golfing with our oldest, movie nights with me, Costco trips... So, like the guy said in the (Very) Unofficial Submarine Officer Pipeline Rundown, "Being one of the few married guys in my particular class, I didn't get out much. But most of my fellow classmates went out quite a bit."
Since my husband was STA-21, we had just come from him going through college. I thought getting a mechanical engineering degree in 3 years with a family-- having twins during finals week to boot-- would help prepare us for power school. On some level, yes, it did. I know my husband's study style and I know that studying is important for him. However, it was nice when he was in college to have the option for him to study at home. There is no option for him to study at home in power school since all the materials are classified and must be locked up each night at the school house. Power school was very different than college. It was a fast, intense, whirlwind. I was immensely looking forward to his graduation and I know he was too. He was mentally exhausted by the time power school was over and I was well over the power school schedule.
Another question for me was the power school graduation. I didn't know how formal it would be, if I could bring the kids, yadda yadda. It turned out to be just the right degree of formal. I probably could have managed the toddlers there, but I was very grateful that we had a baby-sitter to watch them, especially since I was exceedingly pregnant by that point. We all got to dress nice. They made it very family friendly, inviting people to approach the stage when your sailor's class was called so you could take pictures. It was outdoors, so people were wandering the back with their children. They had restrooms and snacks. My husband insisted that he wanted me to go-- I was planning on staying home since I was so pregnant-- and I was glad I listened to him and went. I had worried I would be uncomfortable on the chairs for that long, but the ceremony clipped right along. I got some great pictures of him graduating. I had a snack. I could take our oldest to the restroom. If you are wondering what to wear to the graduation, think Easter Sunday without all the pastels. :)
All in all, I am glad power school is over. It was only 6 months, but the school was exhausting for my husband and for us. There were some bonuses, like if I gave him warning, he could plan on coming home early to watch the kids so I could make an appointment-- things like that.
Now that power school is over, we have prototype and SOBC to look forward to!
How was your experience going through power school as a Navy spouse?