Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Scientiae Carnival: The Road Not Taken

The roads taken and not taken become a circuitous Bostonian labyrinth when your spouse follows the same tenure-track career path. Career and life become intertwined, and decisions on who works where, and whose job is more important become family ordeals. I am happy right now, and I like our life. I fear what changes lay ahead simply because the results are unknown.

Let us examine the past. Mr.JP was looking for a TT job just as we were beginning to date. He was a post-doc and I was a 3rd year grad student. He received a job offer at a place very far away, and he turned it down because our relationship was becoming more serious. We became engaged. Later he secured a TT job at a closer place, we married, and lived apart for two years. I finished my PhD while he began his career. What if... he had taken the first job offer? What if... we didn't manage our two year separation? But we did manage. I found a post-doc and TT job in the same geographic area, we moved in together, and had a baby.

And the current. I am in my second year at the TT job, and I like it here very much. He is up for tenure at his own place, and he can't stand his University. Mr. JP is a star and is considering a change of environment.

And let us examine the future. There are so many roads that I try not to think about any of them. But here are the possibilities. 1. Mr. JP stays at his University, after being promoted and negotiating for better compensation - my life would not change. 2. Mr. JP comes to my university - my life would change, but we wouldn't have to move. 3. Mr. JP secures a tenured job elsewhere, and I tag along - this would cause the greatest upheaval. 4. This option is unacceptable - Mr. JP secures tenured job elsewhere and I stay here at my University.

Roads 1 and 2 would be fine. We wouldn't have to move, and Sparky would continue as is at his day care. Our set of friends would remain constant. Road 3 could be the best for our careers, but it would have many issues alongside: i) I would switch Universities half way to tenure, ii) We would have to move with a young child, iii) We would have to make new friends. Long term, Mr. JP would likely be happy elsewhere, which would make our family happy, so options 2 and 3 are nice. The last big decisions in our lives were based on me, so it is his turn to shine. Because these processes are slow, I don’t expect to have any real answers for a long time.


Interdisciplinary Introspective said...

Excellent post. You raise an issue I'm surprised not to have seen elsewhere before this. Most of the blogs I read focus on balancing a career and young children, or about being a woman in science or a frustrated grad student, but not so much about the true two-body problem.

My husband and I are also headed for a big change. We've been living together part-time for the past four + years, and as I look to graduate within a year, I've already started looking for work near his PUI. And the pickings are slim. I am nervous about what the next few years may bring. Especially as I realize that, in all likelihood, I will end up asking him to leave his university after he gets tenure so that we can look for a region that can offer us both what we want.

I wish you the best as you enter this uncertain time. Keep us posted on how things progress.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I too like how you raise the issue of where to go/whose career to follow. I like too that are honest about the upheaval of moving and making new friends. My husband has is not in academia but he too has a job that is serious about and very good at. I am starting to look at faculty jobs and we are beginning to wrestle with the moving question. It is tough. Good luck.

PUI prof said...

We have obviously NOT solved that problem to our satisfaction. So I can't give advice. But living apart with a baby sucks.

Moreover, all of my colleagues are expecting my resignation notice any moment now, perhaps because they don't think its a sustainable lifestyle.

The biggest decider for us was that I truly had a dream job in mind and found it, but Hub doesn't have the same "dream job". Things would be so much more difficult if he really had the perfect position in his mind.

Candid Engineer said...

What I find most frustrating about these situations is that even if you could decide which option is the best for you- it's not really up to you. It seems that 'fate' or whathaveyou is always being dished by hiring committees, and our personal desires are largely irrelevant.

Just keep doing the best you can at your own job and try to ignore all of the looming potential changes.

Clarissa said...

I guess living apart with, or without a baby, sucks, no matter how you look at it, LOL.

My boyfriend is doing his PhD in another country (he's been away for a year now) and I am looking for opportunities to do mine. Problem is, I have a family commitment, so I can't just pack my bags and go over, though this would be best for us.

I'd really like to know which road you and your husband will choose eventually :)