Tuesday, November 15, 2011

If you asked me to give up my research or my family I would panic

I've been feeling down and overworked a lot recently, with job applications and everything else. I had an on-line pep-talk with a friend of mine, a tenure track mother who spent a stint in the corporate world, that seemed to really get to the point of a lot of issues I've been dealing with. My post today is just excerpt from that conversation. 
Sara:  how are you?
me:  looking at jobs ... feeling a bit down
Sara:  why?  ...
me:  I'm tierd of putting 2-3 hours every night after he goes to sleep
and writing lecture notes over the weekend, and then feeling guilty that I haven't gotten any [research] done
me:  if I quit academia, could I get a corporate job where I could work 40 hours most weeks?
Sara:  guilt free lunch, guilt free weekend,
yeah but if you're like me you would want to shoot yourself
me:  I want to shoot myself now... for different reasons.
Sara: ... you're also going on the academic job market
and you have a dual academic family ...
and [partner] has been on two searches which is extremely taxing on you as well, and he had that year in chicago
me:  when it was just [partner] and myself, i wouldn't trade this life (all the downsides included) for the world
Sara:  you're under some really unusual stresses all at once
me:  but now... having lost a year of research to [Epsilon], and a dual academic life, some stability somewhere seems very desireable
Sara:  two people on the market at the same time with a baby is crazy
me:  it's hard to make people at [my university] understand why I am panicking... they are right in that I shouldn't, because it does no good
but sometimes, it would be nice if I could just go cry in their office because I'm not a superstar ... tenured professor like they are
Sara:  i bet none of them are in the situation you are at
what kind of job do you want?
me:  I'm in this game for the research. Nothing else is worth the pain (And I'm wondering if the research is).
Sara:  so it has to be an R1 school
me:  yeah
Sara:  ... Will you guys have to be apart for you to do research?
me:  not if we can get two jobs somewhere else
if that's what it takes for more than a year or two, one of us isn't going to do research
Sara:  wow
will the person who has to give it up be resentful about it?
me:  no
we are both so sick of this
Sara:  see, this is why people don't understand your panic. so many couples either:
1. has no kids
2. have one spouse in a regular job
3. are not committed
4. have one spouse who is not into research
if you asked me to give up my research or my family i would panic
And therein lies the crux of the matter. I fear having to choose between these two things I love.

Here's a shout-out to the precious few people I know who are in, or  have gone through similar situations. I don't know how you do (did) it.

And, to be fair, as Sara has pointed out to me, the situation may not be as bleak as I make it sound. My partner's university may be able to come up with office space and a minor affiliation so that I can continue to have an academic home while I look for a job.


  1. Thank you for sharing your thought and fears. Hats off to you and your partner and all academic couples who deal with the stresses associated with a dual career and yet, retain a love and commitment for research as you do.

    I wish I could say something more useful. I wish you both ALL THE VERY BEST for your job searches.

  2. My heart goes with you, Barefoot. My recommendation is to take it day by day. But of course, I don't have any solution... I feel for you, and with you.

  3. mathgirl: This conversation happened after a particularly bad day. I've gotten more sleep, and I'm better for now. I don't know if this helps, but you and your family are in my thoughts when things get a bit tough.

  4. Hi, Just came across your blog and found it interesting. My suggestion is do what feels right to you. I am in similar situation as you and with two kids. I took two years off from work when the kids were young and found my way back to research (I also can not imaging to give either family or research). I was panicked when I had to give up research for family, but I would say I had the best (completely unstressed) two years with my kids when they needed me most and I got the best chance in the world (NIH reentry grant) to start my career again. Persistence will pay off in your case as well, just stay put with your belief. Good luck!!!