Thursday, January 5, 2012

Convincing the folks

When I received my offer for the post doc at University F, I wrote back thanking them for notifying me before the holidays so that I could meet the family a little more relaxed.

No matter how I felt about the position, it was easier to face the questions of "where will you be next year" and "will you make it to the family reunion next year" with a job offer in hand.

Though in hindsight, telling all may not have been the best strategy for the peace of mind of my extended in-law family. All but 1 of my in-laws' siblings live within a 4 hour drive from the house my partner grew up in, which is a few blocks from the house my mother in-law grew up in. The remaining family branch is a whopping 700 miles away. Some of the cousins live a bit further away, but most settle somewhere near the aunts and uncles. It means that the family is very close knit, and the various generations interact often and well with each other.

On the other hand, it means that they have never had the experience of having family emigrate to a foreign country for work reasons. And they cannot understand the decision tree that would lead me to want to live so far away from Epsilon, rather than accept an adjunct position at University E. The family, as a whole, has put family before ambition. I don't think anyone feels like they have had to stifle their dreams to make family work, just that when the choice came between kids and a more exciting job, it was almost always obvious that the kids win out.

I am oversimplifying the situation a little bit, and not being telepathic, I may be incorrectly guessing the reasons behind people's reactions. Words were said in sadness that I think we all wish we could take back. I'm left trying to figure out how to reach out to my in-laws to make them feel less like we don't care about the family. Its harder because the attitude of taking a "good enough" job for the kids is the exact opposite of what my family expects from me.

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