Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A very serious question...

Would you leave your tenure-track position to be with your spouse/partner? Say your partner would always be making twice again as much as you would. After trying to be together for a number of years, would you finally just leave your position and try to adjunct where they are?


Carolyn Schriber said...

I would. In fact, I have. This is coming from a retiree, so I probably have a different perspective. But looking backward, I know I made the right decision. In my case, I am married to a career Air Force officer -- for 48 years now.

While he was on active duty, I was a high school teacher with a master's degree, and when he was transferred, I would quit my job and go where he went, if I could. )Sometimes he was on remote assignments where families were not allowed.) But whenever possible we put the family unit first.

When he retired from active duty, we both went back to school, and I finished my doctorate, going back on the job market at age 50. How's that for scary? But I landed a tenure track job at a very good school and held it through to retirement some 15 years later. When I received that job offer, he was the one giving up his doctoral plans to follow me, and he never made me feel that he was making a sacrifice -- it was just "my turn." When I reached 65, he picked up an important volunteer position with an international organization, and I put in my retirement papers to follow him once more.

Jobs come and go. So do people, of course, but jobs are easier to replace.

Prof. de Breeze said...

Yeah, I would, too. But remember that adjuncting may not be the only option. Are there community colleges nearby? Community college positions are very different from positions at 4-year schools, and they're still difficult to land, but they can be a viable alternative.

Doctor Cleveland said...

I can't give a serious answer if it's posed as a yes/no question.

If the question is "Would I leave the tenure-track entirely and spend the rest of my working life in a low-pay/low-status/labor-intensive/zero-security version of the career I have now?" then I think you can guess my answer from the way I set it up.

If the question is "Would I leave a specific tenure-track job, and take a step back professionally for a while, to be with my spouse?" then the answer lies in the details.

There are other questions that go with this question. Would you be able to keep open a way forward in your career (finishing the book, getting some visiting gigs), or would you get off the tenure track in some irreversible way? If you're leaving the tenure track permanently, would you want a job as an adjunct or community college teacher, or is there some other kind of career that might interest you? Does it have to be college teaching, or could it be something else? Those are just the questions with which I would start.

the rebel lettriste said...

I'd consider leaving the profession before I'd adjunct again. There's plenty of other kinds of work out there that will pay more and offer more respect than adjuncting.

And I think that Prof. deBreeze's comment is a good one--a community college gig is a damn sight better than sessional work. And CC jobs pay more than other kinds of TT jobs, too!

Your question does seem to be a deeply gendered one, and it is (and likely will be) for me too. My partner (who is male, in law) will make more than me (I'm female, in academe, at a teaching institution.) Is my job harder to come by? Yep. Will he pull in more dollars that will allow us to do other stuff? Yep. How to choose...

Sorry that this doesn't completely answer your question.

Susan said...

I second Dr. Cleveland. . . there are lots of options. I'd particularly consider what other things you might use your skills/knowledge in doing that would be satisfying and allow you to live with your partner. If, on the other hand, you think that teaching medieval literature is the thing that you really love more than anything in the world and you wouldn't do anything else, then I'd think twice before dropping a t-t gig.

And it's not about the money, it's about vocation. If you have a vocation as a teacher/scholar it's different from "I really like this but can imagine other things".

One possibility is to take a leave without pay as you explore a possibility...

medieval woman said...

You guys are all correct - there are other options and the question (and possible answers) is much more subtle than originally phrased. We got bad news today and I'm feeling less panicky than I was earlier. I just worry that at some point I will be moving down this road. And it's tough to think about. I *love* my job and my vocation. I love not only being a prof. of medieval lit, but even more I love being that here. This is my dream job in every way - seriously. Except that TD seems to be having a tough time lighting here. I actually don't want to do anything else, but I might have to.

We will do this another year - we might do this for another two. The option here for him is not closed off, it just won't be hapenning this year. It's related to $$. And before we make any drastic decisions, I will very much look into CCs before adjuncting.

But thanks for your thoughts and suggestions - I do appreciate them.

Sisyphus said...

:( I hope things go better!

I so hear you on how you really love what you're doing, where you're staying right now. So let me ask an equally serious and highly important question: would TD leave a tenure track position to come to your place? There are econ positions at CCs locally as well as in English.

It's a hard season for the job market elves to work with right now. I don't know whether to blame the economy or global warming.

heu mihi said...

I don't feel like I can answer this either way, although I've had some personal experience that is related--in my case, my partner decided that he was unwilling for either one of us to make such a sacrifice and ended things. Looking back, it was definitely the right thing to do. BUT. We were in a very, very different place from you, as you know, and obviously this is not where you ought to go. So.

Why did I write that? Oh, right. Really, I just want to offer some sympathy and support. I'm sorry that things haven't worked out yet, and I do hope that they do soon.

Flavia said...

In addition to all the caveats everyone else has made, I'd submit that this is also a deeply personal decision--by which I mean that individual temperament matters hugely.

Some people find a long-distance relationship much harder than others. . . and some people have less distance between their overall sense of self and their professional identity than others. And of course, all those things can change over time: distance winds up being not so bad. . . or totally unbearable; someone who felt deeply attached to one identity finds one that's equally good or better.

So I don't know that any of us can give you especially good advice (or absolution for whatever you may choose or not choose!), but I definitely sympathize.

Thinking of you & TD~~

(Hey, my word verification is "lastledn"--last letdown?? let's hope so!)

Pantagruelle said...

I agree that there are many factors to consider and the question isn't so simple, so I'm glad to hear that this isn't a question on the immediate horizon for this year and that you are still going to give it some time. The market this year is really tough but it may get better in a year or so, and there are always late postings.

As a feminist though, I really have to reiterate the question, Would TD leave his TT job to come live with you and adjunct there? No matter what the money situation is, I find it difficult to accept that it should be the woman who leaves her job rather than the man.

And knowing what little I know about your respective locations, I think it might make more sense for him to quit his TT job to follow you than vice-versa. My limited geographical sense of schools in the surrounding area, CC or otherwise, suggests that there'd be a better chance of him finding an adjunct position here than you finding one there.

And for either of you there is always the non-academic route. I've considered it many times, and just today read about someone being offered a much higher paying job in industry with a humanities PhD than one could ever hope to make as an Assistant Professor, so that is an option that perhaps both of you should consider, and try to figure out who has the most "transferrable skills" if you're willing to consider it.

Doctor Cleveland said...

I agree with Flavia that the question isn't really what any of us would do. What would make us happy and what would make you happy aren't the same questions at all.

Let me try (what with my embarrassing Y chromosome) to reframe the feminist question in a way that doesn't make it about TD's character: how much are you willing to let the job market decide what kind of marriage you have? I understand that a long-distance marriage can eventually become intolerable, but a sudden change to a much more traditional marriage arrangement can't be the only other option.

I don't know The Dutchman, or anything about your relationship, but what you propose in your initial post sounds like a drastic change in the terms of the marriage. Instead of two people with careers, with their own professional goals and professional identities, you would have someone with a career and someone with an avocation. Instead of a partner who makes a living and a partner who makes a better living, you might have a partner who is the provider and a partner who, while bringing in some extra cash, is economically dependent. That changes things, no matter how evolved and liberal the partners are.

We can refrain from casting any judgment on such relationships, and admit that some people are happy in tradtional arrangments, but we would still have to admit that those would be huge changes, not just for you but for the Dutchman and for the structure of your marriage. And you'd enter that new phase of your marriage having given up a major part of your identity as you currently understand it, and likely casting about for some new self-definition. The full ramifications are hard to see in advance. But these are things to think about carefully.

And fwiw, in the Dutchman's shoes I'd feel real trepidation about my spouse giving up her career in a radical way.

medieval woman said...

Dr. C., I really like the way you've put that: "a drastic change in the terms of the marriage" - and those terms (and the changes I suggested) are inherently gendered as well, which gives me stomach pains. Just a quick note, TD would be very loathe for me to give up my job, but wouldn't want to give up his either. I would have a great problem being the dependent in many ways.

It's funny, we've been talking a lot today - processing the news, etc. - and I made the observation that our relationship has gotten better since we began commuting a year and a half ago. Not because we're apart, of course - i.e., we certainly don't do better apart. We rock when together. But, we're better because we both have careers, we're both doing well in those careers and that's a large part of the way we constitute our identities - as individuals and partners. It took me 3 years to get this job and the year before I landed it, I was with TD at his new t-t job (he got his the year before mine) and it was arguably the most stressful and unsatisfying of our relationship. I was adjuncting and being treated like an adjunct. It sucked.

The questions you're all posing are helping to refine what was a knee-jerk reaction, true, but it was also, I think, a radical seed of what I feared that I saw coming down the road: i.e., it's either one of our careers or the marriage. I am wont to react this way to bad news and am so thankful for the talking down off the ledge of friends (irl and bloggy).

If I decide to leave academia, I know from past experience that I will, actually, need to establish another career path for myself (whether that's at a CC, outside academia, etc.) - I can't just take a VAP or lecturer position in the hopes that it will become something permanent. I've crossed that bridge and I'm happy to be on the other side.

Ultimately, I'll have to refine this as time goes by. Ask me how I feel about this 2 years from now and I'll give a different answer. But, I don't think that I'll change that much, for the precise reasons that Dr. C outlined.

I'm also interested in how others might tackle a similar quandry - or if you have before. Telling people about our situation is like telling someone about a brush with cancer - everyone's got a story about that! Either themselves, a friend, a relative, etc. I know that each situation is different and deeply personal, but discussing the issues (both large and small, personal and general) help me a lot.

So thanks again for all your thoughts and keep chiming in if you like!

Doctor Cleveland said...

I've chimed in plenty for one day, but let me just add, as someone who's seen your CV, that I would be sad if you left the profession. Because you rock.

medieval woman said...

A-HA! Dr. C, I THOUGHT that was you! Thanks, you're a dear, and I needed to hear that. And thanks also for your thoughts... :)

Flavia said...

Hmm. Might send you another email at some point--if I don't see you again first!--with some more thoughts based on a rather different but perhaps importantly related experience. Much too long for a comment, though.

And yes: whether with TD or separately, you (both) rock.

Susan said...

As everyone has said, this is very much a personal choice. But since you ask for stories, here's mine:
I stayed in the academic world at a very weird/marginal institution, not teaching at all in my field, for many years to be with my husband. But I managed to hang on to my writing, and was very involved in professional organizations. So when my second book came out, I was a strong candidate for jobs.
Over time, there was one job I turned down, and many more I didn't apply for, because of my marriage. Now I have a great job, and my husband (fortunately he's retired) moved with me. But it was a very radical move, with far more in it for me than for him.

This Ro(a)mantic Life said...

Oh, MW, how I understand that knee-jerk reaction. Since we're going on Year No. 8 of our cumulative long-distancing, D and I are both a bit worn out from the commuting (and in terms of air travel expenses, we can't really justify having to absorb that cost for much longer). That's our particular situation. If you have the financial flexibility and a relationship dynamic that will let you stick it out for another year or two, as you seem to plan to, I imagine it is worth hanging on to a job you adore. It seems there might be fewer of those to go around in the near future, too, which is also scary.

Sending hopeful thoughts your way!

What Now? said...

No advice to give (having left a tenured job but for a whole host of reasons, as you know, only one of which was about wanting to be with D.), but I wanted to say that I'm sorry about the bad news you and TD got today.

Good Enough Woman said...

If you ever want to know more about the cc gig, let me know. It's my gig.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I didn't actually leave a t-t job for NLLDH (because they booted me!), so I can't absolutely say I would do so. I do know that once I was out of that t-t job, it wasn't worth it to me to pursue the t-t jobs balls to the walls rather than continue to live with NLLDH. It wasn't worth it. But I also found out that adjuncting (even in a full-time lectureship in a very pleasant dept/school) wasn't satisfying to me. Hence looking for something else I could do in the area, hence law school.

(Not saying, "You should go to law school!", just explaining my process.)

It's funny because for years I would never have considered "giving up" a job for my marriage. And again, I didn't. But I kinda feel like I did.

(The biggest difference of course is that I didn't have something to leave, which is very different from continuing to search for something, and also by that point I was more dissatisfied with academia in itself.)

No idea if this is helpful...

Fifi Bluestocking said...

So sorry that you and TD are having to think about this horribly difficult question. Here's my experience, fwiw. My other half (not an academic) left his job and moved a considerable distance to be with me when I got my t-t job. Our situation was really that I was embarking on a career and he had a job which he liked but which he didn't see as crucial to his future or like his only calling or anything. So that helped inform his decision (but, to make things more complicated, we were in the very early stages of our relationship so it was kind of about whether we wanted to be together long term or not). Things are working out well for him here but there are still some very difficult times when he gets homesick or frustrated with his job and then I start to feel guilty for having dragged him here. That's not great for our relationship but we both feel that being together is worth it - the good times far outweigh the bad. I imagine that one day, as others have said, things will switch and it will be my turn to give something up for him. Much as I hope I'll be happy to do so, to be honest I find it very difficult to think about. I've been thinking about this a lot recently as we are about to make a spousal hire in our department which on one level I think is totally great but on the other I wonder about the issues that the spouse must be having to deal with (potentially seen as an appendage to the person in the dept we want to retain rather than a scholar in his/her own right, having to fit his/her teaching and research to the department in a somewhat unnatural way because his/her field isn't a great fit here). Anyway, sorry for the long comment and good luck!

Matthew Gabriele said...

Crap situation. Sorry to hear about it.

I don't have much (any?) advice but I know that I'd lean more towards being with my family than keeping my current job (as much as I like it).

squadratomagico said...

Coming to this late, and I don't really have much personal wisdom to share. Though SweetCliffie and I ended up together, we did discuss this issue when starting out and had planned to pursue careers separately if need be. And though it's not clear we would have followed through with this plan, had circumstances required it, I tend to think we would have. We're both fairly stubborn, and when we started out, were both very ambitious. (Oddly when you end up together it saps your ambition because you know you'll never move!)Unlike you two, of course, we didn't want kinds -- which I think makes the whole thing much more complicated, not to mention more costly.

My mentor in grad. school on the other hand, had two children, and two separate careers for the parents on different CONTINENTS. Her husband teaches in Europe. I think they might all have been living together when their kids were small, though.

Finally: I believe that this choice poses a significant risk of quiet, not-fully-conscious resentment on your part, which over time can spell the death of a good relationship. I don't know you well enough to know whether you would suffer from this, and perhaps you would not... but I know that I certainly would have if I gave up a job I love as much as you love this one, in order to adjunct near SweetCliffie. Call me small-minded and petty but, honestly? It's very likely I would have slid into the space where, every time he received an honor, I would have mourned my own lost opportunities rather than celebrating with him; every time we had a disagreement, I would have silently thought to myself: "I gave up so much already and now...!" I think such a response would be a common one, but one that's unhealthy for the relationship over the long term.

I also really like Dr. C's point.

Much love and good mojo to you both!

Bardiac said...

Ugh, I can't imagine making this decision. I found the responses, especially the comments about gender really interesting and helpful.

I wouldn't. But then, I'm not in a long term relationship, so it's easier for me to say. On the other hand, I've dropped relationships because they'd have been about me putting my career and interests way down below a male's, and I'm so not going there.

I also grew up with a real sense that "a woman is only one man away from welfare," an old saying, for sure, but I saw a lot of women in my Mom's generation sacrifice for their husbands and families and then get dumped and left without a visible means of support. I think it would be hard for me to ever trust a man enough to be dependent. (Could I trust a woman that much? A hard question!)

I have a really bad attitude, don't I?

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

I love questions like these that bring up such interesting discussion! (though I do NOT envy you the decision.) So much depends on context... adjuncting is often an ugly gig, but not necessarily. My husband has not given up a TT job, but has foregone pursuing them in favor of being an adjunct in the same department where I'm tenured. The dept. basically regards him as full-time and is very supportive. He continues to publish and finds his job very fulfilling, though that's because he cares about his field and is largely indifferent to questions of status and pay. I think it's the latter that saves us - one could see it as self-limiting that he's happy to accept the position he's in, but ultimately the intangible benefits of working in the same place outweigh the professional benefits that he'd get from being TT somewhere else. For us, for now, anyway!

Good Enough Woman said...

Perhaps I will add just a bit to my earlier comment about my gig being at a CC.

When my husband and I got together, he moved to where I was. This was not a big deal since he had been thinking of moving back my area, and he didn't have a job anyway (he had been traveling for a year). But it was awkward at first, what with me working (and being pregnant--oops!) and him missing his friends.

And ultimately, now that we have kids, we understand that our careers are limited. But we live in an awesome place. I am tenured at the cc; he is a full-time lecturer at the university. We often wish we were playing with the big kids, being REAL professors, but the balance in our lives is worth knowing that we probably won't be going down that path. Even as I get my Ph.D. now, I know that I won't be moving. So I will either stay at the cc or possibly apply to the local uni if it ever has an opening in my area. But even then, I'd have to think about whether or not it would even be worth it to make the change. Often, as I read the academic blogs of you and your friends, I am so pleased that I did not take the hard-core academic route. And as I result, writing my dissertation is, I think, a little less scary. Not so much is riding on it.

But I know the CC path isn't for everyone. I don't think my husband (who is in math) would be able to take it. But for me, it's okay. I teach comp, intro to lit, critical thinking, Brit lit surveys, and literature by women. Not too shabby. I wish I had a smaller teaching load and could do more research, but that's the trade off. I did, however, manage to get a two-semester sabbatical, so I'm not totally without the chance to pursue mindful things.

Okay, well. Enough about me. I wish you the best. It sounds as if you have a while to think about things, and my guess is that some kind of door will open for you.

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

Leaving aside the particulars of the situation (how stable one job or another is, the relative nearness to family, kids and the potential impact of a move on them, etc) ...

... as a general principle, in marriage the two become one flesh, so it's not your (singular) job, they are both y'all's jobs. No job, no career, is near the value of a marriage. Cherish your marriage (and TD) like no other treasure you have.

Of course, as so many others have pointed out, the devil is in the details. It's only on game shows that we are offered stark choices between what's behind one door and what's behind another. If you remember that you're in it together, then there is always room for compromise and adjustment on both sides.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I'm near the end of a 3 year LDR... it's the LD, not the R that will end :) -- Also, Hubby and I are about a 6 hour drive apart and don't have kids... just so you see the perspective. Also, he's been on a series of 3 1-year contracts at a SLAC and I was just getting tenured at a CC when he was made the offer. I've also been an adjunct... and thought that the teaching was fun but the rest sucked... a lot!

Looking back on the experience, I'm more or less glad we did it but would not do it again. In fact, he's going to law school so that we (God/ess willing) won't have to.

In particular, he needed to see the ugly side of the academy and have his time teaching etc.. to see that it isn't really his gig.

After a breast cancer diagnosis and a semester of chemo (officially the suckiest summer and fall EVER!!), I won't agree to us being separate again. I see that life is too short to be separate from the person I'm supposed to be with -- and, as long as we can keep paying the bills and living together, that is what we'll do.

Of course, the current deal is that -- when he's done with law school -- a job out of town would require a significant jump in salary, so that I don't have to take a job I don't want. Otherwise, he'll take the best possible job in the metro area and we'll stay where we are.

As others have said, this is such a personal choice -- and each couple has to decide what they can tolerate for their profession.

Anonymous said...

Yes, absolutely.

But that is a very personal decision and I say that totally without passing judgment on any other family's choice.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Coming way late to this, but let me tell you about two of my friends, both with PhDs from my doctoral institution.

One got a job in Appalachia, about 23 years ago, and had an LDR for a year. She didn't hate it, but wasn't in love with the job or the place, and her partner was a physicist who was about to go to Switzerland for awhile. She bagged the job in favor of living in Switzerland and having a baby. Since then she has made a life in folk dance and language teaching, always in volunteer or seriously underpaid positions. She is one of the happiest people I know.

Another was offered a job in the same region, about 20 years ago, and turned it down to follow her husband to California, where she had a lucrative tech writing job. They got divorced. Because she had written a book and published some articles, as well as profiting from the sale of a CA house (so no immediate pressure), within a few years she was able to score a good academic position.

As Flavia says, much depends on temperament. I admire #1's sense of self and enjoyment of life, but I doubt I could do what she did. I'm not sure I could even do what #2 did. Ask yourself where you want to be in 20-30 years, and what you would most regret not having done. Switzerland? Go. Academic achievement? Stay. But either way, there are multiple paths possible.

Earnest English said...

I did leave a tenure-track position to be with my partner. And I'm adjuncting. But the adjuncting is not forever, at least I hope not. And I did have a baby. While money is a continuing problem (read: disaster), I'm also happier than I was in the position -- of course my position, as you know, was not a Dream job either. I don't regret it, even through all the hard times now.