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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

ABC’s and PhD’s: Five Early Stages of “Coping” with a Long-Coveted Job Offer on the Other Side of the Country
May 8, 2012 - 7:03pm

Thanks to all for the thoughtful and helpful responses to my last blog about moving with kids. After several weeks of wrenching angst about whether to accept a new academic position on the other side of the country, we’ve taken the plunge. Oh. My. Gosh. We’re moving!  Here, in a nutshell, is our emotional rollercoaster so far:

Stage 1. Euphoria. Bagged the west coast job!  This is fantastic! It’s we’ve wanted and have been waiting for since finishing graduate school!  A week of enthusiastic evenings spent with my husband after the kids have gone to bed, poring over real estate listings and researching the area.

Stage 2. Doubt. Oh, you mean, we need to tell them if we’re going to take the position? Step down from jobs here? Leave our home?  That means everything is going to change. Let’s just wait a bit, sleep on it for a while. Denial.

Stage 3. Indecision. Unproductivity. Distress. This is the stage I was getting to when I wrote my last blog. This phase lasted forever. Negotiations occurred and offers evolved at both institutions.  Pressure mounted.  The new department wanted to know: are we coming?  The old department wanted to know: are we leaving? I started feeling physically ill, waking up at three in the morning and stewing until morning.  Making decisions such as this cannot be done by scholarly process: there is just not the information available to weigh the outcomes.  Each minute I seemed to have the opposite take on it; one minute I couldn’t imagine leaving our home of the last 13 years, the next I couldn’t imagine turning down this rare opportunity of an academic position in a wonderful location, near family. I tried to take comfort in the words of several people put it in perspective: “No matter what, it’s going to be okay.” But how can this be okay?  It’s not possible to decide!

Stage 4. Decided. No idea how we got here, but we did.  Part of it was deadline pressure; we couldn’t put it off any longer. A few scattered thoughts:

  • Our decision to move out of our comfort zone, our stable neighborhood where everyone knows us, would not have been possible without hearing many times from many people, “Kids are resilient and a move provides life lessons they will value and from which they will become strong.”
  • Hoping for a clear-cut answer, we told my parents our dilemma as we were trying to decide whether to take the job. Kindly, they kept their opinion to themselves.  But once we told them we had accepted the offer, they said they knew from the start that we would come around to that (did they really?)
  • One of the hardest parts of Stage 4 was gearing up to tell our kids once we decided. We did it with great positivity that I somehow dredged up from where ever I had stuffed my feelings from Stage 1.  And while emotional, welling up with tears, they took it thoughtfully, productively, and now they pepper us with questions every day.  They are curious, interested, scared, excited, sad.  Just like me.  So we can work with that. Both my daughters said the same thing, independently: “I always thought moving only happened to other people.”
  • Just after making our decision, I got an email out of the blue from an old friend from grade 7 who I met while our family was on sabbatical in Australia.  (Same age as my older daughter is now).  She had tracked me down, and invited me to join a newly formed facebook group gathering together all the “kids” from that class – there is to be a 30-year reunion of that class.  After all these years, they found me and I’m now in touch with all of them! If I can be reunited with kids from 30 years ago, I have a warm feeling in my heart that we’ll keep touch with our current friends and neighbors even from afar. I have a new appreciation for facebook.
  • After living with our final decision for a week now I am coming around, feeling more normal and more and more of the time I think we made the right decision. There are going to be rough periods in our transition, but it is going to be okay.  Hmm.  It might even be good.
  • I have found it very hard to tell people in our community that we’re moving, like we are rejecting them in moving on. But people are nice about it.  Even our closest friends are helping us to do what they don’t want us to do.

Stage 5. Frantic. This hasn’t quite hit yet, but I’m thinking as soon as the semester at the university finishes (this week), I think there will be a proverbial ton of bricks.  HOW are we going to get these enormous tasks done in time, let alone the billions of little things I haven’t thought of yet?  Pack up and clear out all our STUFF?  Prepare our house to rent out for a year?  Find a new place to live?  Get summer research done?  Drive our car (and our hamster?) across country?  Must stop now … starting to hyperventilate.

 What comes after Stage 5???  I’ll let you know.


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