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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

ABC’s and PhD’s: An option
April 17, 2012 - 8:07pm

For the last 12 years, I have faithfully monitored the faculty job listings pages in the Chronicle of Higher Ed and IHE even though my husband and I are happily employed.  Why?  Because we live on the “wrong” coast.  We are 3000 miles away from both sets of our aging parents and families, and for us this is a hardship. For years after he finished his thesis (while I was still completing mine) my husband yearned for a job on the west coast, and he waited out for potential opportunities, continuing his post-doc despite several real job offers elsewhere.  When we had our first child, it was time for something more steady, and my husband took a faculty position on the East Coast.  It turned out to be a great, fulfilling job in a wonderful place to live – family-oriented, gentle living near a vibrant campus.  We have met many friends through the university, our neighborhood, and our kids.  But the distance from our parents and siblings has niggled, remaining, jabbing at us, hence I remained a subscriber to all the job search listserves.

Every several years a west coast job comes up for which my husband, the “leading” academic spouse in our family, applies. Three years ago he got an offer in Vancouver and our hearts leapt, but upon visiting we quickly realized how expensive the cost of living is there; we just couldn’t afford it.  Then a couple weeks ago, he got a job offer at an institution within 10 miles of his family.  A reasonable job offer - a lateral move into what feels like a nice, interesting department, a job that he would be happy taking. We could live right near our family as we always dreamed, sharing such things as birthday dinners, overnights at the grandparents, hiking and exploring the wilderness that we grew up with and love.

But, no big surprise here, the decision is anguishing.  Can we move our now older family, my teen middle-schooler and my popular, entrenched third grader, away from the only home they’ve ever known?  I just returned from a four-day trip to scout out the area: the schools, surrounding neighborhoods, potential houses, hoping that this would give me the answers we need to decide one way or the other. Beyond finding out the obvious that yes, the area would be a good place to live, however, it didn’t answer this tougher question.  (By the way, my husband and I didn’t let on to my inlaws that I was going to be in their neck of the woods, so I stayed with friends there, as we don’t yet want to bring family into the roller coaster of our decision-making process.  This led to some extremely awkward moments when his parents called during my absence, asking my daughter where I was.  My daughter, also in the dark about the reasons for my trip, said something about “I think she might be traveling near you,” causing my husband to back pedal with a complicated explanation of my impromptu visit to see some old friends (not especially plausible) elsewhere on the west coast.  I dread our next phone conversation when my travels are sure to come up!)

I’m very thankful for this option, though at this point I just can’t imagine what we are going to do. When things were simpler ten years ago there would have been no question – we would have jumped on it immediately.  One thing I know for certain.  I’m now taking my name off all the academic job registries to which I belong.  If we decide we can’t make this move now, then we’re certainly here to stay at least until the nest is empty. In the meantime, I’m collecting moving stories.  Have any of you moved with older kids?  Do you have suggestions, thoughts, did it work out?  Did you move as a kid or as a teen?  How did it go?  What was helpful in the transition?

 

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