** I started this diary soon after I defended my dissertation but things were still too raw. Perhaps they still are. But I need to write out my thoughts as a mechanism for clarifying them and I’m hoping that walking through some of this with you will help me figure some things out. Thanks as always. **
So as you know I defended my dissertation a month and a half ago. The outcome was what I expected and the norm for my department – pass with rewrites. My official graduation date will be Dec. 2010 (which was what I expected) and I need to get the final version submitted by early November. The process for the whole thing was a mess. And I’m finding that I’m really struggling with coming to terms with everything that happened. It’s also been bringing back any concerns, frustrations, and uncertainty that I have about academia.
I would bet money, lots of it, that my chair did not read my dissertation. And then threw me under the bus. I got apologies from everyone on my committee for how things were handled. Although the “apology” from my chair was still putting blame on me – I got a lot done but “not as much” as he thought such an excellent researcher like me could have and they were giving me a “pass” because I already had a job. Later the other faculty on the committee told me that this wasn’t true. But of course, that’s the part that sticks and is hard to get past.
I pushed back quite a bit during the defense on what I felt were incorrect statements by my chair. At one point I even told him I was pissed that this was going on. I strongly believe that everything worked out because I pushed back. But, it brings fears for tenure-track, reviews, etc. that are all done anonymously behind closed doors – if my CHAIR, the person who’s supposed to have my back, can so easily throw me under the bus, then what’s to say the next time something like this comes up and I’m not there to fight it, that I won’t get screwed then. And that would be after another 6-7 year commitment to this…
I was/am really proud of what I accomplished – my dissertation, especially one chapter, is good. I did it on time, or potentially even early. And with 2 kids, limited support network. It was hard. And I worked really hard for it. So I was really looking to the defense as a celebration of that. And in my department that is the norm and expectation. And so when the process was really an exact opposite of that, I was really hurt. Still am.
One positive – I had struggled with not wanting to work further with my chair. And now I will have no problem saying no We have one paper that we’re revising. But that will be the end of my work with him.
Prior to my defense I was in a pretty gung-ho academia frame of mind. This process also brought forth all my concerns about an academic career. DH is currently applying for jobs and it’s been very stressful and he’s been working a ton. He has additional travel because we moved for my post-doc. Which has made it challenging to talk about the struggles I’m having – because we moved “for me”…
I’m tired of being the single parent. And it would at least be expected if his travel was the 2-4 days every 2 weeks that we initially expected. But he’s been gone for more than that (and a decent chunk that’s travel he would have been doing even if we’d been in IL still). The other struggle I have is that he’s been working non-stop when he’s home. So yesterday, I think he took maybe 1.5 hours of the day to hang out with the rest of us. I took the kids in the morning, afternoon, and evening. And I took them out for huge chunks of that time because Isaac especially just wants to play with DH and it all falls apart when DH can’t play. The job market and huge competition is sucking DH dry. And I don’t know if/when it will get better. He keeps saying, “We’ll talk about this in a week – things are going to calm down.” But they don’t. And we keep on this path of dual academics because we never get that “lull” that would be good for talking about this less emotionally/exhaustedly.
And of course this means I’m not getting my work done. Last week rather than having time to get a paper out for review, I got to spend one night in the ER, one day observing Isaac for his mild concussion, one afternoon taking the dog in for an emergency vet visit, and two days giving the dog medicine every 4 hours so that we can hopefully save his eye (at least I could do some work and go to a meeting in between those…). This week-end I wanted to clean and work-out. Neither happened. I’m tired and frustrated.
And I don’t see it getting better if/when we get the coveted faculty jobs. Faculty in both our fields travel quite a bit. And work like crazy. My field has a lot of part-time students so there are a number of night classes to teach. I know that I’m focusing on the negatives right now. The positives – interacting with passionate students, teaching cool classes, developing interesting research programs, intellectual stimulation, flexibility with time (you work a lot but unless you’re teaching, time is quite flexible), good pay. I’m just not sure how to figure out whether or not the positives outweigh the negatives. And I don’t know what I’d do if I don’t do this… And then get down the path of “the past 5 years were such a waste and I was being stupid to think that we could actually do this.” Which of course is not helpful. DH is much more passionate about his work than I am so it fits that if one of us makes a change it would be me, but I don’t know how to think through this well. And I’m terrified that I’ll just keep “going along” and then 5-10 years from now look back and feel like I prioritized everything backwards… But on the other hand, perhaps 5-10 years from now I’d have tenure and live would be roses
Sorry for the long, disconnected thoughts… I should probably go over this a few more times, but I keep saving drafts and I actually think I need some interaction around these thoughts rather than cogitating myself. So I apologize for the length and poor structure but am posting anyways
What strategies have been helpful for you as you think about career, family, and balance? How have you discussed this with DH? How have you balanced your dual needs and pressures?
*** Update ***
Thanks everyone for your comments – I really appreciate them. And I’m sorry to have posted and run. After a couple meetings/vet appointment I decided to pick the kids up early. Motivated by Minnmom’s great pic in the morning thread I took the kids and dog to the local arboretum and we walked around and had a really nice time. Then grabbed dinner and ice cream. Nice day all around. One of the benefits of academia is that I could do that – decided to actually take advantage of it. I’ll make some comments below, but there are a few themes that came up a few times that I thought I’d just write about up here.
I have come to terms with the fact that he’s just an asshole. And I don’t trust him. I’m hoping that I’ll be positioned such that I don’t need a letter from him as I don’t trust it to be strong. One huge lesson – I should have followed my gut a couple years ago and dropped him as chair. He thought the environmental stuff was a mistake and didn’t engage with my research. But he’s tenured and powerful and I was worried he’d take out things on me and/or another committee member (who I would have asked to be chair) who wasn’t tenured at the time. Given how he was at the defense, I think he truly could have done that so I’m happier with him taking it out on me rather than hurting someone’s tenure chances. The apologies I got – in writing – from the other committee members are quite shocking. Multiple ones saying it was the worst defense on the Committee’s part that they’ve ever witnessed and they were really sorry as it didn’t reflect my work. My Chair meanwhile is in denial of this and I think has rewritten it in his mind. Our discussion after the defense in which he “apologized” was evidence of this re-writing history and just pissed me off more. So I just need to get this paper accepted somewhere and never work with him again. Apparently he has a bit of a bad reputation so many people would be understanding… Things I wish I’d known earlier! But the fact that he could still be such an ass and that the power differential is so critical… it was an eye opening experience and brought up frustrations with other aspects of academia. I am doing a much better job of letting it go. But it still burns.
He’s not stepped up recently and needs to. I need to figure out how to effectively discuss this with him. He had a talk today at “the mecca” for physics and it went really well. So hopefully he’ll come back a bit calmer and we can sit down and talk about it. When he’s stressed he just shuts down if he thinks he’s being criticized and that’s something I still haven’t figured out how to get around. It’s also hard because he’s in a field that is much more competitive than mine. Many people each year do not make it to academia. My concerns are “where” and “what level” I would get a job. His is “whether” and so he has much more pressure to work. We both know that it will be easier for me to get a job. And that I’ll likely get paid significantly more. (One benefit of the “evil empire” of business schools!) But, you’re all right – that doesn’t mean I have to sacrifice all the time or can continue to automatically be the one to step up. Me sacrificing will continue to be a self-fulfilling prophecy if I don’t set my mind around it correctly. We need to better figure out how to balance that.
Good ideas. I think I need to think through how to do this more. We’re getting a cleaning company for every other week – but that doesn’t start for another week. Someone to help with dinners, especially when DH is out of town, is a really good idea that I will follow up on. Perhaps some college student could come 1-2 times a week and do some laundry, make some meals, clean… I also need to explicitly ask my parents to help. They’re an hour away and we see them lots on week-ends. But I bet my Mom would be able to help for a day a week and I should see if that might work. Not sure why I hadn’t thought about that Thanks.