The story about my husband giving up his job

Hahahah, I foolishly thought that, when summer officially started, my life would settle down. Hohoho, so why don't I try to complicate things by, oh, I don't know, how about moving, and putting our house on the market?

So here are some updates that give a somewhat authentic snapshot of what I'm doing right now, a perfect example of how work and "the rest of life" cannot be separated.

As I glibly mentioned a few weeks ago, my husband has decided to go on academic leave. I wasn't sure how to blog about this as he had not yet made his decision public to the world (he had told his department chairs back in March) but it's now and truly out so I can share a bit more. We've both found this year of commuting quite a trial, and more than either of us wants to put up with for another year. To recap: I started my first year of a tenure-track faculty position at Purdue back in August; he has been in a tenure-track position for the last 4 years in central Illinois in Chemistry and Environmental Studies. He goes up for tenure in Oct 2008.

When I got my offer last summer, we explored some employment options for him in Indiana, but even then he knew he didn't want a tenure track position at a place like Purdue. None of the options were an improvement over his then-current job, and he had already made commitments to students and colleagues for the 2007-08 year, so he stayed where he was and I started my job 120-or-so miles away. On one hand, not being together was okay because I didn't feel guilty for working all the time, and neither did he; on the other hand, because the other person wasn't there, we ended up working all the time (him more than previous years, even), and the added stress of 5ish hours of driving every weekend was a strain. Plus we were looking after 2 houses, after October. Plus his job was becoming more and more something he didn't enjoy, something he felt he hadn't signed up for.

So, in December we started talking with people again for advice on him finding a job at Purdue. We talked to colleagues, my department head, my associate dean, they talked to people, I nagged them, they talked to more people, and my husband gave his notice of leave to his provost in April. Now we're in May and my husband and I are going to go talk with both my department head and my associate dean about a sustainability curriculum job we want to propose he do, that would be partially funded through Purdue's spousal hiring program. I'll let you know how that goes after tomorrow. My husband also interviewed for a temporary part-time teaching position at a school 30 miles away, but driving 30 miles 2x day is not a lot better than the driving we're doing already.

Some of you may be wondering why my husband is going on academic leave (unpaid) if it sounds like he's looking for another job. This is apparently de rigeur for academic positions - before giving up one job for another that might not work out, you go on leave for an overlapping year to see how it works out. That's what his chairs and advisors told him - this also means he can still go up for tenure in October if he chooses. Again, you might ask, why go up for tenure when he isn't intending to work at his school for the rest of his life? Because tenure is a feather in your cap, particularly if you want to get an academic job later on. And worse then getting tenure and not using, worse even than deciding to skip out on getting tenure, is deciding to try to get tenure and then being denied. I'm being a little facetious here, as I think lots of fab people decide they don't want to go up for tenure, or who do go up and are denied for dumb reasons - I'm sure people in the comments may share some of these stories. But we don't know what life will hold for us, and my husband doesn't want to cut off any options yet. So he's still thinking about tenure.

So this means we're in the odd position of him still working at his school over the summer to try and get some papers out for his tenure dossier, and trying to put our Illinois house on the market. The house is in pretty good shape, and is in a price bracket where the housing prices aren't tanking - in fact, in our town, housing prices are still going up. So we're looking at possibly listing the house at about 15K more than we paid for it, which just about covers the improvements we've made on it. However, we just discovered 1) a leak in the basement under the kitchen sink that we need to fix, and 2) that the bathroom floor is rotting out. Apparently the plumber won't come to fix the toilet leak until the floor has been replaced (so the kitchen sink leak will wait too so we don't have to pay for the plumber to come twice), and we can't get a hold of our carpenter person to replace the floor. So this is something that has to be sorted out asap. On top of trying to finish painting the exterior of the house and the garage, cleaning up the place, emptying out closets and such, painting the basement wall, and getting the garden in enough that it looks nice and not scruffy.

On top of trying to list our house, we decided MONTHS ago that we would need a little vacation 'round about now, and have decided to spend a week on Isle Royale so we were hoping to put the house on the market before we left. Not sure this is going to work out.

And I was supposed to be at work this week, all week (scheduled meetings with co-PIs, my graduate student, colleagues, and so on). I went to the Illinois house last Thursday, we packed all Friday, we filled a truck, drove it to Indiana, emptied the truck and returned the truck on Saturday (and hung out with the family-in-law who came to help unload things), unpacked things Sunday (today), and my husband was going to drive back to Illinois tomorrow (after the meeting) to try to get as much of the house picked up/painted/cleaned/packed/organized as possible before coming BACK to Indiana on Friday to drive to Isle Royale via my parents' in Madison on Saturday.

Our lives are too complicated. I admit, I think we allow them to be. And currently the only people really bearing the consequences are the two of us - we have no kids or parents we're looking after, no pets.

Anyway. All this to say that, instead of leaving my husband alone to deal with the house, I'm going to go help him. Which means preparing for Isle Royale a week earlier, because we won't be coming back to Indiana until afterwards. Which means I'll be living out of a suitcase for another 2 weeks, and in another 4 locations, after another busy week of travel too. But the flexibility of my job that allows me to decide to go help him instead of sit in my office all week is one of the great things about this job. Of course, having no set work hours and location cuts both ways - I can take my work with me and work whenever I need to, and I can never be free from my work.

So. All this really to say... blogging may be light on my end for a while. Unless you want to see photos of the disaster area of our house while we're trying to get it ready to sell.

But if there's the Internets on Isle Royale, I'll try to post photos from our trip, so there's something to look forward to. :-)

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Wow. I'm out of breath just reading about it. Enjoy your time on Isle Royale - it is truly fabulous (though no internet!) and I am insanely jealous. My brother and I did a wonderful trip there a few years ago. One highlight was seeing a baby moose.

Lab Lemming - I believe Purdue and Notre Dame are about 2 hours apart in Indiana, and my sources tell me that there's not quite a direct route between them. Good thought though!

Alice - good luck with all of the transitions in the next few months. Hope you are able to enjoy vacation and unplug at least for a little while. :) Has your husband been reading the "Beyond the Ivory Tower" columns on the Chronicle? They might be helpful for some additional perspective, if he's thinking about non-academic positions (as I currently am).

Mommyprof: How it works at Purdue is that there is a program partially funded through the Provost's office. For a position, the Provost's office pays 1/3 of the salary, the hiring department (in this case, my department) pays 1/3 of salary, and the receiving department (wherever the position is) pays 1/3 of salary for 2 years. The hope is this financial help will encourage departments that might not otherwise be looking to hire to consider hiring your partner at low cost to them. But it didn't work out for us yet, and it sounds like it doesn't work out for many people. Chemistry expressed interest, but only wanted to pay 1/6 of his salary, for example. And he's a white guy, so people are less interested in making hiring exceptions for him. In addition, there's no institutional help in finding appropriate positions, so it's whatever your department chair can dig up.

I should say that some institutions do a much better job with spousal hiring, and some are much worse too. I have hopes that ours will still come through for us.

kamote - yes, I've sent those links on to him, I think he's mid browse. ;-) And LL, thanks for the thought.

I'm glad to hear Purdue has developed a spousal hiring program. When I was there as a grad student (in Chemistry), they had two spousal placement nightmares that resulted in really good people going to other institutions (Patti LiWang and Jillian Buriak). Is it just me, or is spousal placement a bigger deal for women in science than men in science? I don't recall it being an issue for any of the young men faculty...

By gymlabrat (not verified) on 19 May 2008 #permalink

60% of women scientists with PhDs are married to PhDs compared to 20% male PhD scientists married to women
PhDs. So, yes, spousal hire is a much bigger issue for women...

Good luck, it's sounds like you're really busy. My husband has been commuting to a job 40 miles away, twice a day since January 2007. It's not quite what he would like to do, but he likes the job, and it's a tenure track position. The drive is made better by the fact that he rarely has time to himself, and the drive allows him to do that. Add to that a great public library system with lots of books-on-tape, and he actually gets some reading done. I haven't heard him complain about the drive at all.