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February 21, 2011


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thank you so much for this post. it is exactly how i feel, i'm in the phd program but i don't want a full time tenure track line. i have heard of half-lines that are tt though but they are rare. I wish academia wasn't so difficult.

Oh, Jamie, believe me, I hear you.

You wrote, "This year is clarifying something important...." Be very, very thankful for the clarity you do get, even if other stuff feels murky. I had a similar experience (as a graduate student rather than a postdoc) -- after I gave birth to my first child, my advisor used his discretionary budget to pay me a part-time RA's stipend/tuition waiver when my department Did. Not. Allow. Part. Time. Students. The experience of working part time while mothering little ones gave me clarity about where my happiness lay, clarity that I clung to through years of angst and that eventually answered all my questions for me. So my advice is that if you are pointing to anything in your life and saying "Clarity! There!," don't lose sight of it.

This may be one of those "give us this day our daily bread" situations, where you pray and be watchful and don't worry too much about things that will happen six months from now.

About it being a lonely job -- I can relate a little bit to that too, I think (again from my graduate school experience) -- being a part-time student and working so much from home was really isolating. I wound up having to be much more narrowly focused -- there were no other students around that I could trade suggestions with, I had to stop going to weekly seminar, I couldn't just drop in on people with questions. But that, too, was clarifying. The time I spent with one foot at home and the other in my career taught me that I didn't want to be so divided. Even if I wanted to think of myself as a person who could easily move between both worlds.

I don't at all mean to say that you aren't such a person, or denigrate people who really do have fulfilling lives as part-time workers while parenting their children. All I mean to say is that, when you find "Clarity!" wherever it is, pay attention to it despite the angst. Clarity has more important things to tell you than angst, in my experience.

Yeah, this stuff is really hard. I think periods of angst are part of the package, unfortunately. Hopefully this one will pass soon. Soon-ish.

No advice here at all, except the observation that sometimes when there are a lot of options, it's that much harder to make a choice. For Exhibit A, I give you the toothpaste aisle at the drugstore. ;o)

Maybe you've tapped into the zeitgeist here...see this link for another mom who's dealing with angst-o-rama.


I have a masters in engineering and work 20 hours at my current company, but it's 60 miles from home. I rarely get to interact with my kids' daycare providers/teachers (they're nearly 2 and 5) because my husband takes them. I haven't applied for anything closer to home because no one asks for part-time, technically-educated, professionals. I wish it were easier to find parttime work in my field.

mary - I hear you. My PhD is in engineering too. I am pretty sure if I return to the workforce ever, it's going to be doing something entirely different...

I hear you, Jamie. I am working on my dissertation and keeping house. I don't have any children yet (but hopefully soon). I had no idea I would be so happy as a housewife. If I added teaching one class per semester to this, I'd be ridiculously happy and have as close to a perfect life as it is possible to get. Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen. Adjuncts in my profession rarely teach only one class, and TT 2/1 or even 2/2 jobs are in an elite category to which I don't belong.
Also, my husband's earning capacity in his profession is not very high (he's a church organist), and eventually we will need the second income. *sigh*

Thanks for the angst post, Jamie!! I've also been a part-time student with a child for a little over a year now. I do not consider myself an outgoing person, so I was also surprised by how difficult the isolation has been. Research isn't meant to be done that way! Or at least, it's not nearly as fun.

And, bearing, your comment hits so very close to home! My department and advisor have been patting themselves on the back for even allowing me to continue part time. I think that they honestly just don't know what to do with someone who doesn't want to devote themselves solely to the academic pursuit. In my case, there's been a gradual but obvious withdrawal of support, both academically and monetarily.

I do love research, though, and was considering trying to make a go of a part-time post-doc or other less-than-TT position, but honestly, my current situation has so soured me against academia, it'll be a significant feat (p<.05) just to finish. (And sure, that might just be final-semester-of-grad-school-angst talking.) On the other hand, becoming a mother has been the most satisfying endeavor of my life. Hey, look! Clarity! I'll take it.

Thanks again for sharing this Jamie (and hooray for the good news in your more recent post!). It's good to know that I'm not unique in this struggle, even if my department thinks I'm some kind of child-bearing academic unicorn.

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