The Life Of An Academic’s Wife – 5 Reasons Why Being Married To An Academic Is Hard
I love my husband and marrying him was the best decision I’ve ever made. But I’m not going to lie, being married to an academic has been really difficult, and I know there are other spouses in my position who will be able to relate!
So today I want to share with you 5 reasons why it’s hard being married to an academic.
1. The instability
Securing a lecturer position is becoming harder and harder. Most academics move overseas for a postdoctoral position in the hopes that this will give them the edge when it comes to getting a lectureship. Post-doctoral positions are usually one or two year contracts and at least in America, they don’t pay very well.
After Gabe finished his Ph.D, we moved from Australia to America for his post-doc. Now that we’re here, he’s trying to get a position back home. But chances are it’ll be another post-doctoral position. We know lots of other academics who have spent upwards of 6 years in post-doctoral positions before they have been able to secure a permanent position. And during this time, there is no telling where the next job will be, or for how long.
Being married to an academic who is at the beginning of their career can be really anxiety provoking. Especially if you’ve got kids like us. I’m at the stage in my life where I would like to be settled and near our family and friends. So the instability can be really difficult to cope with!
2. You become invisible
When you’re married to an academic, you get used to your spouse being the ‘smart’ one. People always comment on how intelligent he must be, and how amazing it is that he’s a Dr. They’re right, he is super smart and amazing! We have a very good relationship and I do not harbor one ounce of resentment for this. But it’s frustrating to always hear it from other people.
What they don’t know is that I’m just as intelligent. What they don’t realize is that I sacrificed my own education for him to be in this position. And that I could’ve easily gone into a Ph.D myself (not that I would want to after watching him do it!).
I’m lucky that my husband knows this and acknowledges this. He makes me feel validated, but I know that there are other academic’s spouses who don’t get the same acknowledgement, and that must be hard!
3. Your own career suffers
Being married to an academic often means that your own career will suffer. This doesn’t always happen, but for me it has.
We have a daughter so doing the whole ‘working in different countries until we get a job in the same place’ thing wasn’t going to happen for us. I personally believe that we need to be together under the same roof for our daughter’s sake, and she is way more important than my career.
But that has left me in a really bad position career-wise. Because of our visas, I need to apply for employment authorization before I can get any kind of work. Since being here we’ve had one financial problem after another, so forking out the half a grand it will cost for my working permit has been at the bottom of our priority list. After I apply it will take 3 months to process, and on top of that we need to weigh up the cost of childcare against me being at home with Willow.
So although not every academic’s spouse will suffer career-wise, it’s definitely a risk for a lot of us! Especially if you have children.
4. Your spouse will become a slave to their supervisor
Ok, so this may be a little over-dramatic. But during their Ph.D and post-doctoral positions your spouse will be worked like a slave! They are working against the clock to get as many publications as possible during and after their Ph.D.
Not only this, but because they are at the bottom of the ‘food-chain’, post-docs are often treated like work-horses and expected to pump out paper after paper and get little recognition for their achievements.
This can be tough on a relationship. Your spouse might get disheartened and I don’t know many academics who HAVEN’T questioned their career path during the early years when things are tough.
5. There are no holidays
This is a difficult one. Because there are perks to being married to an academic. And one of these is flexibility.
A lot of the time my husband is able to work from home, and work the hours that he wants. As long as he gets the work done, which he does.
However, the down side to this is that his work is always there. There’s no such thing as having ‘work’ time and ‘home’ time. And this spills over into holidays. Although their supervisor may allow them to take some time off, at the end of the day the work needs to be done and if they fall behind then their career suffers. I have to force my husband to take some time off over Christmas!
When my daughter was born, my husband was working the next day!
Being married to an academic gets hard because on one hand you appreciate all the amazing work they do, and understand how hard it must be to have such a workload. On the other hand you need to make sure you get family time. It can be hard to strike a balance!
So although there are lots of reasons why it’s really hard being married to an academic, there are also lots of positives. Like I mentioned before, the job is really flexible. And although the moving around can be really difficult, it’s an awesome life experience to get to live in different parts of the world. Once my husband secures a stable position I know it’s going to be a really great career for him, and he will be able to support our family. But I can assure you he would’ve well and truly earned it!
If you are married to an academic I would love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments what you struggle with and what you enjoy about it. It would be great to know I’m not alone!