Monday, May 08, 2006

gender, relocation, and relationships

The scenario: There is a heterosexual couple composed of StuDent and PartNer. StuDent is finishing his/her PhD and has a choice between a post-doc 2.5 hours from Utopia and a tenure-track position 10 hours from Utopia. StuDent has been dating PartNer seriously for just over a year, having met on a blind date. PartNer moved to Utopia just prior to the commencement of dating, having made it a personal goal to find a job in her/his somewhat specialized field in the Utopia area. StuDent is professionally inclined toward the tenure-track job (job security, interest match), but PartNer does not want to move. It's not that the location of StuDent's tenure-track offer is awful, PartNer just worked really hard to get to Utopia and does not want move anywhere, no matter how cool. If StuDent takes the post-doc, he/she could visit PartNer on weekends, but would have to go through another job hunt. StuDent has family ties to the Utopia area, and her/his field is in demand, but there are no guarantees with a job search.

The Question: Is StuDent or PartNer the man? Why do you think so? How might the situation be different if the genders were reversed? Is there a compromise solution where both people can be professionally and personally satisfied?

The Answer: I'll tell you tomorrow.


Propter Doc said...

StuDent must be the female, in my world at least. The man wouldn't analyse the situation enough get this far. He would have taken the tt position pretty much straight away. Well, if we are dealing with steriotypical bloke anyway.

The compromise is that distance relationships work sometimes, it depends how strong a couple they are. StuDent can't give up the tt job opportunity, and PartNer shouldn't be so rigid in their outlook towards Utopia. On the other hand, postdoc before tt is a fantastic opportunity even if it does mean another job search, offering more time to grow and reflect before things get serious (both personally and professionally).

post-doc said...

I have to wait until tomorrow?! Even though you should feel sorry for me because my ears hurt from the plane ride?

I assumed StuDent was the female. I didn't consider the alternative until you asked. Should I be ashamed of myself?

As far as the compromise where they're both happy, I tend to think there's something that might work. But someone's going to have to give more and be sincerely happy about doing so. I've seen relationships go very wrong when someone gives up more than s/he is comfortable with to be with his/her partner.

What's the answer? I can't wait to hear. :)

Emily said...

I assumed StuDent is the woman, mostly because it more closely mirrors my personal situation, where I'll be graduating w/ my Ph.D. in year (God willing and the crick don't rise) and my husband's very happy at his current job here in Expensive NorthEast City but my chances of finding an academic job I'd like here are pretty slim...

skookumchick said...

I think PartNer is the woman, but just because I'm being contrary. And, having been in a LDR with Mr Skookumchick for much of our 8 years together, while it is still very lousy, it is way better with the proliferation of cell phones, IM, and video chatting. However, we have an end in sight (my graduation, crossed fingers) which probably helps; then we'll have to deal with a similar two-body problem...

Honeybee said...

I assumed StuDent was female and PartNer was male. I had to go back and re-read your post to even see that you did the he/she thing the whole way through.

As for a compromise...I don't see an easy one if PartNer is being that stubborn about moving. I'd take the tt job.

Kjerstin said...

I spotted the s/he in the first line and read the rest of the post wondering who were who, and the wondering frightened me. I have to say I think StuDent is the female, based on experience. I know several women who moved to be with their partners despite reduced job opportunities for themselves. I don't know any men who have done so. In fact, I know several men who, when the choice between moving for a job or staying with a partner arised, immediately decided that the right thing would be to break up with their partner and go for the job. (These were all fairly young people, though. I'll have to make allowance for that.) I hope you will tell me that this case is different!

MissPrism said...

I thought StuDent was female too, for the reasons kjerstin gave. I hope I'm wrong though,

I and my partner will be moving back to the UK where I have a tt-equivalent job, but I think we're an exception. We originally told ourselves that as the move to the US was his choice, the next would be mine, but later decided to go wherever one of us first got a permanent job. I think the change of mind was a sensible one given the scarcity of jobs, but I do wonder if it would have happened were the roles reversed.

turtlebella said...

Yup, I would guess StuDent to be female and PartNer male. Which is an assumption based on historical patterns in science, I think. But kind of sad that we go there immediately still. I mean, where has feminism gotten us if we can't think that the PartNer is the female who is stubborn with a good job and the male partner might need to make concesions. And even in my personal world, I have a (male) partner that has followed me to a post-doc and would have followed me to a tt job (but I'm leaving academia).

I don't see a great solution to this if the PartNer is really set on staying in Utopia forever. It might work on the post-doc a bit away as long as PartNer was willing to move, eventually. I've seen several relationships that have faltered at this juncture, sadly mostly male scientists who refuse to leave their highly-paid research positions at elite institutions when their female scientist partners get tt jobs.

Envirogrl said...

I'll jump on the "StuDent is a woman" band-wagon. I came to that conclusion b/c I'm dealing with this right now with my husband. I think the best answer in the situaiton is a compromise via the post-doc. As another poster mentioned, however, there is the chance of giving too much and regretting it later.

For myself, I truly don't know where the compromise should exist. I've always seen myself as a career woman but grad school has shown me what 15 hour days can do to a relationship (in terms of actually being able to enjoy the other person in your life). I wish I had more role models to follow. Do you follow your heart, money, or career potential?

Thanks for this discussion, Sciencewoman.

I'm curious to see the answer- hoping it will come soon!

MissPrism said...

PartNer and StuDent, between them, could write a list of acceptable places for them both to move to. Then StuDent could take the postdoc for now and apply for tt jobs at places on the list. That'd be one compromise - I don't know if it would be a good one, but it ensures that PartNer shows willingness to move somewhere eventually.

Very interesting discussion.

JTN said...

been here. done this.
followed PartNer.
In my case, my now husband's field is extremely small. We narrowed locations down to two places we could live and I could have a reasonable shot at getting employed at another university if his school didn't want to hire me t-track. The job at ideal U (for him) came up before I finished (and still haven't... cross fingers for this summer) and we moved because it was a large enough city and the job was as good as it possibly can get in his field.
In my grad dept, 2 couples did the commuting marriage thing (Europe/US & the others were about 1000 miles apart. It worked, but it was extremely stressful and not what I want out of my life. I've made the choice to aim a bit lower careerwise simply because I'd rather be happy in my personal life than happy careerwise and lonely. I'm currently at a great school, but a year to year lecturer.
It's a personal choice and all depends on what you are comfortable with I suppose.
I think alot of it depends on *is this the person?* I gave up alot because in my case, yes, it was.
We've both compromised in some ways, but I think it also depends on how realistic you are.
In my case, it seems very traditional (woman moving for guy), but that wasn't the real factor. The deciding factor was guy's education is platinum private school and my degrees are from solid public teaching and research schools. Between the fields we work in and the degrees, his base salary starts about 50k higher than mine anywhere in the US. That was a big motivating factor in our decision.

Propter Doc said...

Dr R and I are getting close to making this kind of call as well. He had a postdoc in Canada, I went with him and found a job after 3 months in a less than ideal lab. I am making the most of it, and while we originally said the next choice of career location was mine, it isn't. His field is way more equipment specific so we have a list of suitable UK unis where he can go, and I'll just have to make do. I always feel he is more employable, despite the fact that our quailifications up to finishing the PhD are indistinguishable.
Sometimes I view this as an unacceptable sacrifice, other times I view this as a logical move. Then I ask 'what would I be doing if I was single' and the answer is, not this research, not at this uni, and way more flexibilty on the UK job front.
I just think that women are more capable of rationalising these kinds of decisions in terms of maximum overall benefit, rather than one tightly focussed goal (i.e. the ideal job).