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Author Topic: Trailing Spouse, ABD Edition  (Read 35329 times)
fitzy
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« on: April 21, 2011, 11:00:51 AM »

I'm looking for advice on how to handle the transition from co-graduate student to trailing ABD spouse with grace. Spouse and I are currently both graduate students at the same institution, different fields (within the humanities). Spouse just landed amazing tenure-track job at very prestigious RI. We will be moving to new college town this summer, and I will finish my dissertation there next year.

I realize that we are amazingly lucky to be in a situation where even one of us has a job, and such a good job at that (I was not ready to go on the market this past year). Spouse is very, very excited, and I am too, for spouse. However, I'm also feeling pretty anxious and a bit depressed about my own role in all this. We are moving across country from big city to the relatively small town where new school is. New school has excellent resources for me (library, visiting speakers) and a program in my small sub-area of specialization, but I don't know how much I can/should get involved with it. Main professor at spouse's school in my sub area has had intellectual and personal disputes w/ my advisor, which makes things awkward. There may be a workshop for graduate students that would meet a couple times a semester that I can get involved in, but probably not much more.

The current plan is for me to spend the fall working full-time on my dissertation, to get it as close to finished as possible, while going on the market myself. The ideal would be to find a tenure-track job, VAP, or post-doc w/in commuting distance from spouse's school (there are major metropolitan areas w/in commuting distance). I'm not terribly optimistic about this, considering the state of the job market, and the fact that my specialization (w/in a broader field) is pretty small. I will probably apply to everything relevant and then we'll see what happens. Spouse and I have a very young child and are not willing to live apart. Spouse would consider moving if I got a job at a school where there was also a job for spouse, but would probably be reluctant to do so, as the current job seems perfect for spouse in many ways. There may be a slight chance of a lectureship at spouse's school 2012-13, but this would be up to the department whose field I work in, and no one will approach them until I have my Ph.D. 

Part of my why I'm posting is that I'm looking for practical advice on how to make the best of the next year, and how to acclimate myself into new college town. I'm looking for adjunct teaching in the spring (in the broader area), but so far haven't had any luck. There are no options for adjunct teaching at spouse's school, and according to the administrator I spoke to there, even part time options such as work in the library, as a research assistant, etc are pretty hard to come by as they're mostly reserved for undergraduates on work study. I feel I need to work both for financial reasons (daycare and housing are very expensive in this town), as well as my own mental health. While I need the time in the fall to work on the dissertation, I worry that I'll go crazy doing nothing else all day long. I've been very fortunate to have a fellowship this year, so I've spent this past year alternating b/n the dissertation and taking care of my daughter, and while I've made decent progress on my work, I've also felt rather isolated and bored at times. I worry those feelings will be much worse next year, in a small town where I won't know anyone, away from my friends, committee and the intellectual community of my current institution. My daughter will be in daycare 4 days a week next year, which will mean I'll spend less of my time than I currently do taking care of her.

One thought I had was seeing if spouse's college would let me take a language class, as there is a language I have long wanted to study that would be somewhat helpful to my current project, but very helpful in the long run. I also really like the idea of having something to do every day, aside from just sit at home and write. However, the class meets 4 days a week in the late afternoon, and thus conflicts with a workshop for my specialization held at a school in one of the nearby metropolitan areas that I have been invited to attend (it meets about every other week each semester). So I don't know what to do about that, whether it makes sense to pursue the language class option, or not.

I'm sorry this is so rambling. To sum up, I'm looking for 1) advice on what kinds of activities i can get involved in during the fall to offset the isolation of dissertation writing, and whether I should take the language class and 2) any overall advice on how to handle the uncertainty over my professional future, how to keep this from damaging my marriage, etc. In "real life" I don't feel like there are many people I can talk to about this, as everyone is just so thrilled for spouse's amazing opportunity with this new job, and say thing like how I must be so happy too because now I can have another year just to write, etc.
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tuxedo_cat
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« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2011, 4:54:46 PM »

OP, take a deep breath.  Right now, you are in nearly the best possible position you could be as a couple given where you are in your studies:  one of you has landed a prestigious job at an institution which will provide a strong foundation for her/his future career.

Yes, lots of things could go off the rails.  Professional and family complications will absolutely arise during the next few years.  But right now, I would say things look pretty peachy for you both.  One of you has terrific job security and the other will be able to continue working on research at a compatible institution.

I would advise you not to try to complicate things too much, especially for next fall.  Focus on finishing your dissertation and applying for jobs -- and take advantage of this time to get stuff submitted for publication.  Pubs are the primary thing that will keep your own options open for employment and thus your mutual options to be able to get jobs geographically close to one another.  Focus your energy on that and avoid other distractions.  If you can hold off on getting a job for the fall, that would probably be a good idea.

In terms of whatever you choose to do outside of that basic set of priorities, I would suggest that you seek out some friendships, community connections that are specifically yours, and not primariliy tied to your partner's institution or circle of acquaintances.  If I were in your shoes, I would find it helpful to have some sense of identity and social space that is not colored by the whole "trailing spouse" thing -- that would really start to wear on me.

Good luck, and avoid the understandable temptation to get caught up in anxiety scenarios that are completely hypothetical.


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icicles
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« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2011, 5:28:01 PM »

Partly bookmarking, partly responding as someone in "your spouse"'s position. I have degree in hand and my husband is ABD. We are moving to TT ville this summer for my job, and he will/should finish his diss next year (2012).

If you want to have your own income this year, you might find something part time. They're looking for part-time teaching for my husband at my uni, which is great. He's also looking into part-time lectureships at other local schools (which you can apply for and take while ABD). Part-time teaching might be a good option for you, or a part-time administrative job at your spouse's university. Part of the time you teach or work, part of the time you research and write. If it is an amazing R1 and you are in the humanities, said part-time job could be with the university press, archives, instructional development, or somewhere else that might even look good on a CV.

I would advise you not to get involved in anything grad student related at your spouse's institution, unless it is in a mentoring or informal capacity. Get to know the postdocs and TT faculty at first until you've established yourself.  I'd be polite to the person in your field who's on faculty there -- who knows why this person and your adviser don't get along? You're you, not the adviser. And I'd try to describe myself more along the lines of "on the job market and getting ready to file" than "hi, I'm a grad student." It's much better if they think you've filed and forget you're a grad student than the other way around.

Second the motion to publish.

Excited for you! Good luck!
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knitknat
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« Reply #3 on: April 26, 2011, 11:20:46 AM »

fitzy,
You sound like me two years ago. That is EXACTLY where knitspouse and I were at (minus the small child)- and I believe we handled it entirely wrong. I should have listened to the wise voices on the fora, they know these things. Here's the advice they gave me:

-Give up any disillusionment of getting a TT job through normal routes at same uni as your spouse. Unless they have ridiculously friendly spousal hiring policies and lots of cash, it ain't gonna happen on its own.

-Do NOT waste your time teaching (if you need $, you can earn more at a min wage job than most adjunct gigs), getting acquainted with a potential future department, going to seminars for potential department, or anything of the sort. Remain aloof and mysterious. Publish, publish, publish.

-Find friends that you have other interests in common with. Example: mommy groups, hobby groups, religious groups, etc. Language class sounds like an interesting idea, and most schools have a certain number of credits that immediate family can take for free.

-When you are done, have a CV you think will be competitive, and are ready, BOTH of you go on the market. It has to be both for the school to see it as an actual threat, otherwise they will assume that you will gladly live apart from your spouse whom they get to keep. When one of you gets a TT offer somewhere else, then you go threaten to leave and see what they can come up with for you in order to keep your spouse.

Yes, I know that sounds nuts, and it means a lot of work for your spouse in his first year on TT. It's an interesting thing; we hope that by being nice and showing we can play nice with others, we'll magically get a situation that works out. In this market and this economy, however, you have to play cutthroat games to win. Knitspouse and I learned this the hard way. Next year we'll BOTH be on the market.


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Very, very wise words.  All of them.  Well done, knitknat.
At least one person thinks I'm not a moron.
doctorcat
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2011, 11:39:26 PM »

Hi Fitzy,

I think what people are saying here sounds correct. The people who gave me the best advice said: PUBLISH. I guess in your case it would also be: finish the phd and publish! Those other things: the language class, the making contact with the department and meeting with the grad students etc... sound like time wasters. So I guess there are three things then.... 1.) Finish your PhD as soon as possible; 2.) Publish as much as possible (you probably know how long peer-reviews take! 3.) Apply for jobs.

I think Knitknat's views are correct too - both of you will need to go on the market. There was an article in the Chonicle about "retention" of TT faculty vs. acquiring them and it basically suggests that schools don't often budge to help existing faculty with the double body issue, but when schools are at the acquiring stage, they may.

Good luck!
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larryc
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« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2011, 1:21:21 AM »

Put your head down and finish the dissertation.  Present and publish. Go on the market together.

But be realistic as well. You are two scholars in the humanities at the twilight of the university system. It is not likely that you can both be university professors. Keep trying for a few years. You might get lucky. But most likely one of you (and it looks like it is you!) will end up having to find something else to do. You knew that when you got married, right?


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systeme_d_
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« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2011, 1:45:58 AM »

I am not sure why Doctorcat chose to resurrect this old thread.

The OP has not returned since the first day of her original post four months ago.  

I am not sure any advice given here will be read, never mind heeded.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2011, 1:47:24 AM by systeme_d_ » Logged

xckrx
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« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2011, 3:19:49 PM »

I didn't see anything in OP's thread that specified his/her gender. Obviously, s/he is unlikely to read any of these posts anyhow, but I do think it is important for us to be mindful of jumping to conclusions such as that a person in the OP's position can be assumed to be female.
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tuxedo_cat
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« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2011, 6:36:15 PM »

I didn't see anything in OP's thread that specified his/her gender. Obviously, s/he is unlikely to read any of these posts anyhow, but I do think it is important for us to be mindful of jumping to conclusions such as that a person in the OP's position can be assumed to be female.

If this is what you're here for, good luck with that.
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xckrx
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« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2011, 9:04:32 PM »

Are you here to belittle others and post snark? I won't wish you luck because you seem to be doing quite well with that.
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totoro
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« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2011, 10:27:56 PM »

Who assumed the OP was female?
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galactic_hedgehog
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« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2011, 11:52:11 PM »

I didn't see anything in OP's thread that specified his/her gender. Obviously, s/he is unlikely to read any of these posts anyhow, but I do think it is important for us to be mindful of jumping to conclusions such as that a person in the OP's position can be assumed to be female.

The handwriting looks feminine.
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kifah4887
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« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2012, 10:13:17 PM »

Hi. I hope it's okay to resurrect this thread as I also have an ABD + partner hire question.

I am defending this year, am on the market, and have had some great campus visits recently. My partner will advance to candidacy next month. We are in the same discipline but in different fields.

I wonder: if I am lucky enough to get an offer, is there anything that might be done for an ABD partner that I can negotiate on? 

I'd appreciate any advice... Sorry if it's been discussed elsewhere. I tried for quite some time to search the fora for this question, and this is the only thread I found.
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tuxedo_cat
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« Reply #13 on: March 19, 2012, 7:45:47 PM »

My partner will advance to candidacy next month.

Your partner is just *beginning* substantive work on the dissertation this summer?  He or she may be significantly derailed from finishing the degree if teaching more than one course per semester.  Is that what you are asking about, employment options?  Or are you talking about research resources, full access to the library, that sort of thing? 

As with many questions like this, much depends on the field, the type of institution, and who is currently in the governor's office.
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