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My better half August 17, 2010

Posted by mareserinitatis in Uncategorized.

FSP has a post about academic spouses where she asks:

If you are in an academic couple, and especially if you and your significant other are in the same general academic discipline, where do you fall in the spectrum between ‘my significant other totally gets my job and professional life’ (and that’s great) and ‘we are endlessly comparing our careers and progress’ (and this is stressful/stifling)?

Perhaps most people are somewhere in between, or perhaps the answer varies with time and career stage, but how does it balance out for you?

This reminded me of an experience I had a year or two ago. Someone at work came up to me and said, “We wanted Mike to model something up for us, but we know he’s busy, so we were wondering if you could do it.”

That pretty much sums up how being in the same field as my husband has been. It’s not anyone’s fault. For one thing, as well as having a PhD, he has twenty years of experience working in industry or for government. There’s an age difference between us, as well as the fact that I’ve gone to school part-time to homeschool the older boy. No matter how hard I try, I will never match his level of experience. I think its made worse by the fact that we’re in the same sub-field, as well. I can think of one situation where my MS advisor had a ‘lapse’ and made a comment to my husband about networking and then added me as an afterthought.

While this wasn’t the primary factor, it did help in pushing me away from a PhD in engineering. Both of us felt it would be good for me do something where I wasn’t necessarily tied in with my husband research-wise.

But this is part of the reason we get along so well. Not only do our interests overlap, they lay right on top of each other. We can talk and help each other out with even the technical details of the projects we’re doing. When my husband was doing his PhD, he would sometimes come home and discuss problems he had. I would sometimes be able to come up with solutions or different approaches. Not always, mind you.

That sort of thing is a benefit. We both spend a lot less time spinning our wheels because we can and do talk closely about our work. I think that makes the frustration level seem manageable. We do get each other’s career paths. But it does make for some uncomfortable situations when dealing with other people.



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