Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Life as an academic couple

I have no idea what a normal couple looks like, since I only know other academic couples.

Apparently there are people who aren’t up at midnight writing lectures or marking midterms, but I do not know these people to speak to. 

Being an academic couple means spending, and needing, a lot of time alone, because how else can you concentrate on your work?  We take turns taking care of the children, being home, running errands, and so on, to give the other person a chance to work.  We meet at dinner. We talk about groceries, the children’s schedules, where we can afford to go on holiday, anything but work.

Being an academic couple means that we are agreed on one essential principle: that we’re not in this for the money.  I like that.  I really like that.

-- Mildred from Medicine Hat


  1. I'm curious how the "not in it for the money" affects your lives more. Is that an imposition to ask? I'm also half of an academic couple (although my SO has since taken early retirement) and I am wondering how others deal with the "not in it for the money" and what that means to them. For me, it means being sometimes resentful and feeling even more affected by what happens daily because I have to constantly question why I AM still in it.

  2. My girlfriend is a musician, so she thinks I make a lot of money!

  3. I suspect the um, eccentric, calculations that academics make around time, space, and money (we do want that time on our own, for our "own work," even if that means writing and research for which we will not be paid -- perhaps not even indirectly, in tenure and/or a promotion and/or a better job, if we are off the tenure track and likely to remain so, and at least some of us are willing to maintain some very odd living arrangements to make jobs that accommodate that time possible) are one of the reasons that academics tend to pair up with each other. I suspect that's not to the good; both academia and the wider world would probably be better off if more academics were paired up with (or at least socialized with) non-academics. We'd also be more marriageable (or at least feel more marriageable) in the wider world if our salaries better matched those of other professionals with similar amounts of education, length of work hours, etc.

    tl;dr: I'm not in it for the money, either, but I really wish my salary weren't so badly out of step with the salaries of other professionals in my area.

  4. I like the fact that money isn't our prime motivator for doing the job, is all I meant. But it's crucial. I like the fact that neither of us thinks that if something doesn't make money, it isn't worth doing; that money is the only thing that makes the world go round; that my research into ancient hamster water festivals is worthless because after all who's going to make money from it? That intellectual curiosity is useless if it doesn't make money. That doing a good job of writing up an obscure subject of interest to only a dozen people besides ourselves is worth it in itself, is a worthwhile thing to do and a worthwhile way to spend a life, and isn't rendered useless because after all, how much money is that going to make?

    I love the fact that no matter what we disagree on, we will never disagree on that. I will never have to explain to an uncomprehending S.O. that no, really, I DON'T care that my book will only sell 500 copies and I will not make a dime from 2 year's work, because that WASN'T THE POINT. That the fact that it doesn't make money doesn't matter to me. That what we're doing here is pushing the ball up the field an inch, increasing the sum of human knowledge infinitesimally, and THAT is what matters to me.

    All that said, I have tenure, so I am making a reasonable salary, if not nearly as much as a doctor or lawyer or plumber would make. Between the two of us we can afford to support our kids. It's not that money doesn't matter at all. It's that it isn't the point. But if you don't have enough, then money will become a friction point quickly.