An anonymous guest post. Read this in conjunction with the piece that just came out this week on Chronicle Vitae, “The ‘Joy’ of Pregnancy in Graduate School.” I think it relates more broadly to the larger hostility to the idea of “wellness” also, as pointed out in the piece, “When Wellness Is a Dirty Word.” Academia is a strange, strange world.
Last year I was on the academic job market. Being on the job market was just as terrifying as everyone made it out to be. As many warned (including The Professor is In), the combination of pure exhaustion from striving to complete my dissertation/PhD degree and the complete lack of control over my life, finances, and future geographical circumstances made for some disheartened, angry, and hopeless days. However, there was one aspect of being on the job market which no one warned me about.
I am a young professional, I am not married, and I do not have children. When I was on the job market, I was shocked by the amount or people, from inside and outside academia, explaining to me how “lucky” I am to be single and childless. While I understand how inflexible and difficult both the job market and academia overall can be for men and women (but mostly women) with children, no one told me how skewed people’s expectations of me would be simply because I am not married and do not have children.
Here are 3 common phrases I encountered while on the job market:
“Well, you are sooo lucky you don’t have to worry about moving with a husband and children. Can you imagine that?!”
Correct, I did not have to navigate the circumstances of moving children and a partner into new a school/job, neighborhood, and city. I have imagined how difficult that would be. At the same time, I coordinated my move to an entirely new city where I knew no one and also found it difficult, emotionally draining, and daunting financially.
“At least you don’t also have to worry about your husband finding a job!”
Correct, while I was on the job market, I did not have to think about my partner moving to another city and looking for employment, which admittedly would be stressful. However, I also didn’t have the second income of a partner to depend on during in-between months or if the job market didn’t work out for me.
“It must be nice, you don’t have a family so you can go anywhere!”
While, I do not have children or a partner (yet) I do have a family and friends.
While I was on the job market, I have a mother who has battled breast cancer three times and a brother and sister-in-law who experienced multiple miscarriages. It was painful for me to move away from them despite knowing it was financially and professionally my only option.
At the end of the day, being on the academic job market is difficult for everyone.
My martial status does not make me lucky. My lack of children does not make me lucky.
I survived the job market because good friends and colleagues supported me. Being on the job market is terrifying for all. Please be respectful and supportive to all.