Everything is great, but the location
August 17, 2011 7:52 AM   Subscribe

Two body problem. What say you?

I'm an academic. My spouse is not.

There is an academic job posted in an undesirable location, but everything else about the job is great.

1. This department hosts the best people in the field for my specific subtopic and is wellknown for being the best in this subfield and one of the best in other subfields.
2. The faculty are great scholars and nice people that collaborate with others.
3. Faculty members have repeatedly asked me to apply for this position. (I'm being recruited harder by them than by any other place.)
4. My advisor wants me to apply for this position.

So what's the problem? The location.

1. Like many great universities, it is in the middle of nowhere.
Problem A. My spouse would not be able to find work in this college town (but he has a telecommuting option for his job that is a sure thing and he's telecommuted happily before).
Problem B. My (problematic) family would be much closer in this location and we would be on the hook for celebrating major and minor holidays with them. We actively avoid this now by living far away. We would have few excuses if we lived only a couple hours away. This would add stress to both spouse and me.
Problem C. Small college town lacks in culture, stuff to do, diversity... it is better than most of the places around it, but compared to where we've lived for the last decade, it sucks.
Problem D. It isn't close to an airport, which would make telecommuting a bit tougher for spouse.

The only perk of "middle of nowhere" is that it would be dirt cheap to live there.

Awesome university department knows that their location is a problem for recruitment. They know that spouse-work issues impact their ability to hire people.

So, MeFites, is the location and associated work challenges for my spouse, with the potential for family drama enough to not even apply for this position? I don't want spouse to be miserable, but I'd like feedback from people that have been in this sort of situation.

(Many people say that you shouldn't even apply unless you're serious about taking the job.)

Other relevant factor: although I'd like to get an academic job this year, I'm not desperate. I have an okay academic-y situation as it stands.
posted by sockpuppetthecat to Work & Money (47 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This is a no brainer. Apply and worry about the details later. You can take the job and re-evaluate later if your husband is unhappy - it is not a life-long commitment.
posted by yarly at 7:57 AM on August 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

The only perk of "middle of nowhere" is that it would be dirt cheap to live there.

Put the money that you are going to save by moving there into an account called "money for holiday vacations to diverse, interesting cities that are far away from family and also for telecommuting expenses"

Problems B - D solved.
posted by desjardins at 7:58 AM on August 17, 2011 [16 favorites]

What yarly said.

And if the family is problematic, just say no to spending too much time with them.
posted by The Michael The at 7:58 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would ask at what stage are you in your career? If you are thinking this is a place where you might spend < 5 years, then I'd do it. If you are looking for something longer, I would think twice.
posted by allelopath at 7:59 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oof, of course you apply! I don't know who these many people might be who say you don't apply unless you're "serious" about taking the job—and in any event, you're obviously "serious," as you've thought this through this far already.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:59 AM on August 17, 2011

Wait, actually, I want to modify my answer a little bit. Are you serious about your career, and I mean really serious? If so, then it is a no-brainer to apply for this job. It's obviously the place you should be if it is really the "best" in your subfield. For people serious about their careers, it's a no-brainer to chose the "best" at the crucial early stages, so you can get all the feathers in your cap early on. Later on, you trade those feathers for situations that suit your lifestyle. But you don't start out a serious career by trading down. Furthermore, if you don't apply for this job, you run the risk of being seen as un-serious by your advisors and contacts, and may lose credibility with them.

If you aren't quite so serious about your career, then it's fine to pass up this opportunity until you find one in a city you like better that would require fewer lifestyle compromises. If you're good enough to see this prime opportunity as a realistic possibility for you, then I'm sure you're good enough to find something elsewhere.
posted by yarly at 8:01 AM on August 17, 2011

...but everything else about the job is great.

For you, yes. What is the spouse into for fun and entertainment on a daily basis? How do they relax? Are they the personal-projects kind of person or the going-out-and-socializing kind of person? Thanks to the internet, the former can thrive almost anywhere. The latter, on the other hand, will suffer if the only thing in town is activities meant to entertain students.

Without an office, they will be stuck in the house (or a local coffee shop or wherever) pretty much the entire day. Socializing will be difficult as most of the adults in town will be academics and the spouse will not. Some people are totally cool with all this. Some people will be driven to insanity. You can, obviously, figure it out better than we can.
posted by griphus at 8:01 AM on August 17, 2011 [11 favorites]

Apply. Take the job if you get it.

Problem A isn't a problem, he can telecommute. Yay for portable spouses!

Problem B: Your family you'll have to find another excuse for; you are "very busy" with your new job, or "must travel" so your spouse can go back to visit his job. Your spouse has family, does he? Be sure to arrange conference travel, visits to his family, etc at convenient times.

Problem c: Yes, it's a small town. So are most university towns. Odds are any position you get will have this issue, so if you want to stay in academia, you likely have to get used to it. The university knows they have a nonideal location; if you get an offer, this is negotiation leverage for you, but keep in mind that you are relatively likely to end up in a small town even if you wait another year.

Problem D: Yes, telecommuting might be harder. But... it's dirt cheap. You can probably afford more personal travel time, and your spouse can probably arrange to do his work travel in slightly higher style, for the money you'll save on rent and cost of living.

You're not desperate, but it sounds like a good fit for you ("best in your subfield"). They are *asking* you to apply. In the academic job market right now, I think you should say yes to them. Possibly "hell yes".
posted by nat at 8:05 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've spent most of my life in towns like you describe and to someone coming from Big Awesome Urban Area, it can seem sucky, but it may grow on you. College town "culture" isn't going to blow you away in a short visit with awesome museums and concerts, but even the 50k population towns I've lived in have had lively poetry slams, artist co-ops, and well-attended gay pride events, among other things.

And yes, what desjardins said about saving up for vacations -- some of the friends I grew up in those places took yearly European vacations with their academic parents.

I think applying is a no-brainer, as others have said. But if it gets more serious -- maybe a longer deep-dive visit with you and your spouse is in order.
posted by pantarei70 at 8:06 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't say where the university is. As you are using a sock puppet, it would really help as some of us may know the area and will be able to help allay your fears.
posted by TheBones at 8:13 AM on August 17, 2011

Response by poster: Early in my career. I agree with the "aim high early, sets the stage for later" perspective.

I know the area of the country very well, as I grew up there.
posted by sockpuppetthecat at 8:15 AM on August 17, 2011

Response by poster: I should mention that it MIGHT be possible to live in slightly more tolerable college town about an hour from this college town, which would be better for spouse/culture, but a longer commute for me (and I don't like driving especially in winter and at night).
posted by sockpuppetthecat at 8:18 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would go ahead and apply for the job, but not before having a serious discussion with the spouse to make sure he is 100% supportive. It will make your life easier if your husband agrees to the move knowing all the possible drawbacks, then when problems arise you are not put in a position of having to solve them alone because "he didn't know what he was getting into".

Problem A. Since cost of living is so low, you can spend more on housing to ensure your spouse has a large office and all necessary equipment to telecommute comfortably.

Problem B. You are not obligated to spend time with anyone you don't want to be with. I like the suggestion above about visiting more diverse, entertaining places with your holidays. If your husband is traveling often, you can possibly cash in airline miles or Amex points to pay for the trips.

Problem C. This is a great opportunity to get into new hobbies and interests. Maybe there are local meetups for something you or your hubby have always wanted to do.

Problem D. Can you try to move to a half-way point between the new job and airport? Maybe your spouse can find a rideshare program in the area.
posted by jacindahb at 8:20 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

The only perk of "middle of nowhere" is that it would be dirt cheap to live there.

There are other perks that may only become apparent when you live there.
From my experience it was the close friendships, which were less confined to social/class barriers than in urban centers.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:22 AM on August 17, 2011

Response by poster: At this point, spouse is firmly in the "do not apply" camp. But part of my asking this is to present him with the "why not apply to see what sort of money they'd offer, plus x, y, and z." Cuz, if for some freakish reason, they offered me a ton of money, I can imagine that being a strong point in their favor. But I'll never know if I don't apply.

Spouse on the other hand doesn't want me to apply because he doesn't want me to even be tempted.
posted by sockpuppetthecat at 8:22 AM on August 17, 2011

If your spouse is not okay with moving there, then you should not apply, or you should figure out how you will handle living in 2 locations.
posted by jeather at 8:31 AM on August 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

I should mention that it MIGHT be possible to live in slightly more tolerable college town about an hour from this college town, which would be better for spouse/culture, but a longer commute for me (and I don't like driving especially in winter and at night).

I hate to drive in the winter and at night. However, if I had an excellent opportunity, and that made my spouse less miserable, I'd do it every day. Think about your aversion to the commute, then apply that to the way your spouse sees the whole idea of moving. It sounds to me like you need to work with your spouse to find out if there's a way to make it a great opportunity for both of you.
posted by Zophi at 8:31 AM on August 17, 2011 [9 favorites]

I have worked in a small town where the job was great but the location did not suit my wife and me, and we were unhappy. I now work at a rural campus but live about 40 minutes away, in a super cool town. In fact, lots of the faculty do, which I didn't know until after I moved here. Be sure to ask around at the interview, request some time with other faculty at similar points in their lives and with similar backgrounds, (often this happens at lunch during the interview, but remember you're always _on_ on an interview). I absolutely hate driving, but have found ways to make the commute more bearable, (mostly iTunesU, TED, and Veritas talks). You might also be surprised by regional public transportation.

You're going to be at home more often than on campus, and making your spouse miserable will only make you miserable. However, making you miserable will also make your spouse miserable. Look seriously into the commute, and maybe make everyone happy. Maybe 15 minutes outside the cool town would be a nice compromise.
posted by monkeymadness at 8:35 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

At this point, spouse is firmly in the "do not apply" camp.
Cuz, if for some freakish reason, they offered me a ton of money, I can imagine that being a strong point in their favor.

They're not going to. Or, rather, I can almost assure you that they cannot possibly offer you enough money to get your spouse to shift from "no," unless the reason is "they are not offering you enough money." I strongly doubt -- please, tell me if I am wrong -- that is the case.

The sort of environment you describe can be very, very alienating. Especially if it straight-up "sucks" compared to where you've been living for the last ten years. It sounds like if you do get it, it may put a serious strain on your marriage as you seem to be really wanting this position.

Your husband knows you a lot better than we do and him saying "don't apply" is the result of you being the sort of person who will hell-or-high-water into this job, the marriage be damned. Or maybe he's a controlling SOB. Obviously, these are extreme cases, but the reality of the situation probably falls somewhere between there.

So, there you go. Figure out why he doesn't want you to be tempted, and you'll have a good summary of how this job applies to your marriage.
posted by griphus at 8:39 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

By "don't apply", I mean "don't apply unless your spouse changes his mind about being willing to live in that location or is okay with living separately for an indefinite time". You can certainly try to work out with your spouse a way where you could both be happy, which might include you living in the other city and accepting the commute, maybe renting a studio in the winter so you don't have to do winter nighttime drives, which do suck.
posted by jeather at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2011

I'm an academic living in a medium-ish town with only a small liberal arts college, not a large university.

Agreeing with pantarei70: though small-town life can have its frustrations, it can be fun to dig into the culture. My portable husband and I are getting to know the local scene: the business owners, the politicians, the people who make things go. It did take a long time for us to connect up with people who do our hobby, but we now hang out with a super-nice bunch of folks.

We're a couple hours from family, as well, but I'm too damn busy to be kiting back and forth for every kindergarten graduation and piano recital. We see the folks more or less often, depending on what's happening in our lives or theirs. They're pretty understanding when I say I just can't make it to [event] because I have to grade papers to return the next week, or whatever. That said, it's nice to be able to drop everything and jump in the car and be there fast when something urgent does come up.

Dirt-cheap cost-of-living is the bomb. The restaurants here aren't fancy, but they're super cheap, so if I'm wiped out in a tough part of the semester and don't feel like cooking for a week, we can eat out / order in and it's not a big deal. We have the money to travel for vacations.

I live closer to my office now than my $700/year parking space was to my office when I was a grad student at a Big University, in a lovely house with plenty of space in a historical district. You're still at Big U, so that kind of proximity to campus might not be possible, but you'll be able to get a nice house for cheap with a spacious office to pimp out for your telecommuting spouse.

For culture, you'll be lucky that there's the university bringing in lectures, artists, and other events. (Our college does some stuff, but it doesn't compare to the diversity of events at a big university.) The size of the faculty & student body will mean there's a critical mass of liberal elites to attract certain types of goods and services most often associated with the coastal urban areas (vegetarian food, for example) that are often lacking in a regular small town (*sigh*).

My advice is: apply, and go to interviews, and at the interviews, ask the faculty/staff who interview you what life is like. Go prepared with a list of the 10 things you most fear about living there. Ask them about local opportunities for the types of stuff you like do. (If they're as hot to recruit you as you say, they'll fall over themselves putting you in touch with the folks who pursue your hobby.) Ask about how they get to the airport. (There's a very cushy and reasonably-priced bus that does like five runs a day through here on the way to O'Hare, which makes air travel much more convenient.) Ask them where they procure your favorite ethnic foods in restaurants or grocery stores.

If their responses are mostly limited to long-suffering sighs, well, that's informative.

On preview: if the spousal unit is opposed, then don't apply. Dragging him into a situation he has already made his mind up to hate will probably only end in tears. If he softens up at all, make a trip there with him so he can investigate the above for himself.
posted by BrashTech at 8:44 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Ah. The spouse situation changes things.

Your spouse does realize that the majority of academics get positions in smaller towns, yes? If that's true for your field, you really need to sit down and discuss what is realistic for your future. Either you must compromise on your career, or he must compromise on your living situation, or you have to be very lucky about where you get a position (assuming your field is like most of academia).

This issue is very likely to come up again, even if you don't apply to this particular job. Make sure he knows and understands this and that you have a plan to deal with it before you even consider passing up on this opportunity.
posted by nat at 8:49 AM on August 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

If you don't apply, you won't get any deeper sense, good or bad, of what kind of opportunity you're looking at. So apply. There are other perks to applying too; you get to hone your job talk and you might find out about other possibilities just by talking to people. And remember there's a difference between applying for the job and taking it.

I'll second the idea that the pleasures of the many close friendships found in a small town far outweigh the whoopy-doo cultural and gastronomic benefits of a big city location. 98.5% of the time I'll take my friends over that fabulous Vietnamese restaurant on Sunset. Also small towns are surprising.

Good luck.
posted by firstdrop at 8:51 AM on August 17, 2011

Coming from a different angle, are you sure your husbands concern is the small town and it being so far from things? Is it at all possible his primary hesitancy and concern is living so much closer to your "problematic" family?

Perhaps some serious communication about the pros and cons, and finding out what HIS real concerns are will at least help you get a better handle on what to do here. And listen to what he is not saying, as well as what he is saying. You cannot address an issue that you are not aware IS an issue. If it is the family location, then you can focus on ways to handle that.
posted by batikrose at 8:56 AM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your spouse may well be the sort of person who looks at such a move with disdain, but will actually be fine after a few months of living in the new town. I was. I still miss old city, because it was particularly awesome, but new city is perfectly fine.
posted by wierdo at 8:56 AM on August 17, 2011

You need to decide on your own first if you should apply, and then decide with your spouse. Because this impacts him in a big big way, you needed to have yourself fully sorted before you approached him about this.

Were you fully sorted before you brought it up to him, or just on the fence? It seems from your updates that you want to apply, but he has unilaterally decided "no" for both of you? Do I have this correct?

Re-visit this issue and communicate with your spouse until you are both comfortably on the same page.

If your spouse refuses to re-visit the issue, or you feel bullied when you reach that final decision together, instead of feeling certain and satisfied... revisit why you are married to this person.

You should be able to discuss this like adults. In your updates, you sound a bit like a kid asking mommy because daddy said "No."

Ditto being a few hours away from your family. I don't see the obligation. Maybe it's time you draw some boundaries, or at least understand you have agency where your family is concerned. It's OK to avoid toxic people.

You sound kinda disempowered from all sides. If I'm wrong, tho, so sorry! It's just how your question read to me.

Good Luck hashing this out in a mature fashion with your man.
posted by jbenben at 9:31 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm not thrilled with the idea that your spouse may not want to admit what a great opportunity this is for you (or has other motives against this move). If my spouse had such a great opportunity moving to a small town (I grew up in and love! Miami, for context) wouldn't be an issue, at all. As almost everyone has already said, taking this job is practically a no-brainer. That this is the majority opinion of the people in your department, people at the target college and a host of knowledgeable academics on-line should tell you something about how good this is for you. I hesitate to mention this, but have you considered the negative repercussions of turning this job down? Will you mentor be upset and less willing to do you favors? Will others in the field think of you as a less serious professional because you chose to go elsewhere for (in their view) frivolous reasons like nice restaurants?

In your shoes, I'd make a dispassionate, rational list of what they'd need to offer me for me to take the job ahead of time. Consider things like salary range (be reasonable!), moving stipend, discussions about tenure and grant support, non-research responsibilities, etc.

Then, if they offer you the job, and meet your list (or a large subset of the same) the decision is obvious.
posted by oddman at 9:32 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I should mention that it MIGHT be possible to live in slightly more tolerable college town about an hour from this college town, which would be better for spouse/culture, but a longer commute for me (and I don't like driving especially in winter and at night).

So you want to get the sweetheart job and an awesome commute while your spouse gets to live in nowheresville all the time because he telecommutes? Moving someplace he likes more would be a good compromise.
posted by crankylex at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

(and I don't like driving especially in winter and at night).

I read this more as being scared of driving on icy roads and feeling I was risking my life every time I had to do so that a simple dislike. I don't think this is something you could take on.

It's possible your spouses first reaction to you applying was a knee-jerk response and if so he might be willing to talk it over and consider the idea again. If I were you, I'd ask my spouse to sit down and listen without making a judgment as you go through all your reasons for wanting to apply. And let him know how long you'd want to work there for and what you'd do if he turned out to be absolutely miserable there. If there are any compromises you can think of making that would help him that don't involve you feeling shit-scared and like you're going to die on icy roads, suggest them. Then listen to what he has to say.

It may very well be that he tells you again that there's no way he would consider moving to that location. If that's the case you'll have to choose between applying for the job and keeping your marriage which sounds like it would be a no-brainer for you. But at least then you'll know you both made a considered choice together after considering the options carefully.
posted by hazyjane at 9:55 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Living in between both could be an even better compromise. You wouldn't have an extraordinary commute and he'd be close enough to the bigger city to do anything he'd want.

Also, consider that there might be similarly minded commuters that you could carpool with (this is something you could ask during the interview stage).
posted by oddman at 9:56 AM on August 17, 2011

I have to chime in with nat and oddman. From my experience, non-academics can have a very different view of how getting jobs work because most fields aren't academics. Jobs come up so infrequently and your willingness and ability to take a new job are further limiting. Then there are connections - if you know someone who knows someone at a school that's hiring, that is such an in. And then there's your personal strengths or interests, the odds of the school that fits with you opening a position is even narrower. Finally, yes, what if you turn it down? Do you get a reputation?

If you're interested in teaching, you probably have a much wider range of schools that would fit but if you're in research, I bet that number is way less.

Sorry, I don't know if this is helpful at all. I just have seen my friend get into this position and turn down a job because her husband didn't think he could live in the place and I know that she now has a much harder time getting interviews, let alone offers. It just makes me frustrated to see her sacrificing what she spent years working on and I feel like her husband just doesn't understand the HUGE sacrifice she made for him. But I don't know what's really going on with them. Maybe she's okay with how things turned out.
posted by hydrobatidae at 10:17 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

At this point, spouse is firmly in the "do not apply" camp.

I am flabbergasted politely surprised that you did not mention this in the original question. I have been the spouse-who-moved-to-sucky-location and guess what, it sucked. I had given mr. desjardins the green light, because it was his dream job and I wanted to be supportive etc., but I wish I'd listened to my initial reservations and been more assertive. If you do apply for this job, prepare to make lots of reciprocal accommodations to spouse (like commuting an hour - come on, suck it up). Otherwise, prepare for a lot of resentment.
posted by desjardins at 10:37 AM on August 17, 2011 [8 favorites]

Nthing the recommendations upthread to find out the specific reasons why your spouse is a firm "no". Another way to put it is that, if you apply, you can always say "no" later when you have more details.

Guilt trips about not visiting problematic family are more easily dealt with by saying "no" than giving excuses they can wheedle you about.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:19 AM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

We have turned down several academic jobs because the location did not hold employment potential for the spouse. (But we are both academics, so we applied hoping that the colleges would pony up.)

I would say that you should go ahead and apply because if you get an interview there and one in a more desirable location, then you have more leverage. You can say to the hiring committee in Pleasant City that you are also interviewing in Alternative City. They won't know that you prefer their city to the other one. (After all, the other one is "near family!") If they make you an offer, they will know there might be competition to get you. And as for the less desirable college, you never know, sometimes the folks in these small, "undesirable" places will really wow you with what a great team they are and you'll reconsider what can be done about the spouse's job. Maybe.

Now, if it comes down to them wanting to fly you out, and you really don't want the job, then of course be honest and say that you are removing yourself from the running so they don't waste their money. But if you might want the job, go ahead and interview and give them the chance to sell you on it.
posted by Knowyournuts at 11:20 AM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sounds to me like there are more issues at work than This Particular Job At This Particular Time. There also seems to be an element of not understanding why it might be important/necessary for you to move to Undesirable City, and an element of not understanding how job-hunting as an academic differs from job-hunting as, say, a nurse or a programmer or something. When I was married, my spouse didn't seem to understand, or to want to attempt to understand, a lot of what is involved in academic life even at the Ph.D. level. It made graduate school a lot harder for me, and ended up being a major contributing factor to the disintegration of our marriage. I am looking for postdoctoral positions right now, and a lot of my well-meaning non-academic friends are absolutely *flabbergasted* that I would consider moving halfway across the country from my boyfriend for the sake of getting a good first postdoc that will put me on track to having a chance at doing the research I really want to do. Non-academics do NOT understand, for the most part, the nomadic and occasionally all-consuming nature of an academic career.

Does your spouse understand that he is, in effect, asking you to choose between him and your professional success? Does your spouse understand that if you don't apply for what seems like an academic dream job, that word will quite possibly get around -- not just around that department or university, but around YOUR ENTIRE SUBFIELD -- that you were being actively recruited for a really good position and didn't even apply, instead [taking whatever position your spouse will let you apply for] or [remaining in some sort of traineeship or whatever your current position is]? Your academic situation is good -- now. If you don't apply for the job, your situation might be not-so-good in the future. People might think you aren't serious, you might have a harder time getting your advisor's support depending on his/her personality, and there just might not be any positions open when you would like to have one open. You might end up not in a crappy town with a good job, but in a crappy town with a crappy job, or in a good town with no job at all.

It is completely okay if you prioritize your family above your career, by the way. A lot of people do, particularly female academics at early career stages (due to multiple biological and sociological factors). It's why a lot of us fall out of the tenure-track pipeline. If you don't mind significantly increasing the likelihood that you will not be able to pursue the career that you want to have and that you trained for, then feel totally free to disregard my advice. But if you are serious about wanting an academic career, you need to apply for and get this job. Your spouse needs to understand that he married an academic. Being okay with undesirable relocations is part of the package. Choosing to marry an academic is like choosing to marry an Army officer in this regard.
posted by kataclysm at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Could you possibly maintain two locations? Have him live in Less Sucky City and you live in an apartment in Suck City during the week? Because that's the only way I can come up with for a compromise that the spouse *might* be able to stand.

Yes, I know it's pretty much a no brainer, no choice for you to go to Suck City academically, but otherwise it sounds like there's nothing whatsoever for your spouse there, and it makes me wonder about divorce potential, what with the resentment.

As for being close to family, "no" is easier said than done in some families.
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:00 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'm a tenured prof in a good program at a big school in a Sucky Little Town. Taking this job was absolutely THE worst decision I've made in my entire life. For the first year I was all starry-eyed about landing on the tenure track in this well-known program; I've been trying to get out ever since. Yes, it's in a college town, but student-centered "culture" gets old fast, and there is nothing else within 100 miles. For some academics, the lack of distraction is great, and those are the ones who flourish here; but people who want a life beyond campus are not happy. Two TT colleagues of mine have left within the past couple of years, one because he couldn't stand the thought of spending another dreary year here, the other, for lack of job opportunities for her spouse.

I guess it depends on your ideal life-work balance, but If I were you, I'd wait and see what other opportunities come up.
posted by philokalia at 1:13 PM on August 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Philokalia makes a good point. Let me add: There's a lot of pressure in academia to take ANY tt job and "publish your way out." But it's hard to publish when your department has you teaching 5/5 and advising, say, ALL the premed students or what have you. We've taken to looking carefully at the publication records of young faculty to get an idea of what might actually be possible at a given institution. We don't want to get stuck somewhere. But the risk is never really getting started, either, and maybe leaving the academy.
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:55 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

griphus: "
Cuz, if for some freakish reason, they offered me a ton of money, I can imagine that being a strong point in their favor.

They're not going to. Or, rather, I can almost assure you that they cannot possibly offer you enough money to get your spouse to shift from "no," unless the reason is "they are not offering you enough money." I strongly doubt -- please, tell me if I am wrong -- that is the case.

They might. It happened to a friend of mine. His wife was set on moving to San Fransisco, or someplace with a hip urban feel. Then he got a job offer in the middle of nowhere, in Idaho. But they offered him more money than he was expecting, and he couldn't turn it down.

They are committed to be there 4 years, and are 2 weeks into it, so I can't say how it is going to turn out. But the money part could happen.
posted by I am the Walrus at 2:49 PM on August 17, 2011

I think a lot of this is going to depend on how committed you are to staying in academia.

If you're totally committed, the question is "Would small town tenure-track life be worse than perpetual adjuncting?" Because adjuncting sucks pretty damn hard, and it's worth putting up with a lot of other stuff to avoid it.

If your attitude is, "Hey, I can always go do something else," then fuck it — don't apply if you don't feel like applying.

(FWIW, I think "I can always go do something else" is a saner and smarter attitude. Life outside academia is actually pretty great. I'm just saying be honest with yourself. If you know you're the sort of person who will feel compelled to stick around as an adjunct if your TT job hunt fails, then take that into account.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:30 PM on August 17, 2011

My spouse is an academic, and I am not, and we've moved for his job to a place I would never have moved and where opportunities for my particular specialty are much more limited than they would be elsewhere in the country. But I'm glad we made the move, and here are some ways it was more palatable for me:

1) We do not live in Suck City, home of the university, but an hour away in Decent Place. There is *no way* I would have found a job in Suck City itself. My spouse wasn't thrilled with his commute at first, but now enjoys the benefits of living in Decent Place.

2) We agreed to a trial run. This was greatly assisted by the fact that he had already moved to Bumfuck for three years while he was finishing his PhD, so it seems only fair to give him the same consideration.

3) As for the part where I had trouble understanding the nature of the job market, other academic friends and mutual acquaintances were invaluable. After hearing from disinterested academic parties that my husband would be insane to turn down Suck City's offer, it became a lot easier to swallow. (tenure track vs. my field of high burnout= major factor)

4) Also the process of applying gave it the chance to sink in. First off you might not actually get the job. Second, if he can go visit the place with you, find a niche that might help. I was not totally on board with my husband taking this position when he applied, but seeing him get excited about it, realizing how rare an opportunity like this is, and other factors made me supportive.

5) We've agreed we can go long distance if I get a dream job within a certain range of where we work. Someone else in his department also has an L/D marriage. Note: we have no children nor want any which makes this easier.

6) As for family, we're only two hours from his family now, and it's still pretty easy to not see them, so I hope that can be the case.
posted by t_rex_raaar at 3:58 PM on August 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's not going to harm his career. It will further your career. My husband took a faculty position at a major university in a college town in the middle of corn and soybean fields, and while I am often homesick for the big city where we'd lived for a decade, I am happy there, in no small part because he is happy to be doing what he loves and flourishing. We take great vacations. We used to be under tremendous pressure to go home for holidays, but we draw the line now and only go occasionally, when we feel like it.

When he went for his first interview, I went with him and spent the days driving around and checking the place out to see if I could stand living there. I've found I like it better than I ever thought I would, and the area itself has only improved with time.
posted by tully_monster at 4:55 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all.

Just to clarify

- I HATE driving in winter and at night because I'm really afraid and get anxious and stressed out about it. I avoid it as much as possible. It isn't just a "I'd rather not."

- And family drama is very complex, but just saying "no" is challenging. There are addiction and mental health issues involved that complicate it all. As a veteran "Guess" culture family, being too far away to come home for the holidays is the most acceptable way to not attend. (And I am very concerned that living close by will earn us invites to every ballet recital and second cousin's birthday party and we'll be generating excuse after excuse, lest make my parents "look bad" because my little family doesn't want to come.)

- There are children involved. Living apart with small children does not seem optimal.


My husband is the kind of person that says no to most things immediately but then changes his mind. This is why I didn't mention him being firmly in the no camp in my original post.

Tonight I told him that I was concerned that it would be viewed as offensive to my advisor and to the faculty that are asking me to apply AND that people might think that I'm not a serious academic if I don't apply for this position. Furthermore, we have to have as much information as possible (salary, how faculty are doing, etc.) before we can truly make an informed decision about it. He reluctantly agreed that I should apply for "face saving" and "information gathering" purposes.

The school knows how hard it is for them to recruit and they compensate for this by paying exceptionally well. But it doesn't always work -- Last year multiple people turned down a very attractive endowed position in this department because their spouses couldn't find employment.

Additionally, as someone mentioned, having an offer from a famous school that wants me will be a good negotiating point for schools in more desirable locations.


But thank you for all of your feedback. It is greatly appreciated.
posted by sockpuppetthecat at 6:42 PM on August 17, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, and I have a pretty decent shot at a research-y private SLAC R2 in an extremely desirable location for spouse's career and an overall nice place to live. That certainly colors his attitude toward Awesome Department in SuckyTown. If he had his way, I'd take research-y R2, we'd settling into my 3/4 teaching load with a very good salary (better than a lot of R1s), buy a house, and move forward and publish a couple of things a year with no tenure worries.

And while I, as a parent and a spouse, see the benefit of doing the research-y SLAC thing, I have an R1 pedigree and training and I love research so much. It makes me exceptionally happy to be a researcher. I want to be at a not-too-tenure-insane R1.

So while R1 + good location is pretty exceptional, in my eyes, I gotta stay in the R1 world in order to have the cache to get a shot at one of those rare R1 + good location spots.
posted by sockpuppetthecat at 6:53 PM on August 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wasn't being flippant about my "I also hate driving" remark. I actively don't drive because of my anxiety. I totally understand how important this is to you- both of my parents ended up in very unexpected towns for academia, and they never were able to find appropriate positions in the same town. I just think that an important part of being in a partnership is understanding your partner's concerns and coming up with a compromise that makes it so your partner doesn't end up resentful. What I'm not reading from your comments is the compromise to make this better for your partner. Is is possible to have a dialogue about what would make this more palatable to him?
posted by Zophi at 8:14 PM on August 17, 2011

I'm also not being flippant about the hating driving thing. I lived in Montana for four years and I've lived in Wisconsin for the rest of my life. I know winter driving. Yes, it can be scary. Yet, bazillions of people drive in winter and/or at night. So dealing with that anxiety - which is TOTALLY doable and not fixed in stone - solves most of the problem with this job. The other piece is your anxiety about saying no to your family.

So really the problem is not the job or the location, it's your anxiety. It would behoove you to deal with that. Certainly winter driving and crazy family are not the only anxiety-producing things you'll encounter, no matter what job you take. (I also know a lot about anxiety, and I'm in therapy and on medication for it.)
posted by desjardins at 4:33 AM on August 18, 2011

posted by oddman at 8:10 AM on August 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

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