Why are academic jobs seen as the holy grail or only grail in fields with the worst job markets?

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re going to be doing a series of posts on academic job market dysfunction and the market for PhDs outside of academia.

In this comment, Miriam writes:

I think it is shameful that many Anthropology programs (including mine) don’t encourage and support non-academic careers. There are both public sector applications and, for those of us who got burned out on low wages in grad school, highly paid corporate anthropology work. User experience research is cultural anthropology. When I compare my experience to my Computer Science husband’s, it’s ridiculous. In my department, I almost had a professor withdraw from my committee when I let slip that I was considering a public-sector Anthropology career instead of an academic one. In my husband’s, the department used the amount of graduates placed with companies like Google as a selling point. More than that, the department actively built corporate links to help with placement.

Given the job market in Anthropology, it is cruel to pressure candidates to value and look for academic careers. Yes, one person from a grad cohort occasionally ended up in a tenure-track job. The overwhelming majority ended up with post-docs or one-year lectureships leading to more lectureships or adjunct positions. I will never understand why professors would expect intelligent people to look at the amount of tenure-track jobs available and not figure out that the odds are heavily against us. I also don’t really understand the bias against public-sector or corporate research. Yes, the research is more constrained, but it’s also more practical. Perhaps one sign that I was always a bad fit for my particular program is that I valued the idea of doing ethnographic research in service of a specific application more than doing it to publish an article or book that would probably only be read by other academic anthropologists.

I’ve noticed this as well.  Humanities PhDs seem to be less encouraging of outside careers than are STEM PhDs.

I do wonder if it’s that there are more obvious career options outside of academia for engineers (for example, my DH is working on something very similar to his PhD work for a start-up, large scale work he couldn’t do as a TT professor because he didn’t have the funding) and economists (government, consulting etc.) and all those other disciplines that have pretty decent academic markets.  It’s true that in my grad program, our advisers were disappointed when top students chose government positions over great R1s, but for the rest of us they were happy to write non-academic job letters for government and consulting work and they provided panels of graduates to talk about what life is like in those kinds of careers.  At my current university, academic jobs (in the US) for our graduates are rare and we funnel most of our students into private-sector jobs.

But Miriam notes that there really are positions for anthropologists outside of the academic sector.  Her professors just wouldn’t hear of them.

This musing is coming on the tail end of checking out the tweets that sent people to our deliberately controversial post on the topic.  Apparently we’re neo-cons because neo-cons are the only people who ever use the word, “entitled.”  (Note:  that means a good portion of professors who teach undergrads must be neo-cons!) We’re fairly sure those folks just looked at the title of the post and didn’t actually read the post itself, since the post itself doesn’t actually say much or take a position of any kind, and the comments decry the defunding of academia.  (Duh!)

But the truth is, even if we fully funded academia, there still wouldn’t be enough jobs for a lot of humanities folks because the more attractive we make those jobs, the more people will want humanities PhDs, because the humanities PhD is essentially a fun thing to do.  We know this because even now there are people willing to starve themselves for the chance of someday becoming humanities professors.  If you make it more attractive to be a humanities prof, all that you’re going to do is drive up supply.

Underlying these complaints, we think, is that many of these people who complain about the fact that we don’t just make tenure-track jobs for everyone with a PhD is that these folks think that PhDs can’t possibly work outside academia like the rest of the hoi poloi.  They shouldn’t have to, what with their lily white hands and all.  That’s where the entitlement actually comes in.  There’s this belief that there’s something wrong, something dreadfully wrong, with leaving the ivory tower.  That’s what Miriam, above, is tapping into.

And yes, that’s easy for us to say, being tenured at all… but…

But… maybe tenure isn’t all that.

Maybe, sometimes, it’s worth grabbing that golden ring and throwing it away.

One of us lives with someone who made the jump (though before tenure), and he’s so much happier.

Academia is still just a job, and a lot of time there are better ones out there.  Nobody should have to put up with crap because of a job, especially people with enough education to escape.

So yeah, it would be lovely if, as a society, we took money from Exxon (and you know they’d take it from children’s mouths before they cut corporate welfare) and funded education again, but that won’t solve the problem of the humanities labor market, because the more attractive you make those positions, the more people will want to have them.  There will be more jobs, but there will be even more applicants for those same jobs.  Heck, even if we cut off all production of new PhDs, folks with humanities PhDs who had given up would return to academia if there were a demand for their services.

Cloud and Miriam were right when they said that learning how to do independent research is a valuable skill, even outside of academia.  Maybe we should stop pretending that there’s something dirty about using these skills outside of the ivory tower.  Maybe we should try to find value in producing things, like Miriam said, that are read by more than just other academic anthropologists.

And who cares what your out-of-touch adviser thinks.

Escheatment

Escheatment is another fun (not really) term that I learned this tax season.  #2 didn’t even know this term!

Did you know that if you have a stock that is on a dividend reinvestment program and you don’t login to the webpage or call them or write to them (because it’s changed companies so you need to re-register and they send you a nice quarterly report and tax forms so there’s no reason to login), that after “some amount of time” the company has to, by law (depending on your state), declare your account dormant (even if you have ANOTHER stock from the exact same company with the exact same contact info that isn’t dormant because its dividends are going to your bank account, even if the reinvested dividends from the dormant account are buying shares in the non-dormant account).  Then they have to notify you 3 times to contact them.  The third time requires signatures from everyone on the account and you can no longer just login or call them to stop the dormancy.  The first two times can apparently be a one line suggestion that you login to their webpage to avoid dormancy hidden in the middle of a statement full of words and numbers.  So the third time with the signatures comes as a surprise.

What happens if you don’t get the signatures to the PO box across the country in time?  (Supposedly 30 days, but for some reason it takes a lot longer for the letter to get to you and then you don’t really pay attention to it until you start doing your taxes and go what is this OMG, I have 2 days.)  According to the internet, your entire dormant account is given to the state.  Then the state sells it (and you can’t sell it before that happens because your account is dormant so you can look but you can’t touch online).  If you want the money back, you have to go through the state’s lost money thing.

Of course, it isn’t clear from that third notice which state is going to get your money.  So good luck with that.

Update:  Escheatement averted.  And a reminder that I have to contact them at least once every 3 years in order to avoid escheatment, which can include logging into the account.  Maybe something to do at tax time.

So more fun with investing.  Seriously guys, Vanguard index funds.  Or target-date funds.  Maybe TIAA-Cref if that’s what your employer uses.

Our child, the biter

If you recall, DC2′s wonderful daycare went out of business because they mismanaged a theft and couldn’t meet operating expenses.  As a stop-gap measure, we enrolled DC2 at DC1′s private school’s associated daycare until ze hit 18 months and could enroll at the next youngest Montessori preschool in town.  Doing this was nice because it was one stop shopping for both kids at drop-off and pick-up.

However, although the private school daycare was not a bad daycare, it was also not a great daycare.  The kids weren’t mistreated, rules were followed etc., but it didn’t follow the guidelines for high quality daycare.  It didn’t follow the minimum guidelines either, but instead of a 4/1 teacher ratio for kids DC2′s age, there was a 6/1 teacher ratio.  And instead of involving the kids in setting up and cleaning up like Montessori schools do, generally there was one teacher cleaning up or setting up and the other teacher interacting with 12 kids all at the same time (or with just 1 kid at a time while the remaining 11 were on their own).

On top of that, DC2 went from 4 teeth to 12 teeth during hir duration at that daycare.

The lack of supervision plus the teething plus DC2′s personality… not a good combination.  The main teacher often said it wasn’t a big deal and sometimes the other kid deserved it, which, of course, didn’t make us feel any better about the situation.  They introduced DC2 to pacifiers (ironically at an age that most parents try to remove the pacifier).  Eventually we got enough bite slips that we got called in for a parent-teacher conference with the preschool director and the school director.  Ze wasn’t malevolent, they said, ze just bit when ze was protecting hir stuff or someone crowded hir too much.

The solution we came up with was to offer to pay for a third teacher in the room for a month during DC2′s prime biting hours.  (DH graphed out the bites and discovered a pattern to the timing– mainly when the kids were least supervised.)  $581.31 brought the student-teacher ratio down to 4/1.  The head teacher for the room was ecstatic.  DC2 only bit twice during that time period, once when the third teacher was sick and didn’t show up, and once at a non-standard time when there was a fight over a toy.  DC2 was caught almost biting a few times in addition to that.

Having the third teacher there also made the room much more like a high quality daycare.  The kids became more animated and less likely to stare and crowd any parent who came in.  (Seriously creepy the way they did that, poor neglected kids.)  DC2 also stopped screaming bloody murder when dropped off. It was tempting to continue paying for the third teacher after the time was over (and DC2 did bite a couple more times after that), but at that point we’d already put in our month notice for the change in daycare.

There hasn’t been a single bite at the new daycare.  It is very much like the old daycare.  There’s two main teachers and plenty of floaters.  There are 10 kids and 2 teachers in the room and a third teacher (a floater) is usually there during the main hours.  Kids don’t fight.  When they disagree about toys, the person who has the toy has property rights and the other kid is reminded of that and redirected before a fight can occur.  It isn’t accepted as something that kids will do (and that sometimes results in biting) like at the private school’s daycare.  DC2 happily waves bye-bye when DH drops hir off in the morning, and for a week or so was having such fits when I picked hir up that I wouldn’t be surprised if the teachers thought I beat hir.  (Though part of that was that ze wanted mommy milk right away, but their parking lot isn’t really big enough for me to feel right taking a space during busy pick-up times so we can nurse, especially given that home is less than 5 min away.  DC2, if you weren’t fussing, we’d already be at home and you could be having as much mommy milk as you wanted!  We solved this problem by having me pick up DC1 instead.)

My thought, though this is certainly no randomized controlled experiment, is that good quality daycares have only limited biting because the kids are busy and conflicts are managed before they really become conflicts.  Some kids have greater propensity to bite than others, but it’s still really the daycare’s responsibility to take care of that.  But who knows!

RBOC

  • Sometimes the homemade valentines cards from preschool parents are because at 8pm the night before the parents realized they’d forgotten to buy the damn cards (and the oldest kid already used up last year’s leftover cards which is why you’re out except 3 teacher-size cards and two ripped cards) and why does a toddler need valentine cards anyway?  Update:  Only half the kids sent in cards anyway.
  • This just in:  Fundamentalist churches are tools of the patriarchy bent on separating people from their money, oppressing women, and growing their empires.  Yeah, I know, a big shock to our readers.  But it had to be said.
  • Everything does NOT happen “for a reason”.  People who can think that can’t ever have been the victims of systematic oppression.  Sometimes life just sucks (often because people suck).  Because if everything happens for a reason then that implies that some folks’ real suffering is just background there to help out a more privileged protagonist, and that’s never a good reason.
  • dear senior white male professors, I am not your secretary.  Look it up yourself.
  •  raising a girl is not easier than raising a boy when they are three and raising a boy is not easier than raising a girl when they are teens.  Take your sexist stereotypes based on your n=1 (or more realistically, n=0) and burn them.

Meeting pet peeves

Here’s some things that annoy us in meetings and workshops.  You know, since it’s that time of year again.
1. People who cannot come to the point.  Don’t say in three paragraphs what you can say in 3 sentences or less.

2. Lack of agenda.  We should not be having meetings for the sake of having meetings.

3. Arguing about the same excrement over and over again without doing anything about it.  Either we do something about it or we don’t waste our time griping.
4. Lack of action items.  It doesn’t matter how many good suggestions people make unless someone actually implements them.
5. People who talk over my female and minority colleagues.  Gentlemen, you suck.
6. People who are making good points but just shut up when they’re talked over. (But I get why they do that and I always break in and say, “What is it you were saying…” etc.  Still, I wish they would break in so I don’t have to.  Also if they did that it would seem more normal when I refuse to let myself talked over by the same senior white guys who try to steamroll everybody.)
7.  “Let’s defer that to another committee.”
8.  “Let’s put you on that other committee.”
9.  People who make a bunch of suggestions about work for other people to do and then leave the meeting early so they can’t be assigned any of said work.  (Bonus points if they email later with more work for people “assigned to the committee [I suggested]” to do after.  Note that they have actually done no work themselves and conveniently ducked out right after suggesting a committee but before being able to be assigned to a committee.  No committee was created after they left, btw.)
10.  Anything longer than an hour and 30 min.  Or more frequent than once a month.  (Exceptions:  research meetings– those can/should be more frequent.)
What makes you want to claw your eyes/ears out at meetings?

compound interest

One of the things Dave Ramsey is infamous for is making the claim that the stock market returns 12%/year.  Lately he’s been saying well, his money market funds return that.  (Uh huh.)  Then he goes through an exercise showing how much money you’ll make if you put away X, assuming an interest rate of 12%/year.  It’s a lot.  Because of the magic of compounding.

And obviously that 12% number is garbage.  (Reality is probably closer to 7%.)  However, after he makes this claim, he’ll often say, “Even if I’m half wrong…that’s still a lot of money.”

The implication being, if the interest rate is closer to 6% you’ll end up with half of that huge number he just calculated, which is still a huge number.

Of course you don’t.

Because compound interest doesn’t work that way.  As time goes on tiny differences are magnified with each compound, so that 6% difference starts out as half as big, but ends up compounding over time to something much larger than half as big.

Here’s a calculator because that’s more fun than doing the math by hand.  (Or at least it’s more fun than either typing out the formula or typing out the derivation of the formula.)

Take a Principal of 100,000.  Don’t add anything to it.  Assume a 12% interest rate that compounds once per year for 30 years.  You get $2,995,992.21 .  Or almost 3 million dollars.

Now let’s assume it’s actually half of 12%, or 6%.  If you’re thinking, I could totally live on 1.5 million dollars… you probably could.  But a 6% interest rate over 30 years only gives you $574,349.12, or half a million dollars.  Not chump change, but not enough to live through retirement on, even assuming these are real interest rates (putting things in today’s dollars instead of tomorrow’s inflationed dollars) and not nominal (if you assume 2% inflation, the real interest rate is 2 points lower than the nominal rate).

Half the interest rate compounded doesn’t result in half the earnings, but instead far less than that.

Losing just 1%, for a rate of 11% gives $2,289,229.66, which is a loss of about 700K!

The truth is that compound interest is magical, and the longer your time horizon, the less you need to put in to get big numbers out the other end.  However, it’s not quite as magical as a 12% interest rate would have you believe.  If Dave Ramsey is 50% wrong, you’re much worse than 50% worse off.

Some notes for book publishers and all types of writers

  • We really really need to stop titling novels “The [X]‘s Daughter”.  Not only are they hard to tell apart, and way overdone, but must we continue to define girls and women this way?
  • Alternate titles:
    “The woman in relationship only to herself”
    “The woman defined as her own person rather than as her relationship to another”
  • Also, why does everything have “: A Novel” in the title?  For real, you think we can’t tell it’s a novel?  Stop with cutesy titles and just call things the names of novels!  I know it’s really hard to think of good new names, but start now.
  • Could we maybe have pop songs retire the phrase, “You’re a good girl”?  I get that they’re into the whole madonna – whore thing, but can’t we retire it?
  • Note:  it is ok to use the phrase, “You’re a good girl” if the song is about an actual canine.  But you can’t then put sexual euphemisms or overt sexual stuff in there because dogs can’t consent.
  • We are happy to see women’s heads back on covers.
  • Misogyny, I hate you.

Do the holidays stress you out?

I have a confession to make.  They totally don’t stress me out.  I find them to be totally relaxing.  Holidays are awesome.

And yes, I’m the one with kids.  And yes, we celebrate Christmas.

Now, the end of the semester is a bit stressful.  Finishing up classes, then the final exam, then grading.  Also the OMG everybody is about to disappear we must have these last 50 faculty meetings to discuss urgent business.  Oh, and the 20 referee reports that are due right in the beginning of December.  And the 30 letters of recommendation.  That part is kind of stressful.  When all of that is over and the students are gone, it’s hugely peaceful.  So our Christmas season doesn’t really start until classes end (sometime in the late teens or early 20s of December, depending on the year).  The kids don’t seem to mind an abbreviated season at home even if school and stores start at Thanksgiving.

Do we make Christmas cookies?  Sometimes.  If we feel like it.  Ditto Christmas breads.  I like buying a little live rosemary tree a week or so before Christmas and we decorate that.  Christmas shopping mostly happens online.  Stocking stuffers (the only thing “Santa” brings) get bought at Target when we pick up gift cards for the teachers.  We’ve taken the oldest to see the Nutcracker.

Having the kids home 24/7 can be a little stressful, whether it’s Christmas or not.  (At least until DC2 learns to read like DC1.)  We try to arrange family visits so they overlap at least a little with kids’ vacation so that they can burn some of their energy off on the relatives.  Spread it out, so to speak.  We definitely use daycare as much as it’s open, and DC1 goes to daycamp for one of the weeks that ze is off (same place ze goes in the summer).

This time of year articles start popping up about the Elf on the Shelf and all sorts of crafty etc. time-consuming holiday traditions that moms can do to make things magical.  And that’s great for the parents who get utility out of doing stuff like that.  We love that DC1′s best friend’s mom is doing another gingerbread house party this year.

But what about people who feel compelled to do all the Christmas stuff even though they hate it?  The folks who are totally stressed out because they have to remember to move the elf every night, or they would rather watch a movie than make cookies, or they have a racist uncle Mike that they hate seeing every year at Christmas dinner?

Think about your sources of holiday stress (if any).

What happens if you:

1.  Don’t do them?  Would the world end if you just didn’t visit your racist relatives and stayed at home with the family you chose and you love instead?  If you don’t do outdoor lights?  Will the children be scarred for life if the elf moves to another house and never returns?

2.  Pay someone else to do them instead?  I learned this year that I will never adopt a family and go shopping for them again– instead I’ll just give money for someone else to shop with.

3.  Get someone else in the family to do them?  Why is it always mom’s job to bring holiday cheer?  Maybe another family member can step in and take the kids to see the lights or bake cookies and clean up the kitchen etc.

4.  Change them so they’re less stressful?  Maybe instead of getting a big cut tree you can get something that’s more manageable.  Maybe you can change a tradition so it’s more chill.  Instead of 12 different batches of cookies, maybe one or two.  Maybe it’s time for Santa to drop off the packages early and to leave them with some assembly required after they’re unwrapped.

5.  Reframe them so they’re not as stressful?  Sometimes you can just will yourself to enjoy a long drive (in the snow) to see the grandparents.  It’s an adventure instead of a chore.  Sometimes that’s not possible, but if you can’t get out of doing something, might as well make the best of it.

Do you have holiday stress?  What tips do you have for avoiding holiday stress?  What have you tried that’s worked for you?

In which I learn a lesson about myself

This year, about a day after DH started his new job, I was on the way to meet a job candidate for breakfast.  Just as I was driving into the parking lot, the radio made an announcement for one of those adopt a child for Christmas things, where you get a child’s Christmas list and buy things off it.  The point of contact, coincidentally, was the restaurant whose parking lot I was driving into.  As I walked up to my regular “meeting the job candidate” table, right at eye-level on a Christmas tree was a tag for a girl with my first name, the age of DC1.

The coincidences were too much not to be taken as a sign, so I pulled the tag and figured I’d shop for the items the next weekend.  She wanted a “Dora the Explorer doll.”  Immediately I started thinking about the Dora related merchandize I could get, shirts and socks and books and so on.

Upon closer examination, the girl’s simple request was more complicated than I had suspected.  First off, there are something like 100+ different Dora the Explorer dolls.  Since my DC1 is unusual, I asked our secretary’s daughter (age 8) what she thought this 6 year old could be wanting, and she said probably one of the big ($34) plush ones, and not one of the ($11) figures.  Her mom said she always did the Christmas adopt a child thing (one adoption for each of her kids) and suggested Toys R Us.

I reserved a Dora book at our local Barnes and Noble so we could just drop in and pick it up.  I wanted one with words and buttons to push because DC1 has loved hir button pushing Dora books for about 4 years now (even if technically they’ve been passed down to DC2).

First stop, shoes size 13… but, of course, Target hides those.  After a lot of fruitless searching, I found some acceptable sneakers shelved with the size 1s.  I tried to find some dress-shoes too, but gave up.  Target did not have any of the plush Dora dolls, and it only had one of the $29 large doll versions (Sleepy-time Dora), but her hair was totally messed up and the packaging somewhat beat up.  Then I thought, Dora underpants would be kind of neat… but they do not make Dora underpants in size 8 (or at least, Amazon says they do, but they’re hard to get and definitely not stocked at Target– they only go up to size 6 in Dora).  So I wavered between size 6 Dora underpants and size 8 regular girl’s underpants, and went with the size 6.  Similarly, Dora socks only seem to come in toddler sizes, and I was overwhelmed there not knowing quite what size I wanted or what I was looking for in socks.

I know this is ridiculous, but my MIL buys most of DC1 and DC2′s clothing, except for school uniforms, and we’re told exactly what to order from Land’s End.  The rest comes hand-me-down from various colleagues and neighbors.  I almost never have to buy kids’ clothing.  So, yes, I should know what socks go with a size 13 shoe, but I don’t.    Also DC1 is a bit on the small size, so we’re not quite there yet.

Then I made it to the clothing and had a hard time finding anything in size 7.  And I had no idea what to get.  So finally I sought out DH and DC1 (found them in the cat section, as we’ve got 3 new backyard residents we have to get acclimated and to the vet.. more on that in the future) and made them look.  That didn’t help much.  Then DH vetoed size 6 underpants for someone who was size 7, and I forgot to get the size 8 underpants when I put back the size 6.  Or maybe I thought Toys R Us would have underpants and socks (they didn’t) because we once got training pants for DC1 there (which is completely irrelevant when you’re looking for a 6 year old).

Finally I got a pair of matching black (because everyone looks good in black) yoga/sweat pants and a hoodie with colorful peace symbols on it.  All the jeans there were skinny jeans and I was concerned that a 6 year old who liked Dora the Explorer (suggesting an age closer to 5 than to 7) but was size 7 might be something other than skinny.

Then to Toys R Us.  They also did not have the plush $34 Dora doll, but they did have better versions of the $29 plush + plastic head dolls.  I picked out Baby-sitting Dora over Sleepy-time Dora, because I thought baby Boots was cute.  While there I also picked up another 3 Dora books, including one with buttons that make noise.  Realized I forgot underpants and socks.

Then to Barnes and Noble to pick up the last book.  At this point DC1 and I both had seriously low blood sugar and had to stop at the cafe which took a long time and cost more than it should have.

As I write this, I’m trying to figure out when I’m going to make it back to the store to get some final clothing items, or if I’m just going to take it in as-is.  She didn’t ask for underwear and socks, but a lot of the kids do.  (Why are underpants and socks so important?  Because you can’t buy them used and you rarely get them as hand-me-downs.)  It would also be nice to get a lighter weather shirt too, and not just the hoodie.

So what did I learn?  Turns out I HATE shopping.  I seriously hate shopping.  (Also I learned that almost all Dora clothing maxes out at 6x.)  It’s not about the money– we’re feeling pretty flush in the pocket and given that most of the kids ask for bikes, spending another $20 on books and $20 on the clothing set and $10 on underpants and $5 on socks (and probably another $20 on shirts if I can find any, possibly $20 on a dress if I can find any) isn’t much in the grand scheme of things for us (though it surely is quite a bit for someone who qualifies for this program).  It’s about having something in mind and then not being able to find it and then having to make choices and having to think, “what if she looks terrible in this color?  what if it doesn’t fit?  what if she hates this?  what if she already has this?  what if this is the wrong kind?”  And then more sinister thoughts, “Should I include the receipt?  If I do, what if someone exchanges the gifts for something not for the kid?  If I don’t, what if the clothing is too small or this is the wrong doll?”  (In the end, I went with including the Toys R Us receipt but not the Target receipt, mainly because we bought other stuff at Target and didn’t get a separate gift receipt.)  I just don’t have the mental fortitude to deal with all these decisions.  And it took so much time just trying to find things.

Next year if I get the same sign, I’m totally going to make a note to myself to just go to the damn webpage and press the “donate here and we’ll shop for you” button.

(Update:  Walmart, which we normally avoid for various reasons, allows you to purchase online and pick-up at the store, similarly to what we did with B&N.  And they have more size 7 stuff in stock than Target did.  And they have size 8 Dora underpants.  $40 of clothing later, including a very pretty black and white dress, I feel as if I’ve done a reasonably decent job.  Also I went through MIL’s size 7 offerings still with tags since DC1 always has more clothes than ze needs and added a bunch of shirts of various colors and styles.  Still, next time I’m just gonna give the ~$100.)

Do you enjoy the process of shopping?  Would you pay someone to do it for you if you could?

Why none love for the MILs?

Mother-in-law jokes are seemingly ubiquitous.  And pernicious.

What is up with the pervasive and destructive cultural meme that women can’t get along with their in-laws, specifically their mothers-in-law?

Sweetums

Fig. 1: Monsters-in-law?

For the record, I love my in-laws.  It’s awesome when we see them or when they come stay with us.  They are fun people and we all get along really well.  I wish we could spend time with them more often!

It’s disrespectful to all parties to imply that women and their MILs don’t get along.  It implies that women can’t be friends (in many versions, because they fight over a man, the husband/son).  It also implies, in many versions, that the mother needs to control her adult son, which is terrible for both of them (maybe because she is trying to live vicariously through him because as an older woman, she has no life except her children and grandchildren).

It says that adult women can’t have mature, reasonable conversations about points of disagreement, instead letting resentment simmer and seethe for years, usually in a passive-aggressive way.  It says the MIL does not respect her son’s wife, and that she can’t be polite about this.  There is also the problem of the husband/son not having his wife’s back, not telling his mother to back off… the implication that there is a contest for affection… the implication that the MIL even needs to back off… the problem where the man puts his mom above his wife.  SO MANY PROBLEMS!

It’s true that you won’t always get along with your in-laws, just like you won’t always get along with any random set of people, even if you are related.  But we don’t have to degenerate into society-wide melodrama about it.

I see this relationship in media all the time and it never fails to induce hulk-y rage.  My in-laws are good people and have welcomed me into the family.  Let’s stop pitting women against each other over issues of control, identity, and a man in the middle.  Can’t we all just get along?

#2 notes that her mom thinks #2′s partner is fantastic (and more than once has expressed surprise that #2 managed to find someone so great, thanks mom).  Also, #2′s partner’s mom has helped her with research in the past!  It doesn’t get that much more collegial than that.

Readers, hit us up with positive stories of your in-laws!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 178 other followers