How do you handle the mental load of partnered life?

For those of you with partners, of course.  Unless you have a personal assistant!

In married life, especially when you have kids, there are often things that you have to do or get done.  Appointments to manage.  Places to be.  Things to sign up for.  If it were just you, you’d take care of all of those things (assuming you’re not in the “personal assistant” bracket).

Once you’re married you have to coordinate things and someone has to remember things.  But it doesn’t have to be you.  In “traditional” marriages, the wife takes care of these things.  She even takes care of the husband’s social engagements.  She keeps track of everything, makes all appointments, and is responsible if something is forgotten or missed.

That type of arrangement makes economic sense on the whole.  It makes sense to have one person taking care of everything so the other person is free to think about other stuff.  It’s a division of labor and one person specializes in appointments and filing paperwork and so on.  There’s no accidental double-booking unless the person in charge does that double-booking, and presumably that person will notice.  It doesn’t have to be the wife, but it makes sense to have one person in charge.  That person doesn’t have to be in charge of everything– it might make sense for one parent to take care of all the adult stuff and another all the kid’s stuff, or one person the house stuff and another the school stuff.  There’s lots of different ways to arrange it that are both egalitarian and efficient.

We don’t do that.  We are both in charge of almost everything.  We have little black books that we coordinate.  We have a list on the refrigerator for groceries.  I do take care of all the bills (even DH’s credit cards, though he is responsible for reviewing it each month for fraudulent charges) and DH is mostly in charge of the cars (even mine, though since I’m the one driving it I’m more likely to notice when the sticker says I should get another oil change), but for the most part, and especially for the kids part, we both take care of everything.

I noticed this lately when I emailed one of my colleagues about a play-date.  Our kids go to the same school and are friends and I know him but I don’t know his wife.  He forwarded to his wife and she emailed back.  Similarly, we got a birthday party invitation for another child who is DC2’s age from another colleague’s wife, not from him.  Usually the invitations for things go to me via email or to our joint junk mail account, but to DH by text because I never have my phone with me.  With DC1’s best friend whose mother is super-mom, and often on-call, we’re equally likely to get a text playdate from the dad or the mom (and occasionally the college-age uncle who babysits for them)!  Generally we email the dad, but just because that’s the email address that pops up first (alphabetical order).

There’s drawbacks to our non-method.  We have to consult each other.  We have to make sure our books are synched.  (Yes, we could have a calendar in the kitchen near the grocery list like my family did growing up, but that would be an additional thing to update!  Once DC1 is old enough do start doing hir own social calendar, we may switch to that.)  It’s extra effort, extra time, and extra mental load that only one person could have.

But there’s also benefits.  The biggest benefit is that when we forget to do something or forget to go somewhere, it’s both of our faults.  It’s hard to be mad at someone for forgetting when you forgot too!  Also with both of us needing to remember and both of us checking our planners and our shared junk email account, there’s a bit of overlap and perhaps a greater possibility that one of us will remember or notice even if the other doesn’t.  I’m not sure if that works, but we’re both so busy I bet either one of us would forget just as much if it was just on us all the time.

#2 doesn’t have kids, so this is much easier.  We delegate, and we talk.  For example, we just moved to another state.  This requires SO MUCH COMMUNICATION, folks.  I mostly coordinated that, since I have the time, but he has most of the money.  Every day we would say, what do you need me to do for this move?  Did you hear back from the movers?  Did you pay the security deposit or shall I?  We have a joint savings account, and we need to talk to each other about planned transactions because of Regulation D.  We share spreadsheets and lists in Google Docs (drive).  Sometimes we IM each other during the day, and then we each have a chatlog of what we talked about.  It can certainly get tedious having this conversation every day — there was a point during the moving process where I lost my shiz because he asked me about tasks one too many times — but mostly it’s been working for us.  We’ve also found in other areas (e.g., kitchen) that it’s helpful to put one person explicitly in charge– doesn’t matter who– and that person directs and delegates to the other.

 

For those of you with partners, how do you divvy up the mental load of planning and deciding and answering and filing?  For those of you without, what methods do you use to keep track of everything that needs to be done?

I need a sabbatical

I was supposed to get one this year.  We only get one per division and our two departments are supposed to split them evenly and this year it was my department’s turn.  Only one person from each department applied.  But they gave it to the other person who applied from the other department.  Then he got a job at another university and quit so nobody gets a sabbatical this year.  I am free to apply for next year.  But I have competition.

So much is happening right now.  I have so much work to do.  So many ideas, so many projects, so many revise and resubmits (!), so many conferences, so many referee reports, so many opportunities that I keep saying yes to.  I’m going to be traveling constantly this year and on top of that I have to apply for things… like sabbatical.

And I’m teaching a full load and I’m doing a ton of service.  And my classes have to be updated, except the new course which has to be created.

I think this year I will have to go back to working 6 days a week and sometimes after 5pm.  (I get to work before 8am.)

I hope I don’t pass out from nervous exhaustion!  And I really hope my RAs are good this year, because I need great RAs this year.  Luckily I have enough money to pay for RAs this year.  Unfortunately I didn’t get that grant in on time to get a chance of being able to pay for RAs next year!

Do you need a sabbatical?  What would you do with a sabbatical?

Ask the grumpies: Time spent on housework by child status and gender

Laura Vanderkam asks:

Looking at the ATUS, how does having a kid affect how much time people devote to housework? Is this different for men and women? There are lots of different stories one could come up with: everyone does more housework because there’s more housework to be done. Everyone does less housework because there’s less available time to do it in. Mom does more and dad does less because they wind up conforming to traditional gender roles (and maybe mom winds up working less for pay, and so is the one around to do it). Maybe mom does a lot more and dad does a little more. So I’d love to know what the numbers actually show.

Lalalalala, Stata.  Ok, so I’m using the 2002-2012 ATUS here because I’m too lazy to download the 2013 one even though it’s now available.  In a bit I’ll show how things have changed if you limit to just 2011 and 2012.

How does having a kid affect how much time people devote to housework:

. ttest  bls_hhact_hwork, by(hh_child)

Two-sample t test with equal variances
——————————————————————————
Group |     Obs        Mean    Std. Err.   Std. Dev.   [95% Conf. Interval]
———+——————————————————————–
No |   72370     39.6372    .3054511    82.17145    39.03851    40.23588
Yes |   64590    44.33705    .3295443    83.75224    43.69114    44.98296
———+——————————————————————–
combined |  136960    41.85364    .2241497    82.95358    41.41431    42.29297
———+——————————————————————–
diff |           -4.699851    .4488466               -5.579582    -3.82012
——————————————————————————
diff = mean(No) – mean(Yes)                                   t = -10.4710
Ho: diff = 0                                     degrees of freedom =   136958

Ha: diff < 0                 Ha: diff != 0                 Ha: diff > 0
Pr(T < t) = 0.0000         Pr(|T| > |t|) = 0.0000          Pr(T > t) = 1.0000

Urgh, I can’t figure out how to make this pretty without making it a picture and I’m too lazy to do that (in word you make it courier new 9 or smaller and it’s all pretty).  Anyhow, this is saying that people with kids spend 44.33 minutes on housework and people without kids spend 39.63 minutes on housework during the reference day.  This is a difference of 4.7 minutes.  This difference (two-tailed is the one in the middle, since we didn’t have a prior about which direction it should go) is significant at the 5% level (also at the .0001% level).  So kids create housework.  (Which is no surprise, but the surprise is that people spend time doing housework– childcare is measured under a different variable.)

Note that theologyandgeometry reminded me that I’m supposed to be using sampling weights when I do this, and they do matter somewhat in the regression results.  Unfortunately, ttest doesn’t take weights.   The kludge is a pain in the rear in Stata 11 (which is what I have on my home computer), so I apologize, but you’re getting the unweighted results.

Next:  Is this different for men and women?

Let’s say I want to answer this question in one fell swoop.  I would do a regression with an interaction.  It would look something like this:

unweighted:
Housework_min = 18.96 + 37.47*Female – 1.04*hh_child + 8.21*(Femalehh_child)

I can’t get the standard errors to line up in wordpress, but the se for the intercept is 0.31, se for Female is 0.57, se for hh_child is 0.44, se for the interaction term is 0.82.   To see whether these coefficients are significant, you take the coeff and divide by the standard error to get the p-value.  If that number is bigger than 1.96, it is significant at the 5% level.  These coefficients are all significant.

weighted to take into account sampling weights:
Housework_min = 15.47 + 38.50*Female – 0.67*hh_child + 4.06*(Femalehh_child)

Here everything is significant at the 1% level except the main effect on hh_child is no longer significant even at the 10% level, with a se of 0.49.  So weights do matter.  Thanks for reminding me, theologyandgeometry!

Ok, so what does this regression *mean*?  Plug and chug, my dear Watson, plug and chug.

The way the dataset is coded, if you’re female, Female is coded as 1.  If you’re not female, then it is coded as 0 (it doesn’t allow for female and not female at the same time).  Similarly, hh_child is one if you have a child under age 18 in the household and 0 if you don’t.

So to answer: “how does having a kid affect how much time people devote to housework?” You would take [18.96 + 37.47*Female – 1.04*hh_child + 8.21*(Femalehh_child)] and plug in 1 for hh_child and then plug in 0 for hh_child.

[18.96 + 37.47*Female – 1.04 + 8.21*(Female)] – [18.96 + 37.47*Female – 0 + 0)]

The 18.96 drops out, the 37.47 drops out, and you’re left with -1.04 + 8.21*Female.

For women:  [-1.04 + 8.21*1] => having kids correlates with 7.17 minutes more housework

For men:  [-1.04 + 0]  => having kids correlates with 1.04 minutes less of housework

The savvy econometrician will note here that we’ve seen these numbers before– that -1.04 is the coefficient for the hh_child variable, and the 7.17 is what you get if you add that coefficient to the interaction term.

Doing the weighted version, you get:

For women: [-0.67+4.06*1] = having kids correlates with 3.39 minutes more housework

For men:  [-0.67+0] => having kids correlates with 0.67 minutes less of housework

Now, one concern is that there are a lot more single parent households with women heads than with men.  Let’s see what happens when we limit to married households with both spouses present only.

ttest  bls_hhact_hwork if married==1, by(hh_child)

Two-sample t test with equal variances
——————————————————————————
Group |     Obs        Mean    Std. Err.   Std. Dev.   [95% Conf. Interval]
———+——————————————————————–
0. No |   27875    40.94371    .5036533    84.08898    39.95653     41.9309
1. Yes |   40403    46.88803    .4207222    84.56725     46.0634    47.71265
———+——————————————————————–
combined |   68278    44.46122    .3230849    84.42228    43.82797    45.09446
———+——————————————————————–
diff |           -5.944315    .6569407               -7.231918   -4.656712
——————————————————————————
diff = mean(0. No) – mean(1. Yes)                             t =  -9.0485
Ho: diff = 0                                     degrees of freedom =    68276

Ha: diff < 0                 Ha: diff != 0                 Ha: diff > 0
Pr(T < t) = 0.0000         Pr(|T| > |t|) = 0.0000          Pr(T > t) = 1.0000

Having a child makes time spent on housework go up even more for two parent households than it does for everybody (about 6 minutes).  The difference is about one minute for unmarried households.  Maybe dads make a lot of mess.  More likely single moms don’t have time to do additional household chores while single people do have more time.  (Doing the interaction, this difference in the effect of having children between married and single couples is significant.)

Limiting to married couples only:

Housework_min = 14.23 + 51.44*Female +4.14*hh_child + 2.31*(Femalehh_child)

The interaction term is only marginally significant, and note a sign change on the hh_child coefficient.  Having a child affects married people by 4.14 +2.31*female.  Married men’s housework goes up by 4.14 minutes after having a child, but married women’s goes up by 6.45 minutes.

When you do it weighted, everything is significant at the 5% level.

Housework_min = 13.16+ 50.95*Female +2.51*hh_child + 3.39*(Femalehh_child)

Having a child affects married people by 2.51 + 3.39*female.  Married men’s housework goes up by 2.51 minutes after having a child, but a married woman’s goes up by 5.9 minutes.

Limiting to unmarried people only:

Housework_min = 22.29 + 28.89*Female – 5.41*hh_child + 6.34*(Femalehh_child)

All coefficients are significant.  Having a child affects unmarried people by -5.41 + 6.34*female.  Unmarried men’s housework goes down by 5.41 minutes and Unmarried women’s goes up by 6.34 minutes.  (Note that there are ~8,000 single men with kids and 16,000 single women with kids here, though I’m including married people whose spouses are absent in the “not married” category because we’re talking about housework.  It is more standard to include them in the married category when you’re looking at outcomes we care about like child well-being.)

Weighting the unmarried people regression:

Housework_min = 17.68 + 26.93*Female – 4.36*hh_child + 1.60*(Femalehh_child)

Here the interaction term is no longer significant, which suggests there isn’t a difference by gender in terms how how having a child affects housework.  Makes me wonder who the sampling frame is over- or under- sampling!  Here having a child affects unmarried people by -4.36 + 1.60*female.  Unmarried men’s housework goes down by 4.36 minutes when having a child and unmarried women’s also goes down (!) by 2.76 minutes.

There are other cuts that can be made… by age, by race, by ethnicity, by education, by work status etc.

I’m going to look now at the most recent years, 2011 and 2012.  Men are supposed to be more equal partners these days so…

. ttest  bls_hhact_hwork if year>2010, by(hh_child)

Two-sample t test with equal variances
——————————————————————————
Group |     Obs        Mean    Std. Err.   Std. Dev.   [95% Conf. Interval]
———+——————————————————————–
0. No |   13862    38.72681     .700486    82.47311    37.35376    40.09985
1. Yes |   11060    44.37197    .8187207    86.10202    42.76713    45.97681
———+——————————————————————–
combined |   24922    41.23204    .5330305    84.14795    40.18727    42.27682
———+——————————————————————–
diff |           -5.645164    1.072289               -7.746914   -3.543414
——————————————————————————
diff = mean(0. No) – mean(1. Yes)                             t =  -5.2646
Ho: diff = 0                                     degrees of freedom =    24920

Ha: diff < 0                 Ha: diff != 0                 Ha: diff > 0
Pr(T < t) = 0.0000         Pr(|T| > |t|) = 0.0000          Pr(T > t) = 1.0000

Having a child still increases the amount of housework done by around 5.6 minutes (so more than for the 10-year period).

Housework_min = 20.34 + 33.75*Female – 0.42*hh_child + 8.68*(Femalehh_child)

Here the coefficient on hh_child is nowhere near significant.  The interaction term is still significant, but having a child has no significant effect on minutes worked by itself, only as it interacts with gender.  Men no longer work less when they have a child.  But women still work more!  Results are pretty similar with the weights.

Limiting to married only provides:

Housework_min = 16.35 + 46.28*Female + 4.04*hh_child + 2.50*(Femalehh_child)

Now hh_child is significant, but the interaction term is no longer significant!  Everyone in a married couple works 4 min more (you could argue that women work 6 min more, but that difference is not significant) once they have children.  Again the weights matter, because with them, you get:

Housework_min = 15.06 + 44.79*Female + 1.55*hh_child + 6.22*(Femalehh_child)

With the weights, hh_child is back to being no longer significant and the interaction term is significant at the 10% level.   Married women work marginally significantly more than married women do upon birth of a child.

Limiting to the unmarried (and those with absent spouses) provides:

Housework_min = 22.77 + 27.25*Female – 3.89*hh_child + 7.72*(Femalehh_child)

These are all significant.  Having a child decreases the amount of housework for unmarried men by 4 minutes, but increases it for unmarried women by around 4 minutes.  (These results hold if I drop people who are married with spouse absent, so it’s not like truckers are driving this result.)

Putting the weights in again changes things:

Housework_min =18.15 + 26.06*Female – 3.04*hh_child + 1.41*(Femalehh_child)

Female is significant (as is the constant) but the other terms are not.  This argues that there’s really no difference once you have a kid in how much housework you do if unmarried, either by gender or not.  It could be that there’s not enough unmarried fathers in the sample to say much of anything once the weights are added (perhaps they over-sample single dads, who knows!  Well, presumably ATUS knows.)  Also I should note that their sampling weights seem to be based on 2006 methodology, so if things have changed, they could be introducing measurement error which might tend to bias towards not finding anything.

All in all, there’s less significance with only the last two years of the data, but the story is still very similar.

So, to summarize:  Having kids increases the amount of housework that people do each day by 5-6 minutes on average, but about 1 minute for single-parent households.  On average, having kids means more housework for women and less housework for men.  However, in dual-parent married households with both spouses present, having a child increases rather than decreases the amount of time spent on housework for men.  In households with only one parent present, women do more housework and men do less (though with weighting it seems they both do less).  Potential reasons for this difference could be that men outsource the housework or that they’re more likely to substitute childcare for housework (or that they put their kids to work and women don’t!).

Now, the variable I used above assumes marriage.  It turns out there’s a variable in the ATUS that also gets at whether or not there’s an unmarried partner in the household.

tab spousepres

Spouse or unmarried partner in |
household |      Freq.     Percent        Cum.
—————————————-+———————————–
1. Spouse present |     69,359       50.64       50.64
2. Unmarried partner present |      4,224        3.08       53.73
3. No spouse or unmarried partner prese |     63,377       46.27      100.00
—————————————-+———————————–
Total |    136,960      100.00

You would think that this shouldn’t change the results much.  Except it does.
. ttest  bls_hhact_hwork if spousepres==1 | spousepres==2, by(hh_child)
Two-sample t test with equal variances
——————————————————————————
Group |     Obs        Mean    Std. Err.   Std. Dev.   [95% Conf. Interval]
———+——————————————————————–

0. No |   30366    40.27857    .4782439    83.33803    39.34119    41.21595
1. Yes |   43217     46.9683    .4089027    85.00556    46.16684    47.76976
———+——————————————————————–
combined |   73583     44.2076    .3110836    84.38513    43.59788    44.81733
———+——————————————————————–
diff |           -6.689731    .6314013               -7.927276   -5.452187
——————————————————————————
diff = mean(0. No) – mean(1. Yes)                             t = -10.5951
Ho: diff = 0                                     degrees of freedom =    73581

Ha: diff < 0                 Ha: diff != 0                 Ha: diff > 0
Pr(T < t) = 0.0000         Pr(|T| > |t|) = 0.0000          Pr(T > t) = 1.0000

Having a child when you have a partner in the house increases housework by 6.7 min.

For cohabiters it’s an increase of 12 min!

. ttest  bls_hhact_hwork if spousepres==2, by(hh_child)

Two-sample t test with equal variances
——————————————————————————
Group |     Obs        Mean    Std. Err.   Std. Dev.   [95% Conf. Interval]
———+——————————————————————–

0. No |    2112    33.51657    1.586618    72.91542    30.40507    36.62807
1. Yes |    2112    46.34943    1.895052    87.08996    42.63307     50.0658
———+——————————————————————–
combined |    4224      39.933    1.239569    80.56248    37.50279    42.36321
———+——————————————————————–
diff |           -12.83286    2.471554               -17.67841   -7.987314
——————————————————————————
diff = mean(0. No) – mean(1. Yes)                             t =  -5.1922
Ho: diff = 0                                     degrees of freedom =     4222

Ha: diff < 0                 Ha: diff != 0                 Ha: diff > 0
Pr(T < t) = 0.0000         Pr(|T| > |t|) = 0.0000          Pr(T > t) = 1.0000

Married people spouse present:

Housework_min = 14.08 + 51.56*Female + 4.35*hh_child + 2.43*(Femalehh_child)

Everything significant at the 5% level.  (Results are similar with weighting)

Cohabiters:
Housework_min = 19.42 + 29.04*Female + 2.01*hh_child + 14.56*(Femalehh_child)
(results with weighting are pretty similar, with an even bigger interactive effect)

hh_child is not significant.  Note how much less housework cohabiting women do compared to married women!  (29.04 vs 51.56)  And look how much bigger that interaction of having a child is for cohabiting women– a child only adds 2.43 min (plus the 4.35 main effect that it adds to both parents) to married women, but it adds a full 14.56 minutes to cohabiting women (18.5 minutes in the weighted regression).  The story here is that cohabiters did less work and then were forced to be more traditional once a baby arrived.  With married women we’re probably seeing a lot of housewives increasing that female coeff.  There could also be differences in hiring out help between people who cohabit and people who are in more traditional marriages.  Or in how big the house/apartment is.  There are a lot of controls that could be put into these regressions (age, labor force status, etc.) if one wanted to try to get at causation instead of just the relationships.

Grumpy nation, how does this square with your experience, if applicable? And isn’t Stata awesome?

What motivates me after tenure

I was just at a conference where I get to hang out with lots of my friends.  Some of us got to talking.  They’re generally at better schools than I am and have longer and better CVs than I do.  But I’ve got tenure and they don’t have it yet.  And we were talking about trying to get stuff published and trying to find time for work… and they asked me why I care where I publish or about how much work I do because I’ve got tenure.  My school doesn’t expect as much as theirs does.  (And I have a higher teaching load and more service and a smaller salary…)

But I was never really motivated by the tenure expectations in my department.  I placed lower on the job market than most folks in my cohort, and I’ve always thought that if I did what I want and then didn’t get tenure then I’d finally be able to move to Northern California and at least live someplace nice.  I’ve always figured that if I stopped liking it, I could just leave.  If I’d gotten an offer at one of these better schools maybe I would have been more nervous, I don’t know.  (And, since getting here, the school has made a lot of really good hires, including mid-level hires with amazing CVs, and I am no longer under-placed.  I’m placed!)

What motivates me:

1.  I want to do good work.  I answer interesting (to me) questions.  I tell good (theoretical) stories with (empirical) evidence.  My work is important and it’s fascinating.

2.  People are doing things wrong and I want the profession to do things right!  Efficiently!

3.  It is a crime that nobody is answering these important questions.

4.  I kinda do like the fame and fortune aspect.  Gotta admit it.  And they give me just enough of a taste of it to make me crave more.  More.

5.  I like to watch things grow.  I want my department to do well, my school to do well, my little corner of academic research to do well.

6.  Ambition.

7.  And maybe just a bit the fact that I may need to be mobile some day, for example, if DH’s job situation changes.  And I kind of like being able to occasionally get grants to pay for RA work and summer salary.  And if they ever cross a line, I can walk and I’ll be in demand somewhere.

I used to be more motivated by being under-placed.  Sort of an, “I’ll show them!”  But I’ve kind of shown them, and, like I said, I’m no longer underplaced.  So #4 has replaced that entirely.  I probably worked a little harder when I was rage-researching, but it’s much more fulfilling to be love-researching instead.

#2 and #3 above bring me more self-confidence.  They help me talk up my work in ways that #1 doesn’t.  More of that contrarian aspect to my personality showing through.  #4 and #6 sometimes give me less self-confidence.

 

The answers of #2 revolve around research.  And then quitting.

What motivates you to work hard?

Ask the grumpies: Obligation to house a sibling?

Kellen asks:

Let’s say I have a sibling, older than me, who has received enough bail outs from our parents that they don’t want to bail this sibling out anymore. That is–they want to help, but they feel like it’s enabling said sibling to continue not standing on their own two feet.

Now, sibling just moved to a small town very far away because sibling’s partner moved there for work. Sibling has no job, no money, and maxed out credit card. Sibling would need financial help to even pay for the gas and probable car repairs needed to drive across the country to move close to the family. One suggestion from parents is that sibling must stay in the small, far away town, find a job, even if it’s bagging groceries, and save enough to pay sibling’s own way.

Now, here I am, in a very good spot in life, just made it to saving 50% of my income this month. I don’t know if it’s good for sibling to stay in this small town with no money, and learn to hold down a job, or if, as family, there’s some obligation to help sibling get to where I am and stay in my (sort of) spare room (which is really our office/living room space) while sibling finds a job around here (in the big city).

Also, sibling has a degree as an elementary school educator + a masters degree in something like team-building activities (?), but has been trying to work as a general contractor. So sibling is not completely without qualifications, but kind-of without qualifications to do the kind of work sibling likes (working outdoors, doing labor). Also, I only know people who work in offices, which sibling has 0 experience with, so I can’t really help sibling find a job.

So, this is the kind of question that if the grumpies could answer it, they’d be able to sell the answer and make millions and millions of dollars, maybe billions once you add in speaking tours and private consulting with very rich people.

In terms of whether or not you have an obligation to invite hir to where you are and stay in your spare room.  The answer there is no.  It sounds like your sibling has worn out your parents and they may be right that ze needs to figure things out before someone else comes to the rescue.  And it sounds like sibling probably isn’t in a situation where your help would actually be help rather than enabling.  Sibling is an adult.  There aren’t children involved.  Your parents have tried to help and have decided that that kind of help isn’t helpful.  What you can offer may not be helpful either.  Your parents may be right that sibling has to hit bottom and build hir way up before ze can actually make use of any help you could give.  They may be wrong, but it’s not like their decision has to be a permanent one.  Time will provide more information.

We can also tell you from personal experience that it is seriously irritating to house a user.  Housing someone like #2 when she needs it is great!  She’s thankful and does chores both asked (without complaint) and unasked and is basically a pleasant person to be around, and she gets stuff done that she came to do and so on.  Housing someone who is used to being bailed out gets seriously annoying when he doesn’t hold up his end of what he’s supposed to be doing, complains that you don’t keep the a/c low enough (and that he’s the one who has to move his car morning and evening to comply with the HOA) even though he’s not paying rent, assumes he’s staying longer than you thought you had agreed (say, until the out-of-state house sells), and wastes all his money on things like fast food.  And you get to hear how his wife won’t move to town and get a job because then she’d lose free babysitting from her mom that you suspect the mom didn’t exactly agree to.  It is super stressful.  *koff*

You do probably have a familial obligation to keep your ears open and keep in contact with your parents to make sure that someone is keeping a long-distance eye on said sibling.  But you do not have an obligation to invite hir to live with you.  And if said sibling seems to have turned things around a bit and seems to be on a path where it’s clear that you can help in some way that doesn’t have the potential to majorly blow up, then it would be nice of you to help.  And if said sibling hits a true rock bottom, it would be nice of you to help your parents pay for attorney’s costs or counseling costs or for you to help said sibling get into whatever (government or nonprofit) programs or systems that might help.

So we can’t tell you what to do, but we can give you permission not to invite your sibling to stay with you when your parents have given many second and third and fourth chances that seem to have hurt rather than helped.

What say you, grumpy nation?  Got any better advice?

Before and after: Housing edition

Before:  big, cheap, stupid, and located in hell

After:  small, expensive, smart, nice and in walking distance to everything– restaurants, parks, shopping, grocery stores, public transportation, THE LIBRARY

I think Imma need these.  You put them under your bed frame legs to get your bed up higher so you can store more stuff under there.   I have some plastic drawers that I can stick under there.  I might get some cardboard ones for sweaters (so they can breathe). or I might put books under there. Or general stuffas! I feel like “random crap” should maybe go in there rather than valuable shelving. Good times, good times

Downsizing sucks.  It’s work. Boring and tedious.

That’s it.

I refuse to talk anymore about apartments. You don’t even know how burned out I am.  It’s MY apartment and even I’m tired of it.

I have one.  It’s nice.  Though I won’t really know how nice it is until we’ve lived there for a while.

The end.

Next up:   I refuse to talk about moving.

Ask the grumpies: Do I stay or do I go now, and if I go… then what?

Tired of being grumpy all the time asks:

I’m an assistant professor.  I found your blog when looking for advice on dealing with horrible departments.  I don’t like my job and have become a big ball of stress and unhappiness.  I had been looking forward to escaping during my unpaid summer months, but have been given a pile of service and administrative deadlines to deal with (still unpaid).  I’ve tried to find another job without any luck.  I may or may not get tenure.

When I read the post on one of the Grumpies quitting, I, quite literally, had the breath knocked out of me.  It had never occurred to me that quitting without a new job was something that people actually did. My husband is on board with my quitting; he even suggested it earlier this year.

I am hesitant to discuss this with anyone I know– if my department hears, I fear they will choose not to renew my contract.  I’d rather choose to leave than be forced to.  Do you have any advice, thoughts, questions I should consider as I contemplate this new plan?

We both actually have experience with this.  Not only did #1 quit recently, but #2’s husband quit a year ago (pre-tenure) without having any other employment lined up.

Neither quit happened overnight.  It’s hard to quit something that allows a lot of freedom and can’t fire you on only two weeks’ notice.  It’s even harder to give up the potential for complete job security.  Add to that the weird culture of academia where, at least when you’re new, leaving the academic track seems like failure (it isn’t!), and you get people sticking around probably longer than they should.

Sometimes sticking around works out– you can change things or go on to other jobs.  Sometimes you just need a year of leave (and you can often get a year of unpaid leave off the tenure clock to try things out– #2’s DH did that just by asking).  Sometimes it’s just delaying the inevitable.

We both know many other people who have made the jump.  All are happier for it.  We know people who were considering making the jump but with one thing or another they decided they could make it work where they were or they got a job offer at a different place and everything worked out.  They’re happier than they were too.  And we know people who are still working on making the decision.

#1’s experience of quitting was that, somewhat thankfully, it got bad enough that I felt good about leaving.  If it had been less bad, I might still be there.  Perhaps that’s where you are.  It took me a year to decide to quit.  Other people in my department also have exit plans (and every year we’ve been hiring to replace recent exits), which tells you how bad it is there.  My experience has been that quitting my job makes me feel amazingly good, but I don’t think I would have felt that way if I’d left pre-tenure.  I also have financial luxury to faff about until I figure out a new career.  And I might hate my next job, too!  (But at least it will PAY MORE.)

Also, consider this:  it’s likely you can outlast administrators.  However, consider the direction your school as a whole is going in (your department, college, university as a whole).  That was one among many clues that I didn’t belong in that particular place.  It was hard, hard, hard for me to give up an academic career– that is, until I was ready to do it.  Everyone has a different breaking point.  While you’re finding yours, save money like a fiend.  Try to stay sane.  Maybe start consulting on the side if you want to turn that into a new career.  This could be an opportunity to move to where you really want to be!  (Better work environment for husband, closer to family or the beach, lower cost of living, whatever.)

There must be something you love about academia to even go into it.  There are also things you hate.  Are they things you hate about the career, or this particular job, or some of both?  If you can figure out the particular *aspects* that are turning you into a ball of stress, you can look at adjusting them within this job or in a new job.

Things to consider:

Academia is just a job

Pre-tenure angst *read this book*.  If you feel trapped, this book will help you feel untrapped and will give you the tools you need to get to freedom, whether that includes staying where you are with an exit plan or making a big jump.  It will help you turn the risk of losing/leaving your job into a calculated risk, increasing the upside and decreasing the downside.

For the past three years or so, #2 has been talking about getting ready financially for her DH to quit, dealing with him being out of work, and adjusting to his new income, off and on in her monthly mortgage posts.   Savings and lowering monthly expenses create the luxury of being able to make a measured risk.

Are you a scanner?  As #1 says, think about what aspects of work make you happy and read up on what kinds of jobs fit those aspects.  For example, like Cloud, my husband is a scanner, so he likes shorter projects.  He likes working in groups.  He likes figuring out problems.  He needs mental stimulation.  He needs regular validation.  He’s currently getting all of these things in his current job, but wasn’t getting them in academia.

From a practical standpoint, it took #2’s husband several months to get consulting contracts and job interviews, but they all kind of hit at once, probably because of the way hiring cycles and budgets work.  He started lazily networking in May, then more seriously in September, and by November he was working in his new job.  (He did get an unsolicited offer to continue teaching off the tenure track at the university, but had no problem turning that down.)

If you quit, you’re not alone.  If you decide to stick it out, you’re not alone there either.  If you decide to stay for a while and work on a gradual exit plan, that actually seems pretty common.  You can make any choice into the right one, if you can find what fits well for you and your life.

Does that help?

And now, check the comments for thoughts from the Grumpy Nation.

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