Family Matters

Yesterday was my first day back in the lab after a much needed break. My day started out just like any other. I overslept and when I arrived in lab, I spent time checking Facebook, Twitter, and countless other sites before even thinking about work. My advisor sent an email to everyone asking to meet with us later in the afternoon. It was the first day back in the lab for most of us, so why wouldn’t we have a meeting?

Me and one of my labmates (one of my labmates and I?) were the first to arrive in the conference room, so our advisor asked us how our break went and told us about what he did during his time off. We were sharing stories and cracking jokes. Again, a pretty normal day. Once everyone arrived, the meeting began. I got my notebook & pencil out and was ready to participate in a discussion on where everyone’s research was at, the goals that we have as a lab for the coming semester, and how the new semester would affect lab schedules. But instead our advisor told us that him and his wife were getting a divorce.

After he said it, I kept waiting for him to tell us it was a joke. He didn’t.

My advisor is pretty young for a guy who heads his own lab. I’ve only interacted with him and his wife a few times, but from what I saw they seemed great together. Of course, seeing them interact in public a few times doesn’t mean I knew how they interacted in their private life, but it was still a shock. My life has, for the most part, been void of divorces. I have a couple of relatives who’ve gotten divorces and some of my friends’ parents are separated, but most of those happened either when I wasn’t in the picture or when I was younger. This is the first time in my adult life that someone who I interact with often is filing for divorce. It really caught me off guard.

On top of that, I also kinda saw my advisor’s marriage, or what I thought it was, as a view of what my marriage would be like. And while his career wasn’t the sole reason for the divorce, it was a contributing factor. I have a long way to go before I graduate, but my goal is to stay in academia, teach, and run a research lab like my advisor. It’s a job that requires early days, late nights, and constant attention. It’s a very demanding career and one that I see myself on the path to, but I don’t want it to consume me to the point where I neglect my family. As if that wasn’t sad and discouraging enough, one of my married labmates told me that they’ve been having some trouble in their young marriage as well. *sigh*

I’m not going to worry about what my marriage may or may not be at this point. Hell, I don’t even have a girlfriend. I have too many more pressing matters to attend to right now. But the possibility of my career getting in the way of my marriage isn’t something that I thought about up until today. I don’t want that to happen. I want to be able to leave my work at work and spend time at home with my wife & kids (yeah, one isn’t enough). I want to find that balance between pushing my career to the next level and giving my family the husband/father that they need. I want to make sure I don’t lose sight of what’s truly important. God willing, I won’t have to go through what my advisor currently is.

For those of you who aren’t married yet, is this something you’ve thought about? Ever worry about the delicate balance that you’ll have to find between your family and a demanding job? Any married folk out there who’ve been successful or unsuccessful in this regard? We could always use some advice.

-TDA

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18 thoughts on “Family Matters

  1. Good post. I work in the legal field so divorce isn’t shocking to me. I should say that it isn’t shocking until it started happening to my best friend. As common as folks say divorce is, it seldom happens to people in my circle.

    I have a rule that I purposely don’t care about other folks relationships, except for mine. When my friend’s issues arose I knowingly violated this rule. It’s hard listening to one of your people tell you that his home life has fallen apart. It’s also hard to hear the reasons why. With my friend and his wife it’s even worse because I know her and like her.

    I’ve never been married so I just refrain from giving advice but I do listen when my boy talks just to keep his head on straight. (Or as straight as a young black male from SC can be.) I also refrain from giving advice because I’m only hearing one side of the issue.

    I was onced asked by my girlfriend if my friend’s marriage woes were making me hesistant when it came to taking the next step in our relationship and I told her no. I can’t or won’t sit back and keep score on my friend’s married lives and let that dictate what I want. As for finding the balance between work, romance, and domestic bliss I just think that this situation is another part of marriage that must be constantly worked on. Some careers are hard on marriage (military, police, golf, etc.) but underneath all of the job demands both members of that union have to want what they have to work. That’s the attitude I will take into my marriage when that day comes.

    • “As for finding the balance between work, romance, and domestic bliss I just think that this situation is another part of marriage that must be constantly worked on.”

      Agreed. Marriage is always going to be a work-in-progress. Both members have to adapt and work at it because there will always be something ready to tear it apart. It just took this event for me to start thinking about how my career may affect it.

  2. dude let me tell you. a career in academia is not conducive to a great marriage. too much time is spent in the lab, writing grants, etc. my advisor is about 36 and she runs her own laboratory. she’s a fairly attractive young black woman who pulls in about 6 figures but she doesn’t even have a boyfriend and from what i can tell she isn’t looking for one. it’s kind of sad if you ask me. to be so immersed in your career that you don’t have time for anything else. she hardly ever vacations either. smh

    i know one thing. my career will not define who i am as a person. i WILL have a life outside the laboratory or courtroom (haven’t decided which path i want to follow). my happiness and what defines me will have a lot more to do with what i can do for my family than what i can do for my company/institution. in the end if you quit your job or get fired i promise life will go on as usual. you just can’t quit being a father or husband (well maybe a husband but i wouldn’t want to).

    • This is what scares me. It’s hard for this job to not become your life. I still have a lot of time before I graduate and there’s no telling what my experiences will pull me towards by that time, but a career in academia is what it’s looking like. All the time and energy that it requires is going to be a obstacle that I have to face once I have a family.

      In the end, I gotta put my family first. My career matters, but not if my family is destroyed in the process.

      • *sigh* As a son whose dad is a complete stranger because he devoted himself to his career (and other things), I vowed never to do this. My sisters are telling me that I am starting to do this, and it worries me. Seeing how cutthroat research is, I am seriously worried about what’s in store for me and my future family. And I agree. I’m just going to have to put out less papers, take a longer track to tenure, whatever, to maintain my family as first. I’m not letting this mess kill me.

  3. now you KNOW this is something i think about a lot. not so much divorce, but how i (as a single woman who wants to be a working professional, a wife and a mother) will balance my work and family life. because i dont want to give up one for the other either way. i want to be able to have a HAPPY and FULFILLING family life…. while i work too.

    sadly, i dont think a lot of couples talk about all these work/family life details before they get married. i think often times ppl fall in love (at a fairly young age) and think that love will hold them through until the end. but marriage is sooooo much more than feelings. its about socioeconomics too! cant forget about that or its going to become a huge issue sooner or later.

    whoever i end up marrying (God willing that i actually DO get married), i want us to be on the same page about our career goals and have a plan on how we are going to accomplish them and make sure our family doesnt suffer as a result. i dont want to be miserable on any level for the sake of tying the knot.

    • “sadly, i dont think a lot of couples talk about all these work/family life details before they get married”

      I agree that this is a very significant issue that people often don’t consider until it’s too late. Love is great and cute and candy-coated raindrops, but a marriage is more than that. There’s gotta be an understanding of what directions both members want to head in regarding their careers and how that will ultimately affect their home, as well as an understanding that no matter what the plan may be, they’re both going to have to adapt to whatever comes up.

  4. I’m in no way near marriage (I’m not even in a relationship yet), but its definitely something I think about in my own career and in the career of my future husband…I come from divorced parents, and I don’t want the same for my married life. I know its a struggle to find the balance between work and home, and the unfortunate situation you just described is far too often what happens, and the more important aspect of the two (family) is what ends up suffering the most. I hope that whoever my husband is and I can work out some sort of arrangement that works best to suit our family…I wish all the best for your advisor and his family; I know its about to be a tough road ahead.

      • Yeah you don’t seem the type to have a husband…but like Gem said, people don’t talk about a lot before they get married, and love is not the only thing that keeps successful marriages afloat…hopefully those of us that haven’t taken the plunge yet will have these types of conversations when we are ready to get married…

  5. I didn’t know that you had a blog TDA! Great post to start on. I like your style.

    It speaks to how much time ya’ll spend together that your Adviser called a meeting to share this very personal news. I kept waiting for you to crack a joke about how inappropriate a meeting topic that was…guess not…

    Like Wu & you (note to self: great buddy sitcom name) already said, the marriage of any two people will be hard and require much work…the fact that you are aware of this and are thinking of solutions to possible problems before you even have a Mrs. in mind, bodes well for the survival rate of your potential marriage and the huddled masses of little damn Africans.

  6. “Me and one of my labmates (one of my labmates and I?) were the first to arrive in the conference room, so our advisor asked us how our break went and told us about what he did during his time off.”

    The second one.

    “But instead our advisor told us that him and his wife were getting a divorce.

    After he said it, I kept waiting for him to tell us it was a joke. He didn’t.”

    WOW, right after the holidays? Heavy.

    And yeah, like you, I haven’t experienced seeing divorce in my family as an adult either. Hell, I was a baby when my parents decided to. There were major issues involved (my dad’s alcoholism), but I never felt the regular repercussions that kids normally experience. I was way too young to remember my parents fighting, and after they divorced, they were congenial as ever (hell, my dad often cited my mom as a “one that got away” type lady and my mom STAYS telling me that “your dad is the reason why I can’t ever take less than the best in a man. he set the bar HIGH.”).

    But yeah, in my quest to become a screenwriter, I do wonder how that would factor in a relationship, let alone marriage. I always say I want a serious relationship, but I do plan to move to the west coast in the near future so how exactly would that factor?

    And it IS interesting how different public appearances are so different from private ones when it comes to marriage. Some folks are EXTRA good at putting up that front. And sometimes it’s not just for the people around them, it’s for themselves. :\

    • The dynamic that your mom and dad have is very interesting and is something that I think happens more often than people think.

      “And it IS interesting how different public appearances are so different from private ones when it comes to marriage. Some folks are EXTRA good at putting up that front. And sometimes it’s not just for the people around them, it’s for themselves.”

      Yup. I definitely agree with that last part.

  7. Hello! I am a frequent lurker on VSB and a few other blogs and decided to come out of of hiding on this one. I will be starting a grad programin the fall in Public Health/ Medical Anthropology and it will consume me. I am also thinking of starting an event planning business in a few years. I am often wonder how this will effect my personal life. I am in a long distance relationship (will be moving to his city for school so not long diatance for very much longer) with a man who is very supportive of my dreams, however he wants to have kids and get married in the next few years. With all that I have planned, I am not sure how I will balance it all. Where is the line drawn? How do we find a balance? Hmmm all advice shall be considered

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