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.