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The Unknowns



The Professor and I are neck-deep in a shit storm of epic proportions. The Professor had two job interviews during the first and second weeks of February, each at his top employment choices. It seemed too good to be true. Like idiots we gleefully planned for when he received offers from both and how I would coach him to negotiate for better salary and/or benefits at his top choice. We started looking at housing options in the areas, found some great deals on modest mid-century homes and started day dreaming about the renovations we would tackle.

Our luck, we said, was finally changing. Not only were we finally pregnant, but he would finally have a job he was proud of and that would provide for his family. Things were looking up.

Today is March 4, a month after his first interview and three weeks after the second and still no offers. His current employment contract is up in May and he has chosen to not reapply for reasons I won’t delve into. Suffice to say, I fully support this choice. I also fully expected a job offer by now.

His contract is up in May.

Our baby is due at the end of June.

I only have unpaid maternity leave.

We can’t do any planning for our baby since we have absolutely no idea where we will be when he or she is born. Will we use cloth diapers or disposables? Well, that depends on if we live in NYC. On our income NYC means no washer and dryer. Do we want to splurge on that sweet bike trailer? Well, that depends on if we live somewhere like northern California where I know I’ll bike regularly. What color will we paint our nursery? Well, that depends on if we rent or buy. It depends on if the baby’s room is the size of a shoebox or not.

Baby shower invites go out tomorrow. With so much left up in the air still, I’m going to have to cull out our already minimal registry. No need to register for cloth diapers and supplies at this point. We’ll just take that full size crib off because we have no idea where we’ll be and when we’ll be there. That rocking chair I keep day dreaming about sitting in with my baby? Why bother – there is nowhere to put it in our current house and even if there was, what if there is nowhere to put it in our next home.

And then there is the nasty looming possibility of there being no job at the end of all of this searching. The Professor sent out just shy of 100 applications for tenure track and post doc positions. He had two face to face interviews. If there is no job come May we’ll have two really unattractive options – we stay in Lexington and I will provide for the house hold while he stays home with the baby, who I fought so damn hard for, and goes back to school (don’t even get me started on having to go BACK to school after finishing a Ph.D. over 13 years). We’ll have to live a very meager lifestyle since my salary is, um, lacking. Or, we move to a college town in Arizona where we can live in a trailer in the country on a piece of land his parents own and he can adjunct for exactly 1/3 what we currently make. This town is so small that an exhaustive online job search turned up ONE marketing job that was an hour away, part-time and paid $10 an hour.

Let me be clear: I love my husband. I know several of our mutual friends read this blog and I am in no way trying to put you in a foul place. I’m not bashing him (although I could vent plenty about things that drive me crazy!) but I am starting to freak out. This is not the life I had planned when I gave up my career to get married and have a family. I did not plan to end up in a trailer on his parents land living on 1/3 of what we live on today. When I fought through month after agonizing month of infertility treatments I did not intend to go back to work just a few weeks after having my baby and miss all those wonderful, amazing moments and milestones.

Those who have already experienced pregnancy after infertility and/or loss know how hard it can be to bond with your baby in utero. You know it takes a daily focused effort to bond, love and accept your pregnancy. Add in not being able to plan for the life you will have after birth and you have a damn near impossible situation.

The Professor says he will start applying to industry jobs, but I’m not feeling particularly optimistic. His area of expertise is not exactly high in demand. It could also take him a year to find an industry job, during which time I’ll have a baby and then return to work promptly so we’ll be able to make ends meet.

I’m starting to feel like I’m suffocating under all this weight and I’m having a hard time seeing my silver lining.



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  1. March 4, 2013

    Oh Belle I can only imagine how freaked out you must be at this point. To be pregnant and to not know where you will be in a few short months is really tough. Has the Professor called the two places he interviewed with to see why there is a hold up and to ask when they may be making a decision? It may be a good time to reiterate that it is (of course) his number 1 choice.

  2. March 4, 2013

    Ugh. The academic markets are so hard. I’m glad he’s applying to industry jobs. What are industry jobs for a mathematician?

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it all works out soon.

  3. Ginny #
    March 4, 2013

    Oh my goodness, I hate this situation for you both………………I can’t blame you for feeling stressed! I will hope pray and send energy to the universe that he gets one of his preferred jobs. Is it an absolute NO that he won’t stay at his current university job? I know they are not great to work for, I live near the university and know many current and former employees who are not happy there. But, that being said, it is a job in his field and in a place where you know your living arrangement.

    Keeping fingers crossed that something will come up for him asap!! You need to just bake that baby and look forward to his/her arrival!! xo

  4. March 4, 2013

    Has he tried That’s what my (employed math phd) sister recommended.

    Good luck!! Uncertainty is crazy hard, but it’ll work out.

  5. March 4, 2013

    Ugh belle – how stressful! I can’t imagine what must be running through your head right now. I hope the professor gets one of those jobs – and quick. I have to say, that being on the employer/hiring side of things, I have seen many times where it takes forever to offer jobs just because people can’t get their shit together and it has to go through so many approval steps. Hopefully that is where you are at right now and job offers will be coming shortly. How does he feel about a polite follow up call?

  6. Shelley #
    March 4, 2013

    I truly sympathize. Being able to plan a nursery, build a registry, and make plans for the future have been huge in helping me bond with Turtle. You’re right, it is a daily struggle to trust that this is happening, for real this time, after infertility and loss. No matter what stage of pregnancy you’re at.

    Is it possible to agree on a solid plan B, ie the best of the worst? It seems like staying put would be better than moving if he doesn’t wind up with a job right away, because then at least you could plan your nursery and other things about how you will parent. More knowns is always better than unknowns, so personally I’d go with that option over moving to the trailer in Arizona.

  7. March 4, 2013

    I could have written this post. I found out on Friday that the institution I’m currently working for did not include me on the schedule for the upcoming academic year because they assumed I would be in Boston pursuing a postdoc. That’s still the plan, but with me still waiting on decisions about fellowships (which is where my stipend will come from), and the fact that we’re having twins, it’s looking like I’ll be hitting the unemployment line come late summer, early fall. Not what I needed to hear after 6 yrs of graduate school followed by 2 years of teaching.

    So, I’m hoping for the same thing for you that I’m hoping for myself: some good news very soon. That instead of fighting with the system because you are expanding your family that somehow something comes through.

  8. March 4, 2013

    gosh, so hard to have this all hanging over your head! I know the academic job market is awful from personal experience, so I totally sympathize! really hoping that something comes clear for you guys soon.

  9. jak #
    March 4, 2013

    sorry in advance for the long comment, but i really, seriously, have been in your prof husband’s situation and want to throw out some ideas, which you’ve probably already thought of, but what the hell?

    i chose to go into consulting after my post doc instead of going the road of tenure track faculty or even research-only faculty and I FREAKIN LOVE IT. it is something different all the time and suits my ADD well. it is something he might also consider. marketing is another option (but not marketing to scorpions in the middle of the arizona desert). additionally, teaching jobs for dh may help supplement your income if you are forced to go back to work soon after chicken b-day (i also don’t have paid leave. kind of sucks eh?). can he write? i know he’s math/science type, but some of them can write also (some, haha). if he has skills there, perhaps lower-level positions in marketing firms where he’d be doing tasks under several different disciplines would make sense. post-doc is another option. i did 2 years, and the extra experience helped me land my current job. post-doc is not much money, but it’s better than nothing. and, it’s better than grad school income. you will feel rich, in fact. another idea as i alluded to above is non-tenure track faculty positions – research faculty. in med research this is possible, not sure about math but thought i’d mention it?

    being a dr. in something that is not as well-funded as say medical research is very hard, and going that route means you won’t always come out with the tenure track faculty position you thought you’d fall into after your post-doc. hell, even med research doesnt promise a great faculty position. and many of us had to shift our expectations from our “top choices” to “any choice”. but even “any choice” is not permanent. there will be time to change course in the future, for now the important thing is just to keep moving forward.

    oh – and another thought – check govt jobs. submitting to jobsgov is an impossible black hole, but try and tap some people who you might know who have govt jobs. even the epa, fda, atf, etc need math folks. although with this sequester crap and congress NOT DOING THEIR OWN JOBS, i’m not sure that’s the greatest idea right now…

    this has got to be a really tough time for you guys and i completely sympathize. i’ve been wondering how you’ve been holding it all in and not stressing out. please vent whenever you need to. i’m hoping like mad for you guys that something turns up.

  10. March 4, 2013

    Oh, Belle, I feel your financial pain… my husband and I are both self-employed, meaning no mat leave pay for me, and he’s still building his business and repaying loans, which means his salary is like $6,000 a year (and no, I did not forget a zero). We’re really going to have to rely on a line of credit and family support, whenever our future baby decides to make an appearance. But back to you guys — is it possible for the Professor to look into supply-teaching at a local high school while he applies for other, more lucrative positions in “real” academia? Or can he maybe apply to teach one course at one university and a different course at another university, at least to make ends meet? Or pursue other part-time options? I’m sure there are some temporary fixes here, and you will definitely NOT have to live in a trailer! Deep breaths, sweetie…

  11. Katie T. #
    March 4, 2013

    First, fingers crossed for you guys!! I’m confident he will get a call down the road! Second, this suggestion is not helpful toward the goal of a professor-ship, but if you find yourself in a pinch down the road, the hubby could look into teaching for a test prep company. I teach for a test-prep company as a second job on weekends, and it really pays pretty well. I teach SAT prep classes and do private tutoring and, if you get to this point (and fingers crossed that you won’t), I can make a referall for him. They also have full time positions, and he could likely get enough hours tutoring and teaching math (for all kind of different tests: SAT, ACT, GRE, AP subject tests, etc) to earn something while he looks around for other options.

    Like I said, fingers tripple-crossed for you guys, but let me know down the road if you want a referal to the company I teach for.

  12. March 4, 2013

    Oh, Belle. I just feel terrible for you in this situation. This is SO HARD. So many things depend on where you live, and HOW you live – and both of those things are totally unknown for you.

    Can the professor follow up on those jobs? I don’t usually encourage this, but I’ve noticed lately that employers are taking longer to make hiring decisions and you never know – maybe he’s still in the running and they put the positions on hold.

    I don’t know what to tell you other than to hang in there. My husband would tell you to not make decisions based on what could happen, make them based on today. But I am a planner and disagree with this line of thinking 😉

  13. March 4, 2013

    If your DH has a degree in math/science, he can pretty much guarantee himself a job at a community college. It’s not ideal, but I work at one. Teaching loads are big, but the pay is pretty good (compared to $10 an hour) and he’s still in academics, so he can publish/research on the side and still apply for the big jobs at the 4-year schools.

  14. March 4, 2013

    Oh Belle… Hubs is in the EXACT same position as the Professor come May. He has a one year appointment that is ending, and has had 0 interviews (partly because we cannot leave LA due to my job). I will be the sole breadwinner come Fall. I wouldnt give up hope yet on his interviews… but I can imagine the sheer stress of it all is nuts. Sorry the academic world sucks so badly. Last year, Hubs sent out 150 resumes for 1 interview and no offers. Im impressed the Prof got 2 interviews! Thats a massive accomplishment in this market. Coul he adjunct next year in KY?

  15. March 4, 2013

    Oh man. My hubby only recently found a job and so I can relate to the anxiety – we wouldn’t have been able to live on my salary even if he stayed home, and I make decent money! I was mad too bc after all wed been through I didn’t want to have to return full time. The point is I feel you – not being able to plan is stressful and not knowing what the figure holds sucks too. Fingers crossed he finds something, soon

  16. 35life #
    March 4, 2013

    I’m so sorry you are going through this right now. I’ve seen so many couples in fear wondering how things will turn out and every single one I know, made it work. They didn’t know how or what the plan was, but it always finds a way of working out. It’s just so hard to see it that way when everything feels like such an unknown. My fingers are crossed for you, I can only imagine how frustrating it is.

  17. March 4, 2013

    If it’s any comfort at all, it seems you’re not alone in facing the prospect of being the sole breadwinner after pregnancy. My husband still isn’t legal to work in Canada and we don’t know when he will be, so I’ll be cutting my mat leave short to go back to earning money for us. It definitely stinks, especially when you’ve always dreamed of having more time to bond with and care for your baby.

    I’m hoping that the professor will still hear some positive news from his interviews. Sometimes things move at a snail’s pace in the academic world. We’ve had librarian searches that have gone on FOREVER before they made a decision and an offer. Hang in there. *hugs*

  18. Infertility Can Suck It #
    March 5, 2013

    Oh girl, I feel your pain!! With our military life, everything is always “up in the air” until it actually happens. It’s terrible to live with so many unknowns, especially when it comes to your financial security. l can only speak from our experiences, but even when things have been at their darkest (like financially terrifying and mountains of debt) we came through the other side. Sometimes it was painful, but we still have great memories from that time as well. Plus, it taught us how little we really needed to get by and that that pendulum EVENTUALLY (3 years later) swung back in our direction. I found that speaking to friends about it really made me fell better. So many people have dealt with similar situations and sometimes it’s just great to commiserate and realize you’re not alone. You never know when someone may have the perfect connection sitting in their back pocket! Sending many positive thoughts your way that a great solution presents itself long before your little one arrives! Please keep us posted!!

  19. March 5, 2013

    It’s so impossible to plan for the future with so many unknowns 😦 And planning is basically all you want to do right now, I’m sure – I think planning is what nesting is all about. And you can’t!

    My husband also has a PhD and is looking at industry jobs… I don’t know what industry your husband is in but NY has a growing tech scene. Maybe he could talk to some recruiters preemptively, see what the climate for his industry is. But it sounds like he doesn’t really want an industry job, which makes things tough, because from my understanding the academic world is tight now too. 😦

  20. March 5, 2013

    Oh Belle, what an incredible stressful situation. I have no clever ideas but I’m so glad you have got some advice from the ladies above, I truly hope some of it can help and that you will have an answer to what/where is next very soon.

  21. March 5, 2013

    I’m so sorry belle, I know you must be pretty scared about what the future holds. Ill hold on to optimism and my own dream of you guys moving near by. No matter what, when that baby comes nothing else will matter. Just do everything you CAN do to prepare. We registered on amazon and returning stuff we ended up not using/wanting was extremely easy. Just an idea! Xoxo

  22. karaleen #
    March 5, 2013

    Oh Belle…I’m so sorry to hear you have this additional stress. I totally know what you mean about bonding with your baby in utero after infertility and loss. I struggled there too and those first weeks at home with my baby were crucial. I really do hope you get that…..And I will send out Northern CA vibes too since I live here and would love to see you become a Californian…..with your love of fitness and the outdoors and natural/organic lifestyle….you will fit right in.

    Hugs girl. I really really hope it all falls into place and this worry is put behind you.

  23. March 6, 2013

    We’re in a similar situation. Our first FET is tomorrow, and, while I really hope it works, I’m also terrified that I’ll get pregnant and Hubby still won’t have a job. He’s been looking for over four years (including industry jobs in the last 6-7 months) and teaching adjunct in the meantime, which, as you know, earns him an insultingly low salary. I work for a non-profit, so my salary isn’t huge, either. I hope, for both our sakes, the academic job market improves soon!

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