Visiting and Family
Here is a question for academic families. How does an extended visiting gig work when there’s a family?
Some background and context: This is the time of year during which I’m starting to receive notices of interesting and professionally valuable visiting positions that I can apply for. Singapore, Hong Kong, and Kyoto all show up as interesting possibilities, and there are probably others around if I were to look very hard (dream gig: Visiting Canterbury Fellowship at Canterbury University).
Now if I’m going to go to Asia to do research for a long time, I’m going to want to bring the family with me. And herein lies the problem. My family quite naturally does not consider my own professional development to be a personally valuable thing. JMP works, and she has her friends here in Ithaca, and whatever the costs of living in the middle of nowhere, there’s no doubting that we’ve found it a great place for making friends with other young families.
Now, of course little EP and his soon-to-arrive baby sister can tough it out in foreign schools for a couple months. It’d be good for them, no doubt, to learn some Japanese or Cantonese in the playground. And I dream of taking EP to have his first tonkotsu ramen and banana leaf rice and for tea at the Peninsula. But JMP? How is it fair to uproot her from her work and her social network so that I can go develop professionally? There’s just about nothing, I think, worse than sitting in an apartment, halfway across the world from your friends, alone except for a toddler. I felt bad enough in Canberra for five weeks. JMP has never complained, not once, because she’s a superhero. But me, I think about it a lot, especially when she asks me what happened at work today and I say “well, you know, there’s this dynamite visiting scheme at ARI that just came up and….”
So I want to know, academic families. How do you do it? What’s the secret? Or maybe is there no secret: is the idea just that being an academic spouse is like being a military spouse, so someone’s career and social life are inevitably forced to play second fiddle and that’s just one of the trials that come with the job? I’d like to know.
PS: I think that this counts as mommy blogging. I always found that term a bit gender-normative, frankly.