Friday, May 27, 2016

Life / Job / Family

[I was first ready to post this 2 weeks ago, but I've been putting it off. The opening line change from "earlier this week," to "last week," to now "a few weeks ago." But I finally decided I should post this. So here it goes.]

A few weeks ago, I got this e-mail from the University of Minnesota:

Thank you for your application for the position of Assistant Professor of Photography at the University of Minnesota. I am writing to let you know the search has been closed and the position was not filled.

I assumed I didn't get the job a while back, because I applied 6 months ago. I would have been a good fit, and I thought I had a fighting chance based on my 70 or so college courses that I've taught. But this is extra depressing because the position is still open. I would be 100% OK with a letter that basically said "you didn't get the job because we found someone better," but a letter that says "you MAY have been the best, but even you're not good enough for us" is more disheartening.

This would have been quite close to my dream job. It was a tenured track position at a great institution. My old position at the College of Visual Arts (CVA) before it shut down 3 years ago was also quite close to my dream job: I was teaching 6 classes/year (between the Photo and the Foundation Departments) and I was managing the darkrooms (a B&W lab, color lab, alternative processes lab, digital darkroom, photo studio, and a check-out window open 60 hours/week).

After CVA closed down, I applied for a "tech" position at another local art college that would have been horrible hours for our family: afternoons and evenings 4 days/week, no summers off, with basically the same pay I'm getting now at Hamline working 2 days a week for two 16-week semesters each year. (I applied for this before I was offered my current position where I'm teaching all the photo classes offered at Hamline.) In the end, it was a very good thing that I did NOT get that tech position. I wouldn't be happy NOT teaching and working much longer hours for similar pay. And my family would have suffered.

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But the fact of the matter is that I'm quite happy teaching 3 classes/year as an adjunct faculty at Hamline University, which is what I'm currently doing. It's only 2 days/week, and it has crappy (standard) adjunct pay. But it suits our family well right now. The other 3 days/week I'm home with my 2 young boys, and I have all summer with them, along with 6 weeks around Christmas. I get to "get out of the house" and nurture my love for teaching, but it's far from the stress of a full-time position.

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Last fall, my wife and I were at a friend's wedding where we saw (and sat with) a lot of old familiar faces from CVA, and I was asked about looking for a full time position. I said I was looking, but that there's only so many full time photography positions in the Cities. My wife interjected in a way I didn't quite expect. She said something like "We don't need him working full-time. I really like that he's home a lot more with the boys. It keeps a lot of my stress down. We've got a good thing going right now, and I wouldn't mind keeping it that way!"

Her comments were sweet, and they forced me to step back and think.

Do I WANT a full time position? Well... yes... but I also love being able to stay home with my boys much more than most dads.

Does my family need me to be working full-time? Heck no. My wife is currently making about 10x as much as me, and we're getting by just fine. Sure, we would have probably traveled more in the last 3 years had I still been working full-time, but we are far from suffering.

I came to realize 2 things (that - I'm ashamed to admit - are both ego related):

ONE: I wanted a full-time position so that I'd have the TITLE of having a full-time job. It's more prestigious than being "just" an adjunct. It was a little harder than I thought it would be to go back to being an adjunct after being full-time.

TWO: Something feels really lame about being a part-time stay-at-home dad. But that doesn't mean I SHOULDN'T be a stay-at-home dad. It's just more accepted to be a stay-at-home mom. Dads need to work. Dads need to provide. I know it's 2016, but I'm still worried about what other people think of our situation. And I need to stop that.

I loved my full-time position at CVA, and I'd love to be full-time at another college/university again in the future. But maybe right now isn't the best time. My little guy just turned 2, and life is so much easier when I can schedule things like doctor's appointments, speech therapy, outings to Grandma's house, etc, etc, on the days I'm home with the boys. Not to mention that I get to be a lot more present with them than most parents get to be. We're very lucky.

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Here's my (obvious) fear. Right now, my current balance of teaching time and family time is excellent. But once the boys are both in elementary school, there's no good reason for me to be home as much. Teaching positions don't just drop out of the sky, so I need to keep my eyes open for good opportunities and jump on them even if it might be a little premature (like this position that didn't work out for me at the University - ideally, that'd come back around in 4 years or so).

And yes, I'm aware this struggle isn't specific for me. This is what every stay-at-home parent who wants to have a life/job outside of the house has gone through as his/her kids have gotten older. It's not a new struggle. It's just new to me.

In the meantime, things are pretty good the way they are. You can follow along on my adventures with the boys on Instagram. Our summer is already filling up with lots of big plans. Life is grand.



[crossposted from Facebook]
Steve, this hits close to home for us. I work full time and my husband is a full-time stay at home dad. He has been since our first child was born (he's now 9 1/2). Before that, he had worked full time as a network engineer, and then after a cross-country move for my training, he'd been finishing his bachelor's degree.

We began the kids/stay-at-home-dad project assuming he'd go back to work, probably in a different field (health care?), once the kids were in school or whenever it seemed right.

Since then, however, a few things have become evident:

1. He's good at this stay at home parent thing. Probably better at it than I am. He's patient, low-key, understands the kids, and is content if his achievements for the day are "keeping the kids alive", "going to the library", and "cooking dinner."

2. For me, as a full-time physician and associate professor at the medical school, having a stay at home spouse has been nothing short of life changing. I can go to work when I need to, stay late when I need to, and deal with unexpected evening calls and events, all knowing that our kids are with the person who loves then the most in the world. It affords me incredible freedom and flexibility. It makes me a better doctor and teacher (and, honestly, probably a better parent). It's been said that the single most powerful determinant of whether a woman in academia will gain tenure is whether she has a stay at home spouse. I totally believe that. It's an unbelievable force multiplier.

3. The kids are now in school. It's STILL amazing and enabling and awesome to have him at home.

4. It's becoming increasingly clear that, financially and personally, he actually doesn't have to go back to work EVER. Even after the kids are out of the house. We're both playing with that idea. I think it would be okay. His identity and ego don't depend on his (out of the house) job. Mine don't depend on it. Our finances are okay without it. If his idea of a good time is cooking me dinner, maintaining the house, and reading every book in the library, I'm good with that.


You may not know this, but my Mr. Tea was a stay at home dad. Our sons are now in their 20's.

I understand and can relate to YOU and to your wife. Mr. Tea struggled with the same things.

Mr. Tea has been and always will be better with kids than I am. It was a natural fit for him. There were times that it was hard for him to embrace.

Now, our sons talk about all the awesome things they did with their dad when they were younger. He had a bigger positive impact on them than anyone or anything else. They can't remember what they got for Christmas in 2000, but they remember the day they went sledding, and the sled got going too fast, and Mr. Tea chased the sled down the hill to save them. :)

Your honesty is appreciated, and many many other men deal with the exact same feelings.

(P.S.-I think it's crazy that we are both still blogging after all these years). :)


Growing up, my mam went from being a secondary (high) school teacher, to a college teacher to a university lecturer to the president of a university. She did this while having six children - three of whom died between childbirth and the age of two.

My father was also a secondary teacher but, unlike my mother, was content in his job and considered life holistically. He dropped us off and picked us up from school, he gardened and read lots of novels, he cleaned our whole house (and reheated the meals my mother put in the freezer during weekend cooking binges), and he published photographs and theological writing in newspapers for years.

Our family was certainly controversial in conservative, Catholic Ireland for its seemingly reversed gender roles. However, my parents are happy with the roles they chose. The path my father took allowed him to follow pursuits that really enlivened him and I think it truly made him the great teacher that he was. At his retirement party so many people spoke of how complete a vocation he found in skill and love for teaching, but it was so enhanced in his continued work with our family and in publishing.

Whatever path you follow, the vocation you clearly display for family life and teaching will hopefully (surely!) grant you and your family great contentment in the long run.

My father is a writer foremost, and a longstanding enthusiastic photographer second, but I hope that as a photographer you will also consider your great skill for writing alongside your other focuses as you pursue unfolding paths in the coming years.

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