My thinking has always been that if you sacrifice everything to your job, then you should not be surprised if you end up at 55 or 65, alone in a house with only a cat and nobody calling you.
The first thing I did when I finished my Ph.D. thesis is to go hunt for a wife. I put everything else aside: research, almost all job hunting efforts, teaching gigs… I often forget about this part of my life, but for almost 6 months, I was doing nothing else, but trying to start a relationship with a woman I’d love for the rest of my life. I found a great, beautiful, extremely smart lady (intelligence was the criteria for me) and we’ve been together almost 7 years now, and we have a great son (14 months old now). Maybe I take it for granted sometimes, but I really shouldn’t. The important point is that it didn’t happen by accident. I worked really hard to find the right woman, and it was my full time job for a little while.
The person I met worked as a freelancer over the Internet (and still does), so moving was not a big no-no: the truth is that you should expect to have to relocate when you hold a Ph.D. and want Ph.D.-level jobs. Sometimes you can have to relocate quite far as well (which I avoided). I also don’t think it is fair to ask someone else to drop everything because you have to move. So, if you just got a Ph.D., the hunt for love is actually more complicated.
I don’t know how many of my colleagues are single. I would estimate that among Ph.D. holders my age, around 30%, maybe only 20% of all of us are single…
Household Opera comments on The “single woman in a rural college town” blues and she cites an interesting account:
When I was not in the classroom, the silence became deafening and I became clinically depressed. I love to read and I love solitude, but like everyone, I need some social interaction.
My colleagues, on the other hand, often worked at home, and when they came into the department, they shut their doors and hibernated. Having spouses and families at home, they had no need to create social relationships at work. I found myself drifting with my only interaction being with my students or a clerk in the grocery store.
I don’t know how real this problem is for single Ph.D. holders. It seems like it can be a real problem, and apparently, more so for a women.
I also think that women may tend to forget too easily that their window of fertility closes around 40. Most woman are infertile at 45. And even if you have kids after 40, they stand a much higher chance of having all sorts of medical conditions. While a 40 years old man can start a family, a woman should think twice about it, assuming she even can anymore.
I think we should rethink the entire academia roadmap. People used to become university professors after getting a degree, maybe a master, then the Ph.D. became a requirement, and now, in many fields, you need at least 4 years of experience after the Ph.D. if you are to get close to a professorship. All the while, the expectations at every step become tougher and tougher. The trend is clear: as competition increases, we will hire older and older professors… and these people have sacrificed more and more for their work…
Note: I’m still very much sick. I talk with a funny, deep voice this morning.