Do family understand

posted
05-Mar-17, 01:26
edited about 27 seconds later
by BevCha
Avatar for BevCha
posted about 2 years ago
Hi everyone
A bit off topic here but I wondered if anyone can relate?
Does anyone find that their family just doesn't get it? A bit of background on me, a chemistry based phd then two fellowships working at universities in Europe (I'm British and did my PhD in uk). I have a long term relationship but don't want marriage or children - although I appreciate and respect that many scientists/postgrads/researchers do! My issue though is my family don't seem to see what I do as a career, it's almost that they think I'm a perpetual student. I'm often asked when I'm going to settle down...get a real job, it like I'm seen as some peter pan character that never grew up (although I'm 34).
I just wondered if anyone else has experienced this and how it made you feel? Did you have any responses to such questions from family and friends?

Thanks everyone
posted
05-Mar-17, 11:07
Avatar for butterfly20
posted about 2 years ago
Yes I had exactly the same experience and did write a post myself about similar experiences. what bothered me was people assuming I am always free because I work from home. To be honest I just stopped trying to explain and found that turning down invitations and requests for help due to work sent out a clearer message. I also found that my parents became a lot more supportive towards the end when they saw how stressful it is and have made it clear how proud they are.
Sorry I don't have more constructive advice. For me I just think unless you've done a PhD you'll never understand how it is.
posted
05-Mar-17, 21:29
Avatar for fallenonion
posted about 2 years ago
Yep, I'm a similar age to you. Did undergrad degree over ten years ago and I think my family always assumed (wished!) I'd stop there and that would be the end of it. They complained loudly when I took a study year abroad. Then despaired again when I left a secure but dull public sector marketing job after two years to do my first post grad. Scratched their heads when I was back at uni again a few years later doing a research masters (part time, while working full time) Now confounded further as I'm about to embark on a professional doctorate. (Currently I work in FE, but work with my local uni in the education department and long term, that's where I want to be). I think it's tough, and sometimes it effects my self-belief knowing that my family ultimately think I'm pursuing something that's 'not for the likes of me' (which is their attitude - very working class). But I've learned to live with it (getting a distinction and recommendation for,doctoral study from my Masters supervisor helped). And knowing my CV is getting better and better now and it's just a final (massive) hurdle to achieve my goal. Some people just don't get it, or see the appeal, I guess.
posted
06-Mar-17, 19:11
edited about 4 minutes later
by Dunham
Avatar for Dunham
posted about 2 years ago
Quote From BevCha:
Hi everyone
A bit off topic here but I wondered if anyone can relate?
Does anyone find that their family just doesn't get it? A bit of background on me, a chemistry based phd then two fellowships working at universities in Europe (I'm British and did my PhD in uk). I have a long term relationship but don't want marriage or children - although I appreciate and respect that many scientists/postgrads/researchers do! My issue though is my family don't seem to see what I do as a career, it's almost that they think I'm a perpetual student. I'm often asked when I'm going to settle down...get a real job, it like I'm seen as some peter pan character that never grew up (although I'm 34).
I just wondered if anyone else has experienced this and how it made you feel? Did you have any responses to such questions from family and friends?

Thanks everyone


Job-wise, I think it goes on until you have a permanent position. PostDocs and PhD positions are temporary, so some people, at least subconsciously, don't see them as real jobs but rather a continuation of your studies. Relocating to different countries every two years is also not really signaling stability. I can somehow understand that, especially when you grew up totally different.
The kids-thing goes on until you reach an age where it gets rather unlikely that you become a parent. A friend of my mom said she didn't want to have kids already when she was 20 years old and people said she would change her mind. They said that when she was 25, 30 and 35 as well. They thought the biological clock would kick in at some point and I think she got the kids-question until she was mid 40. And even then it didn't really stop but changed to a little bit of pity (especially when it's an event with a lot of parents and children...you must be heartbroken!) or even reproaches to be selfish from sides of the grandparents. Of course it depends on the family. Some families don't say anything as long as you are happy, others make their peace with it quite fast and some others never stop to bug you. However, in their defense one has to give them that a lot of people in fact change their mind on having kids in their 30s, so I understand if the parents are maybe still hoping ;)
I guess everything that is not absolutely common is strange to many people. Someone in my old department once said that his parents frequently complained that he is not moving to a more quiet neighborhood in a nice house. They preferred to live in a rented apartment in the city. He was married and had two kids, but still, this one tiny detail seemed to upset the parents :D
posted
07-Mar-17, 09:04
Avatar for blueisthecolour
posted about 2 years ago
I've had a slightly different experience:

When I finished my BA at 20 my family were then expecting me to walk straight into a 'decent' job - it would be a bit of an understatement to say that they had unrealistic expectations of my career options. So after about 3 years of doing general admin temping they were very frustrated that I wasn't "using my degree" or on some 'proper' career path. As the years went on my jobs got a bit better (to the extent that I was able to buy a house with a government scheme) but my family still thought that I was wasting my potential. I suppose it didn't help that I never showed any signs of settling down with anyone.

So roll on 14 years and I have now decided to give up my job and house to return to uni to do my Masters. I was expecting my family to be opposed to the idea but they are all extremely supportive, almost relieved even. I think they've realized that after all these years of me trying to make it work that I'm never going to be content or successful in a generic office career. Their expectation have been readjusted and now just want me to do whatever I'm going to be happy with.
posted
04-Mar-19, 23:22
edited about 2 seconds later
Avatar for yogi2019
posted about 2 months ago
Yep, I've a sibling with this exact problem right now. They have their PhD and applying to schools while trying to publish articles in journals. Family members keep acting like the sibling can just pick up and do favors for the family, which is odd when you realize what they are up against, time-wise. I think it comes down to what people think you are doing and what you are actually doing...in this case my sibling is writing all day and working towards a goal, but people who work 9-5 will never get that. I would try to find a way to frame up the issue for your nonacademic family members and establish clear boundaries about what you're up for discussing and what they need to stop tee-ing up for discussion. I think it helps some of our family to compare academia to being a professional writer: just because someone isn't running back and forth between meetings doesn't mean it's not work. For scientists, I imagine another frame would be suitable for explaining to family that one has a job; one likes it; and one is required to work just as hard running experiments in a lab setting as someone with a traditional non-academic job. But science or humanities, you never really win this battle (academics vs. non). At the end of the day, people either get what you do for a living or they don't and while I'm sure the "grass is always greener" people outside academia have the same problems explaining their life to family (artists, musicians, etc.). My advice for all professionals: keep your boundaries, be polite, and tweak their conceptualization of the issue if/when you can.
posted
05-Mar-19, 12:24
edited about 1 minute later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
I have a zero tolerance policy to this sort of thing.
It's my life. My choices. People can either accept it or move on but I'm not interested in asking permission from anyone or justifying my choices to anyone other than my wife (and to be fair not to her either although she never hassles me over what I am doing).
It is incredible how many people feel they have the right to validate/critique the lifestyles of others and that includes parents.
My parents have built up a habit of sounding disappointed throughout my career and so now they don't get any information form me at all.
Just wondering what my daughter would say if I tried to pester her about getting a "real" job rather than pursuing what makes her happy :-D
If you love someone enough, you'll take pleasure in seeing them happy in their own world.
posted
06-Mar-19, 18:03
Avatar for yogi2019
posted about 2 months ago
I got judged all the time for having a "real job" which consumed my life for a decade and made me miserable. No one understood that either, and I'm sure they won't understand a job in academia/research.

It helps me to remember that ultimately for people who judge, it's really never about you, it's about them. They have bitterness or justification for why they chose their path and you're lifestyle contradicts it. You'll never win them over, so you'll have to keep them at arms length. If it's not your job, it'll be something else (how you raise your kids, spend your money, what you eat, who knows!).

A friend told me that caring people in your life feel joy when you feel joy for your accomplishments (instead of minimizing them) and feel pain when you are struggling (instead of using it as a proof to judge---in this case telling you to get a "real job").

There's always a good reason for uncaring people to judge you, but good people support you even when they don't understand what you do. Families don't always get it, but they don't need to. They just need to respect boundaries and love unconditionally.

Sidenote: - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I saw an uncle last spring and told him I was applying to grad schools this year and he said something brisk like, "when are you and your siblings going to get real jobs? Haven't you been in school long enough?", to which I had to remind him that I'd been working for 8 years and 'waiting' to go back to school for some time. Why waste my breath on an uncle that doesn't even remember who I am?

And when I do get my degree and my . . . ahem "fake job?" I guess, I'll probably have to remind the same uncle of all the academic researchers that made his "real job" and lifestyle possible ;)
posted
07-Mar-19, 04:14
edited about 1 minute later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 months ago
I read an article by Mary Portas who said that during your life you should surround yourself with Radiators and avoid Drains like the plague.
Great advice. Family members should never be allowed to be exempt from this rule.
Life is tough enough without carrying other people's baggage from their own unfulfilled dreams on your shoulders.
posted
08-Mar-19, 14:27
Avatar for Dr_Crabby
posted about 2 months ago
I can absolutely relate - my Gran asked me recently "have you finished yet, when can I start telling people I'm proud because we have a Dr in the family?" Apparently it's frowned upon to tell an elderly lady to F off lol.

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