I've been thinking about this topic ever since Chris and I got engaged, but especially this week, since I've started receiving feedback on my future PhD. I've discovered something really interesting: there are quite a few people who do not know how to "place" me, because I'm not the stereotypical "I'm getting married this summer" girl. What baffles a few people I know (outside of the University setting mostly, except for a couple of peculiar examples) is the fact that I'm planning on both getting married and getting a doctorate. All of this has caused some musing. (Warning: I get wordy, this time!)
Now, I feel really supported in these decisions. Don't get me wrong. And I don't feel insecure about them. I've committed my life plans to God, and I really feel like He's been guiding Chris and me through all of this. And I'm much more traditional in my plans for future children than you'd think: I plan on staying home with them, and just working as a sessional (a few hours a week) rather than taking on the prof responsibilities of a tenure-track position. I'll wait until my future children are older before I take on any more responsibilities, but it's a lot easier to get my PhD right out of my MA. I want to always make sure I have a balanced life, and I'm not really a "sacrifice everything else" ambitious kind of person.
The moral of all that: I'm rather traditional in my gender roles, and I've planned my life accordingly.
But, there are some out there (always women -- I'm sure there are men who think this way, but in this age, I don't know a male who would voice this kind of point of view) who don't understand why I'd go to all the effort of getting a doctorate if I'm getting married.
Questions and responses my parents have encountered:
(In response to hearing my plans:) "But she's getting married!"
"Shouldn't she go and just be wherever her husband's going to be?"
"Why can't she just work in an office somewhere?"
"Isn't higher education just for girls who have no chance at a husband?"
"When will she have time to teach if she's going to have children?"
I also deal with two different extremes of people. First, there are those who assume that my impending wedding is the only priority in my life. With a year and a half engagement, you don't really work "full speed ahead" on preparations. And so, I've encountered quite a few who are puzzled when they learn that no, I haven't done much lately to prepare for the wedding. I have bigger stresses than that. (Okay, I got the fabric on Saturday. That's progress!) There's even a girl at University who only asks me questions about the wedding, and then utterly shuts down when I try to talk about anything else. It's very odd. (Well, she's also horrified that I have male friends, and is convinced Chris will be jealous -- have you seen him with his female friends? -- but that's a whole other story.)
Then, there are those who assume that, because I go to grad school, that I'm somehow pretentious or will talk over their heads, or will look down on them somehow. That makes me sadder than any 1950s assumptions about the roles of women (those more make me laugh). It's sad that anyone would think I wouldn't like them.
I wonder if other female married academics go through this? I might be more of a unique case, with all of the Christian circles I move among. In my department, I'm not so much on an anomaly, because most of the grad students are married or in really serious relationships. At a conference last year, Chris had a good time bonding with the husband of one of my colleagues. Said husband was giving Chris advice about how to get along in countries where you don't know the language, and need to entertain yourself while your spouse is researching. This friend's husband loves how he gets to travel Europe, thanks to his academic wife. (All of this conversation made Chris very excited for prospects of going to Germany!)
So? I'm happy in my life plans, and Chris is thrilled to be moving to Victoria (come on -- how cool is Victoria?), and now we're praying to find work for him there. And my friends and family love me very much, and have provided amazing support for me through these degrees. (I have the most encouraging parents ever, when it comes to having a love of learning. You wouldn't believe how much they get involved in my work! And then there's my grandma, with her copy of my first article, showing it off to people!) I'm just going to have to remember that, in some of my circles, I'm a bit of a trail-blazer. I'm a bit different, and I'm going to have to always be prepared with an explanation, some patience, lots of love, and a sense of humour.
(And I remind myself that Christopher thinks it's the coolest thing ever that he's getting a "smart" wife! It's like how excited he is that I'm thirteen days older than him. Woo, older woman!)
This has been long, and now I must go to bed. Good night, my lambies.