Monday, December 20, 2010

Family separation -- the new normal?

A depressing topic for a Monday morning, for which I apologize. I'm noticing a new trend in our post (?)-recession economy, which is the family breadwinner (typically the father) going away from their family and working, while the other spouse (typically the mother) stays behind with the kids. Obviously, the difficulties of selling their current home is part of this problem.

I'm hearing people plan for this, I'm seeing it in the workforce and I'm seeing it in my Facebook news feed. While I don't doubt that most (if not all) of the affected families are planning for reunion of some sort, there will undoubtedly be a small (but non-zero) number of families which will be hurt by this. This is a new twist to the two-body problem, which seems to hit young marrieds more than families with kids.

I suspect that the trend is quite strong in chemistry. While the past expansion in pharma/biotech had spread beyond the traditional hubs (SD, SF, BOS, NJ, NC), one imagines that the post-2003 era of mergers and layoffs has hit the smaller places (the Seattles of the world) harder. I don't doubt there are many people getting hired on in one of the hubs (where the remaining jobs are), renting a small apartment in the big city and keeping their families elsewhere, where the cost of living is lower and the quality of life may be higher.

Let's hope this trend(let?) reverses itself, as/when/if things get better.

10 comments:

  1. I know two folks who work at my (small) research firm that suffer from this exactly. One commutes to another state entirely Friday evening, and one drives 4.5 hours to get home (he sets out at 4:00 on Friday).

    Sucks.

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  2. One of the postdocs I work with also has to do this. I don't think he's lived in the same state as his family for a few YEARS now. Pretty sad that people have to resort to this.

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  3. This is absolutely a huge problem. We have numerous people in Pfizer who are facing this exact sitation as part of the layoffs / relocations going on. I personally know at least a couple dozen families that had to part ways (hopefully temporarily) because they weren't able to sell thier house and/or thier spouse was unable to leave thier job. Most work Mon-Fri at Pfizer and drive home to spend weekends with family. This is compounded by the fact that (due to the poor job market for chemists in my opinion), Pfizer did not offer a full relocation package to those being moved. Consequently, the employees were forced to decide between leaving thier job or leaving thier family. About half of those I know have been re-united -- but the remainder still do the "workweek commute".

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  4. @A6:30 Dude, it's called spellcheck! "their"

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  5. A6:30a: Is this the Groton site or elsewhere?

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  6. I've seen a very ironic situation pop up. A fresh PhD chemist can't find a job to save his life, spends six months looking for Post-Docs, finally lands one on the opposite coast. His wife, no PhD, no scientific background, just a bachelors, lands a job within weeks in the area of the Post-Doc position.

    It has to be aggravating for the wife in this situation to support someone in a career that seems to have no demand. Why keep going? Why get virtually the same or lower pay than someone with a lesser degree? But at least this situation illustrates how people, with two very different careers, can actually coexist while one pursues a career in chemistry.

    For those couples that are both scientists, someone's gonna have to give.

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  7. Heh...that's why mine's a banker. # : )

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  8. As this crappy year winds down, I keep hearing more depressing stories. Several of my friends from grad school are getting divorced, plus another has taken a job far (i.e., >7 hour drive) from his family out of necessity. I hope whatever sham of tax relief/economic stimulus bill that was just passed will actually create jobs for everybody, including over-qualified/over-specialized scientists.

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  9. This is indeed a sad trend that I have recently been a part of. My spouse and I are about to be separated by 20+ hours by car within the next week (just in time for the holidays). We are in the same field with a PhD and postdoc experience. But, unfortunately due to the bleak job market, we are having to take jobs where they are available (and receive offers). Finding one job in pharma is tough enough. Now try and find two at the same time in the same field.

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  10. My grandma (would have) always said: It's just as easy to fall in love with someone who's not in your research group.

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