Nancy S. Mills, who will retire next year from Trinity University, a predominantly undergraduate institution in San Antonio, says she’s so busy finishing up her research projects that she hasn’t had time to think about shutting down her lab.... [snip]
...Mills made a promise to her husband years ago that she would retire at age 65 so that they could spend more time traveling and hiking together. They plan to move to Oregon after the current school year. “I’m grateful to my husband for forcing us into this idea because the one thing I want to do is leave before the department wants me to leave,” she says.
Being retired doesn’t mean disengaging from chemistry, however. In fact, in her emeritus status, Mills will be joining a research group at the University of Oregon that is doing computational chemistry in an area related to her current research. But she will be doing research at her own pace, and she will have the freedom to take extended trips with her husband.
...In addition, Padwa continues to travel, climb mountains, build mobiles—and he’s dating again. After he retired, he and his wife realized that they had grown apart, and so they divorced. “What happens is that sometimes you go through a long period of time with someone you’re married to but you’re never really connected because you’re involved in your science,” he says. “This is what happens, I think, with very dedicated professionals.”Professor Padwa's comments about very dedicated professionals is a bit frightening to me, considering that some version of that (although I'll never reach his stature!) is a goal of mine. The health of my marriage is more important to me than my career, but I am sure that a younger Al Padwa would have agreed with my statement, too.
To be sure, "growing apart" is something that happens to many marriages, dedicated professionals or not. I presume that there's a spike in divorces at retirement, too, but it's not something I have data on yet. (It'd be interesting to know what rate of divorce chemistry professors have, especially compared to other highly educated fields.)