An anesthetist I know has decided to quit his job and move to another city.
He is doing so not because he is not happy with his current job, but because his daughter, who is a talented Carnatic classical singer, wants to train under some guru in Chennai.

In order to support his daughter’s career goals, our man is shifting base. The fact that he is an anesthetist, and a good one at that, allows him the freedom to shift cities more easily than, say, a surgeon in private practice. Having to build a career and reputation in a new place all over again would be nothing less than a curse.

On the other hand, a doctor is getting his son admitted to a local, small-time, private engineering college, though the boy got admission in other cities with better colleges. His reason: his wife and he wanted his son to live with them. He refused to understand that the parents’ decision was rather unfair to the son’s future prospects.

I have thought about the first example a bit seriously: how much would I be willing to forsake for my family? No, not for a life and death issue, but for something merely potential, like a better prospect for a child or a better job for a wife. I have realised that I could do it, provided the family members could accept the implications and repercussions of my move. In fact, I have long made a standing offer to my wife to take up a high-paying job in a First World country, so that I could become a house-husband (is there a politically correct name for this post?), dealing with the kitchen and garden, apart from taking up a project to write a magnum opus, the kind that publishers would throw their cheque-books at me for. I have also promised her free sex if she accepts this offer.

To cut a long story short, she has not even bothered to respond. She plans to keep me in bonded labor till such time as her interests are not fulfilled. Which probably means I will work till I drop.

Would you shift base for your spouse or kid? In the first example, the doctor who is shifting to Chennai is also into Carnatic music. What if your kid or spouse were to want to do something you did not believe in or share? Would you still disturb your career for that? Comments??

21 responses to “A CARE-ER CHANGE?

  1. Said in a light vein, I guess it’s okay to say you will retire and bask in the glory of your wife! ๐Ÿ™‚
    In any case I feel that it is possible to live without anyone giving up anything, I mean in the examples you gave, the kids should have been packed off to different cities for their own good! Forget about just life and career opportunities, kids learn the biggest lesson of life when they are away from parents. But I know, you can’t convince people of that. They have to know it.

  2. R-Doc: The technical term is SAHD (Stay At Home Dad). ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for your questions, women the world over, across cultures and countries have done this business of following their families and spouses around for aeons. The phenomenon of the “trailing spouse” is much-studied and tut-tutted over.

    Why should it be different for men if they have to trail their families for a change?

  3. R-Doc: As if by magic, Salon has done a piece of trailing spouses just yesterday:


    For your reading pleasure…

  4. Rambodoc, //I have long made a standing offer to my wife to take up a high-paying job in a First World country, so that I could become a house-husband// She is a smart woman. Your medical talents are proven, your housekeeping talents are yet to be tested.The biggest scare for a woman in this situation could be that not only she has to work twice as much but has to manage an idle husband. ‘An idle mind is a devil’s workshop’; an idle husband’s mind could be much worse.’
    I agree with Nita//the kids should have been packed off to different cities for their own good! // the parents don’t need to move.
    Moving for the sake of wives career- Has President Pratibha Patil’s husband moved to Rashtrapati Bhawan?

  5. Anything is possible! Consider Denmark: Stay at home fathers are rather common. Emigrate, do a bit of work, then voila! Fall into the safety net of extensive social support (free healthcare, free education through college, non-materialistic denizens).

    But tax rates are high. Who cares? If you give up huge disparities in income, you could still make a decent living. Or so I’ve heard.

    Anyone who knows about Denmark or similar countries, let me know. Seriously thinking about moving out of USA lately, for many reasons. Retirement too far away. Doesn’t everyone need nurses?? Thinking of Canada at the moment, but I’m just musing, like our R-doc.

  6. Nita:
    Yes, all kids are not equal, the same as all parents. There are situations when a kid is not old or mature enough to be left all alone in a new place.
    Another situation that needed your comment on was the trailing spouse.
    Thanks for that interesting link. I liked it.
    “The biggest scare for a woman in this situation could be that not only she has to work twice as much but has to manage an idle husband. “
    Ah, spoken like a true (experienced) woman! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Europe or Australia, preferably the latter, if you can bear being farthest from the entire civilised world!

  7. The point I guess is how much are we willing to sacrifice for someone else’s sake – but then the minute we consider it as a “sacrifice” perhaps we are pointing in one direction only. Embracing change – easier said than done.

    At this point, I think I may love to do it just for the challenge and the risk – but that may be just all talk ;), and besides it perhaps doesn’t really deal with the main issue at hand

  8. About the trailing spouse, I don’t think it’s a big deal. It happens when the man is secure and comfortable with himself. I know someone who re-located his business to be with his wife.

  9. Vivek Khadpekar


    I know three couples in their early-40s to mid-50s, who have jobs (no doubt high-income and very fulfilling) in different cities and make it a point to spend weekends and holidays together (his pad or hers, according to what is convenient). In one case, this means a weekly drive of two hours along a very good expressway, in the second an overnight train ride, and in the third a 1-1/2 hrs flight. Two of them have no kids, and the third have parked their two kids in good boarding schools, where at least one parent visits them roughly every three months. So if your financial status is good, it can work.

    Relocating for the sake of a child’s career is, I think, an altogether different matter. Your anaesthesiologist friend would be exceptional. He is himself into Carnatic music and probably has a good idea of what he is betting on. Also, in his discipline, his clientele would, I guess, be surgeons, who are themselves part of an elite network and in a position to gauge his worth and help him set up a new practice. He does not have to prove himself to a crowd of lay patients.

    Moving on from doctors or similar other professionals who are location- and specific client-bound, there are today many professions in which a self-employed person offering services (such as I) can work from home and transact business across the globe (though I don’t as yet) using the internet and e-mail. In the last two years that I moved from a job to freelancing, I have rarely had to meet a client more than once for the initial briefing. The interactions that follow are usually by e-mail or phone, and even my fees get directly credited to my bank account (I am fortunate in having clients whom I don’t have to chase for payments).

  10. @ R-Doc:

    What Vivek describes is very common in my generation. So much so there is a term for it – Living Apart Togethers (LAT).

    These are couples who choose to make the commitment to one another, and once that is non-negotiable, they choose their lifestyles based on their career choices. ‘Commitment to commitment’ is the primary choice. Not spending time in each other’s pockets also means that people move away from quibbling over petty stuff to developing a relationship on a different plane where being together is a choice, not an obligation or necessity. Those, who have not experienced it, find it odd and difficult to understand. But the emotional security and trust in a relationship is enhanced manifold when one respects one’s spouse’s choices and the fact that such a spouse _chooses_ to be with him/ her.

    In such a situation, nobody considers anything a sacrifice, which as Arunk points out is not the same as embracing a model that is different from the one, that a person is conditioned to believe to be the default.

    Your question was: “Would you shift base for your spouse or kid?”

    On the “kid” part, it is easier to move around for parents who have one child. Those, who have more than one child, and esp children who go in polar opposite directions, would find that such moves are an exercise in arbitrariness and futility.

    I have no opinion on it as a parent; but as a child, I have to say that if my dad were to have followed me around, I would have run away one night, quietly. Luckily, he didn’t!

    There is such a thing as love, and there is such a thing as strangulation. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And there is such a thing as letting go.

    The most undesirable from a child’s perspective is of course to try to realise one’s own aims through one’s child (if I were to read between lines in your Carnatic music related relocation). I have a friend here who is a concert pianist and belongs to a family of prodigy musicians. She has given concerts in Carnegie Hall and has made much music. But at some time she realised that she had never been offered options by her musician parents. She decided to give it a go, parents chided her, now they do not talk with one another. She is by the way now a hot-shot corporate lawyer in New York.

  11. @ Jackie:

    “Doesnโ€™t everyone need nurses?”

    Yes, everyone does. But the EU rules mean that the first priority is for EU citizens. That said, I know a Professor who is in her mid-40s and left her soft money position in the US to move to a hard-money one in the UK mainly for the access to NHS in her old age. She told me so :-/ The NHS being what it is, I would not be so sure but to each her own.

    In Denmark, you will find interesting things though. They are loathe to give you citizenship even if you are married to a Dane or have luved there for ages. Many people with Scandinavian spouses, who are not Danish, actually live in Sweden or Norway and commute to work in Denmark. You will find that access to state benefits will be greatly reduced in the absence of a Danish passport. A Danish friend in Cambridge told me that even despite her Bachelor’s from Cambridge, she would have to get a Master’s in Denmark to work there. The country’s recent laws are also bordering on xenophobic. So I do not know how you zoned in on Denmark, but it definitely is not the best country in Europe to move to ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Copenhagen is good for a visit, even the airport is beautiful but that is also where 90% of Danish population reportedly lives. I could easily tire of such island living (says she, who lives on an island, only one that is more vibrant, diverse, colourful and engaging ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. ‘lived there’ of course, not ‘luved there’…

  13. Some people learn from not so smart peoples experience ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. To add another angle to your question – would kids move base to be there for their family(parents)?

    Probably this is one good thing about the indian family system that parents and kids (often) care about each other, and are willing to keep family above other things. Though, i feel that this mindset is fast changing, unfortunately.

  15. BTW i just got my own domain ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Thanks, Shefaly for your insights. Denmark was ranked #1 on subjective happiness on USA TV show recently, and it piqued my curiosity.
    So many options, each with their own pro’s and con’s: distance from family, proximity to family :-), job prospects, public transportation, arts, constituency of denizens, and availability of open spaces.

  17. Arunk:
    Thanks for the comments. Long time since you visited!
    very common in my generation
    OUR generation! I am almost as young as you sound! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Congrats! You have swung from not blogging to hyper-blogging?!
    Me thinks you are in the best country in the world….
    Thanks for the interesting perspective.

  18. @R-Doc: I guess “best country in the world” is subjective. Depends on what you want, but u are prob. right. THere are areas here, however, I would NEVER live in. So when are you moving here ๐Ÿ™‚ You and your family would have NO problems getting settled in well, esp. in a metro type area. No doubt you also have many contacts here as well. As for healthcare, would not be a problem for you!

  19. I changed jobs, city, base, fiefdom for marriage and gave up job, city, base later for raising the family. I was OK with all of that.
    In recent years, I’ve a nagging feeling that I could wallow in self pity at times and I hate that parental martyr business and the possible ties of guilt tripping spouse and child by bleeding myself. Family ties that are bound together even while living apart out of affection and not guilt or blame is the way to be I’d think.
    P.S: Unless life, potential, future is horrible in the current place I would not shift base. I’d like to see how best we can all make it work together.

  20. R-Doc:

    You say: “โ€œvery common in my generationโ€
    OUR generation! I am almost as young as you sound! :-)”

    Well, I have always been precocious. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    On a serious note, I think attitudinal shifts are perceptible even with the half-generation in every 12-15 years gap. My older cousins, who would be more close to you in age, have very different views on things from my own. I often work as a ‘translator’ between them and their children. Which is why I said ‘my generation’. Most people my age would not even think about the questions you have raised. Most of us – who have been truly educated and are not still shackled to traditional roles etc – tend to look upon each of our roles as a ‘profession’ that we must do to our best abilities, evaluating our own selves critically and accordingly making trade-offs as and when needed.

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