Thursday, January 12, 2017

Buying time

Today I just sent my co-authors a second draft of a paper we hope to submit to a journal this spring.  A week ago, I gave a math talk on a different paper I'm working on.

Publishing and speaking about projective geometry doesn't sound like it has much of anything to do with the "miser" part of being a MiserMom, but the truth is, I got the chance to do all this math because of frugality.  In particular, I got to do math because my family is so frugal that we could afford to buy my husband the gift of time.

Two professors and a bunch of students at a math conference.
I love this part of my job.
If I retired tomorrow, what I'd want to do most in the world is math.  You'd think that being a math professor means that I get to do math all the time, but in fact that's not true.  My job has a lot of other things to do that keep me away from the research I love.  Some of these things are a lot of fun: I spend a bunch of my time teaching students: preparing classes, grading their papers, holding office hours.  Grading sucks, but the rest of it is usually a lot of fun.  Some of the time-sinks in my job are very worthwhile but not a bucket of laughs: I'm on the promotion/tenure committee, and I spend dozens of hours each week slogging through the reading that goes with each of the cases we consider.  And of course, there are other non-job and non-math things that take my time, like, say, eating.  Spending time with my kids.  Running with my friends (when I don't have a broken arm).  Going to the theater, and having lunch discussions with my colleagues on campus.

So if I retired tomorrow, then I wouldn't have nothing else to do, but I'd still have lots more time to think about the bizarre little objects I love thinking about (homographies! rational field extensions! yay!) Still, I like the non-math parts of my job enough that I'm not ready to retire yet.

On the other hand, because I've spent two dozen years honing my frugality skills (here comes the money side of the post), we've made it possible for my husband to retire.  And let me tell you, having a stay-at-home spouse is fantastic for allowing me to do math.  In spite of all the committee work and course prep that I have, and in spite of random car crashes putting my writing hand out of commission for a few weeks, I've managed to do more math this past autumn than in any other non-sabbatical semester of my career.  And it's been a blast!

Transitioning over to having my husband in charge of the household administration took a bit of communication and juggling at first, but by now my husband is rocking it.  Each Sunday, he fills out the whiteboard dinner chart so we know who's cooking each night, and I am down to being in charge of only about one meal per week (usually, the "Family Fun Night" dinner, which I'm a tad overprotective about, so that works really well).  My husband has become best-buds with the boys' school counsellors, and as a result the boys are having a much smoother year academically than in the past (not smooth, but smoother than before).  The umpteen doctor and dentist appointments that seem to come up regularly?  That's all my husband.  I get to do the Parent Things that involve the heart-to-heart talks, the life advice, the around-the-home stuff.  And all the Stupid Administrative Stuff that sucks time away from family life?  My husband now takes care of that.   I'm living the dream, I tell you.

Two dozen or so years ago when I first read Your Money or Your Life and first discovered the notion of "Financial Independence", I loved the idea of using frugality to buy my own time.  Later, when I married my non-miser husband, I realized that my frugality could eventually help to buy his time.  But I never appreciated until this year that by using my Frugality Superpowers to purchase my husband's time, I'd be giving myself the gift of time as well.

1 comment:

  1. LOVE this post, though honestly I can't imagine actually enjoying math. But, to each his own! ;)