I made a comment on an op-ed someone shared on Facebook and, as often happens, different people took my comment to mean different things. Therefore, rather than respond to everyone individually in an effort to better explain myself, I figured I would write a post instead.
I know, I know, four posts in less than a month – crazy!
The article, by a female anesthesiologist, takes a pretty strong stand and says if you want to be a doctor, please commit to the career. The cost of educating and producing a physician should not be taken lightly, especially since it is subsidized by local and federal funds. Moreover, if you end up just doing the profession part time, or give it up entirely, you have wasted taxpayer dollars.
OK – I get that part. I also imagine the person who pursued the medical profession put plenty of their own money into it and, quite likely, has substantial education loans to pay back. My guess is, they intend to stick with and make money at the job.
The article goes on to talk about how it is primarily women who tend to become part timers in the medical profession, or give it up altogether, in order to start a family. They can’t seem to find “work-life balance” if they maintain medicine as a full time career.
No kidding! Being a doctor is demanding work. I grew up with a doctor in the house – my father. I know he was extremely busy and worked crazy hours. I also know he made every effort to be involved with anything possible when it came to family. Was he at every choir concert, soccer game, dance recital or school event? No. Do I remember the things he didn’t attend? No. I do, however, remember his face beaming with pride when he was there. I remember hearing his voice stand out above all the others when he would laugh at a show I was in or cheer for my brother when he scored a goal. I remember going with him when he would make rounds at the hospital and I would get cookies from the nurses. I remember listening to him on the phone as he talked an EMT through delivering a baby in a blizzard. I have great memories of growing up with a full time doctor as a parent.
Oh wait, he was my dad, not my mom! It was socially acceptable for him to miss school events, sporting events, and performances. It doesn’t mean he didn’t want to be there, it just means he was expected to sacrifice those things and be at work. But that was a few decades ago (please don’t do the math for my age here). Things have changed, right? Apparently not.
You see, I find it hard to believe anyone, male or female, would invest the time, energy, effort and money into being a doctor if they were not fully committed to the career. I think our society still piles on the guilt for mom to place kids over career and dad to sacrifice family time. This is why many female physicians are so torn and often end up opting out. Not only do they have to deal with ridicule from people about their decision to be in such a demanding and important field, but their spouses often endure ridicule when they show up at events without the wife and find it necessary to defend her choice. Society, as a whole, STILL isn’t ready to accept mom as the primary bread winner as a family structure. I know there are exceptions – I happen to have very good friends who fall into the exception category – so please, don’t bother to criticize me for putting this in writing. But let’s face it, you and your family need to be prepared to stand your ground and deal with the crap. This isn’t going to be an easy choice for the long haul.
And as for work-life balance… don’t expect to find that. It’s total bullshit! There are some days work will be more important and some days family (and whatever else you consider “life”) will rise to the top. Hell, there are some hours in a day when these things will flip-flop several times. Life is never fair in what it deals out – we tell our kids that all the time. All we can do is know that we are doing our very best at any given moment to make the right choice when, in fact, we have a choice. And, when we feel as if we don’t have a choice, then those are the times we need to power through, tune out the guilt, nod a polite “thank you” to the unsolicited advice givers, and realize we are not doing anything to intentionally screw anyone up; we are simply doing what needs to be done. Our families, our “life,” will understand and be proud of the entire person we are: mom or dad, AND doctor.