Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Goat farming, return to residency or the status quo?

I work two days a week, and I'm home with the kids for three. Apart from a full-time stint when Pete took a ten-week parental leave in 2005, I've never worked more than three days a week since I finished residency five years ago.
You might assume that if I've maintained the same pattern for years, I must have found the perfect balance, requiring little review.
But a typical week of end-of-day comments to Pete looks like this:
  • Monday: "I've been thinking of doing another residency. What would you think of staying home for three years?"
  • Tuesday: "Let's move to the Island and take up organic goat farming. Think how much the kids would love it."
  • Wednesday: "Work's been great lately. Maybe we should pick up another day of daycare and increase my work to three days a week. We could use the extra cash to pay for a cleaner and meals."
  • Thursday: "I've been thinking maybe I should be home full-time while the kids are this young. These years will be done before we know it."
  • Friday: "Why don't you apply to medical school? You could go into family medicine, and we could share a practice. One of us could always be home with the kids."
  • Saturday: "I'd love to throw myself into work full-time, even just for a year or two."
  • Sunday: "Our current arrangement really is ideal. I'm so grateful that I get to spend this much time with the kids. What other career would offer this flexibility?"
These suggestions, and many others, are never offered out of dissatisfaction, but out of creative optimism. An afternoon seeing prenatal patients makes me want to return to the clinic the next morning. But a morning spent hunting for crabs at the beach with the kids makes me wish for a long, uninterrupted string of just such days.
I don't consider the constant consideration of alternatives pathological. For one thing, when you're a physician mother, being yanked in several directions is the norm. For another, I think it's healthy to live with intention, frequently reviewing one's choices.
Before getting a new haircut, my personal rule is that I must want that cut for seven consecutive days. I apply the same basic principle to life changes. When rapidly cycling through ideas, best to sit tight with the status quo, unless an option eventually emerges as the better one.
My fantasy pendulum swings equally in both directions - increasing time at home and at work. The average of all ideas I toy with is exactly what I'm doing now.
Looks like for the foreseeable future I'll continue seeing patients on Tuesdays and Fridays, and spending the rest of the week sharpening pencil crayons and picking berries in the woods.

8 comments:

  1. It sounds like what you are currently doing is perfect for you and your family. I agree it's healthy to be open to all possibilities and making sure that your work model fits well with your current family situation.

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  2. I have your exact schedule: 2 days work (GP clinic & some academic teaching), 3 days home with 2 kids under 2. It's perfect I think but we go through the same concept of fiddling...should I make it two half-days instead of one full? Four halfs? What if I skipped lunch and came home earlier? What about an evening clinic? etc.

    Sometimes I think, it would be so easier if I was just handed a schedule by someone else and there weren't all these options...but reality hits and I embrace my flexibility long and hard.

    I highly recommend a second family doctor as a partner who also works part time. Although we could still use a "wife" some days, it is all ideal. My toddler will try and trade us off sometimes, "no dada go work! Momma work! Momma, go work! Dada play!". We love that she sees us as completely interchangeable.

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  3. I work 4 half days and have found that I really love it!

    I blog every day and do other writing so it stills feels like I am working but at least I'm not hyperventilating through clinic cramming everyone in. I can move really fast if I know it's over in 3-4 hours.

    My husband is a full time Navy ophthalmologist- so it kinda feels like part time! :)

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  4. A fantasy pendulum is the perfect way to describe it.

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  5. The problem with the constant stream of suggestions is that no one ever takes you seriously when you do want change.

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  6. The only one who has to take you seriously is your spouse.

    You are choosing your employer - however seriously they take you is part of that choice.

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  7. Thanks for the comments. I'm always pleased to discover other physician mothers working part-time.

    @gullchasedship: The only person privy to my constant stream of suggestions is my husband (and as he pointed out when he saw this post - "That's a very small sample of the suggestions you've actually made"). My colleagues/employers are unaware of any of my ideas until I actually decide to implement one, at which point they take me completely seriously.

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