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.