Stranger: "Little girl, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
Me: "A doctor." [Looks to mother for approval]
Mother: "That's right."
Before I even really knew what a doctor was, I knew that was what I was supposed to be. My parents, both doctors, expected it of me, and I accepted it, much like an arranged marriage. After all, there was nothing else I really wanted to be, other than maybe a ballerina (in retrospect, that likely wouldn't have worked out too well).
In high school and college, I entertained thoughts of other careers, but my father made some very compelling arguments for med school that I was unable to refute:
1) How many careers are there out there where you can really help people?
2) As a woman, this is one of the few fields where you will earn a decent salary and not have to rely on your husband to support you.
3) Just take the MCATs already and see how you do.
At the end of my sophomore year of college, I "just took the MCATs to see how I'd do" and when I got my score back, it was good enough to apply to medical school. And after having taken an eight hour exam, I already felt time committed. Why would I put myself through that and pre-med biology if I wasn't going to apply to med school?
So here I am years later, a new physician. I can't say that this was the perfect career choice for me, but now that I'm at the tail end of my residency, I'm not about to quit and start folding jeans at the Gap** either.
People ask me if I plan to encourage my daughter to become a doctor. At this point, I'd settle for her not coloring all over the walls, but my specific answer to that question is, "Absolutely not."
In fact, not only will I not encourage her to become a doctor, but I will actively discourage her from entering a life in medicine. I will tell her every awful story I can think of about the abuse med students, residents, and (I can only presume) attendings are put through. I'll complain incessantly about how being a doctor means giving up your life to your patients. I mean, yes, I'll buy her the toy doctor's kit, but that will be mostly for me to play with.
And after all that, if she still wants to be a doctor, I can't say I'll be disappointed. What mom doesn't want her daughter to follow in her footsteps? But it's important to me that she gets to that decision on her own. Because medicine is not a career anyone should be pushed into.
And best of all, this way if she ends up hating it, I'll get to say, "I told you so." I've heard mothers love saying that.
**Favorite alternate joke career of doctor trainees who want to quit, for some reason