Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Future Mother in Medicine?

I was reading a story on the Washington Post about a girl graduating high school with 13 years of perfect attendance. She has not missed one day of school in 13 years.

It's easy enough to say that this is a great accomplishment, one to be proud of, but I'd actually say it's a little bit scary that such a young person feels so driven that they did not stay home once since the age of 5. *cough cough* Sound a little familiar to some of you?

I think it's really admirable to have perfect attendance, but not at the expense of being human. This student was mourning the fact that she couldn't go visit colleges because she was unable to miss a day of class. Although I snickered a little bit at these warped priorities, I have to say that I've been guilty of the same line of thinking myself. I recall last year that I dragged myself to work with a really bad stomach bug when any normal person would have stayed home. Instead, I went to the bathroom to vomit between patients. (Yes, I had mints.)

On another occasion, I went to clinic when I had severe laryngitis. I could barely speak a word. I don't know how I thought I was going to interview patients... sign language? As soon as I opened my mouth, my attending said to me, "OH MY GOD, GO HOME." I would have tried to argue with her but I couldn't talk.

Come to think of it, I was kind of the same way in high school.

The end of the article states that this girl is going to be pre-med in college. What a shock, right? She'll fit right in.

Of course, I want my daughter to have a good work ethic, but I don't want her to feel like she's not allowed to be sick, the way I do. A mother always wants her child to inherit her good traits, not her bad traits... I'm not sure where this sense extreme responsibility fits in there.


  1. Completely agree. Nearly all of us were those students. And would have one day of staying home while I had the flu and took blankets and a sweatshirt to class really have set me back in my career plans?

  2. My brother and sister (neither of whom ended up being doctors, BTW) both had perfect attendance from K-12. I myself (the lone MD in the family) ended up being sent to school with chicken pox in 3rd grade by my mom and infected the entire class. Of course, at the time in the pre-Varivax era, I think moms actually had chicken pox parties just to get it over with, so I probably wasn't the total social outcast that I have imagined retroactively. Anyway, I had perfect attendance from K-11, then decided to take a trip to Europe for a few weeks during my senior year in spite of (or because of) my perfect attendance record. I have never regretted it, and no patient has ever fired me for it either. :)

  3. My daughter is that kind of kid. Last year she had perfect attendance as a third grader but by the end of the year she was worn out and just DONE with school. She didn't have some huge ambition to have perfect attendance, but she was just never sick.

    Flash forward to this year and we've had a few days with family emergencies and one time where it just worked better for a weekend trip if she took a Friday off school. None of the absences affected her grades and she is still refreshed and enjoying school. I want to instill a good work ethic in her, but teaching a young girl early on that it is OK to take a few mental health days goes a long way towards avoiding burnout in the future.

  4. I have to admit I am one of those "driven people as well", after having baby #3 and baby#4 only 14 months apart I felt horribly guilty and worked a four hour shift in the clinic just 3 days postpartum.

    My children are very driven too, but I do have a calm and peaceful 9 year old boy. He teaches all of us to sit back and smell the flowers. The dynamics with four children are wonderful and after being a parent for 13 years, I've adjusted my priorities. I've learned to slow down...a little. -mom2four

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