Forgive me for getting carried away here. I know it's the first day of September, but I stepped outside, and it was CRISP today. School buses were lumbering down the road, which I noticed more than usual since I have a kindergartener today for the first time. Regardless of when the autumnal equinox is, it's fall. I can feel it. My favorite season. And close to Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.
In a half-hearted attempt to get our chaotic home in order before school started, I cleaned out our file cabinets this weekend. Well, actually just one of them. And just one drawer. But as JC points out, you've got to start somewhere. I picked an easy one, our "professional" drawer, with copies of diplomas, DEA forms, board certifications, licenses, transcripts, and hospital privileges forms, that usually doesn't require excessive discarding. At the back of this drawer was a folder I had almost forgotten about in the overwhelming busy-ness of my life as a doctor mom of three. It is labeled "Feedback" because that fits on the tab and is less embarrassing if discovered than "Affirmation" or "What you are doing does matter, Dr. Tempeh" or "Yes, your doctoring career has taken some hits because you have small kids, but take heart-- you have been good and will be again, and this is the folder to prove it". The folder includes glowing letters of recommendation (possibly intended for someone else) from when I was a young, energetic, childless resident applying for fellowship, over-the-top attending evaluations (clearly intended for someone else) from when I was a 36 week pregnant first-year fellow continuing to moonlight to save up for our first baby, and mostly a lot of thank you cards and letters from patients. I love this folder, and not only because it buoys my spirit when I wonder if I am losing my way, navigating these two lives that often run parallel and occasionally collide head-on. It is a little time capsule of my former doctor self that resides in our home. And it can bridge the gap when there is a dry spell of gratitude at home and at work.
As I sent my little guy off to full-day kindergarten today, I found myself wondering if I should have done these last 5 years differently in some way. I started working part-time 3 years ago. The extra time it has given me with my 3 kids is priceless beyond measure. But, at times I have wondered if it was worth it from a career perspective. After all, it wouldn't be that long until all of my kids were in school with full-time jobs of their own in some sense. Would I have sacrificed so much in my career by that point that I wouldn't be able to "get back," whatever that means?
The truth is that my career has changed for having kids, and it is probably kind of irreversible. Much like your body before and after children, you don't have to take the changes lying down, but you do need to come to terms with the fact that you won't ever get back to exactly the way you were before you had kids. And if you want to get back to something that closely approximates it, you are in for a long road and a lot of hard work.
But today, as I watched my little boy walk into his kindergarten classroom, then turn around to come back, kiss me on the cheek, and say, not "I love you" but "thank you, Mommy," I realized that I was in no rush to get back to my old life. I am happy right where I am. Fellow Doctor Moms, Happy Thanksgiving!