Thursday, April 29, 2010

Coming Home...

I have mixed emotions about CME courses that take me away from home. Although I enjoy time in a new location and having a break from my typical daily grind, sometimes the toll of being away from family is high, and coming home can be an adventure:

"Mom, while you were gone I forgot to register for my AP exam. What should I do?"

Late fee (after countless calls to coordinator): $50.00

"Mom, before you left, I forgot to tell you I needed a costume for that thing at school"
Improvised costume (NOT Eeyore!): $25.00

Me, sniffing around the kitchen: "What is that smell?"
"Erg, I think I forgot to unpack the milk container from my lunch box last week."
(Husband, shrugging apologetically: "I thought the kids needed showers...")
New milk container and lunch box: $15.00

Finding two dozen chocolate cupcakes in the dining room "Just because we thought you'd like them": PRICELESS
(Cleaning chocolate frosting off of everything for the next 10 days: another post!)

How do you cope with the things that come up while you're gone?


  1. It is always something, isn't it?!

  2. So I'm a non-traditional, married pre-med student. Not yet a mother, not yet a doctor, but a woman. And that is the aspect of the post I want to address. It reminds me of a trait that I share, I fear and, to some extent, I rely on - a certain amount of control freakishness that I conflate with successful womanhood.

    And I don't mean this to be a rude response to your post because I admire you, Artemis, at least via the internet. And also of course because I admit to sharing this trait. If anything I detect a note of good humor, though mixed with frustration, in your response to things coming somewhat unraveled in your absence. But the other thing I am reading is this sense that things would not have been so had you been home - which is likely the truth.

    I guess I'd be curious for you - or anyone else - to respond to a general question. How do women manage to be ambitious do-it-all types without also creating a family (and also often a work life) that is non functional without us, without us having to be crazy control types to keep it all together? Are we micro-managers that create the mayhem that exists in our absence? Or perhaps we are really just doing what is necessary to keep our households going - and we are needed. Is there another response I can't anticipate here?

    Or perhaps you would disagree with my premise. Perhaps you would tell me that your husband could come up with a similar list of mishaps that he comes home to after a brief trip.

    Another foreseeable response - I'm not a mother, so perhaps I don't get it. Perhaps there is an extent to which shared parental/home duties never make up for the amount of mental space women make for their families and for keeping on top of their family members' to-do list.

    So this was somewhat stream of consciousness. But I am curious how you doctor moms would respond to my question/observation. Even if it is to somehow put me in place. I haven't done it all, as you all have. Let me know how it's done.

  3. Hey Anonymous - great observation, and I'd like to address it in detail down the road. In fact, I think it deserves a post of its own, not just a comment here.


  4. I avoided every conference during residency for this reason. I finally had to go to a conference this year that was a four hour plane ride away. Flew in Thursday morning, attended conference, flew back Friday night. That was the longest I could bear to be away.

    I'm scared about getting CMEs though. Next year is the first year I have to start thinking about that stuff. How the hell do you get enough of them? Am I forced to travel?

  5. Advice to Anonymous 4:03 - do NOT micromanage your home. Give your husband a LOT of responsibility when the children come. We have quite a few children and we can both manage it all. Truthfully - he manages more than me now because I am not as used to being around them as much as he is, but when I was in school and he was working full time, I managed better than him. But, we BOTH can do everything. I think it is actually harder for the other parent to step in when you are only gone for a short while. The thoughts of "she'll/he'll be back soon enough" permeate through the at home spouse's mind. If you take a longer trip, the at home spouse is more prepared to take over the responsibilities.

    OK - I will get off my soap box now - but anon 4:03 brought up a point that gets me going. Our husbands are perfectly capable human beings. We are not bad mothers if we allow them to run the house. Sorry - there I go again. Off my soap box now, I promise.

  6. I'll share my perspective as a mom who is in medical school with kids. I have had to make some drastic changes in my life - not just for my sanity, but for everyone involved. I can't live up to the standards of my stay at home mom/friends. I can't live up to my own pre-medical school standards. It is not realistic, and it is not healthy. I don't think it is about micromanaging (for me anyways), it is about letting go unrealistic expectations. And reprioritizing.

    Women can't have it all - the problem is we want it all. Men who worked outside the home couldn't do it either if they didn't have a supportive spouse. So why should we think it is any different for us? I can choose to be at the top of my class, or spend time with my kids - I can't have it all(maybe I'm just not smart enough). I have made my peace(most of the time) with this. I am a good mom, and I'll be a good doctor. I may not be chair of a department one day, but that is a choice I am making. I am reprioritizing my life, not letting unrealistic expectations rule my life.

  7. Hey guys,

    This conversation needs to be had more often and I look forward to a post on it, Particularly for women in medicine.
    I am a mum of 2, wife and doctor. I "don't carry well" as my Aunty says and 3 years ago when I got pregnant in my final year of medical school life changed hugely and my husband and I are still working on making it all work.

    Pregnancy taught me about putting away my super woman cape. My husband took care of me (as we moved interstate and travelled overseas) and then we became parents.
    We had always wanted to be a team, the hope is that we will both work 3 days a week, use some outside childcare and have lots of time together.
    Society does not recognise fathers as totally capable and it takes a lot to totally let go of the the expectation that as a woman you will run the house.
    I have copped judgement from family and stay-at-home mum friends that I musn't be as good a a mother if I go to work and judgement at work that I am not dedicated to medicine, or that I am soft because 70 hour working weeks upset me.

    3 year in and I have got to a happy place, I breastfed my daughter til 20 months despite internship and crazy hours,
    We have a great relationship and she is such a lovely well rounded girl because she has many influences in her life. Yesterday she climbed to the top of a rope climb in the park which would be meant for 5+, that is because her Dad lets her climb, SHe talks a lot because I have a lot of words.
    We are happy, Both of us can do all aspects of parenting (apart from breast feeding)
    I am a happy doctor because I have a rich homelife and support.
    My husband doesn't do the housework the way I would, and I have had to work on letting it go,

    People often comment I must be superwoman to do what I do, but the truth is I am part of a great team. There is no way I could do it without my husband. But many women let their husbands "babysit" their kids with a list of what to do.

    It is complex but relationships and parents that are a team are a solid unit that can handle so much more I think!

    Sorry about the rambly nature, my 7 week old has a cold and sleep is hard to come by. But great to see these things discussed This blog talks about these issues a lot and has given me a lot of food for thought.

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  9. No matter if you are a SAHM that needs a few days away from the kids, or a MiM that wants some good CME, these issues always come up, and as a mother, I can totally relate to Artemis.

    I'm going through a divorce, so I feel like any comment about my spouse's shortcomings while I have been away (once a year for about a week - lately CME but during residency/fellowship it was about presenting research) would be tacky, self-serving, and pointless. So I won't go there right now, because he is doing a great job of being a parent to the kids during our divorce, and he loves the kids. I've gotta admire that, and support the hell out of it, for my kids and the guy I spent the last almost 13 years of my life with.

    Having said that, it is so tough to relinquish our superior estrogen organizational skills and let things slide. As much as I hate to do it, and cringe while I watch it happening, it really is good for the kids to bounce off someone who does things differently. I see that when I am away, and I see the kids grow and change, usually for the better, when I let go of my control freak.

    This is a great talking point, Artemis! Looking forward to more on this subject in the future. Parenting does take teamwork, whether you are in a relationship with your spouse or not. My kid's dad and I work daily through texts to make sure our kids are doing well - sometimes I think even better than when we were together.

    Love the chocolate cupcakes. You have a great husband!

  10. Anonymous 9:29 stated that we, as women, can't have it all.

    I agree, whole heartidly, but I entered my 30's thinking that it could be done.

    I'm in my mid 40's now and am well aware of the fact that we can't.

    My best friend, in her early 30's is insistant that we can.

    I'm in a Women's Studies class (awesome class!) and this has been the topic more often than I would have thought. (almost every class!) There is a sharp divide between younger women and middle aged women in their idea of 'having it all'.

    At what point do we become aware of this ...and how do we educate the upcoming generation of women so that they don't have the expectations/pressure of 'having it all'?


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