Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mothers in Medicine; Daughters in Life

All the years I was growing up, my mother was active in the Parents Auxiliary of the school I attended with my three siblings. When she finally had to give up the house where we grew up, she moved into a nearby development. No less than three of my classmates’ parents live in the same place, and the number of people who had children in my school is much higher. Yesterday, I attended a memorial service for one of my mother’s friends. A classmate was there comforting her own mother. A former teacher from the school is also there; he gives classes that my mother attends. Suddenly the Parents Auxiliary has become the Daughters’ Auxiliary.

I wish I thought that the time I have invested both in my childrens’ institutional life and in my own will provide similar sources of connection when I am older, but I can’t see it. Being a doctor is isolating—many of my most longstanding and intimate connections are with patients. My colleagues and I work quite independently. I hardly know my colleagues’ families or the parents of my children’s friends—certainly not the way my mother did. My husband is also a busy professional—he is a little more connected, having coached my children on various teams—but at this point in our lives, we rarely see the other parents whose children shared activities with ours.

Maybe it will be different when I am much older, or maybe I will find in myself a gift for making friends outside of work, once I am no longer working. I suppose I should stop worrying. If I live long enough that I need to find new ways to connect to people, outside of doctoring and mothering, that will be a blessing in itself.


  1. This is such an wonderful topic, Juliaink. I struggle so hard to make connections at my kid's school, for both of our benefit. A year down the road at this one, we are finally getting invited to birthday parties. I spent an afternoon off the other day volunteering for the end-of-the-year program costume patrol just to get to know a few moms and teachers.

    School connections are so important for our kid's emotional health and support - and very difficult for us doctors to make. Your post makes me realize it comes into play in other ways down the road, as well.

    One of my best friends is a doctor, and she was struggling recently with a problem her child was having. I said, "Can you talk to other moms and see if they are experiencing any similar behavior?" She said, "I don't know any other moms." I could empathize with her.

    I don't have many patient connections as I imagine you do, but I do have a lot of lab colleague connections, from pathologists to techs to transcriptionists. They provide me with tons of support, in both work and friendship. I am hoping they will be my Parents Auxiliary later in life.

    I think you will find that gift, and make connections. Maybe through a hobby, or volunteer work. Anyone who provides the services that you do in life must have enormous untapped wells of capability, in that arena.

    Happy Mother's Day!

  2. Juliaink, I totally hear what you're saying and I know some women from my medical school class who struggle like this. But i just wanted to comment that it isn't like that necessarily because you are a doctor. First of all, lots of other women professionals feel the same way. And second of all, a doctor's life can work out differently.

    I am able to work part time and arrange my call schedule around my husband's so one of us is almost always around. We live across the park from my kids' school, I know most of their friends and their parents, and we all look out for each other. Many of my colleagues have small kids and I know all of them, we get together with them as well periodically (most don't go to same school) and that is a community for well as "other" friends from med school, undergrad and other places who we continue to keep in touch with by phone and online, and get our kids together as much as we can.

    I actually find our family is much more in touch with many other families than my parents were when I was little and we grew up in the country, physically isolated, no internet, not much opportunity to travel around, not really spending much time with other kids...

    Again, i sympathize with you, but don't want to leave the impression that it is destined to be like this because you have chosen to be in medicine...

  3. So my husband and I both work full time and although he is a hands on Dad, because of his schedule and my type A personality, I end up the arbiter of our activities. It has taken years of effort, but we finally have a group of friends with kids the same age. The isolation was very real, but a recent injury convinced me of the importance of having that network. Keep working at it, you and your kids will benefit. SDN


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