One morning last week, I was standing at the mirror in the gym locker room getting ready for the day. In the corner of my eye I saw a person scurry past. I recognized her immediately. I was excited to see a familiar face, yet she disappeared before I could say hello. When I peered around the corner and she was nowhere to be found, I realized that she was likely avoiding me. Not really a good practice to stalk someone in a locker room, so I turned away. Then as I blow dried my hair the conversation that did not happen played out in my head.
She is a cardiology fellow. Mother of two. I know this because her children are the same age as mine. She breast fed both babies. I know this because her co-fellows teased her about it at the end of the year roast one year ago.
She was hiding from me because I am an Attending. She did not want to be seen at the gym at 8AM on a work day. She fears that she would seem lazy, less dedicated or selfish.
What she needs to know is that I am so proud of her. One tough mama taking all of her call, doubling up while gravid to trade days to allow a maternity leave. Finding a way to be an equal to the guys without being one of the guys.
I would like to tell her that making time to exercise squeezed between early morning mommy duties and full time fellow work is an enviable feat. That what you have done, is perhaps one of the most important tasks you can do to ultimately ensure your success. Yes, I know it is not in the cardiology fellowship curriculum. This lesson really should be Chapter One of the MiM curriculum. Stepping out of the role of mother and physician to see yourself is crucial. By recognizing your need and fulfilling it. Because it means more than just finding time in a busy schedule. It means making time, trading off that early morning conference or sneaking in a little late to read echos. Whatever. Over ruling what is expected of you, to recognize what is actually best for you. A brave move that will make you stronger at the core.
And of course, I would never utter to another soul that I spotted her at the gym. Dear, your secret is safe with me.