Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thinking big

There's a young physician named Dr. Thompson who works at my hospital. A few days ago, I heard some staff members talking about Dr. Thompson:

"Someday, I'm going to turn on the TV and Dr. Thompson will be talking about something important, and I'll be like I KNOW THAT GUY!"

On one hand, I was a little insulted that nobody would say that about me. On the other hand, I agree. Dr. Thompson is smart and has ambition. While I am thinking, "How can I help my patient?" Dr. Thompson is always thinking, "How can I help this hospital? How can I help my field? How can I help the planet?" I could never think as big as he does. Mostly, I'm just trying to get through the day.

I wonder, is it because I'm a woman with kids? Does that take the fight out of me? Is it possible to be a mother of young children and also think big?

Recently, I saw a list of all the female world leaders. There are currently 20 female presidents and prime ministers, which is a record number, and half of the 10 most populous countries in the world have female leaders. These are all women (many of them mothers) who clearly think big.

It was sort of inspiring to see that list. I guess it means I have no excuse.

26 comments:

  1. You know what, you don't have to think big all the time to be one of those women...

    I'm sure many of those world leaders etc have children much older than yours and have the luxury of time to think those big thoughts (am thinking back to your daily routine - it doesn't leave room to take a pee in peace, I can't see when you would have time to come with big ideas to save the planet :))

    Who knows Fizzy, in 10-20 years you might be one of those big thinkers and we'll be thinking, WOW we READ her BLOGS back in the day! (except we don't know your real identity, so I guess probably not - but people who do know you will).

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  2. Maybe I'll become more ambitious when I'm older. I think there used to be a time when I was more ambitious, but it was probably pre-college. Right now, every time I get a big idea, I feel tired and need to take a nap.

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  3. Me and one of my friends used to be very ambitious, driven by great goals, national speaking, titles, business travel. She told me this summer, not anymore, she quit academic job and is in private practice with better hours and pay.
    I went for federal employment with great hours, less pay. I think there is stages in life of a woman, when she can be most productive professionally. For me it is when my kids were preschoolers and now not untill my kids are in college. Great women leaders I know are single, work part time, have family members take care of kids around the clock. While I still have nostalgic memories of my prime-time I am learning to be at peace with low profile situation I am in. This year I turned down speaking engagement, and offer to head a committee at National Society. Every time I see a bad report card from my eldest, trust me I do not want to be a world leader. Rather I wish I could be a Tiger Mother ;)

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  4. Ding! I think you hit the nail on the head Fizzy. It's not because he's a man, or because you have children, it's because you don't have his ambition. Which is fine! Not everyone has to be that person who saves the world. I just don't get why you're so jealous about it.

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  5. I have been struggling with the same thoughts lately. I feel completely conflicted about pursuing the type of career I once wanted. I went from wanting to be a hot shot I-banker, to wanting to influence new economic health policy while operating as a academic surgeon at a major institution - that is the "girl power" in me - I've been pumping that part of me up for years (with lots of help from my mom :)). But now, I'm not sure what I want. I may want to just finish residency and join some decent practice as a (maybe part time) general surgeon. Similar to your feelings when other people commented about Dr. Thompson, I also get a twinge of irritation when I tell my "just" general surgery plan to others and they don't jump back in awe and say I need to strive for more and do some hot shot fellowship and get a policy degree and be the next Surgeon General or something ridiculous. I can say without question though, that when I pick up my smiley daughter from daycare, I find that I just don't care!

    p.s. As a little shout-out to my husband, despite my own misgivings, its always endearing that he still thinks I can take over the world and encourages me to keep trying! :)

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  6. OMDG - cannot agree. Many of us women had great ambition, and with chilren arrival it is forced to go out the window like Cutter said. I know many women doctors who are jelous of other's achievements. It only proves that we still have passion for what we do and wish we had different circumstances letting us achieve more. I think being a little jelous about career success is good. It is also called competition sometimes.

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  7. Well, I can agree that competition can be a great motivator. But I also think you've hit on a big reason why women can be so unpleasant to one another sometimes. Further, Fizzy doesn't seem to want to be motivated to work harder here. She just wants the glory that the male attending who is doing more is getting.

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  8. OMDG - but we (Fizzy, and likewise less worthy mother doctors) wish we COULD work more and get said glory ...deserved, not just glory. I think Kasiunut hit the nail on the head - Fizzy cannot pee in peace right now (I have been literally in the same situation for years). Sorry, Fizzy to be talking about you as a third party here. Women in medicine can be unpleasant more than men 'cause we care for kids, and are pulled into a gazilion of directions.

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  9. Anon -- Perhaps some women wish they could work more, but Fizzy is not one of those people. Have you ever read her posts before? She adamantly does NOT want to work more. She specifically went into her field because of the relatively benign hours, and she still wants to work less. She has specifically blogged about that very issue on multiple occasions.

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  10. Being a good parent is in direct conflict with work ambition, but it's also true for men. My husband is in middle management at a tech firm, and he says that every CEO that he's ever worked for either has no kids, or has a wife who is a stay-at-home mom. He says he probably would have been a CEO or COO by now if he didn't have kids, but he wants to be a good father too. We have twelve more years until our youngest is off to college, and I figure we can both ramp up our careers then.

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  11. As a protest to people posting as "Anonymous" and not giving themselves a name, I will not be replying to any "Anonymous" comments.

    Cutter: My husband still believes in me too. He knew me back in the days when I was incredibly ambitious.

    OMDG: I don't want credit for something I haven't done... to be fair, Dr. Thompson hasn't DONE anything yet. If you were standing next to a guy who is basically in the same place in their career as you are (and I've probably published more), and someone said, "Now THAT GUY is going to be great someday," wouldn't you feel a little bit slighted? Even if you thought it might be true?

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  12. (Although I stand by my Anonymous protest, I do appreciate the Anon who stood up for me :)

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  13. I'll have to think about that, Fizzy. So far whenever this has happened to me I've felt slighted because I know I'm as good and have as much potential as the other person.

    On the other hand, maybe people ARE saying these things about you when you're not around, and you just don't know it.

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  14. OMDG: I don't get it. What is the point of you suggesting people are insulting me behind my back?

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  15. OMDG: In the light of day, I think I misread your comment. Sorry.

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  16. Hi Fizzy
    I really like this blog and and I do read every single comment. I understand where all the regular contributors are coming from because I have taken the time to read their contributions and comments. I am also not the anon above. Now that is all out of the way I just wanted to add that I think its important to have anon as an option. I think this is what helps some give their honest opinion. That is the BEST thing about this blog. It is not just an innane self help group where we are all cheering each other on. I made a comment on the sexual harassment topic as anon - its weird but I have a strange part of me that thinks the person who harassed me can track me down (yes it is irrational). I also share a computer at home and would like my thoughts to be private.

    By the way I think you are already thinking big by being a mother, being a doctor AND regularly contributing to a blog where you communicate with people all over the world. Is Dr Thompson doing this????? I have never seen him here. I also think that very small children (I have four) need their parent to be thinking small (food, wee, poo, sleep, play). This changes rapidly and is one of the exciting things about having children. The oldest are starting to think bigger than me about myself!

    Anon in Australia

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  17. JoeyJoeJoeJunior ShabadooDecember 4, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    Anon in Australia: This is Fizzy, demonstrating what people who want to be anonymous should do. There's an option to enter a name, and you can write in whatever you want. It's certainly just as "safe" as just being Anonymous and then I can actually reply to you. Short of that, people should at least sign a name at the bottom like you (sort of) did.

    Dr. Thompson probably wouldn't fit in with the Mothers in Medicine community, although he does sometimes send me articles that he writes for major online magazines/newspapers. Although I doubt he's been published in Journal of Irreproducible Results like I soon will be :)

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  18. Hi Fizzy
    Thanks for writing back. My father in law is a retired Prof of Surgery and in his youth probably was like Dr Thompson. Maybe like Dr Thompson on steroids. Now as an active grandfather with a veggie patch, fishing boat and 10 grandchildren he would fit right into this MIM community (even though he is not a mother). He has been so hands on and has helped me continue my medical career while my children are young. I agree with the reply that its not so much to do with ambition but the season of life we are in...I'd reiterate that its already a big deal that we are doctors and most of us are too hard on ourselves for not "thinking bigger". I know I am like this to myself. Again, thanks for writing back. Anon in Australia PS I am going try to put my name in the heading. PPS To give the other anons the benefit of doubt maybe they did not know how to do this like me.

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  19. Old MD Girl is definitionally a troll; the blog is for mothers in medicine. Until you're juggling all the balls, you don't understand the act.

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  20. I wasn't trying to be mean or nice. I just think it's a farce to write as if you know the situation when you do not. Especially when you write as critically as you do of others.

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  21. Anon-today... sorry!December 7, 2011 at 10:11 PM

    Fizzy, I just have to say how much I love this post. I am heading back to work (tomorrow!!) after a long-but-not-lazy 3 month maternity leave. I am scared stiff. Mostly because I don't know how to reconcile my pre-second-child ambition with my current desire to just. be. home.

    I am hoping that, just as after my 1st maternity leave, this lack of motivation will resolve itself once I get back in the swing of things. But .... what if it doesn't? Is that such a big problem, to not be motivated to change the world? And say I am able to accept my smaller range of influence/concern: how can I keep myself from being annoyed when I'm reminded what I *could* be capable of? (And/or when I see people who are less talented than I getting more kudos?!)

    [PS: Anonymous today because I don't want any colleagues knowing that I'm posting this.]

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  22. I agree with kristen's comment. It's not about being mean or nice.

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  23. I love this quote about Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers: "Sure he was great, but don't forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards...and in high heels!"

    I feel this way almost daily. Realizing that I and my single friends, some of whom are back living at home again and having meals prepared and laundry done by a mom who is tickled pink that her son is going to be a big doctor, are seen as equal in talent, work ethic and raw intellectual ability simply because our performance is comparable at the hospital can feel disheartening. Nobody is going to care or take notice of the fact that what the other guy has had to spend 3 days learning, I have had to master in 4 hours. What they can do on a full night's sleep, I can do after being up all night with a sick child. Sometimes it is frustrating to realize that nobody will ever see or acknowledge that in order for a full-time mother (with a husband who has had to relocate away from his family due to a job, without which said family cannot survive) to be a generally above average medical student, she has to have far above average abilities and motivation. I am certain that the same, and more, extends to physician mothers in residency and practice.

    This is like taping a star golfer's eyes shut, having him play a major tournament, then never acknowledging that even if he didn't win the tournament and "merely" finished among the top 25%, his talent is far greater than "par for the course".

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  24. White Coat dreamer, Amen. I've had a childless week this week (my parents took my son for our "most challenging rotation" of our residency). I've had so much down time during this "challenging week" that I've contemplated having another child and buying a puppy. Seriously.
    My life is just light years different than my fellow spouseless, childless residents. Seriously, it's not even funny. I couldn't will time to go faster yesterday, but when I'm not childless, I'm breathless from the pace.
    Different universe. And, I'm proud of you, us and, yes, me!

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  25. Kristin-I would give OMDG a break. Reading and commenting here will give her perspective when she is juggling all the balls. We are also not privy to her whole situation. I do not think she is being critical of Fizzy, just expressing the wish to maintain the ambition. Of course I wish I had more time to do all the things my single childless friends do. In the last 2 months, I ran my clinic without a physician extender, studied for recerts, did 2 inpatient attending weeks, ran 3 committees, worked on my promotion package, made 3 Halloween costumes and wrote the Sunday school play. My husband got promoted and increased his work hours to about 80h a week. Oh yeah, my father had a major health crisis which required a lot of quarterbacking from me. I am exhausted and not too worried about ambition but it does peeve me to hear the praise my junior colleague gets for seeing half the patients in twice the time. It is what it is and made from the choices I have made

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