Thursday, January 27, 2011
I love the babies, even when they are screaming. I especially love the girl ones, since I don't have one of those at home. I love the variety. Sure, there is an awful lot cough, runny nose and fever X 2 days on top of the chart. But, I have been pleasantly surprised by the variety.
I have done everything from a one month well baby visit to STD counseling on a young man. I have seen children living with autism, a child with Fragile X syndrome, one with mosaic Klinefelter syndrome, and a few with insulin pumps. I have seen congenital and developmental variations.
My main fear was becoming too upset by seeing a serious ill child. I cried more than once during my preclinical years during films and lectures about terminal developmental disorders and abuse. I still have to do a month in Peds ER, but my rotation site doesn't do pediatric trauma. I hope I don't end up too emotionally overwhelmed by anything I see. I don't have to do PICU or NICU. I think I would have been fine if I wasn't a mother. Now, I identify with every parent and associate all the kids with my kids.
I think one way we end up picking a specialty is by what we can't handle. Some people can't handle the idea of treating someone who is pregnant. I have an internal attending that always jokes that treating someone under eighteen makes him diaphoretic. I know another who can't face pus. There's a student who dreads the ER.
I still haven't done my ob/gyn rotation yet. I am pretty sure I'll love it, since I trained as a midwife. If not, I suppose I can switch everything over to pediatrics. I really doubt I'll be doing it, though.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Well, really, you don't need to worry so much about Fizzy. The truth is, I kind of like my job. It's not perfect. You're not going to catch me and my job alone in a closet doing unspeakable things (I worry about some of you, really), but I'm quite satisfied. For starters, I don't work weekends. I sometimes really help people. I have a lot of flexibility. I can eat lunch or go to the bathroom any time I want. (I'm not joking. This is huge.) There's a lot of room for career growth and research. If someone told me I'd still be working at the same place 20 years from now, I'd be pretty happy. Like they say in Office Space, it would be nice to have that kind of job security.
So your next question is undoubtedly, "But Fizzy, you're always whining and moaning. If you're happy, why don't you just shut the hell up already?"
Well, that's a good question, although quite rudely phrased. It's sort of like this: say you spent the whole day cleaning your giant house. It sucks but then when it's done, maybe you can finally relax. Except you can't relax because you pulled a muscle in your back and have excruciating pain for the next several weeks. It's sort of like that.
I wish I could say that my training sucked and now it's over, thank god. Except it's not so simple.
All right, my pre-clinical years were not great. My school had a failure rate of something like 10%, which meant that 10% of the class actually had to repeat an entire year. That puts a lot of pressure on you, especially when you're in the midst of a bad break-up and some family medical issues. But I was used to studying hard, so while it was bad, it wasn't that bad. The clinical years were when I started to fall apart. Some people simply don't like waking up at 4AM and working 27 days of the month. Some people start to physically deteriorate. I was in the latter category. I've always had a pretty low energy level (which would explain my impending obesity) and I really struggled with the physical demands of clinical work (e.g. sleep deprivation, standing in place for eight hours, etc.). It was pretty bad, but I got through it.
It was intern year that really got me though. It changed my conception of myself, and not in a particularly positive way.
For starters, my first resident as an intern was a cruel bitch who tore me down on my first day and continued to bat me down every time I tried to recover. (You can read more about her cruelty here.) People like her over the course of my training really brought down my confidence in myself. But it wasn't just that.
I'm a typical oldest child in that I always feel this compulsive need to be responsible. I'm not Type A, but when you ask me to get something done, you can bet it will get done and at least a day early. In school during group projects, I was always the one who quietly did everyone else's work while they slacked off. I am extremely reliable and organized and always have been. Except I discovered during my intern year that after 2AM on a call night, I wasn't particularly reliable. I'm not going to elaborate further, except to say that I'm not proud of my behavior on some of my call nights. (I will at least say that absolutely no harm whatsoever came to any patients.)
That was part of why I switched residencies, in order to have a more regular schedule. Leaving my residency was the most drastic thing I'd ever done in my life, very unlike me, but I was horrified that I couldn't trust myself during call-heavy ward months. I don't think of myself as prone to depression, but I became desperately miserable that year. I was recently reading a journal I kept during intern year, and I wrote one very serious-sounding entry where I said that I wished a car would run me down on my walk to work the next day.
So that's my story. Years later, I still have negative thoughts about myself due to those early years of training. I have trouble thinking of myself as the old reliable person I always was, despite three extremely successful subsequent years of residency. And some of the physical ailments I developed under the extreme stress of my early training still haunt me. But I guess in some ways, I got off easy. One of my colleagues attempted suicide during intern year.
Some of you have applauded me for my honesty and this about as honest as I can get. I don't know how common my experience was, but I've learned it's more common than I thought. I was, after all, a very average intern, as my shocked program director told me when I informed him I couldn't take anymore. I suspect there are people reading this now who feel the same way I did, have in the past, or will in the future.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
It was snowing one recent morning when I got up to drive to work. It was supposed to rain. I’m a primary care doctor in Boston, and my commute can be 12 minutes or 60 minutes, depending on the traffic. I was lucky I left early, because the unexpected snow on frozen asphalt created a slippery mess, many accidents, and much traffic. It was pretty bad. I wouldn’t say half my morning session cancelled; rather, I was surprised that half was still on the schedule. Tough New Englanders! I took off my soaking wet boots and pulled on my white coat and waited to see who would show up in the snowstorm.
Part of me was hoping that I’d have the rest of the day off, and I could go home to cuddle with my 6-month-old. Of course, then I would have to make up the day later on… I was here and decided to make the best of it. With oodles of extra time to lavish on my patients, I looked at the schedule. My first patient, Brenda Z., was a 22-year old for a physical. Usually, I only have 20 minutes for these, but today, we would have a whole 45 minutes!
Brenda is only 5 feet tall, but she weighs 244 pounds, putting her Body Mass Index (BMI)(1) at 48. Unfortunately, she is not only one of the 34% of Americans who are obese, but one of the 5.7% who are extremely (morbidly) obese.(2,3) Predictably, she has many obesity-associated problems: asthma, sleep apnea, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and almost-high blood pressure. For the past year, I’ve had her come in every 3 months for weight and blood pressure checks. She comes from a middle-class home, works at a supermarket checkout, and goes to school part-time. She’s a hard worker and a good kid. But best of all, she had lost 11 pounds, by eating mostly fruits and vegetables and Slimfast shakes. I wasn’t at all sure this would stick, but hey, it’s a start.
As Brenda left, I noticed that the medical assistant and one of the nurse practitioners were steering a fairly off-balance woman into my other exam room.
“Um, if you don’t want to see her, I guess we can ask one of the other docs to see her, but this was the closest room…” said the NP.
The M.A. was more blunt: “This one’s drunk. Falling-over drunk.”
It’s not at all common for patients to show up at our office drunk, but this lady, Alexa J., had just wandered in looking for her usual primary care physician, who was out. She was in a bad state, so the staff had taken it upon themselves to make her safe. They checked her in and took vitals, as she promptly passed out face-down on my exam table.
“Hello? Hello, can you hear me?” I rubbed her shoulder, more than a little alarmed. She was dressed well, but absolutely reeked of Vodka. Fumes. I felt dizzy just standing over her.
“I need help, I need to stop,” she garbled.
“Stop what? Are you alright, are you hurt?”
“Alright… I want to stop this, stop drinking.” That much was clearer.
I stood and thought for a moment and then just picked up the phone and called our ER. The triage nurse took the information with aplomb, simply adding “Passed out, eh? Good luck getting her down here.” But the M.A. and I wrestled her into a wheelchair, and with two escorts, off she went to be evaluated and possibly admitted for detox.
I then got a call from a psychiatric hospital. A patient of mine, a middle-aged mom named Jane L., had been admitted with suicidal thoughts, in a background of Bipolar Disorder. I was surprised and pleased to get a callback from the treating psychiatrist, who filled me in: that she was stable, but would need residential placement after acute treatment. I offered some of my take on the situation, but the psychiatrist did not seem all that interested… That’s OK, I’m in over my head with someone who is a danger to herself; she’s in the right place. But I remembered that just a few months ago, after she had come in to see me and had expressed that she wanted to overdose on her pills or crash her car, I had walked her down to the emergency room myself. Just a few years ago, she was working and supporting herself and doing well. Now, she was on disability, in and out of the hospital, her finances in ruins. I so wanted to see her better.
My next patient was new to me, a healthy mom with a cold and a cough, and some mild wheezing. She asked me about Boston Med, the 8-hour ABC-TV documentary series that aired last summer.(4) I was on maternity leave when it aired, but my husband and I watched every episode. It was touching, yet also stereotypical: lots of trauma drama.
She asked, “Are they going to film another series like that? I hope so!”
I didn’t know. But I pointed out that the fact that only surgeons and ER staff were profiled, and that very disappointing to us primary care docs! “Primary care is exciting too,” I said.
She had some mild bronchospasm, so I gave had given her an inhaler. She seemed so reluctant to accept the inhaler, that I had to ask her why. She told me about her son who had been a micro-premie and survived, but with bad lungs. He was 9 years old now and doing well except for asthma. He had been in and out of the hospital with many infections, pneumonias, and was better now but didn’t react well to the Albuterol and they had to keep trying new meds- Pirbuterol, Levalbuterol.
“Will this happen to me?” she asked, really worried. She had equated his long battle, the sequelae of premature lungs, with her new diagnosis of reactive airways, which means mildly “twitchy” lungs that respond well to occasional puff of Albuterol. I couldn’t dismiss her fear, borne of a painful experience… and I couldn’t alleviate her fear with any quick explanation. And so we had a long discussion about it.
“Thanks for spending so much time with me today,” she said.
My next patient probably had the flu. Then I said Hi to my diabetic patient whose sugars are all over the place, and I’m following her along with our diabetes nurse. Thank God for our diabetes nurse, who can take a good diet history and offer good solid recommendations on eating.
My last patient was Nanette M., a 32-year old African-American woman with a new breast lump. She had no breast cancer risk factors at all, and the lump was round, but it was deep and immobile. We decided to do an ultrasound and a mammogram. Statistically speaking it’s probably a benign breast cyst. Still, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women (besides skin cancers). Also, breast cancer rates are higher in African-American women than white women before age 45. (5) I wanted to be careful. Though I have seen many women with breast changes that turned out to be benign, one time I examined a patient with breast thickening, and it was breast cancer, invasive but not metastatic. Surgeries and chemotherapy took a whole year from her. Her treatments left her a changed woman. Thankful to be alive, but changed, older. So any breast changes, basically, scare me.
And that was that. I ate a snack, tried to do some paperwork, but then I called home. I spoke to my mom (our nanny) and heard my baby squawking in the background. Then I spoke to my Hubby, who urged me to get home soon before rush hour. Baby just sounded so cute, and Hubby was worried, so I packed it up and made for home, leaving behind some paperwork and a snowy morning at the primary care office.
1. Centers for Disease Control and prevention: Vital Signs: Obesity. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/overwt.htm accessed 1/18/11
2. Statistics related to overweight and obesity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive ad Kidney Diseases. US Dept of Health and Human Services. http://win.niddk.nih.gov/statistics/ accessed 1/18/11
3. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute BMI Calculator http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/
4. Boston Med, ABC medical documentary Summer 2010: http://abc.go.com/shows/boston-med
5. Breast Cancer Facts and Figures 2009-2010, American Cancer Society
Monday, January 24, 2011
Saturday, January 22, 2011
How did it turn out? Beautifully. It was a bit difficult at first, but I eventually got the hang of it. I had a couple of lunch dates with Josh. I went out with my best friend once or twice. I saw a movie with a friend. But mostly I stayed home, enjoyed the quiet and took the opportunity to read. I read 10 books in two weeks, the most I've read in years. I really enjoyed myself. At the end of break, Josh and I went out of town together, just for a night. He likes to hunt and it was the end of dove season, so we got a hotel room near his lease. I enjoyed the silence of the hotel while he hunted a couple of times, I slept in, we spent some quality time together, went out for dinner and lunch, and got together with some friends who live in the area. It was perfect end to my relaxation challenge. The next time you get a chance for a little downtime, I highly recommend forcing yourself to slow down long enough to enjoy it!
Thursday, January 20, 2011
I'm almost loathe to start this post as I don't think Amy Chua, and her book, could possibly have more press. I also fully disclose that I did not read this book, having only read (the scary) excerpts and multiple articles and blogs about the book. I did hear her on NPR with Diane Rehm when she defended the "tongue-in-cheek" nature of the book and how it represents an evolution of her own parenting. (Although, it seems that many people who have read her book in its entirety seem to have missed that subtlety.) My friend Joanne wonders whether her form of parenting represents child abuse.
I grew up the daughter of Chinese immigrants who, if anything, were on the permissive side. Sure, they valued good grades and hard work but honestly never pushed me. This might be, in part, due to the fact that I was doing well anyway, but I remember their mantras whenever I called home from college were two: 1) make sure you get enough rest; 2) don't study too hard. In high school, I did cause quite a bit of their concern when I declared I wanted to get a part-time job during the school year. Not out of necessity, I didn't need the money, but, what can I say? I wanted the experiences my friends had. I promised them that I would stop if my grades suffered. (And looking back, the experience of working minimum wage in discount retail was enlightening.) My parents' parenting style was the envy of my circle of friends: I had no curfew (although my dad would nonchalantly stay up, probably developing an ulcer, while waiting for me to return home on Saturday nights). I watched a lot of TV. They allowed me to give up piano lessons when I likened my times with my mid-life-crisising piano teacher to extreme torture.
I did have ABC (American Born Chinese) classmates that had proverbial Tiger Mothers. These women terrified me. Their children were polite, respectful, disciplined and high-achieving, but something was off. There was a hardness to these boys (they were often boys), and, often, a social awkwardness. I felt for them. And very glad I had a different upbringing.
On the flip side, the criticism that American parenting culture is too permissive is interesting to explore. Are we not pushing our children enough (not to TM extremes but isn't some pushing necessary)? I semi-struggled with this as I've watched my 5 year-old daughter beg for piano lessons...then totally lose interest a few months later. Same with dance class. When it got to be a monumental struggle to get her to even pay attention to her teachers or go to class, we've allowed her to stop. The feeling was that maybe she's not ready and when she finds something that she is truly passionate about, it wouldn't be such a Herculean effort to get her to practice. More physical activities, like swimming and gymnastics, have held her attention week after week. We are "following the child" as her Montessori teachers say. This makes a great deal of sense to me. I don't want her to do something for me, or for the sake of doing something. I want her to do something and work hard at it because she loves it and derives happiness in the process (That's possible, right?). But I sometimes wonder if I'm doing her justice by letting things go too easily.
One possible ill consequence of the TM method is raising children where conformity over individuality and creativity is selected. The Chinese have produced a nation of math and science heavyweights, but where are the visionaries? The Apples? The break-out ideas?
Chua, on NPR, wanted it to be known that her book was not a how-to-guide to parenting but a memoir. She clearly has struck a chord with mothers (and parents) everywhere. As much as she's been demonized in the media, I think this comes from a place of insecurity, that we all carry, about how we are doing as parents. Could we not be giving our children the best advantages in life? Are we doing it wrong? At the heart of the "Mommy Wars, " afterall, is insecurity and wanting to believe that our parenting, one of our most precious tasks --to "successfully" raise a child -- is right.
I hope that her daughters grow up to be successful, as defined by their own beliefs and that this backlash towards her mother's memoir doesn't do any permanent damage. We are all mothers, doing what we think is right, in the best way we know how. After all.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
I’m not sure I am worthy of the title of Stay at Home Dad. I don’t have my children all day long every day.
My role to take on more of the domestic responsibilities began in fall of 2008. There was a combination of factors for this decision, but it was largely based on improving the quality of life for our family. Our oldest child had just turned four years old and our youngest, two.
With both of us working beyond full time, we were watching our children grow up in daycare and were limited to an hour or two each evening with them during the weekdays and the weekends were spent catching up on laundry, lawn, grocery shopping and million other items on the must do list. Exhaustion discouraged healthy cooking and exercise, and we ended up eating out or ordering in most of the time. I could continue to list all the reasons, but the truth is we should have done it sooner for fewer reasons. I never thought I would have anything but a long career of continuous development, but my wife had more time and money invested in her career and she was the bread winner. Besides, I have way more patience with children, and all other non-cat related matters.
It has been two and a half years since we made that decision, and it was the best decision for our family. Quality of life for everyone has improved tremendously. Cindy Lou is in first grade now, and we decided that Bean would benefit from the social interaction and academic curriculum at he gets at preschool. I take the kids to school, I pick them up (much earlier than we used to). I cook the meals and clean the house, albeit poorly I am told (seriously, how does dust accumulate so fast?). I pay the bills, clean the pool, and mow the lawn. I also do general repairs, minor plumbing and electrical work and you should taste my stuffed tilapia with white wine lemon butter sauce. During varying times of the day and evening, I work (as needed) to run my unintentionally non-profitable small business with 6 employees. I did get to take a paycheck last January (2010) so that’s good, right?
I now get a lot more quality time….err, snuggling/wrestling/tickling time with the kids which is unbelievably great.
I periodically get a little restless, and send my resume out to test the waters, but every time I get a bite I am forced to reconsider the consequences to my family if I return to the corporate world. Without fail, my decision is swift and clear as to what is best for our family, and that is to stay home. That is to say, stay available. Available for sick children and doctors appointments and field trips and household duties and whatever else needs to be done. My wife’s job as an OB/GYN is stressful and demanding enough, and I cannot help with that or relieve those responsibilities in any way. What I can do is almost everything else, that’s the goal anyway. In reality, she contributes a lot and always has a sense of when I need her help the most.
Anyway, I am unaware of any stigma and indifferent to prejudgments or misconceptions that others may try to attach to me. This works for our family and I am very proud and grateful for this arrangement. I used to think of it as me sacrificing my career for my family, but now I see clearly. We were sacrificing our family for our careers. We’ve both made the necessary changes to end that, and we are a happier family for it.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
That 40 hours includes the time spent sleeping over 2 nights. It includes the time we attend to our own needs: work outs, showers, etc. It includes the time caring for the kids together, at gymnastics and swimming lessons. It sometimes includes the time I spend at work when on-service and covering a weekend. It is time that we are intensely focused on being together, of being a team reunited. It is time I can't wait for at the end of each week, and time that passes all too quickly.
I know this now: we will never take living in the same house, of falling into the same bed each evening, for granted again.
Making each week's 40 hours, from Friday, late at night to Sunday, early afternoon, that much more savored is the fact that soon, in a couple of months, those 40 hours per week will become 0. 0 x 50 weeks to be exact, the amount of time that he will spend in Afghanistan in active duty. He'll have a total of 2 weeks of "R and R" sometime in the middle.
Working full-time and parenting 2 small kids with 1 on the way (6 weeks and 1 day to go before due date, but who's counting) has only been possible by lots of help at home. Ever since we had nannygate x 2 late last fall, my parents have basically moved in and are a tremendous help. They plan to stay well after I have the baby when another family member has committed to helping for several months. The new nanny search can wait until then.
Despite all of this madness, I'm remembering to count my blessings because they are many. To have retired parents willing to give up their previously enjoyed retired life to come live with us. To have a job which leaves me satisfied, happy, and not (usually) overworked. (Any overworking is my own fault and side projects I've taken on, not expected by my job). I have a wonderfully supportive boss who understands my family situation. I have a rock-solid marriage; we know that this separation and challenging 12 months ahead will only bring us closer. I have the world's best neighbors. We have fabulous friends who have helped so much already this year, both in their actions and their mental and emotional support. We belong to a wonderful church. So, now, 2 months before he is deployed, I am at peace and stand ready to face what comes my way.
One of my Christmas presents this year was a Philosophy set of products from their Amazing Grace fragrance line. If you're not familiar, Philosophy products come with smart names and little blurbs that inspire. The blurb on the Amazing Grace body butter I found especially resonant:
"how you climb up the mountain is just as important as how you climb down the mountain. and, so it is with life, which for many of us becomes one big gigantic test followed by one big gigantic lesson. in the end, it all comes down to one word: grace. it's how you accept winning and losing, good luck and bad luck, the darkness and the light."
My plan is to wear this and live this. Every day. It smells, well, amazing, and it might just help me through the months to come.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
One of my classmates had a boyfriend who had recently graduated from residency in medicine and had a job in a private practice. Back then, that seemed like the bright light at the end of a long tunnel: someday I would finish med school, finish residency, and then the torture would be over!
Except my friend was complaining about how her boyfriend was working harder than he ever had before. As the newest person in the practice, he took call every holiday and was at the office late every night. She then went on to tell me that this was "typical" of first attending jobs.
I wanted to throw up. So not only did I now have to get through med school and get through residency, I now had to put in my dues in my first attending job for god knows how long? When the hell did it ever end?
When I was doing inpatient rotations in residency, I noticed that my attendings never left work before I did, and actually, were often there later than I was (except on call). I started to have a bad feeling that the bright light at the end of the tunnel was all a myth, and that by entering medicine, I had resigned myself to working hard for the rest of my life.
I do think that, in general, attending physicians work very hard. I know there's going to be some dermatologist who comments something like, "Hey, I work only two afternoons a week, I love my job, and I make half a million dollars a year!" And that's awesome for you, really, you bitch. But I think even physicians like myself, who work part-time and have fewer hours, work pretty hard while at work. And physicians who work full time in private practice generally work their asses off.
The bright light is not entirely a myth. At least as an attending, you earn more money and get to do something closer to the job you want to do. But then again, how many people end up with their dream job right out of training, especially in this economy? I think it's to be expected that you'll need to spend a few years putting in your dues. I think it's a myth to think that you just need to get through seven years of training and then you'll be on easy street. After all, there's a reason Physician ranked only 83 on CareerCast's list of the top 200 jobs of 2011 (I seriously thought we were going to be after the guy who cleans the urinals or something).
I guess my point is that if you think of medical training as something horrible you need to get through before you end up with some cushy, high paying job, maybe you should rethink medicine. I don't think it's a good idea to postpone your life until "the hard stuff" is over, because it might not be over as soon as you think. Or ever.
But as usual, I welcome dissenting opinions. Do you work your ass off as attending? Or did you get a cushy, high paying job straight out of residency?
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
I'm mildly embarrassed to admit it, but I LOVE chick lit. I don't know why, because I hate fashion and flowers and jewelry and everything else girly. But I love these books. It's especially shocking because I used to be SUCH a little book snob when I was a teenager, and I'm sure I would have mocked Older Me mercilessly for reading a book about a woman who helps her quirky ghost great-aunt find a lost necklace (bonus points if you know what book I'm talking about).
But I don't have anything to prove anymore, so I'm going to read what I want, dammit. I recently discovered a list of the ultimate top 100 chick lit novels and noting that I've already read and enjoyed 7 of the top 10, I've decided to make it my mission for 2011 to work my way through the list. Come on, who's with me?
But you know what bugs me about chick lit? How come none of the female protagonists are ever doctors??
Seriously! On that list of 100 books, you'll find women who are lawyers, teachers, PR reps (a popular chick lit career), i-bankers, and basically tons of great careers. No doctors. There are no chick lit books about doctors.
Why the hell not? There are lots of doctors writing memoirs. There are lots of thrillers written about doctors. (I used to be a big Robin Cook fan, until I realized the villain was always Evil Managed Care.) There are tons of TV shows about doctors, some of which involve doctors hooking up a lot (Grey's Anatomy). There are comedies about doctors (Scrubs). So I don't know why female doctors can't be the protagonists in chick lit? The Devil can wear scrubs, can't she?
You can probably tell this really bothers me. Why can't someone write a novel about a female doctor who's riding on a plane, ends up telling all her secrets to the cute guy next to her, then it turns out he's her new boss and also she has a shopping addiction? What's up with that?
Monday, January 3, 2011
- I don’t mind being called “the wife” or “Mr. Mom” or “Daddy Daycare” or when someone says “Oh look, daddy’s day out. Giving mom a break today, eh?”
- I cannot find a stay at home dad’s group in my city with google. Thus, I have no social interactions. And no prospects.
- This life chose me; I didn’t choose it.
- Circumstances left me with no job, so I’m just watching the kids for a while.
- I wear mandals. All the time.
- I can’t make small talk at parties because “I’m a full time dad” is a conversation killer.
- Surfing the internet all day keeps me busy most of the time. The rest of my time goes to Wii.
- I don’t cook well and can't operate the simple machinery stored in the laundry room.
- I’m a failure in the corporate world.
- I can’t look at your MIM website without secretly wishing there was some MIB tie in.
- My right thumb tingles a bit.
- It’s all bon bons and soap operas…and NASCAR.
- Sometimes I feel like I’m shirking my role as financial provider and that my role as homemaker is less significant.
- Grocery shopping is challenging enough, adding small children to the mix makes every outing an adventure.
- I don’t like sports.
- I’m homeschooling my kids, or should be.
- I am the post modern trophy wife.
- I’m an introvert. Or an extrovert.
- My wife wears the pants, but sitting around in my underwear all day isn’t so bad. Someone bring me the remote. Stat!
Hey, stereotypes exist for a reason, but that doesn’t make them right about individuals. Only one of the above statements is true about me and the guys I hang with. (I’ve got a tingly thumb…don’t ask why.) Most of the list are outright lies, some are exaggerations, a few are truly myths, and still others are simply artifacts of times past waiting on society to finally bury them (if the last hundred years have taught us that men and women are equals, then so be it). One thing is certain: a new beast has entered into the public mythology—into our shared societal consciousness—a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am a stay at home dad. I am legend.
So that’s the screw-you-part where I say all your stereotypes are bogus. Oh, and the last line is from the book (which turns, big shock, out to be not much like the Will Smith movie), starting with “a new superstition.” I didn’t make that crap up, just the crap before it. The real-me-part is that although I was raised in daycare and turned out justfinethanks, I always envisioned having my wife raising my kids. Marrying in our early 20’s, we waited 8 years into our marriage before the time felt right to have our first, so we were already on our second house and somewhat financially stable (as opposed to my own parents who were married in their teens and constantly argued about the little money they had). With RH+ in residency making the same salary as me, and with potential to make “doctor money” in a few years, it seemed like staying home fit me best. I tried it and liked it. We had to tighten our belt a bit, with the exception of upgrading to a DVR with the cable company (commercials can bite me). Otherwise, the high cost of daycare and gasoline, plus a favorable mortgage refinance equated to literally ¾ of my salary. RH+ picked up 2 moonlighting shifts per month (affectionately known as “sleeping for dollars” except for the one time she was everyone's hero, but she can tell the rest of that story…). Anyway that stuff plus our conservative lifestyle enabled us to go down to one salary with minimal pain. It was worth it. Totally.
I’m now part of a dad’s group, so I can share some perspectives from other fathers as well. I highly advise prospective full time dads to google yourcity + “at home dad” (use quotes) or check Meetup.com to find a group. It’s cool to talk sports, politics, diapers, and watch the moms groups wince when we arrive at the park only to often complement us as we leave the park. Dads who made a conscious decision to stay home and parent are much happier than those who lost their job and are watching the kids while looking for another job. This is no different than a guy unhappily working at the burger joint while looking for employment in his career of choice. Dads I know who actually took a significant net pay cut to make the deliberate choice they thought was best for their family are happier for it.
I can’t say being an at home dad is for everyone. I do know that everyone should try to have a career that they love. I love being a full time dad and find it to be an easy gig most of the time. This is also no different than a guy thriving in a career that he loves.
As a full time father, I know my son better than anyone. Sending him to kindergarten last year was really tough because his life story now had experiences that I was not a part of, chapters that I did not help write. Now that we have our second son, my decision to stay at home is reaffirmed as the correct one. He’s just started to toddle. Watching him try to mimic big brother at 14 months old is hilarious, its awesome, its frightening, and totally confirms exactly what I’ve always said: better raise your first kid right so he’ll do a good job with the rest. Here’s hoping that I did. And if I did not, well I have only myself to blame.