Monday, June 11, 2012

Guest post: Heavy heart

It's been a long day on ICU, and I'm patiently waiting for the night float resident to relieve me of my duties so I can go home, sneak into my kids bedrooms and kiss them goodnight.  Although they won't see me with their smiling faces for another 2 days.  I am a second-year family medicine resident in the southwest, and am at this point officially burned out and miss my kids terribly.  I had my second child (a girl) 8 months ago.  My son is 2 1/2.  Dad works full-time as well, but carries the brunt of the duties when I'm on challenging inpatient rotations.  "Guilty" does not go far enough in describing the perpetual feelings I harbor about leaving home every day to take care of others, when all I really want is to be taking care of my family.  Don't get me wrong, I love being a doc, and have worked years and years to achieve this goal.  But I can't help but wonder whether I will regret this all when my kids ask "Mom, did you stay at home with us?" or "Mom, who did you leave us with when you were at work?"  They are cared for by a very good friend of mine who cares for a few other kids together in her home.  She is the mother we all want and want to be for our children.  And they LOVE her.  But I can't get past the fear that they will somehow resent me being gone when they are older, and realize just how much I have been absentee.  Thus, I carry a heavy heart, nearly every day that I am away.  I've never felt like this about anything.  It's always been about me, about my goals, about my plans.  Now it's about them, and I want to give them the best of everything.  Can I still do that even when I'm away?
-Gem

10 comments:

  1. Aw! Sounds like you're going through a tough time right now. Fortunately Family Medicine is a short residency, and you'll be done with it by the time your kids are old enough to remember that you're not home with them as much as you want to be. I'm sure being an attending will present its own set of challenges with brand new feelings of guilt, but at least the overnight call will be minimized.

    Not sure how helpful this will be, but whenever I used to complain to my parents about something they had done wrong in how they raised me, they always told me that all parents make mistakes, and no matter what you choose your kids will find fault with you somehow. Which is to say that staying home full time probably wouldn't "fix" their feelings about you, and then on top of that you wouldn't get to be a dr. Put more positively, what you're doing now with your career won't mess them up.

    The way I see it, there are about 1,000,000 ways to be a good mom, and staying at home with your kids is only one of them. As I'm sure other moms on this site can attest, you can DEFINITELY be a good mom + full time dr. It's all about figuring out what arrangement works best for your family.

    Hang in there! You'll be done with residency soon enough.

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  2. As the daughter of a doctor and nurse I'm a child that didn't spend a massive amount of time with my parents. My mum went back to work when I was six weeks old and my dad worked on a 24/7 contract from the time I was born until he died. Up to the age of 4/5 going to bed at 8 you don't spend a lot of time with parents that come home from work at half 6. But you know what? I don't remember being that age at all really. What I remember is being proud as I got older and realise how much of their lives my parents were sacrificing to improve the lives of others. I remember the wisdom and sense of perspective they had from their work. I learned so much from their example that it didn't matter a damn to me that they weren't always the ones making me dinner or taking me to the park. My mum began working part time when I got older but honestly I ended up closer with my dad anyway so I think that quality time beats quantity.
    After my upbringing I obviously wasn't too traumatized because despite really wanting a family of my own.I am now a medical student. I won't get to be a stay at home mom, a soccer mom or anything like that and I'm okay with it. Some of my childhood memories are my dad getting a masters degree, having patients knock at the front door of my house on weekends, sitting in the back of the car while my dad makes housecalls, but that was my normal and I wouldn't change it for anything.

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  3. Interesting that the responders rely on "remembering" if mom or dad were gone. I'm 72, and I remember my stay at home mom leaving me to go to the hospital to have my brother; I remember my dad and uncles going off to WWII. And my oldest child died while in the care of a sitter (a nurse). Because I was a working mom, I not only lost the rest of his life, but I lost the year and a half that I did have him. My focus is on what you are losing, not the kids.

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  4. Dear Norma, your comment felt like a major punch into my gut. I literally started feeling sick to my stomach because I am always worried about how my children are doing when I am not at home. I am a resident and a mom of 2 under 2 yrs. Could you tell us more about your story. Including about what happened to your oldest child and how your other children are doing. What changes did you make after that horrible event?

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  6. I'm sorry for Norma's loss, but tragedy happens when we're there or we're not. Thinking that it might because we're not there to physically protect them 24/7 is probably not a healthy way to live, and not healthy for the children either. We can be consumed with worry or regret, or we can have faith and focus on what everyone is gaining, not losing.

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  7. I'm part of the crowd that doesn't really remember my time spent in day care, or afterschool care at all! My mother was a professor when I was 3-6, and I only have a few vague memories of my babysitters during that time period. I have far better memories of the looooong summer vacations where I could spend lots of time w/her.

    So don't worry, your children will remember the good times spent together...and take lots of photos to cement those memories as well!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    As far as Norma's awful experience...accidents happen and killing yourself w/the guilt will poison your life to your other kids and your husband. But it's not as if you're missing too much; you get to see them, spend time w/them and help to mold/raise them in a much different culture than she was raised or was raising her children. You'll find the balance that you need in a far more accepting work environment. And it's a quick residency! Yay!

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  8. Hi all, I am new to this blog, and I am not (yet) a MIM or the child of one...I am however the child of a working engineer mom & dad...and all I can remember about being little is being extremely proud of my mom for being a working mom and doing the things other friends' dads were doing. What I got out of both my parents working long hours, is the thought that BOTH parents can have a fulfilling career AND be great parents...and that you can "have it all" if that is what you want to have...besides, now, my husband (who was raised by a stay at home mom and loved every minute of it) often tells me what he likes the most about me is that I am so independent and can take care of myself...I am sure this is partly because my mom taught me those values. So keep up being a great doctor, you will only make your kids proud!!

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  9. Hi all, I am new to this blog, and I am not (yet) a MIM or the child of one...I am however the child of a working engineer mom & dad...and all I can remember about being little is being extremely proud of my mom for being a working mom and doing the things other friends' dads were doing. What I got out of both my parents working long hours, is the thought that BOTH parents can have a fulfilling career AND be great parents...and that you can "have it all" if that is what you want to have...besides, now, my husband (who was raised by a stay at home mom and loved every minute of it) often tells me what he likes the most about me is that I am so independent and can take care of myself...I am sure this is partly because my mom taught me those values. So keep up being a great doctor, you will only make your kids proud!!

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  10. My mom, not a doctor, has worked full time my entire life. As a pre-med student who wants a family, I expressed concern that my kids might spend more time with a nanny than with me. She laughed and said that I definitely spend most of my time with a nanny! I don't remember and neither will your kids. They will remember feeling loved and being proud of their mom for proving that women can be mothers and have successful careers. Don't worry about it!

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