Monday, October 22, 2012

Time for children


Last weekend I was at my friend's baby shower and making small talk with the mother of a baby boy a few months younger than my own son. His mother was a co-worker of my friend, both physical therapists at the local medical center, and the conversation turned to the topic of child care.

I mentioned that I had just worked with an intern who was 38 week pregnant, had planned to take a 4 week maternity leave (she was a prelim and had to start her second program on time), and had a complicated childcare plan in place that involved a sitter coming over to the house around 5 am - when she and her husband (a surgical resident himself) had to leave for the hospital, the sitter would then drop the baby off at daycare when it opened at 8am, pick the child up when daycare closed, and stay with the child until she came home from the hospital around 7 or 8 in the evening.

"Geez", she said, "Maybe she shouldn't be having children. It doesn't sound like she has time for them."

Whoa. Maybe she shouldn't be having children? I should mention that, although I hardly know this intern at all, I like her and I am worried about this plan for what I think are obvious reasons. Children get sick. Patients crash, usually right as you are about to leave. Daycare closes early on Friday for "Teacher In-service" (like every month it seems). Sitters have "things come up". And what about weekends?

My reaction to her situation wasn't that she shouldn't be having children, but that she needed a nanny to get her though a tough few years. I made what I hoped was a polite excuse and left the conversation. 

I was more fortunate than this intern in both the length of my maternity leave and that I had family that could move in with when my daughter was born, but without those two variables my situation wouldn't have appeared that different. I wondered if the same sort of judgement would be passed on me if my early months and years of motherhood were observed by similarly minded outsiders - even now as my mother lived with us for the last two weeks while I was on the inpatient ward rotation. 

I don't feel bad about how I raised my daughter when I was a resident, I feel grateful to my mother and mother-in-law. But I guess we all have different comfort levels for having other people participate in the care and raising of our children. I've had a lot of help with mine and, for the record, I've been pretty happy with the outcome so far. 

25 comments:

  1. I don't know, does it really surprise you that the resident would be judged? Moms are the greatest experts in judging other moms. I just made a post on my own blog which resulted in people judging me for occasionally taking my daughter to 3D movies. If you don't want people to judge you, go live in isolation somewhere. Otherwise, other moms are going to find fault with pretty much everything you do (or don't do).

    /rant

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  2. I had a few thoughts about this:

    1. Residency doesn't last forever. His/Her job may not always be so time consuming, and her baby won't even remember that his/her parents weren't there much during his/her infancy.
    2. I'm wondering why nobody has come down hard on the father for being a selfish jerk for reproducing during residency.
    3. Her only mistake was to tell other people what her plans were. If other people don't know, they can't judge you!
    4. This is basically the entire reason that I will never join a mom's group.

    @Fizzy -- I think your commenter was just suggesting that you take your daughter to other activities if you hate 3D movies so much. I didn't read it as a judgement against you. Of course what you say -- that people are really judgmental -- still holds 100%.

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    1. You're right... I was oversimplifying the judgment they made. It's hard to articulate, but basically I felt like people were saying it was a parenting fail that the 3D irritated me yet I still went to them with my kids. Not everyone... but one or two people. Maybe not... maybe I'm just oversensitive because I'm so used to the judgments.

      The thing is, we all do it. And now we're judging that woman who was surprised at how that intern was going to make it work. She didn't do anything wrong, just expressed an opinion to a third party.

      I'll say something controversial here: I thought the same thing as that horrible judgmental woman... that damn, that intern maybe shouldn't be having kids yet if that's really her schedule right now. Of course, it's entirely up to her, right? I mean, what do I really care if her schedule sucks? If she's happy with her decision, who cares what I think?

      I guess what I'm saying is that we all make judgments and get judged. So, 1) we shouldn't take other people's judgments as a sign we're doing something wrong, and 2) we shouldn't feel superior because we're not being judgmental. Because trust me, we all are.

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    2. While it may be true that everyone judges other people, not everyone has the poor taste to express those opinions to others whom they don't know well.

      Personally, my impression of this intern was that she didn't know how hard it was going to be (how could she), and that RH was right -- she should just hire a nanny. On the other hand, I'm looking into similar childcare arrangements when I go back to med school this spring. I suppose some people think that makes me a bad parent too. Oh well.

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    3. I don't think the "judgmental mom" in this story was showing poor taste. She was told a story about an intern she'd never met who was planning a pretty rough schedule, and just expressed her knee-jerk reaction. It wasn't like she was gossiping about someone behind their back, or worse, to their face. She probably didn't even realize it was a controversial opinion because... it kind of isn't. I think it's what the majority of non-physician moms would think.

      As much as we moms judge other moms, I think it's still far less than we WORRY about being judged. Any time I write anything about my kids online, the first thing I think to myself is, "I bet people are going to think this makes me a bad mom." I can tell you do the same, OMDG, but the way you anticipate everyone's negative reactions to the things you post. But really, who cares? If I love my kids and I feel like I'm doing the best I can, what's the difference what a few people I don't know think?

      That's what we should really strive for. Judgment is going to happen no matter what. We have to try not to care when we get judged.

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    4. Well, of COURSE I worry about other people judging me. I do however, in real life, try hard to self censor about things I disapprove of. Even about things that I have very strong feelings about.

      You know, it's probably true that the majority of mothers don't have this intern's schedule. However presumably this person works with other doctors, right? Has she never before stopped to consider that what this intern is doing isn't exactly uncommon among female doctors? If she hasn't, then perhaps she should.

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    5. I can't say when I was an intern that I EVER socialized with the hospital's physical therapists or talked them about myself. So it's entirely possible that PT really doesn't know. In any case, it didn't seem like she was being vindictive in her comment.... it's not like she said it to the intern's face.

      But even if she *did* know, seriously, that's a rough schedule! I'm instinctively a little horrified and I was a resident-mom. When I was in residency, I left my house most days at around 7:30 or even 8, and never got home later than 5 or 6, and sometimes much earlier. And I was home nearly every weekend. So having a sitter from 5AM to 8PM every day sounds like a lot to me, yes! But as someone said, it might have been an oops baby, or maybe she just really wanted it and felt she could make it work. It's her decision, and if it makes her happy, who cares what everyone else thinks?

      I doubt you will have such a rough schedule as a pediatric resident :)

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    6. Let's hope I won't! Not counting on anything though. :-)

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  3. A mentor of mine who is a physician scientist with a small lab, an intact marriage and 2 teenage children once told me the following:
    When your children are very they are very needy but don't care who fulfills those needs (yourself, babysitter, nanny, daycare etc). As your children get older their need for you specifically increases.

    I agree with OMDG's #3 and #4.

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  4. Residency doesn't last forever, thank goodness.
    I think if the intern was happy with their arrangements, then good for them... I think the issue is a lot of mothers (and fathers) in medicine (particularly those in training) wish there was more flexibility for leave and return to work.

    I left a longer residency program as an intern for a shorter, more family friendly one. It worked out well for our family, but was a scary change at the time. Now that I'm out, and working part-time, on my own terms, life for us is much improved!

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  5. Dr. Mama....care to share what residency you were in and what you changed to?

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  6. I am still having a hard time getting used to such judgement at my workplace from other working moms ! My kids (son 4 and daughter 1) are taken care of by nanny's for almost 8 -10 hrs per day. But then they are used to it since forever, almost. I get huge relief from the fact that my husband(raised by doctor parents) assures me that children dont at all think the way other(judgemental) moms try to make us feel they think. Its a way of life for our kids and they are used to it. I had a SAHM and it took me time to getting usdd to it.

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  7. I am constantly amazed by how many jump to discourage someone else's parenting style. But, what this intern has planned out sounds like a wonderful way to try and find a solution. One of our residents actually has the same arrangement and although there are occasional snags (he's a surg resident, his wife a ped cardiologist), most of the time it works. When does this judgemental person think the resident should have children? The truth of the situation is that as women, we don't have the luxury or just waiting around forever. She will be able to provide her daughter with access to knowledge and an example of sacrifice that not many can reproduce. Who is to say this mom's example is worth any less than someone who may be around more. Love is love. (yeah, I'm ranting a bit too)

    Also, (a little off topic) I have been pleasantly surprised by how AMAZINGLY supportive nurses are of me being a surgery resident and mom. I also here a lot of the "why would you have a baby as a surgery resident" comments from outsiders. It is so refreshing to hear so many nurse moms cheering me on.

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  8. I simply have to rant a bit too on this one. My sister-in-law once told my husband that if one of us can't stay home with the kids that we shouldn't have children. I was totally livid, and needless to say, we never talk about childcare issues again. She has a wealthy husband and she stays home with her kids, but nevermind that most households cannot afford to have one parent stay home. !?!@#!!

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  11. I am a mom and a resident. It is distressing to hear such comments from people who have no idea what my family situation is and why I decided to have children at this stage of my career. Everyone's situation is different and as mothers we really should come together and support each other. This rivalry is outdated and hurtful. We should really channel this energy to fight for equal opportunities, equal pay, and flexibility to take time off with having your job protected while children are young (for the moms that choose that path). Personally, I have done the nanny/daycare, daycare alone, live in nanny alone, and mother in law while being away from my husband. So, I speak from experience. It is amazing what you can make happen when you choose to follow your dreams! Lets support each other!

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  12. Not everyone has help from family in the care of children. Sometimes you need to work hard to achieve a residence and raising a child. Does it worth it? absolutly. Residence doesn´t last forever and babies don´t really need their mothers around every hour of the day. I was a resident and a mom and did it well done. It takes a strong will to fight for what we want. If we really want it.

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  13. The problem isn't what others think or say. The problem is leaving your precious baby that you adore at 0500 and missing her all day and not getting to see her until 1900 that night. And I never would have believed I could miss anyone this much. We survived but I wish it could have been different.

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  14. I'm a 2nd year resident in a 4 year program and a mom to be, I've had a couple of comments about my planned maternity leave of only 4-4.5 weeks and our childcare plan but I just brush it off. It's what's right for my family and I think that's how you have to look at it. No one knows your family/children better than their own parent and as long as you can lay your head down at night and know you're doing what you feel is best for yourself, your significant other, and your children then who cares what everyone else thinks. Personally, I think people who say negative comments like what was said in the original post are simply jealous (perhaps they passed up a career opportunity because of children, waited longer for children and regretted it, or wish they could "do it all" the way many of us do) or insecure in how they have raised/are raising their own kids. Just my two cents :)

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  15. BabyCenter.com recently had a "how to make it work as a SAHM...." The comments there were SCATHING against working moms- forget residents! It is so nice to have this community to hear a more supportive contingency of voices! (I'm a MS1 and mom of a 6 month old)

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  16. Who knows whether this was planned or not? Maybe they were planning to wait, but it just happened and they are trying to make the best of the situation. If that was the case, great for her for not taking what some see as the "easy" way out. I think it's great that they have someone that can help out and be there early in the morning and available later in the day, too. I'm in family medicine and take call and do OB and my hubby is an engineer and also farms with his brother, so life is busy. we fortunately have family and neighbors that can help out with childcare after daycare hours. I'm sure that if this particular arrangement doesn't work out well for them, they will figure something else out.

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  17. Both of my children were born during my residency training. When I look back on it, I think that women in medicine don't have an 'ideal' or 'perfect' time to start a family. Medical school is hard, residency is exhausting, and starting your first real job as an attending physician is stressful!

    I was blessed to have family help us when our children were born, and I have a nanny that I like to call my Fairy Godmother. I am thankful that when I was in residency, my children were so young and they never asked me why I was spending the night in the hospital, or why I couldn't make it to any of their school activities. Now I am a part-time pediatric hospitalist, and I feel like (well, most of the time!) that I have a good balance of both family life and work life. I spend time with other professional working moms because we seem to understand each others' lives a little better, and that support definitely helps!

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  18. Definitely harsh, coming from the physical therapist. I definitely arranged for extra help, from family but also even now, the endo lab nurses make comments about my childcare arrangements (nanny starts at 6am and leaves when one of us gets home 6pm, but sometimes later) and I just ignore them and show them cute pictures of my child. Quality, not quantity.
    Now, for my turn to be judgmental. I am the product daughter of a two medicine career household that relied on a variety of childcare mishmash, be it daycare, nanny, family, the nurses station where my mom worked or the clerks desk or rounding with dad when they couldn't find someone to watch me, I just want to point out (not to be completely tooting my horn) that I didn't turn out too badly, especially compared to the other children of my father's residency friends kids with their SAHMs where their kids turned to drugs or failed out of school or whatever. Not saying that SAHMS are to blame or whatever, but that each family should do what works for them and hope for the best, and quit commenting on everyone else's arrangements.

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  19. I'm going to disagree a little--it seems like you set up the PT and then judged her for her response! You told her a detailed story about this intern and her very complicated child care plans--the PT's comment to you (in what you said was small talk with someone you didn't really know) may have been just a form of "empathic" statement--to you. I wasn't there, of course, but your comments could have come across as "check out these crazy plans" and she essentially responded with an equivalent of "yeah that's crazy" rather than hash out a long discussion about work-life balance with you. I think many listeners (me included) would have taken your intent in telling the story to indicate that you thought the plan sounded less-than-ideal and many (me included) would have made a comment to essentially agree with your opinion to avoid awkwardness amongst strangers at a baby shower. As a listener, I could possibly have assumed that you were judging the intern, and when the PT went along, you were shocked!

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