Monday, November 19, 2012

MiM Mail: Ready to quit

Hello to whoever might be reading this,

I am a 2nd year Peds resident in a grueling program, and I have 10 month old baby.  N'er the twain shall meet.  But they did and they are, and that is why I am burnt out.  I am a zombie from sleep deprivation; being on call q 1 is beyond my capabilities.  And my heart isn't in the residency program like it was a few short 11 months ago, but once my son was born all I want to do is be a mom.  I don't think I want to be a doctor anymore, but I can't decipher between not wanting to be a resident anymore vs not wanting to be a doctor anymore. Oh, and I'm 300k in debt. So I can't quit.  But I want to.  I'm away from my son so much sometimes I forget what he feels like. 
I'm hanging on here but the thread is stretching thin.  I envision, mostly when I'm post-call like I am today, walking into the program directors office and saying, "I quit."  It feels good.
Anyone been in this predicament?  Any suggestions? I love this online community and often read it while at work or right before going to bed to check in with all you fabulous other women doing the combo of medicine and parenthood.
Thanks everyone.


  1. I did quit a residency, and from that perspective, I'd say to hang in there. When I quit, it was because I wasn't just sleep deprived... I hated every moment of what I did and *never* liked it. It doesn't sound like that's your situation.

    You've only got a year and a half left of residency (and I'd imagine the last year is a little easier too). And then you can work parttime with a pretty good salary and spend tons of time with your kids.

  2. Can you have your husband help at night with your son so you can get some extra rest? I know you probably want to get up to be with him at night since you don't see him during the day, but the additional layer of sleep deprivation probably isn't helping things.

    Also, I second the idea of sticking it out. It sounds like you liked what you were doing before your son was born, it's just you're stretched too thin now. Residency isn't going to last forever, and I'm told that it gets MUCH better when you're done.

    Hang in there!

  3. From a mothering stand point, I say stick it out. I know you want to be around when they are little, but the truth of the matter is... they won't remember this time. I worked full time plus while they were in elementary school and just came home a little over a year ago.
    Our kids are older (one college, two high school, one middle school) and I found it was more important to be home when they were in middle school and high school. They need guidance and have plenty of questions, which YOU will want to be there to answer. And in high school, well, you just need to be home to be the warden of your front door... when the cat's away the mice will play.
    Good luck! You can do it!

  4. As an associate program director (in peds, no less), I would say come and talk to me! I don't know what's going on with you unless you tell me (or if other residents do, and I prefer not to hear it that way). Or if you don't feel like talking to your program director, talk to a trusted faculty member - your adviser or someone else. They might not be able to provide you with an immediate solution but they may be just the outlet you need. As a mom, I say stick it out. Yes it sucks but the sucking is temporary. Once you're done (just 18 months!) you will be able to choose your own destiny and find a job that works best for your lifestyle and needs. And if you're really worried about debt, consider working in an underserved area, as you may be eligible for debt repayment programs that way.

  5. I've been there. And I stuck with it! And occasionally went and talked to people who helped, and a couple of times ended up in hospital... and then one day...magically...the clouds part! And you realise you really did want to be a doctor. Just not a junior doctor (intern/resident in our lingo)

    And still sometimes I have days where it all seems too much, but I realise that most parents do...even stay at home parents.

    Doctoring is hard, Parenting is hard, Climbing Everest is hard! Something being hard is not enough reason not to do it.
    Try and get a little breathing space. Look inside and see if it is something you want to make work. If it is, then you can! And your little boy will not love you any less for being a doctor. In fact I am very glad that my kids see me go to work as a doctor and they like it too.

    Once my oldest could talk, once I realised she was okay, better than okay...thriving, beautiful and we are as close as any mother/daughter i know, I wished I could go back to me when I was where you are, and give me a cuddle and whisper in my ear...You are doing a great job! You really are!

  6. I think you are wise to ask yourself if your discontent is about being a doctor or being a resident - one of which is temporary. Another piece is to separate out exhaustion - it is a powerful force and your body doesn't care about goals, right? It just wants to lie down! I would encourage you to get radical about finding rest - hire help even if it means more debt (in for $300k in for a dollar) so that you can have all-the-way-down time when you are at home. Accept a little more mess in exchange for more sleep.

    When I was stretched so thin I thought I might unravel, I found that joy was the antidote. I made a deal with myself to get at least one belly laugh in a day. Goofy videos on YouTube if nothing better came a long, lol. But there is something powerful about laughter (gets the oxytocin flowing right?). Dance with your little one to bad 80s music in the morning before hitting the wards, tell baby about your cutest patient at the end of the day (not much of a PHIA liability)... There are lots of 2 minute windows to look for a little soul-nourishing joy.

    That you long to be close to your little guy is what makes you a good mother; that you feel the tug of responsibility anyways is what makes you a good doctor.

    At the other side of 18months you will be more rested, and probably pretty grateful (and pretty darn proud) to have stuck it out. If at that time you still don't have that loving-feeling for medicine, leave the discipline knowing it's on your terms, not at the hand of fatigue... And that you have completed your training enough to come back to it once your munchkin is older of you choose.

    That is a bunch of advice (since you asked). That you reached out here suggests to me that you don't really want to leave, you just need to feel strengthened. I trust you will find it in yourself. When I was in labour I remember saying "oh god I don't think I can do this, I can't do it!" and my GP bent in close and said "you already are.".

    You already are hanging in there :) you already are strong enough.

  7. You all are amazing, thank you for your comments. They have given me a boost.

  8. Oh gee, I am a pediatrician (and MiM) and would love to help you get back to the day you saw this field as your passion. Agree with many of the comments above. Please do talk with your program (director, or a trusted faculty member, and/or your continuity clinic preceptor, an advisor), see what they might have to offer, by way of respite... time off/leave, elective blocks, temporary hiatus so you can rest and rejuvenate as there was a time when you wanted this career, and wanted a family, and maybe they'll be a time when you want both again. Please post again and let us know.

  9. You can do it! It will be easier very soon.

  10. We've all been there. You may feel the same way in a few months. You may not. I agree, it's worth hanging on just to find out. Try to find a way to keep your toes wet without drowning. I felt that way during residency, and am thankful 6 years out that I have my career and my kids, who are older and can get dressed and do much for themselves. Do I regret the time I lost with them pursuing my career? Yes. Would I have career regrets if I did quit back then? Yes. Whatever decision you eventually make, there are pluses and minuses on both sides of the equation. Wait to make that decision when you are more clear-headed and stable. Residency is not the time. Good luck to you!

  11. I wanted to quit every day as a peds resident. I'm so glad I didn't. Life is so much better once you have the freedom to eat when you want and pee when you want. And that's not even counting having more time with your kids. Hang in there--things will get better.

  12. I'm a third year med student and married to a first year resident while also being mother to one. I definitely agree with the above, it's impossible to make the right decision when you're drowning. I've had times this year when I was barely keeping my head above water and thought very seriously about quitting. Thankfully, my husband talked me out of it and while things are still really hard, they're a little better now. Having a good support system (including my husband) has been, hands down, the most important thing for me so far. I've also outsourced as much of my housework as possible. Being a resident, I'm sure you've done a lot of that already, but maybe you can do something else to lighten your load? I hear it gets so much better after training, so try hang in there! Women like you are an inspiration to medical students!

  13. I echo lots of things said above.

    1. You can't make any logical decisions when you're drowning.
    2. You can't make any logical decisions when you're double sleep deprived (work and baby)
    3. You should talk to someone.
    4. Breathe in and out. - When I get stressed my body tenses up to the point where I literally do not take full breaths in and out. It is my own personal marker for when I'm stressed to the max. Now that I know this, I take this time to be cognizant of taking a full breath in and out and recognize that this is the time when I need to ask for more help. You have to not be guilty or too proud, and just let someone give you a break.
    5. Eat, hydrate and pee. The world won't stop if you leave for 5 minutes and you'll feel better.

    lastly - You can do it. You are awesome. Your son will be proud of you no matter what you do. You are a great mom!

  14. I did an IM residency, so same kind of flow, and found that the winter of 2nd year was the lowest point - it feels like you've been doing it forever; it feels like it will never end . . . It'll feel so much better in the spring that it's worth sticking it out now.
    Hang in there, really. As someone said above, we've all been there.

  15. Second year of all residencies is awful. Hands down.

    I was in a similar situation my second year. Talked to my PD and went to 75% time for the rest of the year, except call months. It was the only way. Trying to be mom with hubby's fulltime job and a good resident turned me into a zombie incapable of anything. Best decision I've ever made.

    Is part time possible for you? You don't know til you ask.

  16. I am taking each of your posts to heart. Breathing in and out. Thinking of brighter days ahead when I can eat and pee when I want. Remembering at some point I wanted this.
    I forgot to mention, my husband is a Surgery resident too which may add to the overall stress picture, but I imagine some of you are likewise paired and have navigated the choppy waters.
    Thanks for the comments, I love this really get it. I've only said I'm a second year already know that means 18 mos left because our year is July--July! And you already know Peds is 3 years! Love it!

  17. No one-- no one-- goes through residency without wanting to quit at least once. It's normal. And it's exacerbated by the severe life stressor, as well as the ultimate takehome work/life balance object lesson, of a child.

    In pediatrics you usually have a large resident class (many programs with over 30 people/yr). You have clinic and elective months as a second year resident. Due to the new rules, this is the first year you're taking 30-hr in-house call, but those responsibilities will lessen come July. In short there's a great deal of potential flexibility built into your training system; all you have to do is ask. Perhaps your PD can shuffle your schedule; perhaps you can do third-year research electives now (and pay the piper next year, when you have a toddler who's sleeping better and much more independent). Who knows? The bottom line is, this absolutely won't be the first time your PD has been to this particular rodeo, and s/he might have all kinds of great solutions up their sleeve.

    I am a surgery resident and when I had my son I ran smack into the complete and utter inflexibility of our training system; I was very envious of the pediatrics residents. If you need a break, you genuinely can get it. We can't; I was back to taking 40-hr shifts q2 when my son was 4 weeks old. So your husband will be of zero help, unfortunately; like so many things in motherhood, this all lies on you.

  18. Some of us (well, probably all of us) had these same thoughts with (and without kids) and that they get better and come back. It's no wonder that I occasionally dream of getting appendicitis or that I'm down right giddy that I do not have to do a single work thing until Tuesday...6 glorious non-work, don't have to make-up days...the attending life.

    Just remember, you are not alone.

  19. whenever you post, i think ah ha, someone understands, someone is like me. i'm a urology resident who went back with a 3 month old who was still breastfeeding q2h overnight. and it was really hard. and it still is. and i very much relate to you wondering where your love for your job disappeared to. i, too, just wanted to be a mom more than anything all of a sudden and i didn't quite forsee that reaction. all i can say is it really does get a bit easier. they become more their own little people, eager to play and run around and so excited to see you. so hang in there if you can. it's tough but possible.

  20. omg - so sorry for you. "Fit your own oxygen mask before helping others." i mean seriously what sort of example is this setting? Melatonin - you need it, sunshine you need it, stress you don't need it! Some people it seems who should know betterer ( you'd think other doctors and hospital admin) would be putting YOUR health first and YOUR BABY. My registrar in hematology DIED one night coming home late after helping an inexperienced doctor when her shift finished. She left behind a young son - same name as my eldest. I didn't make the same mistake. Left hospital with the bare bones qualifications and ran away to look after my own first. Put a BOMB under your superiors I say. this is the new millenium.


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