My parents emigrated from Korea to America with hope of providing a better future for their unborn children. Fast-forward 28 years later and here I am, the product of their sacrifice.
My name is Geri. I guess we can add the M.D. after the name since I have graduated from medical school 2 years ago. I am currently a radiology resident. After 4 years of college and 4 years of medical school, I am about to start year three out of five in order to complete my residency to become a board-certified radiologist.
Somewhere in the middle of this process, I met the love of my life and we got married 3 years ago. He’s also a resident in the field of orthopedic surgery. If that wasn’t complicated enough, I got pregnant. I spent my maternity leave in Orange County with my parents, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The anxiety of becoming a new mom was compounded with the idea of going back to residency. Simply put, the hours and demand of residency was just incompatible with raising a child.
It was then my mom sat me down and said “Leave Chloe with me.” It sounded crazy but she was right. There was no other way to do it. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. 7 weeks later, I left Chloe in Orange County to resume my residency.
When I returned, everything changed but nothing changed. Residency is still residency. There is work to do and an endless list of expectations. I feared judgment from other people. How can a mom be away from her baby? This one was the worst. My husband was given the “advice” that he had too many “distractions” and what he really needs is a stay-at-home wife who can fully support his career. That one really got to me.
Yes. I am a doctor. I am also a mom. I am also married to a doctor and no I am not going to end or put my career on hold. I put in my time too. I deserve this just as much as he does.
But…there is a huge but. This is not one of those feminist proclamations where I say I can do it all. Becoming a mom changed my life. There’s nothing more I want to do than spend time with Chloe but I know completing my residency is what’s going to allow me to be an even better mom and role model to Chloe.
My life in a nutshell exemplifies the sad truth that women can’t have it all. As a mom to a daughter, this is not what I want to say, but I don’t say it with pessimism. There’s just too much on my plate. When I am in a place where I get to choose what stays on my plate, what does stay on it is what really matters. In my short five months I’ve been a mom, I already know that yes, I love my job and I love being a doctor but I was born to be a mom. I’m not a superhero. Every day I have to remind myself this is just temporary and that there will be a day that I get to set the work-life balance. Yes, I may never be a pioneer in the field of radiology but I will be there for every birthday and Christmas for Chloe. There will be family vacations and impromptu mother-daughter dates. I will know the names of all her friends and teachers. I am going to make up for all the lost time during residency.
On the outside it looks like I have it all, including a future career as a radiologist, an orthopedic surgeon for a husband and a wonderful mother who’s taking care of my beautiful, healthy baby, but I don’t. The guilt kills me every single day. I am extremely grateful for what I have but nobody, including myself, has it all. Residency just exacerbates the challenges that any working parent faces and even when I’m done, I know I’ll be constantly making adjustments and sacrifices, but I have made the choice early on. Family will always come first.
Geri blogs at www.chloeandresidency.blogspot.com.