Wednesday, December 2, 2015

MiM Mail: Advice for an ex-husband of a MiM-to-be


Being a father not interested in medical school makes me a somewhat non-traditional reader I imagine.

I am ultimately writing for advice. I read a number of great posts on your blog, but I am coming at this from a different direction and was hoping one of you would be able to point me in the right the right way.

My ex-wife is a brilliant woman in her Junior year of her undergrad and planning to start applying for medical schools. We have a good co-parenting arrangement and try to do our best by our three boys (4, 5 and 7). I am no longer in the medical field but do have 8 years experience as a critical care paramedic so I can appreciate both how talanted she is and how hard her road is going to be. She is going to apply locally but is also looking at the Virginia area due to family there. I am willing to consider relocation if I can find appropriate work (I work in IT in a rather specialized area).

My question is, how can I best approach the subject of custody? I don't want to take the kids away from her by any means (she is a fantastic mom!), but I am concerned that raising three young school age boys while attending medical school will be overwhelming. She can accomplish anything she sets her mind to, but even she can't accomplish *everything*.

My initial thought is to offer/ask to take the custodial role, freeing her up to apply herself 100% at school while still affording the boys a stable home life and predictability in routine. I don't know for sure how she would receive this, but suspect she would at least be willing to consider it. Then again, as a divorcee my ability to mis-read her intentions is a matter of public record. : )

There has to be a mutually beneficial way to handle this situation that benefits all of us, and I am looking for advice on where I could look for information. I have looked at some of the schools websites for information on family services offered by medical schools but it's hard to find in a lot of cases.

If you have a moment, would you be able/willing to point me in the right direction, or even offer some insight from your own experiences?

Many thanks for your time!


  1. As a mother hoping to be in medicine who was separated for a significant amount of time, I would advise you not to offer to take the custodial role. I know I would have seen that as a huge insult for one, and I would worry too much about my children to focus on medicine. Instead, I would recommend you offer to review the schedule to best fit everyone's needs on a regular basis. If you are willing, I would advise you to let her know you can be available more if as needed. This would take a significant amount of time and commitment on your part. The other thing I would advise would be to build your own support network, with people who can help manage your children, and who work well with both you and your ex-wife.

  2. My gut on this is that an offer to take full custody of the kids will at worst be seen as an underhanded attempt to keep her from seeing her kids, and at best an indictment of her parenting. Probably the truth lies somewhere in between. As cynical as this may sound, I doubt your motives are as pure and supportive as you claim, otherwise you probably wouldn't be divorced.

  3. Wow these are some harsh comments - I suspect there is a biased perspective here given that we truly have no insight to anything other than provided by the poster. Further, the fact that he is inquiring prior to moving forward suggests considerable forethought and someone who is looking for genuine advice. I would recommend speaking with her openly about your thoughts surrounding her pursuing her career and that you are open to a larger role. Certainly a career in medicine will reduce her time with her children.

  4. If he has more free time surely it makes sense that he be the primary carer?

  5. I'm a single Mother and anesthesiologist. My ex is a physician and not very involved. I applaud you for being flexible and agreeing to move with her. I will tell you though, that anything implying that she's not a fit parent because she will be busy studying may elicit a "grizzly bear Momma" response. In my opinion, there is no reason that you two cannot co-parent while she's in Medical school and beyond. To offer to remove custody sends the wrong message to your children: because your Mother is pursuing her dreams, she's not fit to parent you. If you choose a similar path you won't be a fit parent either. If they see you two work together they will get the opposite message. No, we can't have "everything" but is being a parent and a medical student having "everything"? What message are you sending your children? My advice is to be supportive and helpful. She should try to work her study schedule around her nights when she doesn't have the kids. She can do it and so can you.

  6. I am a single mom of two who is in Residency. My ex suggested this when I unexpectedly matched away from home (program lower on my rank list).

    At first, I responded as described above (defensive, hurt, etc). But having kids in training is different than having kids when you have an established career. Your ex has a lot cut out for her.

    My kids initially moved with me but a few months in, after days on end of leaving for work at 4am and getting home after 11PM, I realized that it was better that my kids lived with my ex and continued to be supported by our extended family and friends. My kids are much happier now and we are able to spend focused quality time when I am able to go home. My ex flies my kids to see me as well.

    I was very very very sad and initially contemplated quitting medicine because I felt very lost not being a full time mom. In the end, choosing to pursue medicine is a choice that requires substantial sacrifice without much control over ones life.

    I think it is an important conversation to have with your ex about what you are and are not able to do with and for her. It is great that you are so supportive. Whatever you guys decide to do, it will be a long, rough road ahead. The fact that you are open to moving is beyond the call of duty but very admirable. I think it is fine for you to offer to bear a larger burden of child care duties, especially as she enters her clinical years. The first few years will be just like college so it's not a big deal. Medicine training is a dynamic process so perhaps just see where things go for now.

    1. If you get notification of this reply, I would love to talk with you!

  7. I don't have anything to add having not been in the same situation but I think you sound like a stand up guy and it's really amazing that you're willing to be so supportive. I do agree that the best way to work things is to move with them if you can and be as present for the kids as possible. All the best!


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