Now doesn't that sound fabulous? I'm sitting on the terrace of the one-room-with-a-kitchen-and-bathroom apartment we VRBO'd for this week, and writing my first blog while the children and husband sleep off their jet lag. And I'm wearing all black! My former poetry major self rejoices. My surgical ego wants to know: What's next? Is this the right thing for me? For my family?
I'm a PGY 4 in general surgery who took the optional 2 years for research, and this June we are on our transit to Malawi, Africa for the second of those years, where I'll be doing trauma and burns research. First year was an MPH and part-time clinical burns work. We are on a stop-over in Paris to visit my brother in law, who's a French citizen and hasn't met his newest nephew yet. My kids are 6, 4, and 7 months. The oldest worries that she won't make any friends in Malawi; the middle recently confided that he's worried about being eaten by a crocodile; only the youngest continues to smile at me every time he sees me with that untouched, utterly trusting smile of an infant who hasn't experienced any parental disappointments or discipline yet, and who just knows that I'm the best thing ever.
Most people who hear that I'm moving the whole family to Africa for a year divide into two reaction camps: one thinks that I'm crazy, period. The other thinks that I'm crazy, but mixed in is a healthy dose of jealousy for this opportunity. I totally agree with both. I'm so excited to have this incredible chance to travel to a country, make a difference and have it count towards some sort of a career; but it also reminds me that I'm insane and that at this point, that's unlikely to ever change.
But I think the truly insane choice was to have 3 children as a surgical resident in America. Next to that, moving them to a developing country seems small potatoes. As all working mothers do, I beat myself up daily for my inability to have it all and have a shred of energy left; I resent a society that reveres "perfect motherhood" while being unable to define what that is and unwilling to support it with policies that make sense for all mothers, working or not; I sometimes resent myself for my inability to be satisfied with "just" raising the children--why do I have to be a surgeon, of all things?--and then I have to laugh, because for this gender-role bending sworn feminist, the idea that one could be jealous of the stay at home side seems preposterous. But it's there.
Any successful insane person has someone as a rock. My parents have always stood by me, in their way, even though they don't understand how I make most of my choices and don't always support where they lead. But my husband--this is the Fathers' Day part of this post--he's my rock, or some would say, my enabler. When I go to work, he works at home, and faces the same isolation and loneliness as a stay at home dad who's not a "stay at home dad at heart," as I do as a surgical resident with kids who actually enjoys both work and kids. At some point I will unpack that statement but it won't be in this blog. Anyways, he makes me and us possible, and I am forever and utterly grateful to him for always in the end coming around to supporting this craziness that I call my--our--life. I work hard, and I get the credit--but he works just as hard, if not harder, and it's not always appreciated or acknowledged. There are "fathers of the year" who get kudos for making it to their kids' soccer practice--and that's important, and legit, and awesome--but he changes diapers, makes dinner, buys groceries, makes sure the kids are on the school bus in the morning and remembers to pick them up after school--and he never complains. He puts up with a wife who's more like a bad college roommate, who is rarely at home, never cleans up her laundry, eats all his food and sleeps most of the time when she is there. He's the steady to my mercury and the rock to my water, and together we seem to make this circus work somehow, if sometimes only with duct tape, some sticks and a prayer. Here's to all of medical moms everywhere--may you find your rock, or if you've already got one, may you always cherish him or her. Happy Fathers' (or Partners') Day!