Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Looking back, looking ahead

As I hang up my short white coat after my last clinical rotation of medical school, after the celebrations of commencement week subside (I have had more than my fair share of these), and before the reality and terror of starting as an intern starts to set in, I find myself looking back and looking ahead. What a wild ride these past years in medical school have been! Spending all these years preparing for the first day of internship. Along the way, also learning on the job of raising a child. As I enjoy the lull of these last few carefree days between completing medical school and starting internship, every now and then I feel like I should brush up on my clinical knowledge to allay intern year anxieties. Then I remind myself that no amount of preparation could have really "prepared" me for being a parent or a medical student, and nothing will really make me feel "ready" for intern year. Best to savor this time with family and friends.

Recently I came across this article in the New York Times titled "The Gender Pay Gap Is Largely Because of Motherhood". It goes on to discuss not only the impact of motherhood on income, but also career decisions made by mothers to give up job opportunities, inequitable distribution of household and parenting responsibilities. Looking back at that experience of mixing parenting and medical school, I have reflected on how things would have been different if I didn't have my baby during medical school? How would things have been if I had gone through this experience without being a parent? I may have done better in some rotations, or gotten better grades on some tests. In the end, those things didn't matter as much as I thought they did. I ended up matching to what and where I wanted to end up for residency. Even if I had a perfect application for residency, my desired outcome wouldn't have changed.

I am pretty early in my career to measure the impact of motherhood on my career and quantify it in terms of lost opportunity or income. In some ways, I can't imagine the alternate reality of going through the medical school experience without my son, my experience as a medical student is so completely intertwined with being a new parent. Sleepless nights dealing with baby eating into precious few hours to sleep during clinical rotations. Being in a perpetual rush to pickup or drop off my toddler from or to daycare. Dealing with meltdowns in the morning struggling not to be late. Preparing for tests while distracting my toddler without distracting myself from studying. However dealing with the responsibility of raising a little human taught me patience, empathy and humility, which I like to believe, made me a better human being and will make me a better doctor.


  1. First of all, Congratulations!! You will have to share soon what you are doing, I'm curious.

    Second of all, I saw that article title in the NYTimes and it made me so angry (they are last on my noon news rotation lately because they keep pissing me off - first the terrible David Brooks article on the Woman's March I will never read him again and now the new crazy conservative hire I forget his name) I didn't even read it. Motherhood? Garnering the pay of women? Isn't it called, ahem, parenthood? So we are getting paid less to do twice the work (I realize there are exceptions - my current marriage is one). Typical patriarchy.

    You are right - motherhood has and will continue to make you a better doctor. I became much more efficient as a person and resident when I became a mother (because who has time to screw off when you become a mother?). Not to mention all the other characteristics you so eloquently stated. Great post.

  2. Thank you! I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like news in general is getting more depressing now. As for the article, I think most people would buy that parenting is uncompensated, time consuming work. The studies they mention in that article support the thesis that there is a wage cost to uncompensated work, of which unfortunately more women than men share a greater burden. Although as one commenter noted, the title was misleading, as even women without children suffer the same pay gap. Patriarchy compounded by sloppy reporting!

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