I talk about my kids. A lot. I mentioned them in my residency application, during my interviews, and share anecdotes at work with my attendings who have kids the same age. We share pictures, school recommendations, fun Sunday activities, etc. All the attendings with kids, however, are men. My residency program, in a field with a growing feminine presence, is amazingly family friendly, with at least 3 other dads/residents and 1 other mom. It's a fun, sharing atmosphere.
Until it's not. While casually discussing the possibility of becoming chief resident next year (it's not a dedicated year- you still have the same clinical responsibilities just with extra admin ones as well) one of the attendings, who has a direct role in decision making for the residency, made an off-hand comment along the lines of "well, you are busy enough, you probably wouldn't want to have anything extra." When I approached him privately after and let him know that I was, in fact, interested and hoped to be considered for chief, he was welcoming and supportive. But the off-hand comment made me think.
Are the biases and expectations and assumptions about what a mothers' role fair game for deciding promotions, responsibilities, career trajectory? Who gets to decide how busy, or not, I want to be, or am? Do I now have to "tone down the mom factor" and work extra hard, just to be considered for the same position as someone without children? Other residents talk about dating, drinking, their dogs, other parts of their outside lives. Do kids not count as an approved extra-curricular activity?
The most frustrating part for me, is that I'll never know. There are a few other amazing residents hoping for the position. If I don't get chosen for the responsibility, will it be because the admin thought the others were better for the job? It's a completely realistic possibility. But what if it's because I have kids and they have assumptions on what I can/want/will handle? Part of me wants to eliminate the possibility of that frustration and uncertainty by denying any interest in the position and just letting it go. But I have decided I am just going to work harder, smarter, work on being a team player, and keep at it. And maybe share stories a little less.
Have you been in a position where your home life was questioned? Your choices judged? Your responsibilities and commitment challenged?
I was interested in a leadership position of an organization, and the president required that I write an essay explaining how I was going to mange the requirements of the (volunteer) job, since "I know you struggle with time management since your daughter was born."ReplyDelete
I never "struggled" with time management. He took something I said in a social situation completely out of context. He never asked men to write that kind of "application." My response was to withdraw my name with an written explanation that I would not feel supported by him in the position. There was great consternation from the Board a lot of backtracking - "we're changing the rules! You're just the first one we asked!" and I took the position in the end and often wished I'd waited until his term was over, since I was right about being unsupported - and when I objected to having the time of a meeting changed unilaterally at the last moment, he said "see, I knew you would have trouble with the time commitment."
Thank you for sharing your story. So frustrating. Especially since you knew you were right in the first place!Delete
SO IMPRESSED that you had the gumption to approach your attending about his comment. Kudos to you!ReplyDelete
He is actually really approachable and kind, so less about my courage and more kudos to the open nature of the program :) One thing I learned in residency so far is the need to stand up for yourself and your patients and be an advocate.Delete
I agree that it was so good you did speak to him privately to make sure he knew you were interested in the program. It still takes confidence and agency to do that. No doubt there are biases people hold (for everyone, for everything) - I think you correcting that idea was a good step towards that.Delete
It seems that your attending was making an honest observation that your family is a priority to you. Assuming the best intentions of your program, perhaps as mothers we can change our communication strategies to explicitly demonstrate that the role of mother enhances rather than competes with our abilities to be leadership-role physicians. I can think of few endeavors in my life that have equipped me for the multi-faceted skill set of medicine the way that motherhood has. The question is not whether you will be a better chief resident as a result of being a mother; you absolutely will be. The relevant question is whether being a chief resident will enhance your own journey in motherhood. And that too is a fair question for a well-meaning colleague to ask, but it is a question that only you can answer.ReplyDelete