Below I have posted (with permission) the beautiful and inspiring blog post of our amazing Clerkship Coordinator after the first childcare night. I am so proud of us. I am so proud of who my daughter (the 6 year old described below) is becoming. I am proud of this department, of my profession and the future that we are creating for our girls as Mothers in Medicine…
From the blog of JP -
When I was a kid, about 25 years ago, I overheard my mother repeating a riddle that had been told to her. In short, a young boy and his father were in a car accident. The father died immediately upon impact. The boy was rushed to the hospital. Once in the OR, the surgeon stands over the boy and simply declares, "I cannot operate on this child. He is my son." So the riddle goes, if the father was killed in the accident, how on Earth is this possible? Keep in mind, the riddle is at least 25 years old.
I listened as folks stumbled over themselves with the most absurd answers, "The dad hadn’t really died." "The surgeon was the boy’s step-father!" "The father was not his biological one and the surgeon must have been the boy’s sperm donor." The answers came and went and when the person finally threw their hands up in defeat, the person telling the riddle simply replied, "It was the Mom! The boy's mother was the surgeon!" Gasped responses immediately followed; these gasps were made as if to imply extreme bewilderment that a woman, A MOTHER, could be a surgeon. Nonetheless, the folks on the receiving end of the riddle felt embarrassed for not offering the most overlooked obvious answer even if they could not fathom a female with a scalpel.
Fast forward 25 years, I just spent my evening at work doing arts and crafts with two children of surgeon faculty members so that said parents could engage in an after-hours faculty meeting. I brought all of my craft items from home so the young girls could make various winter holiday crafts. At one point I noticed one of the girls (6 in age) was making a gingerbread man. I quickly praised her on her great artistry, "Hey! That’s a great gingerbread man!" I pointed out. "That's not a gingerbread man!" she quickly declared. I was caught completely off guard. Y'all. I'm telling you. It was a gingerbread man! Before I could ask her what it was (since I was so offensively incorrect), she proudly exclaimed, "It’s a gingerbread GIRL!" Immediately, a grin washed over my face. I'd only met this child within the hour. Our time was consumed with learning each other's nicknames, teacher's names and favorite colors. Feminism 101 had yet to make it to our arts and crafts agenda. I wanted to high five her. I wanted to spin around in circles and dance giddily in only the way excited 6 year old girls do. But instead, I nodded, and told her it was the most amazing gingerbread girl I'd ever seen.
Within the next hour, the other little girl (8 in age) casually announced that she was creating a top hat for her snow woman. SNOW WOMAN! Did I hear her correctly? Snow woman!! Yes! And she'd said so, so nonchalantly. It's as if Frosty the Snowman wasn't the first... the only...the standard! “Every snowwoman needs a top hat!” I replied.
If I'd told that 25 year old riddle, now, to both of these young girls, they would have quickly and without hesitation answered that the boy's surgeon was obviously his mother. I am confident of this.
It was in that moment, and for the rest of the evening, I stood proud; proud of the progress women had made in the last 25-30 years. Proud to have been able to witness, in my lifetime, such dramatic change, albeit long overdue and with still so much progress yet to be had. I was proud to be a female working in surgery education. I was proud to work for a team with so many female surgeons. I was proud to work under the leadership of a successful woman, whom not only was a General Surgeon, but also the Program Director of the General Surgery Residency program. I was proud to work for and with a group of smart and successful women who greatly value their profession and equally, their role as a mother. I was proud that these young girls were exemplifying everything I’d known to be true as a child, but always felt so disconnected with. Perception was no longer reality. The reality had finally become perception! These mothers, these brilliant successful female surgeons, they are paving the way for the next generation of gingerbread girls and snow women to achieve greatness.
This is how we lift each other up. We create an environment in which we welcome one another's children so that we and they grow enlightened, encouraged, educated, inspired and excited by possibilities. We embrace the difficult balance. My God, the balance is difficult. We dispose of the box that which we were placed in and we become assertive in our ideas of becoming both brilliant and successful professionals as well as invested mothers. And it doesn't just begin and end with women, my friends. We must embrace our professional fathers as well! We are only as good as our counterparts. Our strengths are magnified when we surround ourselves with other strong, confident and supportive human beings.
I am grateful to be able to contribute to their (our) mission.