The first few days into my husband’s Family Medicine Residency felt like drowning. The reality of breakfast, lunch, and dinner without daddy set in and I began (desperately) searching online for advice, stories, and some sort of community that I could cling to for the next several years. It’s been a few weeks now, and I’ve learned so much about the difficulties and trials that a medical residency will put a family through - from my own experiences & the beauty of these online communities. And I am so thankful for every doctor’s spouse who took the time to write about their experiences because they were so full of insight and perspectives I hadn’t considered (I’ll link to these articles below). Because residency is hard on everyone involved - the resident, the spouse, the children - we know there are going to be hard days. And I’m only a few weeks into this long, long journey but I’m learning to focus on the good things about our life and know that we’ll make it through.
These are the good things
My husband is doing the job he loves -- one he’s been working toward for more than ten years. Since the day I met Alex (when he was 17), he has talked about becoming a doctor. In high school, he was taking community college classes on the side and working night shifts in the NICU after class. He has been dedicated to this for longer than I’ve known him & to see him finally working as a doctor makes me so proud and happy.
He is learning to help people while also creating stability and opportunity for our family. On the days that Lily is mad at daddy for being gone, it helps to remind her (and myself) that he’s at work because he’s helping fix people and he’s working to take care of our family’s needs as well. Talking about money or bills with a three year-old is tricky, but she’s starting to understand. We know that we will be able to provide a stable home for our children and offer them opportunities to thrive because of daddy’s job, and it creates a lot of peace in our home.
His medical career has brought us all over the world and probably still will in the future. At first and for a lot of our adventures, I was reluctant to leave home but as the years have gone by, I’ve embraced my inner Bilbo Baggins and fallen in love with adventuring. We’ve lived in Dominica (itty bitty Caribbean island that you probably haven’t heard of), London, Michigan, Santa Monica, Phoenix, and now we’re settling into the Midwest - all because of different semesters, rotations, and now residency. Lily’s been along for most of the ride & it makes me so happy that we’re able to explore the world together.
After every long day at home, I find so much joy in hearing daddy’s truck pull into the driveway and watching everyone run to him (well, Augustine crawls quickly but Lily runs). Knowing our time with him is going to be short helps us make it a priority and absence does make us grow a whole lot fonder of him. We are learning to treasure our time together and make the most of it. This means Lily doesn’t watch too many shows while daddy’s home and instead, she spends that time playing with him. And for me, it means I’ve been choosing not to pick fights over trivial things like I might have in the past because ain’t nobody got time for dat.
In our home, his dedication to learning is already inspiring our daughter to study and learn. She asks to watch medical videos with him and look at pictures of eyeballs, and every time we play with her dolls we are always playing out some kind of hospital situation. Usually, surgery is necessary and I get to be Lily’s nurse. And sometimes when Alex is studying in his office, Lily will sit in there with him and “read” some of her own books beside him - it’s the sweetest thing.
When I think of how busy his days are, I am thankful for how relatively slow mine are in comparison. Yes, being a stay at home mama is hard. Playing with Barbies and making them have the same conversation for the millionth time is not my favorite. Making meals and driving around the playdates and managing schedules and worrying about if they’ll turn out okay is quite a lot of work in itself. So please don’t think I’m overlooking that. But when I think of him running to codes or doing other doctor-y things while the kids are napping and I’m painting in a coloring book while sipping a chai latte, I’m glad things aren’t the other way around. Although when he does get home and tell me he went to conferences all day and ate catered food for lunch & I’m over here covered in spit-up and running on Lily’s leftovers, it might be a different story.
We might not make very much money at all in this season of life, but we also save money by almost never going out. Dinners are simple and made at home by yours truly almost every night because I know when he comes home, we’ll have about thirty minutes with him before he has to go into his office and dictate his notes, prepare a presentation, or catch up on reading. I don’t want to spend that time driving and waiting in lines and trying to keep our kids behaved in a restaurant. Although when he does have a day or two off, we might cancel out all of the savings because we love going out on adventures with him. But it’s worth it.
This isn't meant to sound like bragging or boasting about our life, because it is hard in a lot of ways. It isn't always sunshine and roses, or chai lattes and coloring books. But instead of dwelling on the hours we spend missing daddy or the stress of his job, I'm choosing to write out all the good and spread some light around.
Throughout all of Medical School and now into Residency, we’ve been learning that there will always be hard days. But there will also be good days, and so many of them. We are finding a rhythm, a routine, and it is getting a little bit easier. We’ve buckled ourselves in for this ride and are taking it as it comes - and it’s not all bad.
There is a lot of good to be found in this life and when we manage to catch a glimpse of it, we cling to it.
Are you the spouse of a medical student or resident? What has your experience been like -- what good things have you been trying to focus on? We’ve got to stick together and know, we can get through this! Here are some of the articles & resources I’ve found so far and watched to share:
- KevinMD: What I wish I knew: Advice for spouses of doctors and residents
- Dr. Kim Blackham: Surviving Residency: 10 Things I Learned While My Husband was a Surgery Resident
- The Mrs. Behind the M.D.