Saturday, August 05, 2006

when the tag team system breaks down

So far, despite being a two-resident household, we have succeeded in our goal of always having at least one parent home with Cal in the evenings. This is probably something that most households take for granted--of course someone will be home in the evening, why wouldn't we be?--but in the two-resident household, this takes some creative jiggering with call schedules, clinic and OR bookings and whatnot. It's not been easy, but we've been able to do it. Not that there haven't been times where Joe and I just silently sit and glower at each other and telepathically will the other to quit residency and just become a stay-at-home parent already, because having an elaborate color-coded childcare calendar WITH SIX DIFFERENT COLORS is just too damn complicated. (OK, to be honest, it's me who's usually asking Joe to quit his residency, but I guess that makes little sense, since he's going to be finished a year before I will be.)

But alas, the tag team system is not untouchable. Because you need two parents around at all times for the system to work. And in a couple of weeks, Joe has to fly to Texas for a week to go to some sort of mandatory surgical skills course. For a week. In Texas. FOR A WEEK. I have two calls that week--one 24 hour call, where I will be leaving for work at 5:45am and returning 8:30am the following day; and one "short call," where I will be working until probably 10 or 11pm, and then leaving for work again the following morning before Cal wakes up. That's two nights that week that Cal will probably go more than 24 hours without seeing either parent. And friends, that just sucks.

My first instinct was to just trade my calls with other residents and clear the deck for the week that Joe will be away. But when you have a 70-person residency program, the call schedule is like a house of cards. Or like a teetering Jenga tower. You can't just go trading calls willy-nilly, because then you end up with someone taking call on a day that they're supposed to be home post-call, or with three calls in a row or some other such schedule implosion. It just could not be done, unless I was willing to take three extra calls to trade out of my one, including an extra weekend day. Jen-ga, Jen-ga, JEN-GA!

So I kept my calls as is. The thing is, if we'd known about this conference in advance (and I guess by "in advance," I mean if I'd known about it last Spring), I could have requested my week of vacation to coincide with the conference dates. That way, the issue of me being on call while Joe was out of town would never come up. Or I could have put in a request to have only "short" call that week, which is still call, but one in which I'd have a reasonable chance of getting home by 9pm, to at least put Cal to bed. But unfortunately, we didn't find out about the conference until well into July, by which point the call schedule was basically immutable. Herein lies the hardest part of being a medical resident. The inability to say "No." I can't do anything about my call. Joe can't do anything about his conference. We just have to go along for the ride and try to minimize the damage to our personal lives as much as we can, however we can.

Honestly, though, Cal's going to be fine. Joe's mom is going to help us out by coming in from Ohio for the week that he's away, and she'll take the night shift with The Boy when I'm on call. But I just hate the idea of it. One of the things that keeps me from worrying when I'm working late, or keeps me able to focus on my job, is the knowledge that when I'm at the hospital at night, at least Cal is with his daddy. I don't know why it's such a big deal to me to not have a parent available to put him to bed at night, BUT IT IS. It's like the one thing I promised myself we would try to never do, but here it is at last, unavoidable. And not like his grandmother doesn't love him, or that she's not going to do a good job, but...I don't know. It makes me feel like we're abandoning our son for our work. It makes me feel like a bad parent.

Obviously we're not the only people who have it hard--single parents must have to go through this kind of thing all the time--but man. It's just not easy. And there's no good solution, either. The only thing I really know how to do is just keep going and just hope that in the end, it's all worth it.

Currently eating:
A hot fudge sundae from McDonald's. Good stuff.