Thursday, December 14, 2006

all of the above

The inner lining of my winter jacket is all shredded and torn. I was just ruminating how the jacket lining got to such a sorry state (Wolverine fight? Freddy Krueger? Spontaneous degradation of fabric?) when I realized that I originally bought that jacket for my med school interviews. EIGHT YEARS AGO. Man, am I old.

While post-call days in the days before parenthood used to be all about napping and treats (lunch out, shopping, maybe a movie, bad daytime television until your eyes cross), I now have to plan all Cal-related errands around my call schedule. Unfortunately, Joe as an ophtho resident doesn't get post-call days off because he doesn't take in-house call, so most daytime errands and appointments fall to me. Today we went to the Pediatrician's' office, or as I like to call it, The Giant Fomite.

Most of my post-call days with Cal fall into a pretty predictable pattern. I usually get home between 8:30 and 9:30am, shower quickly (preferably before he sees that I've actually arrived home, or else he's quite tricky to disentagle from my legs), get dressed, and feed him his breakfast. Our nanny comes in the morning since Joe leaves for work before I get home, and sticks around for a little while straightening up Cal's miscellany from the night before and being available in case I had a bad night on call and need to take a nap--but usually I send her home by 10:00am or so. After breakfast, Cal and I strike out, usually to the playground or some sort of playground proxy if the weather is uncooperative, and get home in time for lunch. After lunch, we play in the house for a bit, he goes down for his nap, and I check the OR schedule for the next day's cases and do my pre-ops. Then Cal wakes up at some point, we play some more, I get his dinner ready, and then it's the whole bathtime-pajamas-book-bedtime routine.

Joe usually gets home somewhere in the middle of all this, and while he'll occasionally do some portion of the nighttime routine if I ask him to, probably 90% of the time it's all me. I mean, obviously if I'm on call, he does it all, but if we're both home, it almost invariably falls to me to get Cal squared away. I don't quite know why this is.

Certainly part of it is Cal. If both Joe and I are home, Cal will latch onto me and screech and carry on if Joe tries to give him his bath or change his diaper or whatever. It's not like I'm a better parent than Joe, or more fun or anything like that, I just think it's a biological thing, that babies at this age are very attached to their terry cloth mothers. Also, part of it is me. When you spend many hours away at work away from your child, you kind of want to be involved in all the minutiae when you actually are home, even the boring or malodorous parts. Certainly there are times when Joe has offered to give Cal his bath and I've turned him down, because I know I'm going to be on call the next day, or home late or whatever, and I just want the extra time with Cal before that.

But I think that another part of it is that I'm sort of expected to be Primary Parent. You know, I'm THE MOM. I'm feeding Cal and cleaning up his high chair and filling the bathtub and reading the bedtime stories, and Joe is calling his patients and reading for his surgeries the next day and doing paperwork. There's something so 1950's Eisenhower America about it all, only with fewer Jell-o mold salads. The only problem is, I work too, and I probably should be bringing a lot more of my work home than I am currently, in the form of reading or studying or what have you. I've groused about this to Joe somewhat, who is quasi-understanding, but replies that while he knows I have work too, he has MORE work. Which is sort of true. He does have to deal with a lot more paperwork, in that he has to book all his own patients for surgery and call them at home and get all their preauthorization info together on his own time. And certainly being Chief adds to his workload, as well as the number of annoying e-mails he has to return about WHY AM I ON CALL THIS WEEKEND, I JUST WORKED LAST WEEKEND AND I'M ON CALL FOR PRESIDENT'S DAY TOO!! But I also think that he perceives that I have less work than I actually do, because I've made some conscious decisions about trying to leave work stuff at work, and being as available for Cal as I can for the few hours a night that I'm at home.

Look, no judgments, because different people do different things and in the end what's right for one family is not what's right for another--but if I spend 12 hours a day away from Cal living and breathing medicine, I don't really feel like it's fair to come home to him and push him aside so that I can spend another hour or two hunched over a book living and breathing medicine. Maybe if we didn't have a baby, it would be different. Or maybe it wouldn't, I don't know. Look, I want to be a good doctor, and when I'm at the hospital, I think I try to be, and I try to have my priorities straight. Work time is for work. But I have to try and have the rest of my priorities straight too. Home time is for my family. This is the choice that I've made. It's OK if Joe needs to do his work when I'm home with Cal, because I know he loves Cal and he'll be elbow deep in Cheerios and red Tickle Me Elmo lint the next time I'm on call, but we can't both be working at home with Cal around. We have to take turns. And usually, it's my turn to take care of Cal.

I just bring this up because I have an exam this Monday that I really haven't done enough studying for. And yet, looking back on the past few months, I really don't know where I would have carved out any more time for the books than I did. Maybe if I had made some different choices with time allocation, brought more work home, extended our nanny's hours or what have you. But sweet baby Jesus, I have a kid, I need to be with him too. So I've come to terms with the fact that I probably won't score as high as I should on this test. It's just difficult when two of your top priorities are diametrically opposed.

Multiple choice questions aren't always easy.

Currently: Cramming for the exam. I feel like a med student.