Friday, February 22, 2008

madman moe's pressure cooker

I am feeling some pressure over here.

No pressure because of the comments on the last entry, by the way. Those are all fine and good, it's only right for people to have different opinions, and I certainly welcome the different points of view so long as they aren't mailed to me in cut-and-pasted letters cut out from magazines. I am feeling pressure because I feel like I have to deliver two very different things for my family, and it's not necessarily going to be possible to do both.

To recap, Joe is starting a fellowship this July. He will be the only fellow for this particular department, and as such, he will be on call for the practice 24/7 for two years straight. That is to say, from July 1st 2008 through July 1st 2010, he will be holding the pager EVERY SINGLE MOMENT OF EVERY SINGLE DAY. It is home call, where he responds to calls after hours and triages whether he has to go into the hospital to do surgery or not, but as with all things where you are carrying a pager that can never be turned off, his schedule may be unpredicatable at best.

As the spouse outside of training, I feel that I should be the one with the more flexible schedule to compensate. This may not have necessarily been the issue if we didn't have a young child, but we do and it is. Certainly people have strong feelings about this, ranging from feeling that one parent should stay home full-time, to those who feel that career is just as important, but like (probably) the majority of working mothers, my feelings are mixed. Certainly, I have worked hard for this, and I have been training in medicine a long, long time. I am not going to stop being a doctor. Not going to happen. And yet, I love my son, and I know that spending significant quality time with his parents is important for him. This is why we bend over backwards, switch our schedules around, turn ourselves upside down and inside out so that one of us can be home to feed him dinner, give him his bath, and put him to bed at night. So, there's that.

On the other side, also as the spouse outside of training, I have a lot of pressure on me to deliver financially. Joe as a fellow will be making less money than I made as an intern five years ago. True, money goes farther here, but a little bit of money goes a little bit farther. Math, people, math. We are moving to a new city, paying rent, paying for nursery school, paying for childcare, paying for all those things that people need to pay for in a three-person non-photosynthesizing household where both parents work. In other words, I need a damn job, and I need to make some damn money. The burden is on me for the next two years to support our family financially.

So to summarize, I need a job that pays money and that allows me to work without requiring my son to be raised by wolves. And I hope I don't need to tell you that even after all my years of postgraduate training at a great hospital, this is not so easy. Sit a group of woman physicians with children all down in a room together, and inevitably, the discussion will turn to our kids, our work, and childcare.

In the end, it's somewhat out of my hands. I had another interview today at [Community Hospital], with another group I would absolutely love to work with. (And I'm not saying that just because they said they were going to Google me. Though, if you are from that group, and you did Google me...hi! I had fun! Give me a job!) I have done my part here in Atlanta, applied around, seeded the garden. But in the end, I need a job to support my family. The schedule may not be perfect for us, we may have to rely on emergency childcare more than we would like to, but as with anything that we've done for the last two and a half years, it's a balancing act. We can't know what the best thing is, or what the perfect situation would be, but we take what we're dealt and do the best that we can.

Though being a working parent in some ways is difficult, in other ways, it simplifies things to the point of mindlessness. Whereas before I had Cal, I might stress about a lot of different things, now the things I have to concern myself with are clear. I need to take good care of my family, and I need to take good care of my patients. Everything else can wait. While the problem is that occasionally these two needs are diametrically opposed--usually the issue being that work cuts into my family time--it at least simplifies things that this tug-of-war is minimized to only two vectors.

Anyway, aside from the novel potential of actually earning some money for my work, this kind of stress is nothing new. Overall, this trip to Atlanta has been good. I am done with my interviews for now, and we have just one more school interview for Cal tomorrow morning. And then we can enjoy that long, lazy stretch of Georgia afternoon before we have to hop back on a plane Sunday morning, return to New York, and do it all again.