There's an unfortunate phenomenon that I started noticing in residency, which is that of competitive suffering. The process of medical training is, of course, grueling (you don't need me to tell you that) but also beset with the notion that no activity is worthwhile unless it is somehow miserable. I went along with this during my medical training--what's residency, after all, without complaining, the one acceptable outlet for our drudgery--but as the years go by, it just starts to become increasingly unseemly. Certain people seem to have taken the adage if it's not hard, it's not worth doing and expanded it to: whoever suffers the most wins. Which, you know, is just not true. Also, given that we're working every day with patients who I'd argue are going through much more difficult things than most of us could imagine, it's probably not appropriate to complain about doing things which, while certainly aggravating in the moment, simply boil down to us doing our jobs.
Anyway, I'm not going to do that anymore is my point.
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So here's a link to an article in today's New York Times:
Where Having it All Doesn't Mean Having Equality
I think that the overarching point of the article is the gender gap persistent and pervasive in France, despite what most of us in the states would perceive as luxurious socialized benefits (four month paid maternity leave, subsidized on-site child care, what have you) but the thing that really struck me is how it echoed some points of the post that depressed people so much from last week, wherein I posited that "having it all" was impossible. An excerpt from the article:
“French women are exhausted,” said Valérie Toranian, editor-in-chief of Elle magazine in France. “We have the right to do what men do — as long as we also take care of the children, cook a delicious dinner and look immaculate. We have to be superwoman...”
...At 31, Fleur Cohen has four children and works full-time as a doctor at a Left Bank hospital. As she drops her youngest at nursery in stilettos and pencil skirt you would never guess that she gave birth only three months ago...
...Forty percent of French mothers undergo a career change within a year of giving birth, compared with 6 percent of men. Both parents have the right to take time off or reduce their hours until the child turns three — but 97 percent of those who do are women.
Women spend on average five hours and one minute per day on childcare and domestic tasks, while men spend two hours and seven minutes, according to the national statistics office Insee.
In Paris, Ms. Cohen’s husband is a doctor, too. But she bathes all four children, cooks and does the Saturday shopping — largely, she insists, by choice. “If I didn’t prepare food for my children, I would feel less like a mother,” she said.
At work, meanwhile, she plays down motherhood. She sneaks down to the hospital nursery to nurse her baby son, and tries to stay longer than her male colleagues in the evenings. Otherwise, “everyone will just assume that I’m leaving because of my children and that I am not committed to the job.”
Anyway, if my post from last week stirred up any thoughts, you should read this article. I have come to no definitive conclusions, only that the stressors of balancing work and family are universal and not at all unique to life in these here United States.
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Joe's heading to Chicago for the rest of the week to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He goes every year, and while I realize that this is an academic obligation and to some degree required for his professional development (see: networking, lectures, whatnot) it also means that there will be no divide-and-conquer school of parenting this week. Even working occasionally long hours I find it generally manageable with one kid; with two kids, however, I am quite simply outnumbered, so all I can say is hats off to the single parents, because this shit is hard. I don't wish to belabor this point, because there are plenty of people who work harder than me both inside and out of the home, so hearing about my petty first-world stressors are probably annoying at best and galling at worst.
(As an aside that I just know I'm going to get lambasted for but don't have the good sense to filter because I'm trying to write this really quickly before "Dora the Explorer" ends: I along with everyone else on the planet of course occasionally will check into Heather Armstrong's blog Dooce--I admire her business savvy and am in awe of the media empire that she has built from the ground up, though this recent spate of her Misery Olympics complaining about dealing with her 10-month old daughter alone while her husband and older daughter were out of town on a trip really tweaked me the wrong way. I admire her inimitable voice and of course her tenacity in the face of some occasionally vitriolic and usually anonymous detractors--some might include me in this grouping now, though I want to say again that I greatly respect her work and am far from a heckler--but wish that we could all just agree that her unique situation is no longer relatable to the average working parent. As a somewhat connected aside, I also don't believe in a blogosphere--gah, that word again, but there's no better equivalent--where anything short of slavering devotion is construed as "hating" and trying to tear someone else down, so I hope that this observation is taken in the right and socially appropriate way that it was intended.)
Anyway, I was stressed about Joe leaving and grouchy as a result, so we were not able to part on the warmest of terms, which I absolutely hate but had too much pride (some might say stubbornness) to rectify before he was out the door. If only we could have EEGs hooked up at all times to translate what we're really thinking and feeling, like that baby translator that Danny DeVito invented on "The Simpsons," life would be a lot more straightforward.