Monday, June 27, 2011

Feelings of Inadequacy

Dr. J has started his residency.  Eight years of hard work, sacrifice, movement forward have lead to this event.  It is a necessary step in our life's progression and I am overjoyed to be here, that being said  there are a  few things that will cause these next few years to not be a joy ride.

First, Scheduling Woes:
Residency rules have changed and there is now an 80 hour work week limit for intern year as well as a 15 hour a day cap.  The  positive, no 100 hour work weeks this year (the same isn't guaranteed for next year).  The negative, 80 hours, which they are expected to work all of, is actually quite a lot.  By getting rid of night call they've actually forced the time to all be split up so they get four days off a month and have to work something like 13 1/2 hours a day.  Add in driving time and my hubby will pretty much be gone from waking hours to kid's bedtime.  I'm grateful that he will be home for bedtime stories but I'm sad to realize that the string of going to school plays, parent teacher conference, running kids to sporting events, class field trips, doctor's appointments, music lessons, play dates, cooking, cleaning will all still be alone activities.  Most distressing, because days off are not automatically scheduled and must be individually requested off and given with preferential treatment being given to senior residents in regards to weekends church with three children has now become a stand alone event until some yet to be determined time.  This is exceptionally frustrating.  At Dr. J's medical school, and the two places he did  away rotations, (University of Utah and Oregon Health Sciences) days off were scheduled automatically on a revolving schedule with residents being given the option to trade days off with others, meaning I knew Dr. J would get a Sunday off every seventh week, or a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.  This allowed one to make future plans like schedule doctors appointments and to have a weekend day off at least once a  month, a huge benefit I already greatly miss.  Since there is no guarantee here, expect lots of future post chronically my adventures of church, school, and events alone.

Second, Major Feelings of Inadequacy:
I predicted this prior to it happening.  I said to Dr. J right before we moved, "I'm going to need a little extra support with something.  So far most of the woman we associate with on a regular basis have been students (not so different from where I'm at), but as we move into a time when they are mostly career woman I'm going to be dealing with some feelings of inadequacy.  I need you to be aware and walk carefully."  I felt prophetic when we went to one of the opening picnics.  The first person I talked with, one of the Department Chairs for Internal Medicine asked me immediately what I'd studied in school.  I told him human biology.  He then asked what I was doing with my time and I told him I had three kids at home who I stayed home with.  He looked at me for a second and then said, "Well I guess now that your husband is done you can probably find some time to go back to school."  I said something noncommittal, smiled, and took my plate to the table where one of the other wives questioned me about my current employment status.  When I told her I was at home with the kids, she said, "Well it's probably hard to find a job in a new city.  Don't worry it will happen for you soon."  I laughed but the truth is comments like these, even the very existence of all the female residents, doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, residency coordinators, etc, who all have careers and at least one more degree or for some of them two or more, stirs an internal debate I find myself having to revisit more often then I care to admit.

I was raised by a single mother who needed a career in order to feed her children.  I have always loved learning and school and college definitely was always in the cards for me.  I have always wanted to contribute to the greater world and to not have to worry about myself financially.  A career seemed an obvious step in the progression.  I have also always expected to have a large family and after I got married it seemed natural to progress to having children.  Captain E was born after Dr. J's first year of his MD/PhD.  G Bear followed 21/2 years later, Peach, 21/2 years following that.   When the kids were younger I worked as a grader, a course organizer, worked on a few research projects, and did transcription.  It was a way to bring in extra money and it kept my mind busy.  I always intended to go back to school, but finances were so tight, and Dr. J so busy it seemed like the time was never right and so as more kids came and things got busier I found myself naturally progressing into the stay at home mom role.

There are lots of benefits to this position.  I get to spend all my time with my children.  I get to see all the cute moments.  Many of them I capture on film, all of them are captured in my memory.  I have plenty of time to teach my children.  As my kids have started to enter school it has become glaringly obvious to me that kids who do the best are the ones who have lots of parent involvement.  My kids are not denied this opportunity due to my own time constraints.  My kids are able to do dance, gymnastics, sports, many of the activities my mom was unable to take us to.  I get to spend a lot of time playing with my children.  I've had the time to be able to volunteer at the school and both this year and last spent at least an hour a week in the classroom helping the teacher.  The benefits of this were far reaching.  I knew all the children in my son's classroom and it made it easier to talk to him about what was going on at school.  It also had benefits when it came to dealing some of the issues he had at school related to some of his attention disabilities.  I was aware of problems almost immediate as they came up and it seemed like the good relationships I'd nurtured with his teachers paid off in their compassion toward him.  I have plenty of time to cook and clean.  It doesn't mean that these activities are always done as often as they should be or always done with joy but they get done.  I'm able to give my kids a sit down dinner each evening around a dinner table and because I have adequate time to plan, shop, prepare and cook the nutrition at our table is pretty darn good.  My kids get plenty of time to play outside.  I have the energy to give them limits on media time.  I'm carefully able to monitor their media time.  Doctor's appointments are easy for me to schedule because getting time off is not a concern.  When their dad gets supper busy and they aren't able to see him often I can take them to see him for lunch.  There are also many personal benefits.  For the first time in my life I have adequate time to exercise daily.  If I want to get together with a friend all I have to worry about is finding a babysitter.  I am an avid reader and can read whenever I want, whatever I want.  If I want to watch a movie I don't have to feel guilty that I should be doing homework or work.  I can stay up late if I want.  I get to fully enjoy my children and I am available to enjoy my husbands company in the few available hours he has.  I have time to pick up new hobbies like playing the guitar or photography.  I can talk to my sister on the phone pretty much whenever I want to.  I was able to drive my kids to school instead of forcing them to sit on the bus for two hours a day to travel the 1.5 miles to and from school.

My world of course is far from perfect.  I often feel sleep deprived.  There are times that I get frustrated with my children and they with me.  There are many days I feel unappreciated or in the least under-appreciated.  Housework can be a real drag.  There are days I am desperate for adult conversation.  There are days I'm sick of carpool.  There are days I feel like my mind is turning to mush.  There are days I crave the high of getting a work project done or the pride of getting back a good test or paper.  There are days I wish I had more spending money.  There are days I'm embarrassed by my choice, that I feel like I might be wasting my own intellect, that I may be missing a chance to make a real difference somewhere, that people are looking down on me.

It is an internal debate I find myself confronting often, grateful for some blessings, feelings of inadequacy sometimes clouding my mind with doubt.  It seems like life is often filled with choices like these.  Some choices that give you joy may also be twinged with sadness or accompanied by self doubt.  For now though I'm committed to doing my thing being the best stay at home mom I know how to be.  In the future maybe I'll find some time/money to go back to school.  Maybe I'll find something I want to do when my kids have left the nest.  For now though I'm grateful for my children who love me and a husband who takes the time to thank me for the things I do and the time I spend with the kids, and for the people who when they hear I stay home with the kids tell me that's awesome and then proceed to still want to have a conversation with me :)


  1. Well, I guess I don't have to write the blog post that I've been developing in my mind, because you pretty much covered it for me! Just know that you are not alone. And as for those people who look down on you, shame on them. Oh and way to scare me about residency (I'm already freaking out about Matt's rotations that started today)!!!

  2. Thanks for this post! I actually just blogged about this last night! But you shed some more light from a different perspective on it. I'm trying to get better at showing people with careers that I still have interesting things to say. Maybe I should start asking them about their home lives or something. Something I say when the conversation is killed by my lack of employment is "I do a lot of volunteer work, especially with my church." Best of luck with your feelings of inadequacy. You rock, in my book!

  3. There is no shame in doing your job as a mother in raising beautiful children!!! It's a blessing that you have a husband who can provide for the family so you can stay at home. God loves you and your family and things will be okay! If I were there, I would SO totally come over often to talk since I want people to talk to too...

  4. You're doing a great job and I cannot BELIEVE how many hours J has to work...absolutely crazy, and I give you so much credit for being a single mom for so long! You really are amazing and you're doing a great work!

  5. I completely understand and feel the same way. At our first work party I pretty much encountered the same scenario, with the exception of one woman who had stayed home with her kids and they were now entering college. Through our discussion, I realized that the results of our efforts often are more apparent when the child has left home. It's hard in the midst of the daily grind to see it, but she told me a lot of things that gave me some perspective. And as a nanny, I saw the guilt that weighed down on my employer as a careet woman. There's always tradeoffs to every decision and putting your kids before money and prestige is always going to be the best tradeoff.

  6. What a powerful post! I wish there were a way to better communicate the intentionality of our decisions to stay home. There are so many paths we could explore, so many skills we could share, yet we choose to give this best part of our lives to our children because we believe they are worth it.

    Hugs! Sure wish I could be there to chat (or that my Mom-brain would even allow me squeak out a coherent sentence.) Still, here are three cheers just for you. :)



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