Thursday, June 30, 2011

Feelings of Self Doubt Revisited

Well it appears I'm not the only stay at home mom who feels the pressure of self doubt.  Plenty of you commented or mentioned to me personally that you deal with similar feelings.  I appreciate your insight as well as your support, especially just realizing how many boat mates I have.  I had to mention this letter I received from a friend of ours from the beginning of all this schooling.  She's one of those girls I mentioned whose very existence makes me feel self doubt.  We met when she was only one degree ahead of me and still in the mist of all the crazy grad/med school craziness.  Now eight years later she's almost half way through an obgyn residency and has three more degrees then I do.  She's pretty much amazing.  She sent me this letter after reading my blog and the truth is it made me cry, and then when I tried to tell my mom about it I started crying again.  So here it is...

Hey Crystal-
Was reading your post and hoping to offer a few words of encouragement from the other side of things. After completing intern year I continue to be amazed that anyone can maintain a relationship with any resident. Residency is a very selfish process when it comes to a relationship. It demands just about all a person can give and I think often leaves residents offering the short sitck in a relationship. I think it takes a lot of love, patience and understanding to be the spouse of a resident and add kids on top and you pretty much have a saint.
Your children are very lucky to have you and all your energy, taent and intelligence. I am sure the time and gifts you give to them will reach many people in their futures that you cannot even imagine. At my residency there is this fairy tale that is perpetuated that you can be great as a doctor, parent, spouse and researcher. While I think you can have all those things, you can't have them to the same level or success that you can have fewer priorities. Time and again I've seen my co-residents shocked to find problems in their relationship they were too busy to appreciate. I think the people you are meeting are blinded in the same way with their comments. They operate in the realm they know and so work is expected. They don't truly look down on you- they are jsut blinded that the other options exist anymore because they have been in the system so long.
I remember many years ago talking with you about going back to school and I was worried (quietly to myself) when baby 1 came that you would later regret giving up so much because you seemed so interested in so many academic ventures, but from a far I've watched and seen how much joy you have from your children, husband and your role in their lives. It seems to me you have gained a rich and full life in many arenas that fills that intellectual curiosity and the emotional part of you too. 
Well that's just my two cents. I'll be thinking of you during this rough transition year. If you ever need an ear, I'm here.

What a compliment to know that my efforts are being watched and noticed by someone I myself admire and to receive outside support from someone on a side of life I sometimes find myself coveting.  Thanks Michelle, I appreciate your words of wisdom, your insight, and your support!!!!  Also great advice for anyone in a very demanding profession.   

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 :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Politically Correct Fairy Tales

I should start out by saying I don't tell my kids fairy tales.  I have a mother who would sit on my floor every night in the dark singing and telling stories for hours on end, but I am a schedule person, and so my kids put pjs on, brush teeth, go potty, pick two books a piece for me to read to them, listen to one short scripture story, have prayer, get in bed, and get one song a piece.  The whole thing takes about half an hour.  Occasionally when their dad is home for bedtime they will convince him to tell them a story, but he prefers his own made up concoctions about cheese and cracker best friends, Mr Jelly bean who has been know to poop jelly bellies when scared, and a incredibly smart but sometimes naughty Ricky Raccoon.  And so though I have three children, one who is seven years old I rarely if ever "tell" a story, but that has all changed with my daughter Peach.  My other two children have been champions at going to bed.  The process works for them, they love picking their own story, and they stay in their bed.  Peach on the other hand, complains, cries, calls my name, climbs out of bed, and will bother the other two.  I find myself more often sitting in the room after the lights are out telling stories I know by heart rather then reading them.  And that is how I ended up telling the story of Red Riding Hood last night.  As I get to the part about the wood cutter chopping the wolf in half my son Captain E says, "Mom you have it wrong, that isn't the way the story ends."  Well seeing as I've told him this story exactly one time and I've heard it thousands from the mother's fading voice I say, "Yes it is."  "No it's not," he insist, "Little Red Riding hood is heard by a policeman, and that policeman comes and arrest the wolf, and takes him off to prison and the granny is in the closet, not in the wolves' belly." And so I guess first grade beat me to punch and their version is a little more PC, although let's be honest, neither of them make any sense.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I Can't Believe I'm Doing This

Three days to go and here I am on the blog.  What am I doing?  Some might think that is what the title of this post refers to but they would be wrong, instead it refers to the fact that I am in Illinois and my two oldest children, Captain E and G Bear and in Utah with their nana after finishing off the last three days of our Colorado vacation.  A few months before summer my mother asked me if I thought my kids were old enough to come out and spend a few weeks with her.  My initial response was, "ABSOLUTELY NOT!"  I am a self admitted hover mom and worrier.  When my kids are close I "know" they will be ok.  When they are "out of sight" I constantly worry.  But as our pending move approached and I tried packing with three kids in the house I realized that some time with nana might be just what I needed to get the work done.  Plus it isn't like being a helicopter mom is a good thing.  My sister and husband have been begging me for years to lighten up.  And so three days ago I kissed my kids goodbye and walked out to my packed van, where I promptly cried for the first hour of driving home.  I've been calling them every morning and night, mainly to hear they don't want to talk to me because they are too busy having a great time.  My mom forces Captain E on to say he loves me.  She says, "Sweetie your mom is having a really hard time, can you get on and say something nice to her."  So he'll put his mouth by the phone, yell out, "I love you," and then run off.  G Bear is much more excited to talk, will answer a few questions, but inevitably about a minute she will say in her squeaky little voice, "Can I talk to Peach please?" and then I have to sit by while the two of them jabber on about who knows what.  And occasionally then Captain E will get back on the phone but only because he two wants a chance with Peach.  It is both joyful and heart breaking.  On the one hand I miss them dearly, they are my life and I wish they missed me just a smidgen of how I miss them.  On the other hand I can see that they are happy, healthy, that they enjoy their family, and that I've somehow managed to raise two kids who can exist separate from me, a trait I think all kids need to possess.  I'm happy for them, sad for me. The irony of parenthood I guess, you devote your whole self into the raising of little people who someday are just going to leave you, only to return to drop off future grand kids :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book Series for Early Readers

Product Details

I'm in agony right now, the kind caused by wanting to finish a book and not being able to.  We have a budding reader in this house who while he enjoys me reading to him prefers not to read himself.  To entice him into more reading I picked up two different series.  The first was Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  We've read ten chapters as a family and I'm hooked, the kind where you want to finish all three books in a weekend.  BUT I CAN'T.  First and foremost, I'm suppose to be finishing packing up my house before I leave for vacation and our big move.  The house is in complete shambles, and me hiding in a corner isn't going to help.  Secondly, when I did sneak off to a corner to read I got caught, once by Dr. J and once by Little E.  Both gave me a tongue lashing about reading without them...and so I'm stuck, stuck at the pace of three chapters a night, all we can squeeze in as we prepare to move.  The story is a pure delight, it follows the orphan boy Peter on his way to Rundoon to be the slave of a King, the villainous pirate Stache chasing down the "greatest treasure ever sent to sea", and the 14 year old heroine Molly, because sometimes you want a girl around for more than romance and fluff.  The dialogue is fun and the pace is fast.  There is the occasional innuendo that make Dr. J and I raise our eyebrows and laugh but so far the action and plot are very age appropriate for our children.  This series is a joy to read out loud and I can't wait for vacation so I can finish it.  
Magic Tree House Boxed Set, Books 9-12: Dolphins at Daybreak, Ghost Town at Sundown, Lions at Lunchtime, and Polar Bears Past Bedtime

The other series I picked up was the part of the Magic Tree house.  This follows the adventures of a brother/sister pair who travel through books in a magic tree house to learn about history and the world.  The negative, the plots are exceptionally repetitive.  As a parent, they can get so boring.  The positive, the plots are exceptionally repetitive :)  Great for early, developing readers.  There is a picture probably every fourth or fifth page and even Gigi and Peach enjoy walking around with these, flipping through for pictures "reading".  Not as fun as Starcatcher, but definitely have their place.  


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