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Lives of Doctor Wives: To Stay at Home or Not

Sunday, May 17, 2009

To Stay at Home or Not

One of the issues that many couples face as they have children in a medical marriage is whether the wife should quit the workforce and stay at home with their children.  Every situation is different and every woman feels differently.  I had both stayed home and worked a fulltime job while raising 2 kids.  In my experience, it has been wonderful for our family for me to stay home.  There are less stressors in my marriage, more time for my sons and less headache and personal guilt for myself with respect to my family, job and friends.  Although I don’t usually express opinions in matters that are of a more personal nature, I will officially say that I think everyone should consider this situation if it is possible in your marriage while you husband/wife is in medical training.  I suspect, though I am not sure, that after training I will feel the same way about staying home even when my husband is a practicing physician.  We shall see when we get there.
I have two children with my husband and  I began staying home with my oldest son when he was born.  I finished out my year as a high school math teacher and thoroughly enjoyed the ability to see Bert everyday and never miss anything new that he did.  Everything went to plan until he turned 1.  Once he became mobile and started throwing temper tantrums, things became harder and soon I was aching to go back to work.  There are a couple reasons why I think this happened:  I was not involved in other things and I didn’t use parent’s day out—Basically, I didn’t have anything to keep me busy.  Everything was about Bert—that wasn’t working.  I also suspect that at 25, I was not mentally ready to stay home and be just Mom.  I loved my son, but I still craved that outside “attention” that being at home just didn’t provide me.  I sought out other employment and soon became a Realtor.  Bert began going to daycare fulltime and I went to work.  This plan lasted for a while.  I continued working and we bought a house (I had to go back to teaching if we wanted a house because I was not established as a Realtor and I was not making enough money—staying home was not something that we even thought about at the time).  Soon, the ache of wanting another child began and I got pregnant with Ernie.  I had Ernie at the end of my school year, had the summer off with the boys, and then went back to school for a second year of teaching.  Ernie started daycare at 4 months of age, and although I was okay with going back to work and sending him to daycare, I realized that there was not a moment all summer long where I wanted to work.  I was not excited at all about starting the new school year, but I was okay with it.  Staying home still did not cross my mind.  Several things happened in the next few months that changed my outlook. 
I realize that some of you cannot stay home.  Either you must work or you need to work.  It isn’t for every family.  I do believe it deserves major consideration for every family—and I do believe that every family should try to leave that an option if things are not working out during medical training.  There are things you can do to enable you to stay home.  I have found that even with the cut in pay because I was not able to work that tutoring job at my old school, our finances have not suffered in any way.  We still have cable, we still have spending money, we go out to eat, I have a gym membership and we eat very well.  We are frugal in some ways and not in others.  If I lost both of my part time jobs, we would have to cut back, but we would be able to work it out and keep me at home—and most importantly, we would make it work.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

mind you I am simply a troller on this website who is dating a MSIV, but do any of you femlaes who had career ambitions (such as went to college to become an engineer and such) still work?

Frankly babysitting kills me-I find the lack of mental stimulation debilitating. Granted I will feel differently about my own children, but i think I will come to feel the same way about them too if I were to stay at home. Does anyone have a nanny or do daycare and also work while their husbands work too?

May 17, 2009 at 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for commenting! I guess I do need to reiterate that I do work about 20 hours a week from home. It doesn't bring in a lot of money, but it does allow me to stay home and we all live comfortably well. There are several women on here who work outside the home, some who have kids and some who don't. Definitely check back because I am sure they will comment in answer to your questions. Personally, I love teaching, but I get to tutor online 12-13 hours a week and I teach women how to sell avon, so I still get all the math and teaching that I want. I think my situation is kind of the best of both worlds personally. I understand that not every woman out there has the means to tutor and make money or do another stay at home job, nor do they have the want or the need to do it. For most women, simply staying home with your kids is PLENTY. Most of us have husbands in training, so our salaries are not what a practicing physician would make. With that said, a nanny is probably out of the question. Personally, I would not want a full-time nanny, although someone to entertain the kids while I am on the computer working would be nice. I do believe you will probably feel much different about your own children. I also think that mental stimulation is in the eye of the beholder. If all you do with your children is stay home and watch TV and don't get out and do things that are mentally stimulating, then you will probably will go stircrazy. We have a solid schedule (it still has plenty of TV time in it ;) ) that we follow pretty much every week. We have play groups, preschool, my work, fitness club (which also has a class for my 4 year old), and our regular chores and household activities. I try to do preschool related activities with the kids and take them to museums, ranching heritage center, jump and jungle and other types of places for both physical and mental stimulation. Of course I also get a lot of my mental stimulation from working and from being online on sites like this one and others.
There was a time I felt like you think you might. It is one of the reasons I went back to work after my oldest was born. As a mother though, you will feel a need to take care of your child (not in the I have to be there every moment and not work outside the home way--instead I mean in the "I will put all of your needs above mine if they are related to your health" type of way.) For me this meant staying home. For others it means different things. If it isn't right for you, don't stay home, but don't turn your back on it either as it might be more important for your family to stay home at some point--at least for a little while.

May 17, 2009 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger Kathi Browne said...

I've been on both sides of the fence. In M's early days, my income was necessary to pay bills. Later, I worked because I thought that was where I would get fulfillment. As more kids came along and other people knew more about my kids than I did, i went part-time. Eventually, we were able to give up my income and I stayed home to give my children all that I could. Now I'm returning to the workforce, and hungering for it as my children become less dependent on me.

Good women make the best of whatever situation they find themselves. Any child who can say with certainty that mom did her best will have learned what family is about. That being said, I would like to say that my children were afforded more opportunity to participate and experience things because I was there to take them. If a woman works because she thinks that is how she measures her worth, she is missing out.

I don't mean to plug my website unnecessarily, but if a woman is married to an upper level professional there is another option. Partnering with your husband to enjoy and excel in one career together really is the best of both worlds. My site talks about what a wingspouse is, and my blog invites others into my head as a wingspouse. If you're considering staying home, check out http://wingspouse.com and see if it's for you. The earlier you start, the better you will be and the more you will get out of it.

May 17, 2009 at 4:58 PM  
Blogger EthidiumBromide said...

Anon - I don't have children yet (and won't for many years -- my husband and I are living apart while I finish my Ph.D. and he is doing his residency), but I will NOT be sacrificing my career for children, and this is something upon which my husband and I BOTH agree.

As a biochemist getting a Ph.D. in oncology, my graduate training will take MORE years than my husband's medical school training (6-7 years for Ph.D. versus 4 for an MD), my post-doctoral fellowship will take more years than his radiology residency -- and we both think it would be a massive waste of my ability and all the years I put into my own training as a scientist to not work. In my field, unfortunately, I don't have the option of taking a year or two off when we do have children and then working again once they are in preschool; the science changes so rapidly that once you leave, even just shortly, you're out for good. I absolutely cannot fathom having put myself through all this training just to be a stay-at-home mother... and my husband realizes that asking me to do so would be the equivalent of asking him to not use his medical training and just stop and be a stay-at-home-father. He would never consider that option, and as such, would never, EVER, ask me to do the same.

Interesting, the only individuals who ever seem to look down on me for my future intentions are... the wives of other doctors (NOT implying anything that I've read from anyone on here -- only discovered this blog a few weeks ago -- but rather, wives of the doctors with whom my husband works). Both our families are supportive; neither would ever ask or hope for me to give up my career to raise children. None of the doctors themselves have an issue with this; in fact, the majority are interested in my research and fascinated by what I do. But the wives of doctors LOVE to make snide comments about how my role, as the wife of a doctor, should ONLY be to support him and I am a Bad Wife if I do not live for the sole purpose of serving my husband and family.

Sorry, but I have WAY too much education and have devoted far too many years to not use it!

May 17, 2009 at 5:46 PM  
Blogger Desiree said...

As many of you have said, I feel that whether or not to stay at home is deeply personal. I grew up with a SAHM but I always planned to continue working. My husband also supported my decision to keep my career (after all, I have been the primary breadwinner for 5 years as he was going to school). I completed graduate school and worked professionally as the director of a private school for 8 years.

Last year, we had a baby and J began med school within 4 months of each other. On top of that I had to quit my job and move. Currently, I work from home about 30 hours a week and take care of the "boys" (baby and hubby - they are both full time jobs, lol). Right now this is what works for us, even though I never imagined myself as a SAHM, I feel blessed that I can work from home.

I do feel the "loss" of outside fulfillment. Being a mom doesn't often get as much appreciation, thanks, and "perks" as directing. I miss business traveling most of all. But, as I said, this is what works for us now and I am happy and blessed.

I like Kathi's site and I am looking for ways to be a better "wingspouse" to my husband. I am hoping my graduate training / managerial skills will come into play eventually if he does private practice, and I have even considered changing careers completely and going into nursing. We shall see. For the next 3 years of medical school, however, I see myself doing what I am doing now.

To each her own... :)

May 17, 2009 at 7:33 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I decided to stay home with my son after he was born, partly because it was more cost effective than me staying at work and putting him in day care, and partly because I was ready to leave my job as a receptionist for a busy radiology department. I enjoyed the people with whom I worked, but the job was pretty monotonous, and I don't think I could have stayed mentally sane working in such an environment, while trying to be a good wife and mother at home. My husband made more than enough money moonlighting once or twice a month while in residency, so I was fortunate enough to stay home during the first years of my son's life. We're planning on trying for another baby very soon, and I'm a little apprehensive about having two young children just few years apart, even though my husband's schedule is much lighter now that he's practicing than when he was in residency. Once my son and any other children of ours have grown to school age, I may go back to work, at least part-time. Or, I might try doing something from home. I just know that I'd really go stir crazy sitting at home by myself every day with nothing to do!

May 17, 2009 at 7:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear that other doctor's wives have received you in this way. It is unfortunate that some must tear others down because they don't want or try to understand it. You need to do what makes you happy, and if following the path you have chosen is that, then I have much admiration for you. I only hope for the sake of others that those other Doctor's wives learn to enlighten themselves rather than judge.

May 17, 2009 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

One thing that I have learned from life is to never say never! That said I think it's absolutely ridiculous for a woman to look down on the choices of another. Every situation/marriage/family is different and what may work for one family certainly does not work for another. I went to an Ivy league college with no intention of EVER staying home to raise a family and here I am! Hence the motto of my life - never say never.

May 17, 2009 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger Jason and Katie Furgison said...

I found this blog by accident a week ago, and this post has allowed me the first time to comment. My husband is leaving a lucrative engineering career to pursue medicine. My graduated degree is in early childhood/elementary education and while I absolutely LOVE teaching, I have always felt that it is so important to stay at home with my children (when we have them - we'll start trying this summer). My question is for all those doctor's wives out there - is it possible to stay at home to raise muchkins while your husband is in medical school? On SDN people tend to say yes, it is possible to stay-at-home and live off loans. What do you all think? Any advice is appreciated! P.S. If you don't stay home, and I am not judging, I would HIGHLY recommend getting a nanny. During and after college before grad school I worked in a corporate daycare and as a nanny, and you would NOT believe the ridiculous and developmentally inappropriate care that is given in large corporate daycare by caregivers who mean well but do not have the education or support to meet children's needs. Nannying was a great experience for me and also for the kids in my care. Just some advice from someone who has seen it all in terms of childcare!

May 17, 2009 at 9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is definitely possible to stay home while your husband is in Med school and in residency. It is true that unless you have other income (family, etc) you will most likely be living off of student loans if you do. The loans are meant for students and residents to have as a way to both go to medical school and to live. They offer more money if you have a family and although you will be paying it back plus interest, depending on what your husband plans to study, there are programs that will pay for your loans. You can also defer these loans during residency. I think it will matter more to you if you have an idea of what your husband might be interested in. Student loans might be a drop in the bucket or a really big expense depending on the type of doctor he wants to be. good luck with everything and I am glad you responded Jason and Katie Furgison! Welcome!

May 17, 2009 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger Desiree said...

Hi Katie,

We just finished the first year of med school, and I didn't think it was possible to live just off loans (as I mentioned earlier, I work from home but I don't make nearly as much as I used to). However, it apparently IS possible to be a SAHM with a husband in med school and live off loans, because nearly all of the families I know are doing it! The only advice I would give is not to create a lifestyle that's impossible to keep up when the "easy loans" are gone during the residency years. Several of our friends borrow $40k or so a year above the cost of school tuition to live on. So yes, it is doable, just be frugal! :)

May 17, 2009 at 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's Anon again--I didn't mean to stir up controversy. For the record I think that if you enjoy being a stay at home mother than by all means you should do it.

It's just that I LOVE my career and I have worked damn hard at getting to my current place and will continue to work damn hard to finish up grad school to do my chosen career--research. (EB--I completely agree with you. I am about to enter my second year of my phd program. It sucks that you have to deal with so much animosity by your fellow Dr's wives. )

I guess I was just wondering whether there are any doctor's wife out there who has a full time career and is a mother because I would love to hear their opinion on things!

May 17, 2009 at 11:17 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

Well, our daughter is three, and I have had the privilege of staying home with her since she was born. Being a SAHM is something that I have always wanted to do, and my husband knew it. It's not easy, but we make it work.

About a year ago, a few months after we moved to Michigan for his residency, I decided that I needed a bit of help. We don't have any friends of family here to help care for her, so I wasn't getting much "time off". We decided to enroll her in Preschool for two afternoons a week, a move that I don't regret at all.

I didn't have a career, so to speak, before I had her. In fact, I was taking some MPH classes. I had to withdraw because I was so ill from being pregnant!

I think that I will eventually go back to work/school. I plan on staying home with my kiddo as long as I can still make it work for our family.

May 17, 2009 at 11:56 PM  
Blogger Christy said...

I meant to add that my husband's father is also a MD and his mom is an RN. She was able to carry on as a nurse, even though she had three boys!

May 17, 2009 at 11:59 PM  
Blogger Leidy said...

I decided to stay home and I feel its the best for my family, I didnt have a career I loved before having kids and with my husbands schedule as a resident and later on as a Doctor I feel it would make more sense for me to stay home. I dont plan on going back to work at all, but its a peronal decision and every family is different. At the end of the line everyone needs to find what is right for them.

May 18, 2009 at 9:30 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

I feel as though I have been able to have the best of both worlds. I am an RN and work 12hour night shifts. I used to be full-time and then went to part-time a few months after our second child was born. I get fulfillment by being able to go to my workplace, do my job, help others, and have interaction form other adults. I also feel like I am a SAHM b/c I am here at home with my kids everyday. Nursing is great in that there are so many different options of when and where to work. However, I have the help of my mother in law and I'm not sure if working will be possible during residency if we move away from family.

I love being a SAHM mom and making sure my kids are well taken care of and being there every day to to see them experience all the new things they learn in life. I also love working, contributing financially to my family, being challenged, and getting the mental stimulation as well as adult interaction from having a job. However, I don't feel that I could ever work fulltime or just be a SAHM and be truely happy (at least at this point in my life). For me, balance is very important.

May 18, 2009 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Married to a med student - Marissa Nicole said...

Everyone is different and you have to do what works for you and your husband. Right now I love my job (attorney) and kids are not in the plan for a few years - we haven't decided how we will handle it because there are so many things that will change by that point. We will decide when the time comes based on how much I enjoy my current job, how much income we both make, and what type of child care options are available. For example I don't want to leave my children with someone else just to make a few extra dollars a month. And if we had family or friends to watch our little ones I would obviously be more willing to continue to work - so we have just decided to keep an open mind and do what works with us at that point. I also know that once my husband is an attending if I do continue to work it will be to work for ME not for the money - which is a nice thought!

P.S. Welcome Katie! - and you CAN live off student loans at a state medical school, you just have to live conservatively.

May 18, 2009 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Tasha said...

It really is all about what is best for the family and situation. I think for those who want to have that career they've worked hard for, they may somewhat resent their children if they feel like they have to stay at home (and I can't think of a better word than 'resent'--but with your own children, I wouldn't imagine it would be a full-scale resentment). I'm going to PA school starting this fall and my husband came from a very conservative/traditional family (they're all wondering why we don't have kids already). My dad is an accountant and there have been times that if my mom wasn't working as an RN, we would have been out on the streets. So I'm a big believer in having a backup plan (I don't want anything to happen, but I can't rule out the possibility of Jeff getting in a disabling car accident or something).

I don't have kids and I'm honestly a workaholic so I don't know if I'd like the lifestyle of being a SAHM, but Jeff is pretty insistent that it is that way. I think being a PA I could probably work 3-4 times a week for a few hours to keep me qualified to work. I guess we'll wait and see.

So I think it's best to do what fulfills you--if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy:)

May 19, 2009 at 3:56 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I just finished reading a book called "The Ten Year Nap" by Meg Wolitzer this past weekend. Even though it was a work of fiction, the situations of each of the women portrayed in the book could be found in real-life (for the most part). It really opened my eyes to the different ways couples live their lives, and how each mom (whether she works outside of the home or stays home with her kids) could possibly feel about life in general. Though all the women were in their 40s and experiencing a time in their lives when their children were becoming more independent, I still could relate to many of their situations and feelings. I highly recommend it, especially since most of the husbands in the book were portrayed as high-powered and successful in their professions.

May 20, 2009 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger TheFamousStacie said...

Bert and Ernie?

Well, I supported us while Chad was in school and went on to get my Masters Degree before he began med school.

When I held my baby in my arms there was no way I could give him up to be raised by a daycare.

Now I have 3. I do what work I must to get my student loan payment covered each month, but have never put my children in daycare.

I loved working, but I love my children more, and I consider staying home a sacrifice I am making for them.

The budget has never worked out on paper for me to stay home, but has some how always worked out in reality.

Sometimes I think "what about me?" I am nothing more than a mommy and a wife. Then I remember how short their sweet little childhood is and how I don't want to miss a minute of it.

May 21, 2009 at 12:43 AM  
Blogger MILDRENS said...

Response to Katie: My husband is finishing his 2nd year in medical school. I was pregnant with our first child when we moved to a new state for him to start school. I was working part time as an RN. I had always planned to keep working after having children. After my 1st was born (2 months into med school starting) I took my leave and then started working again. It killed me every night I had to leave for my shift saying goodbye to my son and leaving him with my husband over night. I also felt bad for my husband as he needed sleep and to study but had to care for our baby while I was gone. When my 1st was 5 months old we got pregnant again and that's when I knew I had to stay home. We have no family where we are and childcare for 2 kids cost more than I would be able to make part time as a RN!!
We got approved for extra loans since we have two children and we also take out a private loan each year. It is daunting watching the debt creep up and up each month. But! No matter what specialty a doctor chooses they will at least make 100 to 150 thousand and if you can continue to live frugally you will be able to pay off your loans. It's a sacrifice, but I feel that it is worth it!

May 21, 2009 at 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bert and Ernie---A.K.A. my children, ______ & _______

I use Bert and Ernie on my blog as it seemed to fit nicely. :)

May 21, 2009 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Wildlife said...

As I read the comments that all of you post on this blog I realize that there is no easy answer. I feel like I am grieving the loss of my idealistic, immature dreams that you really can have it all. Be a brilliant and accomplished professional in your own right, be a supportive wife and loving wife, be a all-star soccer mom, and whatever else you dreamed for yourself in your naive youth. It's hard to make those choices. Sometimes I feel myself feeling gipped because it does seem like men can have it all but we can't. I haven't had children yet but I will have to figure it out when the time comes. I cannot imagine giving up my career and my professional goals, yet I can not picture giving up my future children's growing up years. What are we to do?

May 29, 2009 at 4:07 AM  
Blogger K said...

Hi All,
I'm new here. My husband is planning on med school in a year, and we have one child and one on the way. My only hesitancy about him going to med school is that I don't want to give up being a SAHM. I'm glad that many of you were able to do on loans and/or part time work. Thank you:)

July 30, 2010 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger TheFamousStacie said...

@ K
I stayed home the entire time with the kids. It can be done!

The advantage of Medical school vs. residency is that hubby has 0 income.

This means you qualify for EVERYTHING. Food Stamps, Medicaid, WIC.

The school even wrote a letter for us stating that medical school was full time and that he was highly encouraged not to work while in Med school.

Don't feel at all bad for using these programs because you'll be paying for everyone else to use it for the rest of your husband's career. You might as well take what you can get!

We got on campus housing and Chad got cheap insurance through the school and the kids and I were on medicaid.

Don't take the first financial aid offer. Gather all your bills and expenses and take them into the financial aid office and renegotiate until you get the amount you need. Chad even once got a scholarship from me doing that.

Loans, loans, grants, scholarships and more loans ought to so it!

July 30, 2010 at 11:34 AM  

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