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Lives of Doctor Wives

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hello Dr.'s wives and significant others!

My husband and I dated throughout his last 2 years of medical school and he is currently in his intern year. His third year was expectedly busy. His fourth year promised more time for us. Unfortunately, my now husband decided to volunteer for an ultra sound clinic and be involved in an ultra sound study. He was also active in the emergency medicine journal club as well as mentoring “younger” medical students. Because of all of these commitments, his fourth year was similar to his third. Now that he is in his intern year, once again he is constantly busy. Something I expected and am getting used to. In fact, when he is home, it is almost weird.

I have recently watched a documentary titles “Doctor’s Diaries” from the television program, NOVA. It is about a person who followed 7 Harvard Medical School medical students throughout their four years (starting in 1987) along with their residency programs. He also touched base with them in the year 2000 and again in 2008.

After watching this program, I realized that a lot of the doctors went in directions I did not expect. Two of them do not even practice and one literally has to fly around the country to get work because of his bad reputation as a doctor. In terms of marriages or relationships, all of them have had failed or are struggling in their relationships. 2 out of 7 work so much they never married, 4 out of 7 divorced their first spouse and are on their second with one on his fourth marriage, and one got married at 38 years old. When the spouses and current spouses were interviewed or talked about, they expressed the fact that their husband/wife was not around much, even as an attending. I have to admit this really worries me.

My schema of how my now husband’s life would go is changing. I thought he would have time once he is an attending. Yet, all of the attendings from this show at some point, see patients, are involved in research, teach, and do administrative work all at the same time. Thus keeping the same schedule as a resident.

My questions is how can you balance life and work when all your time is devoted to work? I just know if my husband decides to get involved in research, teaching, administration (all of which he has expressed interest), as well as seeing patients, we will not last. I cannot support a workaholic and am wondering how I can support my husband without being on the back burner 24/7. I want to avoid a potential divorce, but do not know how to do it without telling my spouse I will not support him in all the extra curricular activities he wants to participate in throughout his career. I have talked to him about this, and he has nothing really to say. He simply blamed society on expecting so much out of doctors.

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Blogger Ams said...

I don't know that I have any advice. It really stinks that your hubby has this attitude that it is societies doing. I know that my SO has told me he won't do these things, because he wants to have a life outside of medicine. He doesn't want it to consume us. I am very grateful for this because I don't know, like you, whether I could support my SO in a life that meant I was the bottom of the totem pole, basically along for the ride.

I hope that someone here can give you some sound, good advice. *Hugs* to you!!

October 29, 2009 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Married to a med student - Marissa Nicole said...

I agree with you that a doctor's lifestyle will always be busy and it is not a typical 9-5 schedule.
But with that being said I still think that doctors have some flexibility with the specialty they choose and the career path they choose. Some practice solo and work ALL THE TIME, others work in partnerships and share the call and the time off. Bottom line is that at some point (after training) he will have SOME say in how much he works. I believe that some people are workaholics not because of their job but because of the choices they make (they chose to take on more work and take a job that calls them to work constantly).
Doctors also have a choice of priorities, even if their work takes up the MOST time, it doesn't mean he/she doesn't have higher priorities. I expect my husband to always put me first which will mean making career decisions TOGETHER that work best for US and our family.

October 29, 2009 at 10:43 AM  
Anonymous Audrey said...

That documentary was from 1987? Residency hours have changed since that time. Then, I think the limit was an unenforced 120 per week limit. Now, it's a better enforced 80 hour limit.

I don't know what to tell you about your husband. My FIL was a physician, and DH remembers him never being around, and when he was, he had to mow and do chores. DH decided early on, he didn't want to be that kind of dad. He made concessions on his grades in order to be around for bedtimes and time with me. It hurt at graduation to see other people getting awards that he normally would have gotten. But, he told me that being a good dad and husband was better than all of that.

He is involved in SOME extra activities. He did research and student council.

In my opinion, you need to talk to your husband about having more balance. He needs to make a decision about what he REALLY wants for his life. There is more than one way to have a successful and gratifying career.

October 29, 2009 at 11:04 AM  
Anonymous A.F. said...

Thanks for asking this question. I am curious to see the advice given. My husband and I also saw the documentary you mentioned and we found it disturbing. We were similarly disturbed by the book "The Medical Marriage." We are becoming convinced that the whole light at the end of the tunnel thing is an illusion.

I think you are right that if you are always put on the back burner, the marriage will be in jeopardy. For a relationship to work, each people must take the other into consideration.

October 29, 2009 at 3:11 PM  
Anonymous gail said...

I have been married to my physician husband for 23 years. Residency and fellowship and the early years of practice are definitely the most out of control in terms of choice. The problem is (or can be) that by the time they have more choice they have become addicted to overworking and have been so disconnected from the relationship and the raising of the children that it's hard to re-balance and reconnect. It can be done but I do think it is one of the major challenges DW's and SO's face.

October 30, 2009 at 1:38 PM  
Blogger K said...

Wow...as convinced as you ladies may be that you are doomed to a life alone, take heart. It hasn't happened yet! Not all physicians are workaholics. Maybe your husbands will be more considerate. As a distinguished professor once said, "there's lies, damned lies and statistics."

I'm trying to keep a positive outlook because I was scared at one point too. But then I realised I don't want to make other people's problems my problems. There's too many other things in life to worry about in the here and now. If your relationship is going well now, don't worry about the future. Keep yourselves interested in your own work.

October 30, 2009 at 6:50 PM  
Blogger Melisa said...

Well, this is just my opinion, but it really doesn't have to be this way. Brad can't always be there when I want him to, but I have ALWAYS felt like his first priority (after God). He chose the specialty he did so he could have a more family friendly life style. In med school he didn't have straight A's, but he had a family that had enough time with him to be content. He is completely focused on us when he is home. I don't know how long a marriage could survive if the spouse didn't feel like the most important thing in each other's life after their faith. If Brad needs to golf or hang out with friends, it doesn't bother me because I know if I said I needed him, he'd be there in a heartbeat. There have been times I felt like he was spending too much time on non-essentials, and he scaled back. Communicating your needs is very important. Good luck. It is quite a balancing act.

October 30, 2009 at 10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know your husband best and hopefully you knew him when you married him. As other posters have said, there are options for these doctors, when they are in practice. That is the huge upside to a medical doctor career is that many paths lead to a rewarding career emotionally & monetarily.

I'm married to an academic orthopaedist. He & I have dated since college, married after med school and had a honeymoon only because he attended residency at the same institution as his med school and could skip orientation. He was a driven man then and he is an even more driven man now. This would be true no matter what the career. But with medicine, our family is provided with a comfortable income and he has the satisfaction of knowing he helped people today. Not everyone can say the same and for those reasons, if not time spent at home, I and my kids can admire him. Not perfect, but choices made and true to himself.

November 4, 2009 at 4:12 PM  
Blogger Bea said...

Just wanted to say that while the documentary was slightly discouraging, I did see a silver lining. The same goes for the "Medical Marriage" book. While some medical marriages fail, the ones that are successful can be extremely rewarding and fulfillng, precisely because you're a team in these tough times. If you can make your marriage a source of comfort and happiness amidst the stressful years of residency, you can have an incredible marriage. I keep telling myself that-- how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be very close to my husband and create a relationship that helps him get through all the other stresses around him. Mind you, I am far from perfect, but I believe it can be done and I'm working hard at it :)

November 4, 2009 at 7:58 PM  
Anonymous Gwen said...

It sounds to me like your husband is interested in many things (teaching, admin, etc) which is great. What he needs now is to realize that he can't do it all. He needs to figure out which of these things are the most important to him and let the others go to allow time for his family. I think early in their careers, these guys feel like they have to be into everything in order to prove themselves. So as he gets furhter along, this may change. It may take some time and some prodding from you, but hopefully if you keep revisiting the conversation with him, he'll realize how much it means to you and your kids to have him around.

November 4, 2009 at 9:16 PM  

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