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Lives of Doctor Wives: Survivor Saturdays - Judge not, and you will still be judged anyway

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Survivor Saturdays - Judge not, and you will still be judged anyway

It happened again.

I should be used to it by now, but I’m always left a little stunned and hurt... and furious. Especially when someone I thought was a good friend dishes it out.

It will happen to you, most likely. At some point.

Just because your husband has “Doctor” in front of his name, people – friends – will assume that your life is a piece of cake and that having a large salary means that you don’t have a care in the world, that you are not a member of “normal” society, that somehow you think you are better than everyone else.

I hate it. I can’t tell you how much I hate it. So please pardon me if this post is part “survivor” and part rant and part whine. I figure you, of all people, can empathize.

Part of me wants to back this person into a corner and explain to her in great detail the last 14 years of my life. Of living on $20,000 a year and Hamburger Helper for the first five years of our marriage. Of having two kids and a house and a resident’s salary. Of rotations when my husband would leave at 5 a.m. and roll into our driveway again at 10 p.m - if at all. Of dinners without him. Of holidays without him. Of every“vacation” spent visiting our families 800 miles away. Of interrupted dinners and date nights and family time when he is on-call. Of delivering devastating diagnoses to his patients, the stress of which inevitably spills over into our marriage and family.

I’d like to tell her that while being a doctor – and a doctor’s wife – is an enormous blessing with a lot of perks, it is also an enormous responsibility that we take very, very seriously. I’d like to tell her that we strongly believe that our financial security behooves us to generously provide for the needs of others.

Yes, after 14 years of medical marriage, we are building a house. A great house. A very large house. Our dream house that we have been meticulously and prayerfully planning during the past 10 years. And we envision this house as a safe, warm, welcoming place for friends and strangers alike – because we have been very blessed, and our deepest desire is to be a blessing.

I’d love to say all of these things. I’d love to justify myself and my life. I’d love to cram it all down her throat and MAKE her understand.

But I can’t. First of all, that wouldn’t be very kind. But even if I could say all of these things, she still wouldn’t completely understand. No one could – not unless they have lived through it.

Which brings me to my next point. It is imperative that you have good friends who are also married to doctors. I now feel like I have to filter myself and what I talk about – especially the building of our house – when I am with friends outside of medicine for fear of coming across as pretentious or spoiled or out-of-touch or whatever. That makes me really sad. I wish I could be completely authentic with everyone. It also makes me slightly neurotic and paranoid (and admittedly and pathetically self-absorbed). What does THAT other person think about me? Who else is judging me? However, the friends that I have from training know me and understand me, and I can be completely honest with them. They are in (more or less) the same financial and circumstantial boat, so they know. They get it. They don't judge.

I also need to remember my own proverbial wisdom that I recite to my kids on a regular basis: If someone is being mean, there is always a reason. Always. There is a deeper hurt or insecurity inside that is causing them to lash out and act the way they do. (I'm convinced that's the reason God tells us to pray for our enemies.) So if someone is judging me because she thinks I’m a spoiled princess – well, obviously she doesn’t know me as well as I thought she did, and she also has some of her own issues that should lead me to compassion, not anger.

So put on an extra coat of thick skin, smile, and nod. They just don’t get it. They never will. But we’ve been there, and we know what is true. Remind yourself – and me, please – that what other people think about you is none of your business. It doesn’t matter. (it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter…)

Now, pardon me while I put on all my diamonds and prepare a tasty snack of champagne and bon-bons before jetting over to the spa...

Survivor in Pediatric Ophthalmology

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Blogger Kristin @ the Waiting Game said...

LOL at the last paragraph! I liked this post a lot. I am already getting comments like "oh, your life is going to be so easy" etc and I inform them that my fiance isn't even in med-school yet! (He finds out in a couple of weeks if he is accepted! Eek!) I also inform them that we are going to be on a shoe-string budget and that he will spend the majority of his time studying while he is in med-school, then he will be spending the majority of his time working. People just don't get it.

February 6, 2010 at 10:21 AM  
Blogger JumpingJane said...

This post really hits home today as I go on my second night of J being at the hospital. He is on call tonight, but had to spend the night last night because of the snow storm we are having here. Yes. Its just bon bons and champagne when you are with a doctor. More like lonely nights, crappy apartments, and twenty pound medical books. Congrats on the new house. That is really exciting!

February 6, 2010 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Gretchen said...

Kristin-I married my dr.h before med school and I got the same comments! He ended up being an M.D. PhD. That meant 7 years of school, 4 years of residency, 2 yrs of fellowship. Those same people were the ones that kept asking along the way--is he done YET?! Yes, we celebrated our 13th anniversary before he ever got his "real" job! (and did I mention the 3 kids along the way?!)I would never say it was easy. (some days it still isn't)I even read your post to my husband and he said ohhhhhhh... meaning that was a long time ago and a long road. But I will tell you this: we would neither one change it. It was a long road but we were on it together. Right now it is a Saturday morning and we have been to our son's basketball game, out for brunch and are now sitting on our bed with our littlest and he is reading her a story.

There will be some tough times and long nights and days (Jane). Surround yourself with people who "get it", just like Jennifer said. You will need it during training and after training.

We are in the process of buying our "dream" property on one of the Great Lakes. The house isn't much of a dream at this point, but we have a vision! I'd say the response I've gotten from half of the people I know is "why would you ever give up the pretty house you have now? Isn't it good enough?" The other half of the comments I've gotten are surrounded by twinges of jealous tones about getting to be lakefront. It is highly desirable here and I get the sense already that we are being looked at differently because of buying this property. I hope not. We are the same people. But, like Jennifer said, you get a little paranoid about what others are thinking of you. "Do they think I am crazy, or do they now look at me as one of THOSE people?" I need to keep reminding myself that it is none of my business what they think of me. I just have to be ME and be gracious.

I hope for all of you that you have a good friend or friends during training! Mine is Jennifer! There are many things I have been through that I don't know how I would have done it without her. We live 1200 miles apart now and she is still my rock! She gets me! I wish that friendship for all of you!

February 6, 2010 at 12:38 PM  
Blogger daphne said...

love this post jennifer. and yes, it is so important to have individuals in your circle of friends that are also married to doctors. people are in awe when I tell them what my husband does, but in reality it has been extremely lonely at times and with kids I often times feel like a single parent.
I have a hard time sympathizing with a friend who is upset because her husband won't be home till after 7 one night out of the month, but at the same time I remind myself that she is not in my shoes and this is my reality. It is a HUGE blessing to have my girlfriends (& my sister) who totally get what I am going through

Congratulations on your new home!! How exciting :)

February 6, 2010 at 12:44 PM  
Blogger Ams said...

I am SO happy that I read this post.
Thankfully the blogging world has put me in touch with people who actually DO get it.. who have been there, done that.

I am sorry that people don't understand you Jennifer - but you are right, until you have BEEN THROUGH IT people have no clue. I had no clue... (and we haven't even started residency! Eek!)

Thank you for this post... it gives me strength!

February 6, 2010 at 1:33 PM  
Blogger Allison said...

Yep, been there....

Great post! I may have to link it. :)

February 6, 2010 at 2:10 PM  
OpenID joz1234 said...

so sorry your friend doesn't get it. It really is her loss. I hope she "comes around" for your sake.

I often worry about finding new friends after we leave residency and fellowship and start having "the real job." I have a friend who is transitioning this year, and it has been hard for her to find friends.

I have been lucky enough to be in the same place for my husband's med school and residency and fellowship and am actively involved with our Medical wives alliance. I have made so many friends there over the years that get it. I always know there is a rock somewhere that I can lean on.

this website is awesome too because I have connected with a few ladies on facebook from here, so we are able to "get" each other when we need to.

If any of you would like to connect with me on FB, let me know. I really think it helps to solidify this online "friend" thing, and you can always set the security settings high until you feel more comfortable.


February 6, 2010 at 3:30 PM  
Blogger Tasha said...

Amen! We're still in the med school portion, but we get that 'oh, you guys are so lucky and will be so rich' comments all of the time. Plus the fact that we aren't working (living off of student loans) just adds to the perception that it's an easy life--I feel your frustration. Unfortunately the only med student wives I know have a pretty posh life: their husbands leave at 7 am, home by 5:30 and study 8-noon on Saturdays. My husband has had to study waaay more than that. I'd better find myself some other friends... Thanks for the post!

February 6, 2010 at 7:30 PM  
Blogger Doc's Girl said...

Sadly, I lost a good girlfriend years ago when I first started dating J and she began making very weird comments about how I had to "carry myself a certain way" or how I would be "living a certain lifestyle."

I know that it hurts...but I promise that your true friends will understand where you are coming from. I am lucky that my best friend is not married to a doctor but she understands very well what it is like because her husband is self-employed and works very weird hours due to his specialty.

I find that I am getting quieter and quieter the longer I am with J...and that is probably because I realize that it's not worth the effort trying to make others understand.

...and then I blog about it. :)

February 7, 2010 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Married to a med student - Marissa Nicole said...

Great post, all of it SO true. What I love most is how you handle it. I hope that I can develop such grace, acceptance, forgiveness and understanding!

February 8, 2010 at 1:13 PM  
OpenID lifeofadoctorswife said...

Congratulations on building your dream house! You and your husband are doing what's right for you and your family - and I'm so sorry that another person's misperceptions and/or jealousy is causing you pain.

Thanks for the advice and insights!

February 8, 2010 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Timani said...

LOVE it! Well, not the experience, but how true your words rang. I married my husband nearly 17 years ago, we have 8 children and he is now in his intern year. Before med school we were "normal", but once med school started people had the misconception that we were suddenly made of money. After all, medical school means doctor and doctor equals big money! I cannot count the many times I've explained that he didn't earn a paycheck, we lived on massive amounts of student loans (and I would quantify by how many houses in our newer neighborhood we could own just during med school) and our friends/neighbors finally started to get it! And now my husband is an intern, our house hasn't sold so I've been a single mom of 8 for 8 months and I've had to do rumor control again. People ask me, "Why haven't you moved already?" They don't understand that I can't afford to make a mortgage payment AND pay for a rental there. So I've found the best way to help them explain. "Yes, Dan is a doctor, but he can't practice on his own so he isn't paid like one. His hourly wage is $10.50." They gasp and suddenly understand!

The mention of your dream house makes me giddy. You deserve it! I can't wait and I know I'll deserve it too! We all do!!!!

February 10, 2010 at 5:05 AM  
Blogger Kathi the wingspouse said...

... and even 20 years later I still feel that sting from people who don't really know me. It has bothered me so much recently that I wrote a blog post called "Society Cheers for Success but Hates When it Comes" scheduled for release Feb 26. The title says it all.

I agree we all need friends like ourselves who can relate (that's why I love this site), but some outside friends keep us well-rounded. We just have to be careful what we say.

Okay, since you ranted I'm gonna purge myself of some built-up frustration. Why is it okay for a HS dropout on welfare to demand we share the wealth without also sharing in the debt, sweat, hard work and lawsuits? I just want to scream when I hear all the changes being considered in Washington.

February 10, 2010 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger MW said...

That's rough! This is actually a problem I haven't really had to deal with. It's still early in the process, but my friends basically fall into these groups:

*Investment Bankers - "ha! why go to medical school when you can make 6 figures at 22 with a mere bachelor's degree?" (see Ryan Reynolds' cameo character on Scrubs)
*BigLaw Corporate Attorneys - "I'm jealous of your 80-hour workweek, but at least if I bill enough, I get a nice bonus"
*Doctors/Nurses/Misc. Medical Industry careers - In the know
*Struggling Actors - No envy because they love their jobs.
*Fashion Industry People - also love their jobs.

I don't know. I think you're right. If people are jealous or aren't willing to understand, they probably just have drama going on in their own life or are unfulfilled or unsatisfied with the choices they've made. Maybe that's a greater problem as we grow older, but I'm fortunate not to have encountered it yet.

February 23, 2010 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Jane and Stuart said...

I loved that! Yesterday I was at my parents house and my mom was planting flowers and my dad was mowing the lawn. They were complaining about doing yard work and I said I am not excited to have to do that when I have my own house. My mom looks at me and said you won't ever have to you will have enough money just to pay people to do it. OK! So my husband is a third year med student. I hope to have a house in residency, I am pretty sure I won't have anyone do my yard work if I ever do for like 20 years. Like we are going to be able to afford that. Some times my mom forgets that we don't instantly start making money and that we have student loans. You all understand.

May 29, 2012 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger TheFamousStacie said...

As a mother of 4 I can tell you from my personal observation that one of the most basic human instincts is to want what someone else has. This is a constant in any home with children. Or adults.

Recently, one of our dearest friends inherited a golf cart. We were so excited for them! We all gathered around and checked it out when it arrived. And, boy, are they having fun. Our kids even rode up to Dunkin Donuts on it.

Seeing them have all that fun made us wish that WE TOO had a golf cart so WE could have fun and ride to Dunkin Donuts. But no, we live in a 3rd story condo and a golf cart just wouldn't make sense, nor do we have a relative able to gift us one.

My point is: Seeing you have so much joy in building your new home and other lovely things most likely makes her want those things too. It is probably a bitter pill for her to swallow to know that she may never get to have what you have.

Have pity on her. It is reality that there will always be someone richer, smarter, more beautiful and have cooler toys. May we always keep our envy in check!

May 29, 2012 at 12:19 PM  

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