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Lives of Doctor Wives: Life Choices

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Life Choices

I've been keeping up with the blog for a few months now and I've been wondering if there are any misfits like myself. I didn't meet my DrH until he was one month into his transitional internship. A year later I happily moved cross country with him to start residency and 5 months after that home again to start a different residency/fellowship (You better believe I got an engagement ring after that!). We married in '08 and he's got 3 more years of Fellowship left to go.

We've decided NOT to have a family partly because of his career, partly because we met a little later in life (he's 32, I'm 39) but mostly because we don't feel it would be fair to the children or to me to have an absentee father. Are there any readers here that have made that life choice? I'd love to hear from them!

Thanks so much~Shana K.

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Blogger Ashley said...

We're considering doing the same thing. For many reasons.

We'll be in our mid thirties by the time DH is out of training, making any money, and having any free time. I also personally didn't feel comfortable with the pregnancy risks that are more common as I age.

Although I have friends who DO choose to have kids during residency, (or when they're older), and are fantastic moms, and make a budget stretch further than I ever could. It's just a choice.

While being a mother is I'm sure, amazing, I feel it's unkind of society to automatically put that pressure on women: "We just got married last week." "Oh! When are you going to start a family?" My husband and I already ARE a family. The question is whether, not when, we will be adding to it.

We haven't decided for sure we won't have kids yet, and aren't positive there won't be a birth control accident. But we think it'd be cool to put all the time/effort/energy we would spend raising kids into our relationship with each other.

Anyway, long response, but I believe it's totally a personal choice between each couple, and whatever they decide should be the best choice for them. So I totally support you in your choice! Have a long and happy life and marriage, and no regrets!

March 10, 2010 at 11:19 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

We'll be starting a family during Residency when my husband is making some money. I'm two years older than he is so my biological clock is ticking and he's kinda freaked out about becoming a Dad, but he's getting kids whether he's ready or not. We'll celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary this summer and will have another one before we start increasing our family size. I'm ready and by then I think he will be too. I guess there really never is a "convenient" time to have kids.

I know what you mean about the whole absentee father situation. It's a hard call. Many, many people go through this same thing. It could always be worse... they could be in another country for months at a time. I have friends who raise their kids without seeing their military husbands for quite some time. I know that they don't regret their decision to have a family in the least. For some of them I think their kids keep them sane and grounded.

It's really a personal choice. You have to do what you feel is right for you.

Good Luck on the journey!!!

March 10, 2010 at 11:27 PM  
Blogger TheFamousStacie said...

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March 10, 2010 at 11:48 PM  
Blogger TheFamousStacie said...

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March 10, 2010 at 11:50 PM  
Blogger Dicey said...

Another misfit here. The time and financial demands of the profession are just too prohibitive, for us. It's a personal choice. I do like this blog. There is plenty of good info on here that applies to me. Best of luck with the rest of fellowship!

March 11, 2010 at 1:02 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

I like this blog, too! A lot of great advice, ideas, and stories come out of it. I definitely think it's a personal choice, but I don't believe there's ever really a "right" time to have children. There's always going to be "something" getting in the way or whatnot. Personally, my dream is to be a mom--if I could have gotten an MRS. degree in college I would have, but that's just me. I know several couples who don't want to have children and they're as happy as can be. We're all on an adventure no matter what we chose (or don't chose) to do! =)

March 11, 2010 at 7:14 AM  
Blogger Kathi the wingspouse said...

Our famiy survived three children during med school and residency, so I'm not in this categories.

I just want to express my support and say there's nothing wrong with making the decision NOT to have children - just as it is okay to have them. If any of you who are not planning to have children change your mind later or have an unexpected surprise, don't worry. It's quite do-able. Extended family is a key component to raising children through med training. Friends are right up there, too. Once residency is over, practice really isn't so bad (except for some specialties). I envy some of my friends whose spouses just set up practice and work 9-4 four days a week.

March 11, 2010 at 8:21 AM  
Blogger Behrmans said...

I totally understand where you are coming from. We will be in our mid-thirties when he is done and we really wanted children before we were thirty. We decided to have 2 children before med-school. We’re really not ready to make the final decision to say we are complete but I am so happy to have the 2 children we have and we are thinking more and more that we are done for the reason you addressed. Eric is also worried about the amount of time he will be able to spend with our children but it will just have to do. We will make it through. We know Doctors that make time for their families and ones that don’t. I think it really matters on what type of practice you are in. I did really want to say that if there is any small question inside of you about having children you 2 should really address it. If not, just think of the life you will live… all the freedom, travels, dinners out etc. There are pro’s and con’s to both aspect; it’s just finding what works for you and your hubby that matter the most. Best of luck!

March 11, 2010 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

We knew we wanted children since high school, long before med school ever came into the picture. But knowing that he has always wanted a family life has driven his decisions as to what specialties he likes and would ever consider entering.

However, I completely understand how you can feel like a misfit. I love this site and most of my friends with DHs, but I do not plan of being a stay at home mom. To be honest I don't know more than a couple of women who plan on going back to work after having kids once their DHs get into residency.

Speak up if your out their! I'd love to hear how you balance a family, a Doctor Husband AND a full time career!

March 11, 2010 at 1:11 PM  
Blogger Beth Hollenbeck said...

I admire your decision! My husband and I wanted children and still want to add to our family, but the road has been a challenging one. We had one child MSII and a second MSIV...the first in the midst of studying for Step 1, the second in the middle of residency interviews. Not smart! But, I wouldn't change it for the world. I am NOT a stay at home mom. I tried it when my husband started residency and I now work part-time and love the balance.

You mentioned absentee father and I just want to give you my husband's two cents as we have had many discussions about this. He is an ortho surg resident, so I worry a lot about this. His philosophy is this...If a physician father is absent it is because he chooses to be (after residency & f'ship). He feels a physician father can manipulate his schedule as much as he wants to be a part of as much as he wants at home. Keep in mind he is a resident still and also knows when one decides to limit his schedule there won't be as much income. I have fought him hard on this and still don't believe him at times, but he stands by his opinion. And...as a PGY2 in ortho when he isn't on call always bathes the boys and puts them to bed. He goes out of his way to spend a lot of time with us and does so turning down a lot of other things. I am extremely blessed.

I should stop blabbing. I guess what I am saying is it is challenging to have kids in the world of medicine - your DrH has to be on board with fatherhood and the art of balancing life and work. I truly appreciate your point of view and value your choices! :)

p.s. we are also 33 years old and still have 3+ years of residency left plus fellowship, still plan on 1-2 more kiddos. My husband won't start his "real" job until 37! Age Schmage...

March 11, 2010 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger Doc's Girl said...

Hi Shana! J and I have been together for about 3 and a half years, by the way, and we live together...just to give you some background information. He is 30 and I am 27...

We have put off getting married and having kids...because of our life schedules. First off, it was important for me to finish my bachelor's degree...and getting married would have cut out all financial aid I would have received for school. Also, we had talked in depth about waiting until he was done completely...before we had children.

While many people have had kids during residency without issue...we just thought that it wasn't fair to the kids since we knew that J was going to be gone all of the time. I hate to say it but I watch a lot of the wives in his program struggle emotionally (and financially!) and they have shared their frustrations in depth with me...which only fueled our decision. I'm glad that we have done that because we live comfortably but not extravagantly...and I just couldn't imagine all of the costs that come with having kids!

Also, because both of my parents passed away when I was 22, I felt very strongly about pursuing my career...just in case things with J didn't work out...or if he got ill and couldn't work anymore, etc. and I would need to provide for our family. You have to think about these things...and I feel confident about my decision.

Of course, many people bug us that we and his parents aren't getting any younger...but I just don't think that was a good enough reason for the both of us to have kids. Lots of individuals wait till they are older (my mom had my brother at 40)... J and I both wanted to be emotionally and financially stable for our kids. Nothing against other individuals' choices--it was just something that we agreed about since day one...:)

March 11, 2010 at 7:58 PM  
Blogger Gnarlynickb said...

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March 11, 2010 at 10:37 PM  
Blogger Gnarlynickb said...

From March of Dimes website:

A woman’s risk of having a baby with Down syndrome is :

* At age 25, 1 in 1,250
* At age 30, 1 in 1,000
* At age 35, 1 in 400
* At age 40, 1 in 100
* At 45, 1 in 30
* At 49, 1 in 10

Chance of regretting not having kids once you're established in your career and paid off your student loans and had plenty of "all the freedom, travels, dinners out etc.": ????????

You're kidding if you think your child is at a disadvantage with a father who is at least home on most weekends, early mornings, and evenings plus 5 weeks of vacation a year. Plenty of kids never see their fathers ever and have mothers who struggle to support them. One thing about medicine: he will always be a good earner.

I'm a resident and I really resent the senior attendings (and some of my peers) who act like I'm supposed to put my career before anything else in life. I'd rather fail at my career and land flat on my face bankrupt and work some other job than lose my wife and kids because I alienated them by refusing to put my career below them in my priorities.

And I realize that right now, in residency, my girls are growing up way too fast and so tonight I sang them to sleep and gave them hugs. And I'm financially secure. Other young couples have to deal with layoffs and career changes and uncertainty. We have vitually no uncertainty about where the next meal will come from. No, we don't have a car that's less than 8 years old and our neighborhood isn't the nicest, but within the walls of our home we are safe, warm, and fed, and when I finish residency I will have more time for them. Worst case: plenty of banks are willing to lend me the extra $500/month that we spend that I don't earn if our savings run out. And I am giving my family an important example of work and caring, and will have time and wisdom to guide them. And I love their mother, who is very happy that I am not putting her needs below career ambition.

The physician shortage and need to work long hours comes because medicine is horribly managed--this only sank into our brains and hearts after we were too far in debt to change careers. Doctors' competitive nature is how they got into medicine, and it drives them to try to publish "research" or to outperform other people in the ways the world measures. Fine. Look at Congress trying to "reform" medicine. We're all seeing how easy it is to change medicine for the better. Well, just because medicine was so screwed up when I got here, doesn't mean I have to screw up my life to conform to it. I just want to be a good, competent doctor and take good care of my patients. And I keep the competition at home: no wife and no children are more loved than mine. That's what I'm working for. They'll have to live with a dad who loves to be with them but who's just a good, competent doctor, not a famous or well-published one. Some would do well to be competent and famous, or well-published and famous, but going for all 3 is where the family gets forgotten.

If you want kids, you REALLY need to talk to your husband--you deserve to be heard. Trust me, if you want kids, and don't have them once it's "too late", you'll have happiness issues and risk getting divorced anyway. If you want children but all you have to hold you together is "freedom, travels, dinners out etc.", I'm sorry but that glue is just not likely to hold you together.

March 11, 2010 at 10:56 PM  
Blogger Gnarlynickb said...


"While being a mother is I'm sure, amazing, I feel it's unkind of society to automatically put that pressure on women: "We just got married last week."

If anything, society pushes women harder and harder to NOT have children. It is statistically safer and you will have more energy to keep up with your kids if you have them in your early 20s (like, at age 20), but I have confidence this sentiment won't go over too well with most of this blog's readers. The 45+ year-old guys who marry 20-something women and have kids have already given their most energetic years to other pursuits. These dads are physically more like grandpas than like daddys.

March 11, 2010 at 11:10 PM  
Blogger TheFamousStacie said...

@gnarlynickb and Shana K.

"If anything, society pushes women harder and harder to NOT have children."

I absolutely agree with this statement. I laughed when Shana K. called herself a misfit for NOT having children, when I feel like a total misfit FOR having children.

We're considered the bad medical rabbit family or something!

We CAME INTO medical school married and with a child *shock and awe* then had the nerve to mix with the normal, unmarried, non-reproducing sector by living in medical student housing *more shock and awe*

Trust me Shana, you are society's golden child. I suppose you could get away with having 1 child in your 30's or adopting at 40+ and stay in societies good graces.

But try 3 kids by residency and you'll be feeling quite naughty!

March 12, 2010 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Melisa said...

I don't regret having children in med school and residency. And I don't believe that my kids have an absentee father. Sure there are weekends we don't see him, and nights he gets home after bedtime, but that doesn't make him absentee. He is more involved with our kids than many men I know with "normal" schedules.

March 12, 2010 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger Beth Hollenbeck said...

I am just curious about the post with the March of Dimes information? I posted earlier, then came back to read other posts for learning purposes. I have a child with Down Syndrome. I was 28 and he was my first child. He was born 2nd year of medical school. Are you aware over 80% of children with Down Syndrome are born to women UNDER 30 years old! Was this posted to scare women? As if having a child with Down Syndrome is a NEGATIVE thing? To hurry up and have kids so this doesn't happen to you?

Sure, society and those who are uneducated think having a child with Down Syndrome or with anything not perfect is a bad - oh, poor thing - situation. Children are a miracle and change a woman's life in ways you can't even explain. Even those with Down Syndrome. I am a BETTER person because of my son and I use opportunities like these to educate others that individuals with DS have SO much to offer, are integlligent inviduals and contribute great things to society.

Please educate yourself and go to www.ndss.org (National Down Syndrome Society) and I hope everyone on this blog knows life isn't perfect...you can't plan to make it perfect by having a child by a certain age...and you should embrace the qualities in each human being regardless of their differences.

March 12, 2010 at 12:55 PM  
Blogger Gnarlynickb said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 12, 2010 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Gnarlynickb said...

I am fairly familiar with Down Syndrome. I meant no offense to any mother of a child with Down Syndrome. I do encourage anyone who thinks they are offering their child better chances by waiting to have children until they are more established or settled in life should read the March of Dimes website.


March 12, 2010 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger Behrmans said...

Response to…
“If you want children but all you have to hold you together is "freedom, travels, dinners out etc.", I'm sorry but that glue is just not likely to hold you together.”

I’m really not sure what part of this upsets you but there are plenty of people out there that do not have children and are perfectly happy. You do not need children to have a life that is meaningful. There are a lot of people who cannot have children and they still love each other and manage to have a great relationship. Your children shouldn’t be a crutch to keep your marriage strong. Everyone is different and you should respect that. I do have children and I love them and wouldn’t trade them for the world but honestly some people are perfectly happy not having them. And if this couple doesn’t want them I’m not going to slap her in the face; I’m going to support her and throw out some positives… isn’t that what this group is for???

March 12, 2010 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Kathi the wingspouse said...

This is what I love about this website. We are free to share differing views and process how others deal with situations. Thanks to all who have been bold enough to post.

March 12, 2010 at 4:46 PM  
Blogger Gnarlynickb said...


That's why I said,

IF you want children . . .

which the original poster seemed she kinda thought she might.

March 12, 2010 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Shana said...

Wow. Amazing responses! Thank you all for being so candid and genuine.

It's taken me a while to be comfortable with not having children, but believe me when I say it's the right decision for my family (of 2). It heartens me to know there are others who made/are making similar choices. And I have the utmost respect for those who are finding their way with bigger families.

Thanks for your overwhelming feedback.
~Shana K.

March 15, 2010 at 2:33 PM  

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