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Lives of Doctor Wives: Anonymous stay-at-home-mom-by-choice of three, and wife of a resident story

Friday, July 19, 2013

Anonymous stay-at-home-mom-by-choice of three, and wife of a resident story

Hi! I'm an anonymous stay-at-home-mom-by-choice of three, and wife of a resident. My husband was one of the few students in his medical school class married, with more than one child, the sole provider for the family, and with children approaching school age. This meant we had many more things to consider about residency than the standard applicant. I hope what we looked at will help some of you who may be approaching similar situations.

I am something of an expert in this topic because we've done this twice. Applied for residencies, I mean. You see, after what I had thought were a decent two years of one residency, he decided it wasn't the field for him after all and so we applied for one he felt had a better future and a better fit with his personality and we moved all over again. 

The first time we applied and moved, the kids were 0, 2, and 4. The second time they were 2, 4, and 6. We looked closely at the same types of things for both moves, though we had to make different choices of necessity. I'll show you what I mean. You may think all we did to prepare was overkill, and maybe it was, but peace of mind in both applying for residencies and creating rank lists was important to us. We'll do the same for fellowship programs if we decide to do one.

Once upon a time that seems far past now, Husband went to medical school in an inner city. That was fine for our young family because there were so many things to do with small children there, and we'd be through with med school before the school years. Straight up we knew it would be difficult for us to afford to stay there for residency, because once we had an income we'd have more things to pay than we did living on loans: like state and federal taxes, loan payments (circumstances here can differ wildly depending on deferment, the Federal Loan Forgiveness Program, Income-based repayment, etc), different insurance costs, needing another vehicle no matter where we did residency, the growing costs for feeding and clothing a growing family, kids' activities as they get older, etc. 

In our case, this ruled out all expensive big cities. This did mean that any big-name programs we applied to were the relatively few in more rural settings. Using the city-data.com we were able to assess costs of living in many places and thus determine where we could afford to live on a resident's salary. Also helpful in this were websites about property values and rental prices for 3+ bedroom houses and apartments. For rural programs we checked out what kind of shopping options they had nearby. We looked at tax rates in different states. And insurance costs, if they were available online. Even if they weren't available to us before application, we got definite numbers before creating rank lists after interview season. Research!  If you fail to plan, you plan to fail is an appropriate adage here for the single-income resident family.

We also researched safety. That same city-data.com website also includes crime rates and kinds of crime for a period of several years. It includes sex offenders per capita. It includes more mundane things like weather and education and property values and employment too.  The National Sex Offender registry, familywatchdog.us,maps out where sex offenders live if you enter an address so we would double check areas we'd want to live and make sure they were both safe and affordable to us.

We researched schools using greatschools.org, knowing our eldest needs a good school with motivated peers to thrive academically and home schooling is not an option with this child because of that peer motivation. All kids are different, of course, but it mattered to us and still does. We researched the religious community too. We're members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as Mormons, so we would look into how far away our church in a specific area would be from the residency program. 

Now, for the differences in our two residency applications. 

The first time, Husband had relatively flexible time as a med student to interview and we had saved some dispersed loans to cover the costs. The second time, he had to take time off work in his first residency program, meaning we had less time (and money, since this was a last-minute decision) to work with. Of necessity then, the second time around we applied to programs mostly within driving distance and included every program close enough that he could interview with only one day of precious vacation time. We were fortunate that his first program allowed flexible vacation days at all. 

Also, housing. The first residency we bought a house in a suburb. We had been renting so long and felt that the better school were in neighborhoods where homes weren't rented, not knowing of course that we'd only be there two years. Hindsight is 20-20! What's done is done, however, and we did what felt right to us at the time throughout. Can't ask more out of life than that!  The second time we couldn't afford to buy in any case and we saw that all three-bedroom apartments near where we had matched (also where the good school are) were being snatched up, so Husband rushed out (with another vacation day) and got the last one in town close to the hospital. This time we definitely chose proximity over living space and even cost of rent, but that's a choice we all have to make. We don't regret it: his hours here are much worse and we'd see far less of him if he had a longer commute - especially with icy conditions for nearly half the year! And we absolutely love the community.

Lastly, the time we had to adjust. Both moves we had family helping us for about a week, which is an immeasurable help in and of itself with children around. The first move we had a solid month of no obligations so we were able to move, get unpacked and settled in, start making friends, help our kids feel adjusted, etc. for weeks before Husband started working. Not the second time. Between quitting one residency and starting the next one we had more like 10 days to pack up, load up, drive, unload, unpack, get licenses and registrations and food and all. Yikes! I would not recommend this if you have children. We had rough adjustments this time across the board - with all five of us! So if you can avoid this (which I know may not be possible, especially for those beginning fellowships in a new place) then do so for all your sakes. But, you do what you gotta do and things will work out eventually even if it's rough at first. 

My sincere sympathies to all going through intense adjustment right now. Hang in there!

And best wishes to the up-coming applicants of all kinds!

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Blogger Bethany said...

Thank you for a very insightful (and helpful) post! As a wife of a MIII and mom of 3 this is extremely relevant:)

July 22, 2013 at 12:38 AM  
Blogger Duckie said...

Thanks for your thoughts and info. We're in the same boat as your first residency search. You were more thorough than we've been, so I see I have more work to do. We have kids (0, 2, & 4), so it's rough researching anything right now. Are there any places you could say right off to avoid? That may help narrow things down for us? dramadesi@yahoo.com

September 14, 2013 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger cmckellar said...

I know you posted anonymously but are you open to questions? I am an LDS stay at home mom and I just have some questions about how to make the finances work when the hubby is in school! c.mckellar88@yahoo.com

October 19, 2013 at 7:49 PM  

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