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Lives of Doctor Wives: The Grand Adventure

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Grand Adventure

The Grand Adventure

Last year, I was completely, totally stunned when my then-OMS III husband talked about making away rotations a family affair, instead of a Daddy-leaves-for-two-months-while-Mama-holds-down-the-fort thing.

Certainly away rotations of varying kinds, especially sub-Is are not unheard of in the medical community. (For those who are unfamiliar, sub-Is are audition rotations at hospitals/with residency programs a student is interested in Matching with. They are great for giving the applicant a real taste -- for better or for worse -- of what a program is like (and vice versa), how they mesh with the residents and faculty, and can even be the source of helpful letters of recommendation.) Most of the time, though, it seems to mean splitting up the family for a period of time.

Since I was staying home with our daughter, and since my husband is a family man first and foremost, he wanted us to come with him. It took some convincing, but I agreed to go for two months, no more. I thought that was enough time to sacrifice being without my safety net at home. He set up rotations in St. Louis in July and Denver in August. We started working on travel plans and finding housing.

Then, he was offered a spot in October at his first choice (on paper) program in Wichita, coming off a wait list. We accepted without hesitation.

In the end, we were on the road three out of four months at the beginning of his 4th year. We called it our Grand Adventure. This is how we did it:
  • We traveled "light," by stuffing our large sedan to the brim with a suitcase each, plus one for the baby, an umbrella stroller, a pack-n-play, and as many baby supplies, toys and books as we could slip into the empty spaces. Okay, maybe not so light.
  • We shared a car. Depending on the rotation, hospital, and hours, one or two days a week, I would drop him off at the hospital and pick him up when he was done. Those days gave me a chance to explore the city, run errands, and feel a bit of freedom (and sanity). The other days, the baby and I stayed home, took walks, explored our neighborhoods, and did chores.
  • We found short-term rentals on Craigslist by posting in the housing wanted section. While neither (we stayed at a friend's home in one city) was an ideal situation, both worked out. We have some great memories from them! We also trolled the rental section, and had a couple of leads come out of there. Especially in the summer, people are interested in sub-leasing while they will be away. In every situation, we had more space than we would have had in an extended-stay hotel for a lower price. 
  • We were able to keep our place at home, thanks to a large tax return, but we'd have found a way to make things work without it.
  • We got restaurant and entertainment recommendations from the residents where my husband was rotating. Some were real hits. Some were misses. But it was a fun way to feel more in touch with the city. We made a point of enjoying the sights of a city, going to the zoo or a museum or on a day trip on days off. We also played at local parks, walked local neighborhoods, and tried to be part of the local community, even if for a short time.
  • Because we are Catholic, a highlight of our trip was trying local parishes, visiting the Cathedrals, and getting a feel for the Church community of the area. I would imagine that this would be adaptable for people of a variety of faith backgrounds.
In addition to helping my husband land at a residency program we're truly excited about, we grew so much as a family through traveling together. I also gained a ton of confidence in my adaptability. Going into the Match, I was confident that we would be okay -- thrive even -- wherever we ended up.
Most importantly, we were able to love and support each other in the best way we knew how -- by being together.

Bio: Ashley Armstrong is a stay-at-home mom to a 22 month old girl and a 7 week old boy. As of June 6, she will be the wife of an actual doctor. She blogs about it all at www.coffeehappens.blogspot.com .

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