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Lives of Doctor Wives: The Worst Decision I Ever Made

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Worst Decision I Ever Made

…was falling for a doctor. Anyone not married to medicine won’t understand how heartbreakingly true that statement is but will shame me for even thinking about not being by his side. But, come on, you know it’s the worst.

What a shame it was when we met in college as he studied molecular biology. He put up with my endless girly shenanigans and I faked enjoying working out because a few more minutes flirting with each other was better than anything else we could or should be doing.

How terrible when he had to move far away for medical school and I agreed to go with him because although no one had gotten down on bended knee yet, we knew an important question would be popped soon enough…and that the answer would be a resounding yes.

Oh, the misery of adding a research year (to be a more competitive applicant), walking down the aisle, moving in together, and seeing what all the fuss about marital bliss was! Those early years were a mix of interviews, newlywed nights, rank lists, and mister and missus days.

And then there was residency, which meant another move (but this time thirteen hours away). Just as the ink dried on his seven year contract…TWO pink lines appeared! And then disappeared. Too soon and just two weeks before he disappeared into the hospital for intern year. The wounds of the years that would follow still sting.

Work, work, work for him. Labs, tests, needles for me.

Baby? No baby.

Family? Friends? Nope. None of those out here either.

But there were plenty of hours…countless hours of him learning how to save lives at work and then us struggling to keep ours afloat at home. No one understood what we went through to help him live the dream of being a doctor while hiding the nightmare of personal struggles.

What kind of masochist chooses this life? Who agrees to move around again and again? Who supports a career that comes with so many strings? Who works this hard with this little recognition? Because no matter whose side of the family or which friend it is, everyone applauds his dedication and sacrifice but merely expects mine. How can you not want him to succeed and do everything in your power to make it easier for him to do that? It could be worse, you know? Why are you the one complaining? You don’t work those hours; he does. Because, of course, while he’s working I’m certainly not. What kind of monster hates her husband’s job sometimes…oftentimes?

And then…BABY! And baby! And baby! And, goodness gracious, another baby. And the hours at work went on and on. As our lives grew and changed, our responsibilities increased, but only my to-do list got longer. Take care of everything I need, everything he needs, everything we need, AND everything they need too. After all, he has to go to work. Those dreadful words always coming at the most inopportune times: I have to go into the hospital. Forget missing the big events and dates! That was commonplace at this late in the game. Now the small moments, the ones that meant nothing to anyone but me and him and them, were being stolen too. Studying for boards. Reading for cases. Prepping for presentations. Falling asleep ALL THE TIME. In fact, I still don’t know how that hilarious story about his attending ended because he only got halfway through the first word before falling asleep with a mouthful of the dinner I prepared for our family. Terrible decision.

That’s right. I learned to cook! And I’m kind of good at it. I also taught myself how to pay bills, do taxes, work in the yard, collect trash and recycling, balance schedules, not miss my career right now, make appointments for home repairs and health repairs, deal with two families who don’t really get it, take one, two, three, and four babies out alone, be an independent woman AND man, remember everything, and forget nothing. I learned it all, but he has the degree and the letters behind his name. Horrible decision.

The worst decision I ever made lead me to a life where I live in a lovely home with my four amazing children and their disappearing, zombie father. My partner is never fully present. Their daddy lives at the hospital. I sleep alone more times in a week than I thought I would in a year. Everyone we know cheers him on for the incredible work he does while barely mentioning all that I give to make it possible for him to succeed. So there are moments where instead of being grateful, I curse the stars for having me look up at the stud standing in front of me so many, many years ago. The explosion of my heart in that moment left me no choice but to begin my happily ever after.

But I stay. And I always will.

Because the worst decision I ever made looks at me with tired eyes, scruffy face, smelly scrubs, an empty stomach, a full bladder, an impressive brain, a strong will, and a thankful heart. He kisses me. He hugs me. And he calls me the best decision he ever made.

BOOM goes my heart.

And who could need more than that?

By: Soraya

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Blogger micheal mcnew said...

This was my life too. Except I found myself sitting on the floor of my fabulously huge home, wanting to die. I loved my kids more than anything but my own existence. I was Mobley, broken, uneducated and beyond sad. My best friend loved the hospital. I supported him. He complained that I knew what I was getting in to. .. really? Really? Really? The next ten years are a blur. BUT, I got out. BEST DECISION EVER.

June 5, 2015 at 8:12 PM  
Blogger Jemina & Akua said...

As a female physician I find this post a bit unnerving. Do you not realize that there are men out there that are/ were in your shoes doing the same thing for their female partners who wanted to be physicians as well Men who are handling home, and career and their wives desire to have the MD behind her name. " What kind of masochist chooses this life" you say. That's a bit of a sexist remark especially given the fact that more women are applying for med school than men nowadays. WE (including me the masochist) chose it bc there is nothing else we can see ourselves doing, bc those friends and family we left to pursue this crazy life- will one day be calling us for advice and help, something non physicians will never understand.
You also make it seem that you were suffering taking care of the home whilst he was in the hospital saving lives; you don't know suffering until you have to take care of the home AND be in the hospital.
I would love to see a post here (haven't gone back farther enough) where the doc mom is also applauded for doing what you are doing AND more! The woman who miscarries but still must be at work at 6am to pre-round or who gets a call from her kids school bit cant leave bc the attending is a warlock who will flip. Or even the man married to the woman doc who is concerned about his pregnant wife who works 80 hours a week. But this is a personal blog I understand, so I digress. I get it. You suffered. And you were redeemed. And would probably do it again bc love is a beautifil thing. But you def had it easier than the woman doing both.

June 6, 2015 at 8:05 AM  
Blogger Alexis Dem said...

This post was honest, real and the reflection of a woman married to a physician. The post is HER experience only. I am perplexed by the above comment, talking about the role of a physician-wife or the husband of a physician, it seems the author of that post has some unresolved issues which she should explore in a blog post of her own. I am deeply troubled by the "my problems are bigger than your problems" narrative that is highlighted in the comment and also the lack of compassion shown towards the author.

June 6, 2015 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Bri!!! said...

Jemima, I disagree with you. How do you know what's harder? You haven't been on her end of it. I think a big reason of why it can be so hard is that being the spouse/caretaker is a thankless job. At least you can go and have a fulfilling career. I'm not minimizing what you have been through, but your comment is loaded with judgment. There is no way to know which is harder. It's with anything in life. We can't know unless we've walked in their shoes.

June 6, 2015 at 11:06 AM  
Blogger Bri!!! said...

Jemima, I disagree with you. How do you know what's harder? You haven't been on her end of it. I think a big reason of why it can be so hard is that being the spouse/caretaker is a thankless job. At least you can go and have a fulfilling career. I'm not minimizing what you have been through, but your comment is loaded with judgment. There is no way to know which is harder. It's with anything in life. We can't know unless we've walked in their shoes.

June 6, 2015 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Bri!!! said...

I loved this. Beautifully written!

June 6, 2015 at 11:08 AM  
Blogger Maggie said...

Beautiful piece! I couldn't agree more.

I agree with some of the commenters above. There's no point in playing the "Who has it worse?" game. Can we not just acknowledge that it's a difficult walk? There's no comparison. Medical training is hard. Doing the home life alone is hard. Being married to someone who is physically and emotionally unavailable most of the time is hard. Let's build each other up and not tear each other down.

June 6, 2015 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger S.Ong said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

June 6, 2015 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger S.Ong said...

Really Jemima? Why does everything have to be a competition? You say "you don't know suffering until you have to take care of the home AND be in the hospital." That's quite a statement to make. How do you know her situation? Maybe she has other things in her life that make "just" keeping a home harder for her.

Think about it. Maybe her standards of what "keeping a home" means are higher than yours (again, I don't know, but you should consider that) - maybe her husband or her family are going through personal stuff, maybe she has a medical condition, maybe she volunteers outside her home. For the record, I don't know - I don't know Soraya, but I can speak from my own experience, and let me tell you juggling graduate school, depression, and a home was plenty - I don't even have kids!). My point is YOU DON'T KNOW - you don't know her, or how heavy her burdens may or may not be. Your comment makes it very clear that YOU ASSUME YOU DO MORE because you have a medical career in addition to home duties, but THAT MAY OR MAY NOT BE TRUE. After all, you know what they say about assuming....

You say you want to hear about "the doc mom is also applauded for doing what you are doing AND more." Who are you to say you ARE in fact, doing everything she is doing, much less doing more? All you can know is that you are doing DIFFERENTLY. I'm not minimizing your accomplishments - congratulations on juggling home duties and a medical career - that's got to be quite the load of stress. But unless you know Soraya personally, unless you have seen what her life is and what it does or doesn't consist of, your comment is more than a bit condescending and, to be frank, out of line.

The medical life is hard. Period. It's hard for docs, and it's hard for their families. The article was about recognizing the hardship, but also recognizing that at the end of the day, it's worth it. How about seeing the post for what it was and not using it as a vehicle for comparison and judgment?

June 6, 2015 at 1:42 PM  
Blogger ElleMura said...


If you'd like to see a blog post about how "real suffering" is being an MD-mom, why don't you write one? I'm sure - in fact I know for a *fact* - that there are many, many out there who will agree with you; I know because they contact me through my own blog "Married to Medicine" and I've met many who have opted out of that lifestyle in a FB group for SAHM-professionals.

This is Soraya telling her story and her struggles; one-upping her really isn't called for. She's not saying she's the person on the face of the planet who has suffered the most - just like hopefully you're not making a similar claim about yourself. One unique thing about being the medical spouse rather than the medical mom is that you didn't truly choose this life for yourself. You can't tell your spouse not to go into X specialty, or not to rank MGH #1, because you'd prefer a family life where your spouse was around more. Medical Moms *chose* every bit of their lives for themselves, at least to a much greater extent that a medical spouse did. If your hours suck and your life, as you say, is "suffering," at least it was your decision and not your spouse's.

Finally, your implication that you do everything she does *and* practice medicine is just plain false. Surely someone else is watching your children, feeding them, entertaining them teaching them, and cleaning up all of their messes for at *least* 45 hours per week; my MD Mom friends who are married to MDs both have 60 hour/week nannies, one of them actually has two nannies. My other MD mom friends have weekly house cleaning and lots of takeout and prepared foods. I agree that being an MD mom without a SAHS (my one friend DOES have that) is HARD. But you chose that life and I bet you wouldn't describe it as "suffering" to other young women interested in medicine, would you? The fact that you chose it doesn't mean that other people with more reasonable situations don't also have struggles worth blogging about. And they don't deserve to be raked across the coals, chided and condescended to, for doing so.

June 6, 2015 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger Camille said...

I am an orthopedic surgeon and completed a fellowship about one year ago. I read this blog post because my wife gave it to me to read. I think what the author of the post wrote is true. My wife has expressed similar feeling to me at times. When she first expressed similar feelings like this years ago, I got upset. I would feel that either she didn’t love me, appreciate all the excruciating hard work, or she wasn’t grateful for how blessed we were in life. I mean, it could be a lot worse. But recently I have seen that I really didn’t understand what she was talking about. Now I realize it sucks for her because she is always second to medicine. The female physician who posted a comment doesn’t really understand the blog post. A female physician is much more like me than she is my wife. People like us come first and everybody looks up to us. We get the degrees, the education, and every one at work does what we ask. My wife always comes second and no one at her work does what she asks. Trust me, I have tried to get our kids to clean up their crap, and they don’t do it. The point is not who works the hardest. And we all understand that there are many people out there whose lives are much worse than ours. But the point is that it sucks for my wife to always come in second to my career. She gets none of the appreciation, none of the prestige, and none of the job satisfaction. Also, her life is at the mercy of my job. My job calls, her life stops. I wish I could do a better job showing my love and appreciation for her sacrifice.

June 7, 2015 at 1:12 AM  
Blogger Lives of Doctor Wives said...


I am so sorry for your struggles, but I am glad that you were able to find happiness and self again.


I am sorry that you had such an unpleasant reaction to this blog post. However, I just wanted to clarify a few points.
For one, I think your reading comprehension is a bit off because I (the wife) am the masochist. Not the doctor.
For two, if I was to try and include every type of medical couple, the piece would have been filled with he/she/shim and that becomes cumbersome to read. Not to mention, I don't know the road of a man supporting a female resident spouse or a female supporting a female or a male supporting a male. I only can speak from my POV and hope that readers can extrapolate what speaks to them and find meaning in the words. Which it seems has happened here.
For three, I HATE "it could be worse." What about a mom who is a resident and who has cancer? She's got it worse than someone who is "just" a mom and a doctor. And then what about a mom who is a doctor who has cancer and is deployed? She has it worse than everyone.
By comparing the plight of one to the plight of all, you not only minimize that one's grief but you downplay the cathartic relief in expressing the anguish that comes with struggle. Which is a loss for everyone! Better to be understood than muted. All for one and one for all.
It seems like you would like to share your voice on the topic of being a doctor and a woman, and I encourage you to do so in a blog post of your own. I'm sure readers would support your ideas on the topics just as they have supported mine en masse.


Thank you so much for your support of your wife, spouses of doctors, and this blog post!

June 7, 2015 at 6:54 PM  
Blogger Change is Good said...

Nicely written. I love hearing from other souses going through similar situations. Thank you for sharing. We're finishing up my husband's 1st year of residence, one more to go.

June 10, 2015 at 3:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the above comments, my opinion is that this piece invites comparisons and "one-upping" from the onset with its generalizations and use of superlatives:

"Anyone not married to medicine won't understand... come on, you know it's the worst."

Maybe my "reading comprehension is off", but this piece seems to be written in a rhetorical style, which means its assumptions ought to be challenged.

As the reader and partner to a physician, I couldn't disagree more strongly that "falling for a physician was the worst decision I ever made," nor do I buy, even after reading the all too familiar saga, that it is the root cause of the contributor's loneliness, stress, feelings of inadequacies etc.

The writer shouldn't end her piece with, "And who could need more than that?" if she doesn't expect that the broad LoDW community will express what they personally want and need to lead satisfying lives, careers, and healthy marriages.

This blog is about community discourse and support, right? Or is it really about affirming one another at all cost? Even when someone makes a polarizing claim about what we all supposedly "know" about being married to doctors, and what those outside of medicine simply can't comprehend.

I appreciate the writer's honesty, and I can emphasize with her struggle, but I choose to see my partner's vocation and my role in it very, very differently.

June 10, 2015 at 8:09 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

to Jemina & amp;akua

I too know how you feel to be the one to run the household as well as follow a career in medicine..miscarrying one day followed by a d&c after hours and a 6 am flight for a sight visit to look at equipment..we don't have it easy as female physicians, but I chose this life and to raise beautiful well adjusted children..and to even be there for all their events..wouln't do anything else..however i did lose the marriae along the way and wish that hadn't happened

June 26, 2015 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger KELLENKASH said...

Jemina & Akua and the whole community: Being Married is difficult I think We all know that coming in. I know being married to for 8yrs to my wife I meet 12yrs ago and started dating in College gave me plenty of warnings. It is hard to be married to a physician as a man I had to take care of two new born girls while my wife is gone 80-100 hrs a week while in Medical School and now Residency. I keep myself for not planning better financially but I don't think there would have been a perfect time to get married or have kids except when we did it. Prayer helps and I say that after taking various loans just to stay a float with no idea how to pay it back. While trying to run a pr business and balance being everything to my family. Its hard and there is no reward but we are adults who needs to have their ego stroked is how I see it. There are folks dying everyday and there are people getting killed for nothing so who am I to complain that we struggle. Just my two cents

June 30, 2015 at 2:44 PM  

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