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Lives of Doctor Wives: five things I've learned as a resident's wife

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

five things I've learned as a resident's wife

I bet that somewhere in your home you have a shelf (or four) full of thick maroon books with embossed gold letters, with impressive titles signed by even more impressive names that represent everything your spouse has learned over the past year, decade, or lifetime, depending on where you are along the journey.

(In our house, there's also a small basement mountain of wrinkled handouts and brochures and journals, but it's not pretty and we do not speak of it.)

Well, I'm not sure that anything I've learned can be found in those fancy books, but I've tried not to allow my education to stagnate while my dear doctor's expands. Here's what I've learned, over the past three years (and eight days) I've spent as a resident's wife:

1. I can do hard things. Water breaks, contractions are a minute apart, and DrH forgot his cell phone? No problem; have him overhead paged and keep legs crossed until he gets home. Two-year-old splits his forehead open and for sure needs stitches, and DrH (again!) forgot his phone? Stop the bleeding, load Daniel Tiger on the iPad and the kids in the car, and head to the hospital. Good thing he's already there.

(Bonus lesson: when DrH forgets his cell phone, move heaven and earth to get it back to him before catastrophe strikes.)

2. I am my husband's keeper. Caregiver burnout is a real thing, and doctors spend a lot of time thinking about others and not much thinking about themselves. My husband forgets to eat, stays up too late studying, and doesn't always recognize his body's need to exercise. If I make sure he has protein bars and almonds stashed in his bag, that his light is turned off at ten, and I kick him outside to go for a nice long run every few days, he is much happier and his body functions better, which makes for a better husband, father, and physician.

3. I may not be a physician, but I am capable. We were at Costco during medical school and a gentleman there came up to us and said, "sir, have you considered upgrading your membership?" I told him that we'd considered it and decided against, thank you very much. The rep gave me a look, and again speaking to my husband, said, "and what are YOUR thoughts on upgrading?" My husband, bless his heart, said, "My wife already told you we're not interested. She deals with our finances so it's her call." I've tried to remember that as I've been talked down to and disregarded over the past few years (I'm looking at you, window company who wouldn't talk to me without "the man of the house" present!). I can manage our finances. I can hire contractors. I can differentiate between necessary repairs and upsell at the mechanic. I deserve to be treated with respect, even though I "only" have one degree.

4. I need date nights. Ideally, with my husband. We finally started feeling like we could afford to hire a sitter during his third year, and getting a night to ourselves every now and then. But if he's not available, I have two handsome sons who are more than happy to take me out to dinner, and if for some reason that's not an option, I can snarf some ice cream at night and watch Netflix. I just need little luxuries every now and then.

5. It gets better; it gets worse. Some parts of life are so much better than they were in medical school (a paycheck! A house! Kids!). Some are so much more stressful (a mortgage! Aging family members! Kids with a thousand doctor appointments!). But no matter where we are on the rollercoaster, we can still expect good things to come. I often think of my mom's favorite quotation: "this too shall pass."

There's more. I've learned how to change the flapper thingy in the toilet, how to clean surgical marker of most clothing, how to emerge from Target with most of my dignity intact while wrangling a tantrumming toddler. I've learned it's ok to serve scrambled eggs for dinner as often as necessary, and that there's no shame if your kid wears the same thing twice in a row because you didn't quite get the laundry switched over last night. I've learned to quilt, to refinish furniture, and to research my family history. And I've learned that as a doctor's wife, the only expectations you have to fulfill are the ones set by you and your husband, not by the "real doctors' wives of wherever" or your in-laws or your husband's co-workers.

And now I'm curious: what have you learned lately?


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