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Lives of Doctor Wives

Friday, September 25, 2015

Dealing with a disappointing move

It’s that time of year again.

The time of year when so many of us pack up our lives and move for our spouse’s career. Any move can be stressful, but it’s an especially rough undertaking when you’re less than enthusiastic about your new location. Doctors’ wives are often in a unique situation in which we have very little choice about where we relocate to—thanks to the infamous Match.

So if you are finding yourself trying to settle into a new home after a disappointing move, you are not alone.

If I am being completely honest, I can tell you that I was more than a little disappointed when we saw our Match results in 2013. My husband, the soon to be doctor, and I would be married exactly a week after the Match ceremony and I had been hoping on starting our marriage out with an adventure. I had hoped we would Match somewhere new and exciting, somewhere outside of our home state and med school state of Ohio.

When we opened our envelope, not only did it say we would be staying in Ohio, but it was the residency was in the one city I did not get to visit on my husband’s interview trail. It was the one place on his rank list that I truly had overlooked and was not expecting.

Looking back, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. The program was placed pretty high on his rank list. Whether it was wishful thinking or ignorant oversight, I’m not sure, but when we found out we would be moving to Akron, Ohio I was shocked…and less than enthusiastic.

In the following months as we prepared for our relocation I became even more apprehensive. The city wasn’t ideal for finding a job in my field. It was a half hour closer to my husband’s family and 2 hours farther from my family. We were having trouble finding a place to live. The reasons to be disappointed in our new home just kept building up in my mind.

Then I realized it: I wasn’t really giving what would be my home for the next 3 years or more a fair shot. I was focusing on the negative and my outlook on our new hometown, as well as the opportunities it would provide, wouldn’t improve until my attitude did.

It is amazing to me to think that two years have already passed. I can’t tell you that it has always been easy or that I loved our new town in every moment, but I can say that I am very happy there now.

I want to share a few of the things that helped me deal with my disappointing move, as well as few things that—looking back—I wish I would have done from the start. I hope some of these tips can help someone else who is learning to love a new location after a move.

My tips:

  1. Make your new location your home.
  2. In our medical journey, I have always said paraphrased the old adage "Home is where the heart is" because for me it is more accurate to say "home is where my husband is." While some days that may feel like I should make the hospital my home, it helped me to remember that our new town was home now. It helped me to quit referring to our last city as "home". I couldn’t start loving and thinking of our new location as my home if I was continuing to think of and refer to someplace else as my home.
  3. Make your house your home.
  4. We bought our home, a condo in a suburb of our new city. There is a lot of debate about whether buying or renting is better in residency. I can’t speak to which is best and think it is a personal decision for each couple, but for me it has allowed a lot of freedom to invest my energy and emotions into our house, making it our own. Even if you rent, I would suggest doing what you can to make your house feel like a home. If you can’t make big changes or even cosmetic adjustments to flooring, wall colors, etc., try to find the areas where you can make it yours. Hang your favorite pictures, go thrift shopping or yard sale-ing to find new pieces of décor or furniture that will help you feel more at home. For me, the more I could make my house, or things in it, into a "project" the more invested in and connected to it I started to feel.
  5. Go exploring.
  6. Safety first if you do this! However, I do recommend taking a good look around your new city. Find what it has to offer. Where are the fun places to visit like museums, the zoo, restaurants, etc.? Where are the best shopping areas? Are there any neighborhoods you would LOVE to live in if you ended up staying there long-term? What is downtown like? Is your city more white-collar corporate focused or blue collar industry focused? It is also helpful to know, but maybe not visit, where the more dangerous parts of town are. Getting to know your city helps you learn to love it. While a lot can be found out behind the screen of your computer, I suggest taking field trips and physically exploring when and where you can. Remember, stay safe!
  7. Get a pet.
  8. Okay, I know this isn’t for everyone, but if your personal preferences, living situation, and budget allow, I definitely suggest getting a pet. I’m a big supporter of dog rescue organizations, but go with what is right for you. A pet helps you by providing both company and something to automatically love about your new city—its where you got Fido/Fluffy/Benedict Cumberbatch! We rescued a hound puppy a year into our residency and it was the best thing I did after moving. It forced me to get out and go on walks in our neighborhood, which helped me meet a lot of our neighbors—the cute puppy as a conversation starter was good too. He makes me feel more comfortable when my husband is working late at night or all night. If my dog isn’t worried about that noise, it is probably okay. He keeps me company and gave me a purpose before I found a job in my field.
  9. Get involved.

Whether it is getting a job or finding someplace to volunteer some time, I recommend finding someplace to get connected in your new city. If you have kids, maybe it will be something at their school. If you can’t get a pet but wish you could (or even if you have one) maybe you can find a humane society or rescue group to volunteer with. Maybe there is a group at the hospital, either of other wives or a volunteer system. If you are involved in a religious group, see if your place of worship needs help in any way. Nonprofit organizations like museums, theatres, food banks, or shelter houses are always looking for volunteers. Finding some place to give your time, for pay or as a volunteer can help you feel connected to the city and see first-hand the value it holds and great people that live there.
What I wish I had done:

    1. "Borrow an Egg"
    2. I live in a very safe neighborhood. I wish I would have gone around to my nearest neighbors’ homes and introduced myself in the first few months of living here. I envision it like you see on the TV, with a 50’s style housewife bringing a pie to the neighbors and letting them know that she lives next door now. I don’t know if I would have brought pie, but I do know it would have been nice to get to know my neighbors early on, and just to know there was someone next door that I could come to in case of an emergency... or in case I needed to borrow an egg.
    3. Stay in town.
    4. This relates a lot to #1 in my tips, but I wish I would have spent more time staying in town early on. I went to visit friends in our last city pretty often in the first few months of living in our new city. I know many of you won’t have this chance because your move is much farther from your last city than mine was. I’m not saying to never visit friends either. I just wish I would have spent more time staying in town and getting to know my new home instead of keeping my heart so focused on our old town.
    5. Play pretend.

While sometimes it is comforting (and realistic) to keep in mind that residency is temporary and living in this location may also be temporary, sometimes it can add more stress knowing you’ll just be picking up and leaving again (relatively) shortly. I wish I would have allowed myself to pretend that this was forever, or at least to let go of my focus on it being temporary. I know in the beginning I was less willing to fall in love with my new city because I knew it wasn’t "forever." If it helps you, let yourself pretend it is forever. Sometimes we need to let go of counting down the months and days in order to let ourselves be happy in our current situation.
I hope some of these tips help you. If nothing else, I want you to know that you’re not alone. Many of us have been through a disappointing move. There is hope. I, for one, have come out on the other side, happy and enjoying our home. I hope you will too! And remember, even if you don’t end up loving your new city, you love your spouse and as long as you are with them, you are home.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Premed Perspective: Be the Rock

I was stuck while writing this blog post.
I’m not in a very positive place, and I don’t want to be a downer to readers…. But this path isn’t always ‘easy’ or ‘pretty’. While some individuals are blessed with a smoother process, others may not. We just happen to be one of those others. Not that a bumpy road is at all new or unfamiliar to us. We have always had to overcome and persevere. Add any other motivational growth buzz words into that as you’d like…. It’s us.

Our lives represent one giant motivational poster.

It’s crap.
To be perfectly honest, we just are too stubborn to give up and go to plan B.

After turning everything necessary for med school applications into the AACOMAS website, Hubs was hit with a problem with getting the military to send some of his credits in. It’s some acronym that I hadn’t heard of until this problem came up.  After a back and forth of about a week and a half, finally AACOMAS said to ‘just delete’ the military stuff and don’t worry about it since it was a non-necessary part of the application.

It would have been nice to know that before we wasted almost 2 weeks calling and emailing.

Hurry up and wait.

We are now entering week 4 of verification of transcripts. We had everything together back at the end of July…. It’s the middle of August.
Such is life.


THAT is what gets you through this process.

Don’t take no for an answer. There is a light at the end of this long, 8-16 year tunnel.
Do your thing. Motivate and push your partner.
Remain the bright and confident rock.
Get it done.

Then go have a nice, quiet, frustrated cry in a steamy hot bath.
Add some Epsom salt and essential oils to top it off.

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Saturday, September 12, 2015

We graduated from medical school last month and I feel more lost than when we started this journey four years ago. Contradictory, my husband feels more stable with the start of his residency upon us.

After two years into medical school life changed for us. We moved two hours away to complete our third year of rotations. And thus the crux of where my journey of being off-track began. I was a teacher and expecting my second child in August during third year. Finding a job in a new location and asking for maternity leave; just didn’t look good. So, we decided I would stay home. That was a decision I really wanted to happen. When I left my career I had moved into administration and it was beginning to be quite a struggle with taking care of the home front. So, I took homemaking on by the horns and vowed to become the best June Cleaver ever (dang type A personality).

I did what I knew best, I got involved….I got all of us involved. Each day was a full schedule. I thought to myself, "If I just keep busy I won’t get board." At the time I thought being a stay-at-home mom meant I would become boring and be sitting on the couch and eating bon bons all day. The kids and I ended up burnt out. I wasn’t a nice mom, I didn’t have emotional or physical time for my husband and I resented our decision for me to stay home. I had to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to be a stay at home mom. How did others make it look so fun? So easy? So full of worth?

From then on we cut out several activities. I kept our afternoons free at home so I wouldn’t be rushing in and attempting a hot meal exhausted and at the end of my rope. We just stayed home when my husband was off and did at-home activities. Things started looking better, I felt a relief and started to enjoy being home. So, that is how people made it look good; they embraced and made a flow for their family.

Then enters medical school to throw us for a loop again. We had two options for fourth year; the kids and I stay in a town we just moved to while my husband was gone for six months or we move to MI with my family and see my husband. So, this AZ based family scoured the REI annual sale for winter items and headed to the Midwest.

Living with family with two very active boys was a whole other adjustment within itself. We were so grateful for the ability to save money and see my husband, but I had to learn how to be a stay at home mom again. In a new environment, no friends, no playmates, no activities, no church, and no feeling of community and not even in our own home. I did my best to keep my boys in library time and we ended up joining a gym, which saved my life, but life was defiantly different. Instead of playing with my kids I constantly followed them picking up after them. I held my breath when they played inside because I was afraid they would break something. I was exhausted of just surviving.

Now, fast-forward to today; we are in our own home in our new town. As soon as we moved in we began renovating, painting, unpacking, you know the usual excited new homeowner things. We are in our own space in a place I know we will be for at least four years.

But why am I not happy? Why am I not over joyous with this victory over medical school and matching in a residency?

We sat and did our budget the other day (non joyous answer right there) and we decided I had to bring in some type of income. Specifically to help with the overhaul we did on the house and just to give us an emergency fund again. So, I took the bull by the horns again and updated my resume and pulled out my references. But I had no where to go, I had no place to land….what have I done in two years….what am I doing with my time? Oh sure I could get my teaching certificate in MI, but when I left education I was in administration and I am not sure I have it in me to climb the ranks again and go back to teaching in a school system.

I found myself asking, "Who am I" and answering "I am a wife of a doctor" and it made me mad. I am a wife of a doctor who has sacrificed her career, her things, her feeling of a community, of things I knew all to help my husband fulfill his dream. And you know what, I was kind of angry with this for a week. Like drink a bottle of wine angry. I don’t know if it was the five moves in four years or the feeling that I have been just barely making it by and for the first time in my life I didn’t know what to do next.

Then, my husband got an email and asked me to take care of it. And it dawned on me…I am a wife of a doctor who couldn’t have done it without me. All those moves, all those new cable set ups, quotes for moving, packing of boxes and still making a homemade dinner (most of the time), yeah that was me.

Then, I even thought I have two young boys that I keep alive every day and one that is starting to read…because of ME.

I know it is so easy to get wrapped up in what you have said good-bye to in order for your husband to become a doctor. But at the same time look at what you have learned to embrace. I am not afraid….of anything really, nothing. Any change, any upset I know I can handle…because I have handled A LOT. What I have realized is that I am not identified by my career or my income (or lack thereof one).

So, what am I? I am a wife of a doctor who loves her doctor and her children more than anything.

Celebrate the small success, don’t dwell on the good-byes and embrace the change!

To all you doctors wives out there….YOU can do this and YOU can find out even more who you really are in the process.

NAME: Stacie Johnson

PROFESSION: A practicing wife and stay at home mom

(Oh and P.S. I have started watching children to help with our budget. But I always ask myself "What do I want to be when I grow up?").





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Friday, August 28, 2015

Tales of a Doctor’s Wife on a Prairie

My journey as a Dr.’s wife, like many of you, has been quite the adventure. Before I met DrH, I never thought I’d be married to a Doctor- let alone living in the middle-of-nowhere in southern Minnesota. Even though I grew up on a farm not that far where we presently live, I vowed when I left for college that I would never go back. Boy has that come to haunt me! None-the-less, living in a rural setting as a Dr.’s wife has most certainly had its sets of challenge and perks.

In July 2010, we packed up our house, dog, and then four month old daughter in Columbus, Ohio and moved 15 hours to a town of 700 people and began to start a new life. It was during that first year of transition that I noticed some of the challenges of being married to a Doctor in small town. While I am finally coming to acceptance of our life on the prairie, it has taken time to adjust. And for anyone transitioning between medical school, residency, or the #itgetsbetter phase in life, there will be some up and downs. Just allow yourself time to adjust. It’s not easy.

Within the first week of moving to rural Minnesota, I noticed our street was becoming a parade route. I would be working in the kitchen and then look out to see people s-l-o-w-l-y driving by our house- perhaps even stopping in front of our house- all wanting to see the house where "DrH" was now living in. And this parade continued in the grocery store, community functions, church, really…everywhere we went. It got old and I felt this pressure to be "happy and okay" when I really wasn’t. I wasn’t happy to be living in the middle of nowhere with no friends- even though both of our families live within 30 miles of the town. Everyone was so happy to have us living there; it was almost too much stress to handle. Today the "parade" has died down, though I still feel people stare at us when we go places. And, we have learned that we need to strategically sit in certain places at functions to avoid patients wanting to talk to DrH about their ailments. In a small town, it does not matter where you go, you will always run into a patient.

I think it’s also funny that everyone assumes I know everything about all of my husband’s patients or who is in the hospital. I do not know how many times I have been stopped and asked questions about patients. Honestly, I have no desire to know this information and YES, HIPAA applies to small-town USA too! Though adds an extra level of challenge to it. I joke I’m usually the last person to find out information, but that’s okay. I am glad that my husband takes HIPAA seriously.

Finding friendships is tough. I’m not going to lie; this has been one of the toughest things to get used to while living in rural Minnesota. Many of the folks who live in the area have lived there their whole lives and tend to congregate with their high school buddies. I’m considered an "outsider" so I’m not really welcome in their circles. Also, I think people are intimidated by me because I am "the Doctor’s wife." It also doesn’t help that people hang out at the local bars on the weekends and we can’t go there because DrH’s patients hang out there. To people in the community, it looks like we are being "stuck up" or "too good" but the reality is we try to avoid some of these situations for the sake of my husband’s mental health. On the bright side, when DrH and I get a chance to get away, we truly "get away" from the area and have a fabulous time. Cost of living is minimal, so we have saved up and have gone on some amazing trips since we moved to the prairie. It’s in those moments we can just be us- not "DrH and his wife. "

A year ago in July, we did one of the best things for ourselves; we moved out to a place in the country. We were living in the small town prior to this and we found it to be isolating and very public. We found a fabulous place with a much bigger home, 15 acres of land, AND a winery/vineyard. This place (for a ridiculously low price) has been our oasis and happy place. Call nights are a little more challenging because of our move, but our world is much happier. It’s worth it! And in a month, we will have an open winery to the public! This move has helped my outlook on living on the prairie and has brought a fresh perspective and a level of acceptance on what it means to be a Dr’s wife. I have accepted that call will part of our life forever and that our kids and I must go on with our plans and not dwell on the "he’s missing it again" mentality. I have also learned that the more I get involved in the community, the more people get to know me as an individual and not just the "Dr’s wife." That also applies to us as a couple, too. Finally, I am excited about our future and all the adventures life will bring on the prairie. Though I never thought I’d be living in rural Minnesota married to a Doctor and now an owner of a vineyard, I couldn’t imagine this journey without my partner-in-crime. I find this more reason to accept and celebrate the challenges and perks of living in rural "middle-of-nowhere" Minnesota.

Krista Kopperud

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Friday, August 14, 2015

To Buy or Not to Buy - That is the Question

I have helped over 100 physician families decide whether to buy or rent. Like any other investment, it is a personal decision. You can make money but you can also lose money. If you don't like to take risks or if you aren't sure where you want to live, then you definitely should rent.

I like to share my personal experience. We bought our first house during medical school and owned it 2 years. We made $40k. We then bought a house during residency and it owned it 3 years and we broke even. We bought a house during fellowship and it owned 2 years. We made $130k. Our first house during practice we owned for 5 years and lost $50k.

We are now in hopefully our final house. We have owned it for 4 years and if we sold today we would make about $200k. My husband is 10 years into practice and we have also bought 2 vacation rentals as investments and have partial ownership in the his practice's buildings. Our vacation rentals have been our favorite investment because our family has built many memories at the beach. Even if the value went down on the vacation rentals, we wouldn't sell because we enjoy them and we make money yearly from the vacation rentals.

I like sharing my story because we have made and lost money in real estate. Overall, we have made money investing in real estate. Personally, I understand real estate much more as an investment than stocks. We have lost much more money in the stock market over the years. I have gotten much more personal enjoyment out of real estate than I have ever gotten out of owning Google or any other stock.

I read one comment that said real estate was the "worst financial mistake" for a doctor. I would always look to see who is giving the advice. Financial advisors typically make money selling stocks and insurance while realtors make money selling real estate. When making a decision to buy or rent, seek out expert opinion and then pray what is the best decision for your family. I am happy to give advice. I have told many people over the years it is better to rent making a decision to buy or rent, seek out expert opinion and then pray what is the best decision for your family. I am happy to give advice. I have told many people over the years it is better to rent.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Survivor Stories: Having a Successful Medical Marriage

After nine years of marriage (and 11 years together) my husband and I recently experienced a first.  Our close friends told us they were divorcing.  We were shocked.  They are the first of our friends to divorce, although I sadly accept that they probably won’t be the last.  While we were not only shocked at the news of the divorce, we were more surprised by the circumstances that ultimately caused the end.  This was a professional couple that worked a lot, but they seemed to have a great connection and healthy relationship during their limited time together.  It made me wonder how anyone stays married to a professional, specifically a physician. 

I started seeking advice from physician wives I know.  Their answers to my questions were so powerful that I expanded my interviewing to other seasoned wives willing to take the time to answer them.  I focused on wives who have been married to their physician husbands for over 30 years.  I felt that 30 years certainly qualified them as an expert on the subject.

Their insight was amazing.  And with their words came examples of hardship, frugality, adaptation and most importantly, independence.  Not only did it show me how possible it is to have a loving, long-term medical marriage, but was also critical in showing me how much MY attitude, effort, and commitment is needed to make this work.  Given our blog post limits, this is just a snippet of the interviews (one response per question).  The respondents are all anonymous so their names have been changed.

TRAINING What part of training was the most challenging? How did you get through it?

Linda – “Internship was definitely the hardest.  At the time my husband was an intern we had 4 children one being a newborn.  He worked probably 120 hours a week (no kidding!).  I just learned that we had to go on with life with or without him there.  We ate dinner at 6:00 and if he was there great, if not he ate when he got home.  We had to keep a schedule for the kids’ sake.”

SUPPORT SYSTEM What is and was your support system for challenging times? How did you keep your sanity?

Karen –“ I would say our biggest support system besides each other would have to be our friends that we were close with in the Emergency Residency program.   Our family on both sides was out of state and too far away to see much more than on holidays and summers.   So, our support system became our fellow residency friends who were going through the same things that we were at the same time.  We soon learned that they were our new “FAMILY” who we could count on and go to in an emergency.  About 3 weeks after my husband started his new residency, I had a miscarriage, and needed to go to the hospital.   Since we had to find someone to care for our 10 month old daughter quickly, we called our new friends, a couple we had just met in the residency program a few days before and asked if they could help us out with her while we went to the hospital.   They were our angels and came to our rescue that day in a time of crisis and need, which was such a gift for us and our daughter.  We realized that day our new friends were our  "new family” and to this day our connection to these special people is a priceless treasure.”

SACRIFICE What personal sacrifice have you made for your husband's career? Has this created problems in your marriage? How did you overcome any resentment?

Susan – “Well, me not having a career.  When my husband and I got married I kinda knew what I was getting into, although we didn’t have a lot of physicians in the family our next door neighbor was a surgeon and I noticed he was never home.  So I kinda knew it was going to be a rigorous schedule for my husband.  And we talked about that and I made the decision, we made the decision together, that I was able to stay home with the kids.  And that was definitely a gift.   It didn’t create any problems.  I accepted it, and had been in fashion merchandizing which did not have great pay, and the next level would have meant travelling and doing buying and I didn’t see that fitting into the equation.  I really wanted to have two or three children and that’s a big commitment.  Somebody’s got to be there and frankly, now that I hear the stories after they had grown up, apparently I missed a few things along the way – even though I was home full time.  So I can’t imagine what would have happened if I wasn’t around.”

FAMILY PLANNING  When did you join your husband on your journey? What is the best time to start a family? What types of things did you do to keep consistency in your family life? 

Mary - “We had our first child when he was PGY3 and second child when he was moonlighting while starting a new practice.  I have to give my husband the credit for keeping as much consistency as possible.  He insisted on "family dinners" every night - whether in or out.  I, on the other hand insisted on date nights every weekend!  Still do!  I needed something to look forward to by the end of the week.  We employed local teens to babysit when we moved 30 minutes from my parents.  We also took weekend trips alone - something I usually planned --again, something I needed to keep sane.”

MARRIAGE Did you know what you were getting into marrying a physician? How do you nurture your marriage?

Nancy – “My best friend's mother was married to a busy general surgeon.  She raised six children almost on her own.  She was a marvelous role model - a woman of grace and elegance, who sat me down six weeks before my wedding and told me how he wouldn't be around for most of the important things in our lives - and that if I couldn't handle that without making him FEEL BADLY about it, I shouldn't dare walk down that aisle. She told me he would already feel badly enough about everything he would miss, and that if I showered resentment on top of that, we wouldn't have a good marriage.  She was right, and I recount that story to every potential physician partner I've ever met.”

FAITH Did faith have an impact on your success as a married couple? 

Patricia – “We are not involved in organized religion, but we share the same values and desire to be decent people. We believe in God, that people are more than just themselves and part of something bigger, and we believe things happen for a reason that has a greater purpose. Our faith is something we have in common and one of the reasons we have remained in love. In other words, we admire each other’s values even though we know we are imperfect and make mistakes. We’ve never doubted that we are well-intended and that helps us approach challenges between us.”

FINANCIAL What's one piece of financial advice you can give to younger medical couples? 

Patricia – “ My advice is to realize that money represents different things to different people and when you’re dealing with money you aren’t really talking about dollars but people’s fears and dreams. Know what money means to your spouse… what it represents (security, self-worth, social acceptance, freedom, etc) and then work from there. Without understanding this, the potential for conflicts over finances unnecessarily increases.”

FUTURE OF MEDICINE What are the new challenges for today’s physicians? Did you or would you encourage your children to pursue medicine?

Linda – “I don’t think today’s physicians are treated the same way as they were years ago.  There are to many insurance worries for a physician NOT to order to many tests because there is always the fear of being sued.  There seem to be less physicians so their work load is greater.  Would my husband do it again…maybe.  None of our 5 children went into medicine because I think they saw how hard it was on their dad, the hours, the time away from family, they see the money is nice but not the hard work and pressure it took to get to this point.”

BENEFITS At what point did you feel like it had all came together? What is the best part of being a physician’s wife?

Karen - “For me, being a physician’s wife, has been and is an honor, with many more positives than negatives.    It is a mixed bag with many sacrifices and frustrations, but also many blessings.  One of the most sobering parts of being a physician’s wife over the years is the awareness that because my husband’s chair is empty at our family dinner table, somebody in the ER just might be getting a second chance at life because my husband is there running a CPR code, saving a heart attack patient from dying far too young, or running the trauma room on a young accident victim.  There is a certain joy in knowing that because our Daddy/husband is gone from our dinner table tonight and is working, that somebody else’s Daddy will be alive and will return to his family’s dinner table next week.”

ADVICE Knowing what you know now, would you have changed anything along the way? What lessons of life have you learned?

Mary – “Wow, a tough one.  Everyone has to live their life the way that's most comfortable for them -duh!.  For us it was being a couple, having a family, and just being the true people we are.  No faking it.  You are who you are.  Medicine is not a glamorous job, but with it comes respect and admiration from others.  Don't abuse that.  Make your marriage come first - you won't be sorry.  A lot of women I know put their children first above all else, and end up with lousy marriages.  I never felt that way.  With our kids out and on their own, you only have each other - keep up the fun, the love and the sex!”

If you would like to read more, I have all of the responses compiled into an eBook that is available for free on my website (see below).

 Amber Stueven is wife to an EM physician and mom to two little girls.  She has a website for physician spouses at www.PhysicianSpouses.com *not affiliated with LDW.

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

"You know you're married to a Medical Student when..."

Here we are! Gearing up for the second year of medical school. Where did the first year go? How did we survive it? No, really. HOW did we survive it?! At least this time around we feel settled and refreshed after (our last ever!) summer. SDrH enjoyed his summer research program and we got to spend almost every evening and weekend together...

BUT (Because you knew there was a "but" coming.)

But I'm already working on a mental list in my head. You know, the list in which you keep all the things that you plan to do when medical school causes your life (social, marital, and otherwise) to come to a screeching halt. So far, painting the trim in the bathroom and cleaning out my closet are in the lead. Fun! But you know what? This is not unique to me. I'm not the only gal #marriedtomedicine. There are 4,000+ women on the Lives of Doctors' Wives Facebook page who are right there with me or have been there before. And these women knooooow. And I know that they know that they know. So I recently posed the following question: "You know you're married to a medical student when..." And boy, did they deliver. Some are hilarious, some are a little sad, but the best part...they get it. Because #wecandohardthings.

"You know you're married to a medical student when..."

You start off your ER visits by explaining that your husband is a medical student and then apologizing.

Your toddlers start to wave and say, "Bye!" every time they see their dad.

You refuse to look at their computer screen for fear of seeing one of those really gross, disgusting pictures.

You have date night in the library.

Bacteria is suddenly much more terrifying and you spend a fortune on hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. 

You spend part of your "honeymoon" at residency interviews.

You find a lump in your armpit and immediately assume you have cancer until he does an exam and reassures you that it's just a lymph node. 

Your home smells like formaldehyde.

You break your toe on their massive copy of Robbins (true, painful story).

They fall asleep prepping for Step 1 at the kitchen table...at 4:00pm on a Saturday.

You quiz your husband on pharmacology between labor contractions.

You have the feeling of financial security twice a year...on loan disbursement days. 

You get called the "best wife ever" by SDrH's classmates because you manage to go into labor the day of the big exam, but labor on your own at home for about 12 hours before he can actually get home. 

When your main expenditure is coffee.

With every new class, you get diagnosed with very rare medical diseases that only happen in third world counties that you've never been to. 

Every prayer by your kids includes, "Please bless Daddy that he will do well on his test."

You find a trunk full of bones on loan from the department of anatomy in your living room.

You think you are holding hands with your husband only to realize that he's actually studying the anatomy of your hands. 

When you become the practice patient. 

When SDrH expresses frustration over not being able to watch television in double speed like his recorded lectures.

Your 2 year old waves while dad drives away and says, "Bye Daddy! Thanks for coming to my house!"

When quizzing your husband, you find that you can't pronounce half of the words on the flashcard.

You have to institute a rule that all pictures from lectures are not allowed to be shown at the dinner table.

You get no sympathy when you're sick.

You randomly catch SDrH eyeing the inside of your arm and saying, "I would go in right...there!" as he pretends his finger is a needle and pokes your arm vein with it.

You don't need weapons for intruders because you have massive medical books. 

Your toddler wants a working Otoscope for Christmas. 

"Friday" is actually any day that he finishes a big test.

You're not allowed to talk about what you'll do when Step 1 is over because that means it's coming up too fast. The night before the exam, even YOU can't sleep.

You give up your walk-in closet to be his office so you can actually see him during the day.

Moving home was more economical than paying rent for an apartment you'd never get a chance to 

He's worried you have a tumor every time you have a headache. 

You attend more weddings and social events alone than as a couple. Eventually people stop asking where he is.

You learn to make Thanksgiving dinner from start to finish all by yourself because you can't get home to be with family...all because finals start the following week.

You actually get questions right when helping him study.

Your SDrH sends you and your sick 3 year old to the ER with 4 INDEX CARDS fully filled out on both sides with detailed progression, symptoms, and a "diagnosis" to give the doctor.

You laugh hysterically when friends/family ask if you'll be available more than a week in advance. 

You run into an old acquaintance you haven't seen in a while, tell them your hubby is a med student, and then dread the following question..."So, when is he going to be DONE?" Because then you have to explain match, residency, etc. and see the look of disbelief and/or pity in their eyes.

You splurge on Taco Bell for special occasions.

You go to bed and find your husband sitting on the bed with a skeleton that he has named "Yourick".

And last but not least, my own personal favorite...  

When you're about to *ahem* "get lucky" and he suddenly stops and says, "You have a lump in your right breast, put your hand behind your head," and proceeds to do a FULL BREAST EXAM in which he calmly (and correctly) diagnoses a benign fibroadenoma. Then he says, "Now where were we?" as I dissolve into tears thinking I have cancer.


Told ya. These gals knooooow. There's strength in numbers, ladies. Here's hoping this year is kind to you and your med student! 

visit my personal blog at thehappyredhead.com


Friday, July 31, 2015

Work, Baby, Work

I didn’t start to hate DrH’s career until our daughter was born. We’d been together for six years—through all four years of medical school and one year of anesthesia residency all in the west. Now we were on the east coast for his final three years of residency. While we had always felt the inconvenient parts of him being a doctor in training, I never truly hated his job. Having a baby changed everything.

I grew up with two doctors for parents—one family practice and the other internal medicine. They practiced in my tiny hometown in Montana and took on celebrity status amongst its citizens. My dad delivered many of my friends and classmates. My mom kept their mothers and fathers sane and healthy. Everywhere I went I was told, "Oh I just love your parents. You’re so lucky." And I was. They were smart and could provide everything we needed. But I also saw how stressed they were at home and the energy they didn’t have for marital discussions, helping with homework, and decorating the Christmas tree. I knew how many hours a week I spent at daycare. In many of our home videos, my dad looks like he’s half asleep—because after delivering a baby at 4 o’clock the previous morning he probably was. I decided at a young age (as did my two sisters) to never be a doctor. I didn’t want anything to do with that life—the life of sacrifice at home to serve others. And then I met my wonderful husband.

When we started dating, he had already gotten into medical school. Right away, I shared my trepidation with him about the medical lifestyle. But he was a starry-eyed, first-in-the-family-to-become-a-doctor type and said he valued family time above all else and would never go into a specialty that didn’t respect that. And in addition to falling in love with him and knowing I would do anything to be near him, I believed him, thinking that my childhood experience was myopic—that the overworked, rural primary care physician wasn’t the only model out there.

And actually, medical school started to convince me that doctor training wasn’t that bad. Everyone told us to brace ourselves for how hard it would be. Throughout it all I just laughed to think of that, still do. Med school seemed totally doable! Being an independent woman with a lucrative job, I was happy to have my own thing going on and the space and time to meet with friends and do creative projects while he studied. We did date nights every week, went to concerts, and took little road trips on the weekends. He would study in the car. During fourth year we got engaged and traveled together for all of his away rotations, taking our adventurous wheaten terrier with us. It was a blast—a month each in six major cities, playing the tourists with our free time, planning our wedding, and visiting friends and family. I picked him up and dropped him off every day at work, exploring the city with our pup and doing at-home transcription during the days. On his days off, we sunbathed in San Diego, saw museums in Chicago, and strolled in New York’s Central Park. For the most part, we felt free and happy.

Then everybody warned us again: "The first year of residency is the worst." The dreaded intern year loomed after our wedding and honeymoon were over. Luckily, we matched for that year in the same city as medical school had been, so we were able to stay near all of the friends we had met the previous four years. I soon got pregnant and stayed busy working, planning for baby, doing home projects, and figuring out the move out east for the following year. Intern year flew by, and we were mostly still able to keep our date nights and sanity. Days off we spent at the pool or hiking and always felt rejuvenated afterwards. The best part was that DrH was truly free when he came home—no studying or applications or thank-you letters. We thought we had made it and felt like the next three years while financially hard—I was going to stay at home with our daughter in one of the most expensive cities in the US—would be emotionally and physically easier.

Wow, were we wrong! In October of this year, we welcomed our daughter into the world. Even planning for her birth was stressful beyond anything we had imagined. They wouldn’t give DrH any days off surrounding the birth, so we had to plan an induction for his vacation week (that he requested around the due date and thankfully got). Luckily I went into labor naturally one day before the scheduled induction, so he still had five days to spend with us in the hospital and settle us at home. We were lucky he had even that, and he was able to be with me through the entire process, which ended up being as wonderful an experience as labor can be. We had time to go to the first pediatrician appointment together and make sure our house was set up for our new leading lady. However, those days were over in a flash. The night before he had to go back to work, I thought he might cry (and I certainly did!). He knew once he was back in the hospital work zone, the sweet bubble of love we were creating at home around our new tiny family member would burst.

And it did in a way. As the early months of her life went by I started to get very, very bitter. It didn’t help that all of our friends and family were now thousands of miles away. But even had they been close, I wanted DrH home. He was missing so many things. I knew he had to work to support us, but did he have to work so much? Did his job have to demand everything from him? Our daughter was changing before my eyes every day, and he was only seeing it through my pictures and videos of her first smiles, motions, and baths. By the time he got home, she was often cranky and ready for bed if not already asleep. Besides, even when he was home now, I felt a huge divide of what I was experiencing and what he was. He was so tired and overworked on top of the debilitating fatigue of having a newborn that he was hardly able to participate in our family. Many times he would fall asleep while holding her. It broke my heart. I wanted my daughter to have a present and awake father, the kind I didn’t have growing up. Like my father, DrH was an amazing dad, sacrificing everything he could to make our daughter and me happy. But time and energy were two things he just couldn’t give because his job was sucking them from him.

DrH started to get bitter, too, so it made it hard for me to be supportive. When he complained about work, I was quick to agree and criticize it whereas in previous years I had reserves of energy and positivity. Before, I knew his dream of being a doctor was becoming more and more tenable, and I wanted him to succeed and to support him in it. Now I couldn’t see the positive side of it, and he really needed me to. He still loved the mechanics of what he did, but the workload was harder than anything either of us had envisioned for PGY2 mostly because his hospital had massively increased its caseload that year. He was doing his best, but he just felt he was falling behind in fatherhood. And he wasn’t even giving all he needed to at work. In every spare moment, he was supposed to be studying for his big end-of-year test, but he just wanted to play with his baby girl. He felt the constant pull of these two demands, and all his desire pulled him toward family. His priorities had changed after her birth, but he still had to provide for us. We both knew that this was what we had signed up for—that residency wasn’t easy and that he would still have limited family time. Even if we wanted to reconsider, we were in far too much debt now to do so! We often wonder how many doctors in training are in a similar boat.

Our daughter turns eight months old soon. We are thankfully sleeping more and feeling better about being new parents. We also know we are so fortunate that he has a stable job, our daughter is healthy, and we are making do. I remind myself every day that many people in the world don’t have that and that life is not easy for anyone! But I am still trying to find a new peace with his work post-baby and trying to get rid of the bitterness—mostly because it harms our situation more than helps. PGY2 is nearly over, and the months are flying by. I know that we will blink, and his last two years of residency will be over. Hopefully this will free up some family time. It is hard not to just dream of that day. But I also know that by that time our daughter will be two and a half—walking, talking, forming opinions and saying crazy things, most of which he will have missed because he was working. We say regularly that we wished the payoff were even marginally worth the sacrifice right now. He recently told me very matter-of-factly that if he had to do it all again he would have chosen engineering or even just a nine-to-five job. Maybe the payoff is coming. Maybe it will all be worth it in the end. Until then we will keep plugging away and trying every day to focus on the joy our daughter has immeasurably brought to our lives—to focus on the moments and love we’re gaining not missing. After all, life is only now.


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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tasty Tuesday: Quick and Cheap

I think my dad invented the 30 Minute Meal, NOT Rachel Ray (if only he knew how much he could have made pitching that gig).  See I am an only child.  An only child that had a deep competitive side and started competing in gymnastics at age 6, which led to 5 hour practices every day of the week, which means I didn’t get home until well after 8pm every night.  My parents wanted to eat without me and according to them, I wanted nothing to do with that idea. In fact I’m still kind of like this; I HATE eating alone (yes I might have married into the wrong profession).  Therefore, my dad was tasked to making dinner while my mom picked me up from gymnastics and I was tasked with eating it as quickly as I could so that I would have time for homework and a shower before bed because, yes, gymnastics practice started at 4:30am the next morning.  Turns out, quick and cheap was a skill set I indeed needed to learn.  When my husband started medical school, I was tasked with finding a meal that was not only quick to make, quick to eat, but also cheap to make.  When residency came, I needed it even more than ever (especially since I now had an additional two mouths feed).  Down memory lane I went (and to the phone to call Dad).  Here are a few of our favorites (all meals based on 4 people)….

Sausage and Mac N Cheese

Linked Sausage
1/2 bag LARGE elbow noodles 
1/4 block Velveeta cheese 
Whole milk
Country crock butter 
Vegetable oil 

In large pot salt H2O and add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil. Bring water to boil. Add 1/2 bag of large elbow noodles. Cook until soft but still have a small bite. Drain immediately. Put noodles back into pot. Add one large spoon sized scoop of country crock butter. Add milk until so slightly see it through the noodles. Cut 1/4 of Velveeta cheese block into cubes and add them. Turn stove on low-low/medium. Stir constantly. Pull off immediately. Either boil or grill sausage links. 

*Note: should be runnier than "normal" Mac n cheese. May need to add more cheese or milk but don't add more butter to get the right consistency.

Sloppy Joes and Green Beans

1-Pound Ground Beef
1 Package McCormick Sloppy Joe Mix
1/3 Cup Ketchup
Garlic Salt
1 Cup Frozen Green Beans
2 Tbs Butter
Hamburger Buns

Brown the ground beef.  Drain Fat.  Season with garlic salt.  Add Sloppy Joe Mix and Ketchup.  Mix well.  Meanwhile sauté green beans with butter and seasoned with garlic salt.  Toast hamburger buns.  Place meat mixture inside buns and serve!

Tacos/Taco Salad

Grated Cheese
1-Pound Ground Beef
1 Can Rotel Tomatoes (original flavor)
Garlic Salt 
1 package McCormick Taco Mix


Brown the ground beef.  Drain Fat.  Season with garlic salt.  Add Rotel tomatoes and taco mix.  Mix well.  Warm tortillas.  Add toppings Enjoy!

So what are your favorite meals that are inexpensive and that get hot food on the table FAST???