on women having it all, part two

posted on: Wednesday, October 10, 2012

first of all, i have to say i love you all.
your responses yesterday were so wonderful
i loved the insight into all of your lives
and having you all be so open to me sharing mine.

a word about infertility:
i have an irrational fear that i will struggle with infertility.
as a physician and a scientist, i have no evidence upon which to place this on.
yet, i worry.
the only way to answer the question is to try
but for all the reasons mentioned yesterday, that's not happening.
so for those of you struggling with it right now, i hear you.
i don't expect having a baby to be like walking up to a vending machine
pushing a button
and having a kid.
the possibility of it being much more complicated than that is very real to me.

but i digress.
part deux.

guess which day this was?
my mom stayed at home.
i think she'd probably resent the title "Stay-at-Home Mom"
i know she always felt (and STILL feels) that she did more work
than that title implied.
and i'd have to agree with her.

she raised five kids.
cooked every night of the week.
homeschooled five kids.
held part-time jobs some years.
shopped. cleaned.
kissed. hugged. loved. 
made countless personal sacrifices to give us what we needed.
she is the glue that holds our family together.
i don't think i could ever do all that she's done for our family.

for me, having a career has never been about wanting to do what my mother never did.
i just wanted to be a doctor.
from the time i was 16 years old, i knew it.
as a junior in high school, i certainly did not sit down with myself
and hash out how i was going to be a doctor AND a mom someday.
even though i always knew i would want them both.
it's been a work in progress, figuring out how i'm going to do both.
and do both WELL.

this is part of why i'm waiting until i'm done with residency to have babies.
i get distracted from medicine enough as it is.
there are blogs to read
shows to watch
music to listen to
great meals to cook
i barely find the time to do the reading that is required of me
much less do all the reading and research that my patients deserve
i could do more. i SHOULD do more.
even though the learning never stops,
i'll get better at doctoring.
and it won't require so much of my attention all the time.
i owe it to myself and to my patients to dedicate this time
to learning how to be the best doctor i can be.

and i owe it to my babies too.
they're already going to have to deal with their mom leaving them to go to work
i can at least spare them my learning curve

but i struggle with my choice all the time.
as much as i hate the idea of leaving my kids with someone else
while i go try to save people's lives and make strangers feel better,
i also struggle with the concept of working part-time.
or not working at all.
by the time i'm finally done, i'll have gone through
four years of undergrad
four years of med school
three years of residency
and four years of Active Duty service
all so i can cut back to part-time to be with my kids?
surely medicine deserves more of my time and attention than that
after all that hard work...

but then again, so do my children.

there is no easy answer.
i know motherhood is hard work.
being a doctor is hard work too.
my best friend is a lawyer.
she has a daughter, and another baby on the way.
she inspires me to the point of bringing those stinging tears to my eyes 
i'm so freaking proud of her
but she always says that motherhood is the best THING she's ever done.
but it's not the best JOB.
being a lawyer is her job. and she loves it. wouldn't trade it to be home full-time.
motherhood is still be best thing ever.
i know she struggles sometimes.

having never been a mother,
i don't know whether i will feel like motherhood is a job or not
i know medicine will. but it will also feel like a calling.
mostly because i know that it IS my calling.
maybe motherhood is my calling too. who knows?

i guess it's becoming clear that i don't necessarily have a point
that i'm trying to get across.
this is just my head and my heart
on display for all the interwebs to see.


  1. i'm struggling with this right now. already feeling guilty knowing that once my maternity leave is up in June, I'll be leaving my little one with a stranger. But not sure if I have the patience to give up a career and stay at home where there structure and adult contact are at an all time low.

    i grew up with TWO stay at home parents (my dad worked out of our house). the benefits of this are astounding. i just struggle with what is right for our family. and for me.

  2. i loved reading this because seriously, we are the exact opposites! my momma worked in the ER (still does!) since forever- she was a great mom, too, but she sacrificed a LOT of time with me in order to work.... so I, growing up in that environment- missing my mom and being so jealous of the moms who could watch their daughters at dance practice while my mom was working, or my mom never coming to a softball game- that made me realize how much i WANT to be there for my future kids... be there for everything, just like your mom! being "mom" has always felt like my calling... so you can imagine how irrational MY fear is of being infertile or struggling to get pregnant. what if we literally CANNOT have kids?! wtf will i do?

    i guess, like everyone says, there is no RIGHT way to do it- you can only do what YOU feel is the right way. and GIRL, you WILL succeed at having it all, if that's what your heart desires.. i mean, shit, if you can do med school, i feel like you can do anything.. juggling life aint got SHIT on you...

    (and i hope you take that as the bad ass compliment i intended it to be..) xo

  3. Em, you write and express yourself so beautifully. It feels like you are sitting in front of me chatting this through!
    Once again, a very honest post and no rights or wrongs, just what works best for you!

    I had 6 cysts removed from my ovaries when I was younger and at one stage nearly had an ovary removed so I always thought I wouldn't be able to have kids. After a 5 year relationship ended when I was 21, I was convinced that I would only marry and have kids so much later on in life and this scared me too. But I am now 27 with a 6 month old angel who was conceived within 2 weeks - so you just never know! Again, these things are out of our control.

    I always said I was born to be a mom but I loved studying and I love my teaching... Yesterday was my first day as a temp teacher (just a few days back this term) and I absolutely loved it but also missed my princess so much. i don't think I could do it full-time, especially with more than one child - if that is even an option, maybe it isn't our Plan.

    We take each day as it comes, live it to the fullest and do what makes you happy TODAY.

  4. My Mum was a SAHM, She worked evenings at a local supermarket when I was about 2 or 3 - I vaguely remember standing at the end of her till and talking to her (it's one of those wishy washy memories that aren't really there but somehow you remember it). The idea being that the extra she earned on top of what my Dad earned could be for things like extra clothes and small toys for me and my brother (I don't think my brother was born at the time of my memory but it's possible that I don't remember him being there because it's so blurry).
    My Mum went back to work when I was at Middle School - i remember it being horrible - she'd been there every day after school to meet me at the door and now she wasn't there - me and My brother would let ourselves in after school and do our homework - she'd get in about 5. As we got older this got later. My Mum was doing admin in the day for a catering company and then doing front of house in the evening. I remember when I was 14 spending about half an hour in the bathroom freaking out and my Dad came to knock on the door and make sure I hadn’t passed out or something. I was in a bit of a state and told him that I needed Mum. And he was trying to be understanding Dad but all I kept saying was that I needed Mum. I can’t remember if he called her or whether I just waited up for her but I remember at about midnight-ish Mum quickly going over enough info about girl things so that I could go to bed because it was school the next day!

    I really want to be a SAHM, part of me doesn’t want a nursery or nanny looking after my kid and being there for those land marks like first step, first word etc. What if the one day they are in childcare is the day that it happens? At the same time – we can’t necessarily afford for me to give up work or for childcare. I guess it’s all something that we’d have to work out when we get there. We have a friend who is a child minder so it might be that she can give us a special rate (but I don't want to leave her out of pocket because that is her job) and look after "Little J" and I know that s/he would be well cared for - our friend is a mum to three and Grandma to like 7 or something like that and she's mid-50s!

  5. One thing I struggle with is the idea we hear repeated in our society that to be a "good mom" you have to be willing to sacrifice everything -- your personal life, your job, your hobbies -- for your children. Call me selfish, but that's never sounded appealing to me. I've spent too much time trying to cultivate my own person and build a career, and a good life to throw it all out the window. But I'm not saying I don't want kids. I do; I just want other things, too.

    If you're interested, I'd recommend a book I'm reading called "Bringing up Bebe" (American WSJ journalist's take on French parenting). It's funny and insightful, and gives me hope that being a good mom can mean being more than just a mom. It can mean being yourself, and taking time for your career and your interests and your marriage (even if that means hiring childcare help). I think there's a different balance for everyone, but it's really interesting to read about a different cultural point of view than what we usually hear in the U.S.

    Anyway, those are my rambling thoughts :)

  6. so both my parents are doctors... growing up they were ER physicians and now my mom has a family practice and my dad does administrative stuff for the hospital.... My mom always tells the story about how when her high school advisor asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, my mom said a doctor and a mom, and the advisor laughed in her face and said, you can't do both! you have to choose one... well my mom has 5 children now and only didn't work for two years of my life after my little sister was born.

    We were very lucky and my grandma lived near by so she basically was our care-giver plus we had a live in nanny to help. Never ever did i feel like i was raised by my grandma or nannies. My grandma of course is a huge part of my life but my parents always always put us first, never missed school performances, sports games, they even went to every single performance of the plays i was in, almost every tennis game, etc. Weekends or there days off were spent with every second doing fun family things. They only vacation or trip they went on without us was when i was 5 and they came home early from hawaii because they missed us.

    basically i have a lot to say about this topic so email me if you want and i'm sure my mom would be very happy to give you advice if you want. some things i know she would tell you is how happy they were that they waited till they were done with their residency to have me... and also that they were married 7 years before having me so they had plenty of time together and when the kids came along it was much easier and they didn't feel like they needed as much alone time so every trip and free time was spent with us... (although i absolutely plan on taking vacations with just my future husband. i think they're crazy for not taking a vacation just them two! haha)

    i know they were completely exhausted when we were younger and they were working 24 hours shifts and then coming home to babies and toddlers and full of energy children, but i am so proud of my parents and the lives they help and am even more proud when their patients come up to me and tell me how amazing they are.

    ok sorry for such a long comment

  7. I wanted to comment yesterday but got so wrapped up in reading all the wonderful discussion I forgot!

    This has always been a sticky issue for me, and one that I can get very passionate about. Having kids is SUCH a personal decision and while society seems to be getting better about the fact that it's a DECISION, not a must-do, there's still so much stigma around it. What fabulous readers you have to create such an open and safe place to talk about it.

    Anyway, I just read a really great piece on Practical Wed about this very thing, and had to share. Thanks, Emily! http://apracticalwedding.com/2012/10/jessica-valentis-why-have-kids-review/

  8. I have a really irrational fear that when I do want kids, I'll be infertile too :(

  9. I like how your friend said how being a Mom isn't a job, being a lawyer is her job. And that she loves both. I agree with that. I think it's kind of old fashioned to believe that, as women, we're possibly expected to be stay-at-home moms. But stay-at-home moms are great. My mom was one as well, and also worked part time. But I think everyone knows in their heart what's right or not right for them. It isn't up for everyone else to judge what women do with, or without kids.
    I think that you can be both an awesome doctor and an awesome mom. And there are nannies and child care out there if needed. I'm a Nanny myself, and if it weren't for moms who decided to work, I wouldn't have a job!
    And also...what about stay-at-home dads?

  10. The second part of this post hit home. My mom, also stayed home with us three (even after completing her accounting/managing degree plus masters) and went on to homeschool each and every single one of us till high school. But then there is me... for me having a career was never about wanting to do what my mother never did either.
    i've always wanted to be doctor but i also long for the day i have my little ones and i am able to be a mom. i would love the stay home with them then and homeschool then (for their first couple of years of school)... however i'm scared that when the moment comes i might not be willing to make the sacrifice my mom did and i wish with all my heart it isn't so. thank you for these posts em. they speak about what has been in my heart for a while now.

  11. I totally get ALL of this. All of it. My mom stayed at home. I struggle with the same thoughts of spending all the time and energy getting to this point in my career all to...quit? But can I really leave my kids with someone else? Drop them off when they're just a few months old and wait to spend a measly few hours with them before bed...all while trying to make dinner and all that too? Ugh. I just don't know. I don't have any real answer for myself. I'm just banking on the fact that when the time comes, I'll just know what to do b/c it'll feel most right. I hope that is what happens for you, too.

  12. Oh Sheesh.
    It's crazy how I can totally identify this post as I am nearing the end of my maternity leave.
    I gave up my corporate career to go back to school to get my masters in education (and am in quite a bit of debt for this reason). I have always wanted to teach and have a true passion for it. But. I ended up getting pregnant my first year as a teacher. Throughout my pregnancy, I was SURE I did not want to stay home ...because I love, love, love my career as a teacher and could not picture "just being a SAHM". However, now that I have my sweet babe, all I can think about is ways to be able to stay home. I struggle every single day thinking, how will I ever be a rockstar teacher and amazing mom? If I really love my baby, shouldn't I give up my career? I know those are irrational thoughts...but honest thoughts.
    Bottom line - I must go back. I'm hoping I find a groove and gain confidence that I can do both. And do them both well.

    Thanks for the post - it's nice to know so many others struggle with this thought. :)

  13. oh yes... these thoughts resonate with so many of us women I think! I've been navigating all this too, with my almost-five-month old now a wonderful, incredible, integral part of our lives, and then working part-time, too. I'm not a dr... it was just 5 yrs undergrad and 2 yrs masters for me as a violinist... but there are times when I wonder if I wish I could set it all aside for a while and just be a mom to my baby full-time, times when getting ready for babysitters is so much more stressful than just being here to do it myself would be... and then times when doing my work is so rewarding I wonder why I ever questioned it. is there any such thing as having it all?

    ps your mom sounds so much like my mom! homeschool mom of four, basically superwoman I think.

  14. giiiiirl. i just read both of these posts. and man, is it complicated. there's no real easy answer but maybe one day one will present itself? i have no idea what that means whether it's that you just have a sense of peace and know the answer in your head or whether you have some douche boss who you can't stand and you're all, "ima gettin' outta here, nick lets make babies now" (wait. em flem will BE boss. duh.)

    buttttt... something. my best advice is live in the present. don't worry about the future. hardest advice to take though.

    and i think it's so so so so so normal to worry about infertility before you get pregnant. seriously, i was the same way. too many stories out there and they all stick in my mind.


  15. Great posts! Just remember, things have a way of working themselves out, and doors have a way of opening! Also, don't beat yourself up of you ever decided to take a few years to work part time. It's your life! There's no shame in going where your heart leads you, and there will always be full time positions waiting for you when you want them.

  16. This is something that I struggle with too. My mom stayed at home with me & my sister - something that I will be forever grateful for. My dad was a firefighter and a paramedic, so he worked the strangest (and longest) hours - I think my mom felt like she had to stay with us - because his schedule was so unpredictable. While it was nice having her around all the time - I always knew that it was something that I didn't want to do full-time. I've always wanted to be a career woman. I am now and while we don't have the crazy schedules and commitments to the military like you and your husband do - I still wonder how the heck kids are going to fit into the mix with our semi-crazy lives. It’s a thought that I keep pushing back farther and farther because I don’t know how to approach it yet.

    I hope in time the answer is clearer for you & Nick. There is no right/wrong/easy answer - What I've seen with my friends having kids though - is there is just something inside you that makes it all work out. Just know that you’re not alone in these thoughts - so many of us feel the same way too!

  17. I found your blog today through a link up and have fallen in love. I enjoyed your engagement story so much, it gave me goose bumps.

    I am not a Doctor, but I am a Nurse. I'm a Nurse and a Mom. I've never felt like being a Mom is my job, it's actually a honor. My Daughter is absolutely the most amazing thing ever. I do love my job very much. I work 60 hours minimum a week usually. This week I'm working 6 twelve hour shifts. I cherish the time I do spend with my Daughter. I just missed spending Mothers Day with her because I was at work taking care of other peoples Mothers and that's totally okay with me. My Daughter knows I love her, without a doubt. I always think "I hope Teale grows up and understands that when I'm away from her at work that I'm taking care of other people that need me and see me as an inspiration".. and it's true. When I do have full days off with her I always plan something fun, even though she's only 14 months old, almost every day we spend together we do something big.. even if it's just going to the park.

    I try to do my blogging after she's in bed. My Husband is very supportive of it and lets me have my blogging time. You have to juggle. It's hard, it's really hard and tiring some days. Some days especially days after I get home after a twelve hour or 14 hour shift I don't want to do anything.. usually baby girl is in bed, but I try to always sneak into her room and give her a kiss and just watch her sleep. I sometimes wake her up because of our squeaky hardwood floors and even though I am tired, I smile and scoop her up. I take every opportunity to hold her tight.

    Sorry, I rambled.. ;)


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