I had another whine scheduled for today, but in light of that delightful Thanksgiving discussion, I decided to write something else that's been on my mind.
I made a post about covering holidays and stated the opinion that I thought parents of young children should have priority for holidays. It got one or two comments, as you can see. Truthfully, I'm not passionate either way. I don't usually care much about taking holidays off because my husband has a very flexible job, so I try my best to be flexible to help others who actually need it for whatever reason. However, I felt it would be more entertaining for you (and me) if I took a side and you got to argue with me (or yell at me, in some cases).
One thing I found particularly interesting is that in refuting my statements, multiple people commented, "If you aren't willing to work holidays, you shouldn't become a doctor."
In all honesty, that's an excellent point. What kind of idiot would become a doctor if they don't want to work on weekends/holidays/etc?
Here's the thing:
Many people *raises hand* are 22 years old and single when they start medical school, with zero obligations beyond getting yourself clothed and fed. And maybe you've even heard that medicine is a good career for a mother because it pays well and you can work part-time. As a little fresh-faced med student, it's difficult to even contemplate what it will be like in the future when (if!) you get married and have children. All you know is that you can manage it all now.
Then it's ten years later. Everyone expects you to put your job before your kids, even though you love your kids more than anything. And when you take maternity leave people give you dirty looks. When you return, they say in a snarky voice, "Did you have a nice vacation?" And you can't take any actual vacation for another year and have to make up missed calls, even though your baby is still waking up twice every night and you're so tired, you could just die. And when people visit your house, they make disparaging comments about how cluttered it is because you don't have time to clean. And people on a blog will write over a hundred comments, furious at your sense of entitlement for hoping to get Christmas off when your nanny is gone so that your baby won't have to be cared for by a stranger that day. And how dare you take a day off because your grandmother died, after you left early last week because your kid was vomiting? After all, having children was a choice you made, so don't expect anyone to help you. You are just another unreliable parent, using your kid as an excuse. For Christ's sake, why did you go into medicine if you can't handle the lifestyle?
I consider myself very fortunate in that both my husband and I have a lot of flexibility in our jobs. But that's actually very rare in medicine. I don't think I appreciated when I was 22 years old how much of a challenge it is to work in medicine or to be a mother, both of which are obligations that expect you to give practically all of yourself. If someone had warned me, I probably wouldn't have listened. I would have figured they were trying to scare me or they were just weak.
When I was 22 years old, I truly thought I could do it all. It's only as I got older that I realized that not only couldn't I do it all, I didn't want to. But by that point, it's too late for most of us.
Premeds and med students: Be warned.
In any case, my follow-up question is: why can't medicine be a field that's more friendly to parents? Must it be the case that becoming a physician dooms you to spend 20 Thanksgivings in a row away from your family (as one commenter stated). And that we should be furious with people who don't want to do this? Maybe instead of being angry at a mom who just wants to spend a holiday with her baby (how dare she??), we should be working toward ways for doctors who want a normal lifestyle to have one. Perhaps hiring per diems to cover holidays or calls in exchange for a slight dip in salary? I don't know. But I believe there is a solution, and it isn't going to be achieved by calling parents selfish because they want to spend time with their kids.
Fifty years ago, they said to exhausted residents who were working three days in a row, "This is how it is. Deal with it." Now we realize how crazy that was, and we let residents work normal human hours. Will the medicine attending lifestyle similarly change in the future, and will we look back with disbelief on people who mocked physicians for daring to want to spend Christmas with their families?