Feeling trapped

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    What a wonderful service for us. I only wish I had this available to me during my training.

    Feels odd to be the first person posting here. I wish I had something more positive to say. This is my first time posting in such as board but I am not sure what else to do.

    I am going through a very stressed phase right now. I am an ER physician and I am the primary breadwinner in my family. My husband works part-time (although not much right now) as a computer programmer. I have just become pregnant with my second child (my first is 23 months) and I am feeling trapped that I can not take time off to be with my child for financial reasons. I can have maternity leave but I need a break for a while. We are just making some headway with paying off my loans but there just isn’t enough money for me to stop or even scale back my hours. I have not discussed this with my husband as our relationship too is suffering some strain, he is dealing with his own issues of being a stay at home dad.

    What did others in a similar position do? The sad part is I LOVE my job (most of the time) but I want to spend at least the first 1 year at home full-time, then return to some kind of part-time position. My obvious concern to is what will happen to my career. So many questions, any feedback will be appreciated.


    Hi Beachdoc,

    Well I am not a physician (yet), but finances are finances…I guess I just wanted to say that anything is possible. Two years ago I quit a succesful career to attend school full-time. I wasn’t the sole bread winner, but quitting my job reduced our income by about half…on top of that I had to pay tuition, books, daycare, etc. So we really went from comfortable middle-class to just barely scraping by. We downgraded our vehicles and home, sold horses and a bunch of other stuff, and lived on credit cards for awhile until we made the adjustment. It is really tough, but it can be done! At first it really feels like you are standing at the edge of a cliff…but after a couple of months you learn to adjust and budget. I just kept thinking of all the families out there who make it with minimum wage jobs, driving beaters, and living in tiny apartments. Sure money is always an issue, but I know lots of people in that situation who are strong families and overall happy. I just keep seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I think you will too–And you are totally right to take the year off, when you’re 90 you won’t even remember if you drove a beater for a year or two, but you will cherish every moment spent with your babies.
    Good Luck! Val


    Hang in there Beach Doc!

    I don’t know if I can give you any great problem-solving advice, but your posting hit a nerve with me as I am going through the same thing without the beach 😉 (and misery loves company, so let my story cheer you up)

    Little personal info first so you know where I’m coming from… 29WF…Married x4yrs…PGY 3/4 Emergency Medicine… South Bronx, NYC.

    My G1P0 (unplanned/failed contraception)pregnancy miscarried during nightfloat, internship year. I had to finish my shift with two codes that night on the medical floors to get my mind off bleeding like a stuck pig (pls. excuse the vernacular).
    OK, while waiting an extraordinarily long time for the next period to come around to start OC’s I pee on another UCG turning it too, that heart-stopping shade of pepto-bismulth-pink, and the spontaneous AB becomes the LMP for my daughter whom I guess God was adament about giving to us (thankfully).
    I’ll save the many ridiculous prenatal care/pregnancy stories for another posting except for one…
    I was 6 months pregnant doing a month in the ICU (q 3 24hr.minimal-sleep call) when two planes crashed into the World Trade Center. We crowded in Room 507 to watch first the television footage in disbelief, then out the 5th floor window to confirm the horror with a direct view. We had previously drilled for community disasters on a regular basis since Collumbine, and I am so proud of the way we implemented those drills, like a well oiled machine. Unfortunately there weren’t any casualties to bring to our ED, and they wouldn’t let a 6mo pregnant women down to ground zero to help out. A week later my hair started to turn white. I used to joke saying my unborn daughter was stealing my hair color but I’m 6 mos postpartum and I’m still plucking 1 or 2 out every day.

    At 8 months I was still doing 12 hour shifts in our level one ED that was so crowded, I couldn’t fit my huge belly between the stretchers. Every night I wanted to take early leave for back pain, swelling, etc. but my program only allows 8 weeks maternity leave, and whatever time I took for myself was less time for my newborn daughter.

    I arranged a couple of switch-a-roo’s with the schedulling and lasted up to 38 weeks before going pre-eclamptic and having a cesarian for breech presentation.

    So here’s where Beachdoc’s story got me. My husband too had to scale down his office hours by 75%(architecture) so he could take over raising our daughter when I went back to work. I mean it just didn’t make any sense to prolong my residency any more or to have him continue working so we could pay someone else to raise our kids.
    He tries to work from home and goes to the office on my days off, but that is stretching both of us pretty thin, and wow diapers, etc. really do add up when there is only one steady income (and a resident’s salary at that!). We haven’t put the loans on forebearance yet, but it’s a possibility.
    My hubby is pretty great when it comes to domestics as well (eg.cooking, shopping, laundry) but you got to feel for him when his buddies or some family members give him that funny look or if they have enough Etoh in them to outright question his manliness/role as the househusband. He’ll never admit that he hates it, and I’m with beachdoc in that I love my job and am not willing to give it up.
    So my only advise for you is A. You sound like an attending already, so maybe you can choose a smaller hospital to moonlight nights in where it’s quiet enough to catch a few winks…or do nights q2 so that you can force the next day without sleep until your 2yr old’s naptime.(This gets old quick!) B. The inevitable weekend shifts that you don’t want to do, but are very switchable because no one else wants to do them either! C. One of our attendings here negotiated the same pay for working 9 night shifts as 12 day shifts…that’s only 3 days a week! D. Consolidate your loans/credit cards/etc. The percentage rate is the lowest now than ever before or ever will be again (c. 6%) E. Smaller house = smaller mortgage/ Kia vs. BMW (impractical with an expanding family…I know) F. Have your husband call mine so they can complain about us and feel better too! 🙂

    Good Luck!
    Michelle and Baby Sabine


    Hi Glennvalley,

    I admire someone who has the guts to change careers especially to one as time consuming as medicine, so kudos to you and good luck!

    However, you are only at the beginning of the proverbial medical training “tunnel” as you called it; the so-called “light” is the mantra that will get you through the next eight years and you should use it well to pass the humps and bumps inevitably in the road.

    Now I don’t speak for everyone at the OTHER end of this tunnel, but this is the physician forum for a reason; the mantra has given me a headache by now and I’m starting to like the darkness.

    Back then, I probably would have thought it would be great for beachdoc to take off a year too, but at this point, I have to advise her to do at least one shift a week to A. keep you on your toes (EM is not something you want to lapse with) and it keeps your brain oiled. B. keep your resume going C. keep your contacts D. keep your sanity (roles really DO reverse when you are soley a mom and man-wins-bread etc.) E. SOMETIMES you get more sleep at the hospital than at home F. At very least it pays for all those darn diapers!(and not the cheap ones that leak either!)

    Good luck to you both!
    Michelle and Baby Sabine


    I just want to THANK you (glenvalley and NuYawkDoc) for responding to my post. I’m here even though it may take me a while to respond 🙂

    When I wrote that post I was not really in a good mood, I felt better just getting it out. I’m still thinking through my options and will let you know what I decide. You’re right misery loves company – I’d love to hear from other women in similar positions.

    Part of my adjustment is the reluctance to face up to the fact that a cut in standard of living is necessary. I’m coming to that one soon!

    You’re right hey at least I have the beach! There’s nothing like looking out at the ocean and feeling your place in the world.

    Again, many thanks.

    – hey oneday I’ll use my real name. I get paranoid that my colleagues will happen to fall upon the site and put 2 and 2 together and work out it’s me. But in my case that’s about as likely as winning the lottery!


    What a timely thing for me! I just had (well, not just, it’s been six months now) my second child, the first in 3 1/2 yrs old. Although my husband works from home and is trying to start his own company, he is NOT, like the other hubbies mentioned, a stay at home dad, he IS at home, but he is in the office with the door closed. I leave in the morning, with my three year old clinging to my leg and crying, hand the baby to the nanny, and work a 12 hour day usually, and get home to do all the mommy stuff like stories and tooth brushing and baths and just playing, and the nanny goes home to her free time and my husband plays guitar or watches tv and on the weeknds he plays golf and I have NO time to myself, NO down time at all, in fact sometimes it feels like work IS downtime, despite the fact that I also work with screaming kids at work, at least I get the relative peace and order of the OR.

    SO….something needs to give. I am not being the best mom that I could be, even though I dedicate every weekend and all my non-working hours to my kids, and I am also a bit more irritable at work, this has been ongoing for almost 4 years now since the first was born and I am just now getting hit in the face with the fact that I CAN’T go on like this. I have always been one of those people who just takes on stuff, i have let my husband get away with doing nothing, I just do it instead. I occasionally blo up at him and get all mad that he does nothing, then try to get him to help out, but it like pulling teeth, and the kdis are used to me and so eventually I jst go back to doing everything. (He will spend time with our son when I am working late, but then as soon as I get home he is ‘off duty’). The only one who NEVER seems to be off duty is me. The only reason I have the time to write this email even is remarkably they are both asleep.

    But things are slipping. There are things i am not getting to. I never exercize anymore. My office is a mess. Bills get paid late, lost in the shuffle, time flies, I don’t socialize with my friends,…….I am always always always exhausted.

    I swore I would cut back to three days a week when my daughter was born, somehow it is much harder than I thought it would be to scale back……not only the financial aspect of it (my husband is TRYING to start his own company, I really am the only one with a real paycheck), but also psychologically……I am finally where I wanted to be work wise, where I worked my ass off to get to. People (patients) want to see me, they refer me to their friends, I don’t want my partners seeing them,I’m at the top of my game…….

    I know the old saying… nonone goes to their death bed wishing they had spent more time at work, and I guess I can count myself lucky in that I love my job so much, but I am falling apart slowly, incrementally,…… and I can already see it having an effect not only on me but on my kids.

    Sorry for going on and on…


    Ahh is that not the story of many many women. Although some men do help out and are stay at home dad’s *most* of the day to day stuff, primary child caregiver, cooking, grocery shopping, falls on women period. I have not met yet one couple where the man does actually half of the work, if that man even exists..If groceries are running low *we* usually have to go buy them, if the kids are sick it is usually us staying home with them, I could go on and on. I am by no means guy bashing but just stating a fact. I do have a wonderful hubby but I have to let him know what he needs to do, it usually never comes out of him that “gee the laundry basket is full maybe I could throw a load in”. Anyways it does sound like your hands are more than full, is there anyway that you can afford a housekeeper and a nanny? or a combo of both? what about hubby? do not pick after him eventually he will have nothing to wear and he will have to do his laundry. I quit picking after my husband not long ago, if he leaves his clothes spread out all over the floor oh well, there they stay. I am not going to be raising my kids and a mature man. Make him help out by sitting down with him without yelling (I know that is super hard) and stating that you are almost at your ropes’ end. If like you say you are the primary bread winner he will have to do something to help out, or you will have to cut back on hours and the whole family will suffer financially. How long have you been married? how long has he been trying to set up his own business? you know sometimes that is a copeout mechanism to do nothing (not saying this is your husband’s case). Keep us posted and good luck!


    Is there anyway you (beachdoc or anyone else) could take a break on your own, away from the current situation. Sometimes just getting away helps you clear the mind and makes decisions easier. It’s impossible to make an important life decision when your mind is ‘cluttered’ with stress, daily activities, work, kids, etc.

    A retreat for women physicians, weekend away alone, afternoon (really should be longer) away at the spa, etc. In this instance if you can afford it forget about money worries as this is cheaper than a breakdown, divorce, etc etc in the long run! Hope this isn’t offensive… it sounds rather Oprah but you need to recapture ‘yourself’ a little!

    Who is also is dire need of a retreat break! The world of TWO KIDS can drive me insane!!


    Interesting Posts Everybody!

    The one thing that is really clear in all of you is that you LOVE your job, and for a 3rd year pre-med, that is REALLY good to hear!

    I am in the enviable position of 1. Having a husband who truly does share the load (dishes, laundry, cooking, etc.) and 2. By the time I am an intern/resident my kids will be teenagers…so as you say NYdoc, it’s a long tunnel, but somehow I think it will be bearable.

    I thought for a long time that I was crazy doing this backward (family first, then med school), but I am beginning to think this might not be a bad way to go about it.

    Anyway, good luck to you all~


    P.S. Sethina, we just got home from a week camping in California between quarters at school…lots of downtime, me-time, and family-time. It was heavenly 🙂 (And I have a lovely tan).


    Beachdoc… it can be very lonely and frustrating when you are trying to do a good job at work, do what’s right for your child and preserve your husband’s ego. It used to infuriate me when people would imply that I wouldn’t come back after my second child. If we wanted to eat, I had to work. It is definitely hard on the spouse also since it is hard to let go that they “should” be the breadwinner and they see other men telling their wives to stay home with the baby. Best advice I ever got was to remember that your children always need you and in many ways they need you more when they are older. Great to be there for the friday field trip or their trip to the zoo or ballet. And later when they are preteens they really need you. I felt like I had blown it because I couldn’t cut back my schedule until my kids were 3 and 6 and both in school. I don’t regret it now. My husband is very close to them and we are close as a family. You can always live on less money too or slow down paying back loans for a little while. You catch up quickly later when the kids are a little older…good luck..


    I read your message re being busy when your children were young, and how it has worked out for the best.
    I had always planned to go to med school, but now that I am a mother of 2, I had felt that I would be a “bad” mother to pursue a career in medicine. After stumbling upon this great web site, I am now thinking that it may be possible. I wonder, since you have been through school and work, if you could offer your opinion as to when would be the best time for med school, etc. My children are now 1 and 3. I don’t know whether it is better to try to go while they are still young, or when they are in elementary school, or even high school. I don’t want to miss out on their lives and I want to be there when they need me the most. What do you think?
    I agree with all that posted above that juggling work and children and marriage is truly a difficult, yet rewarding task. Hang in there – I really admire all of you for what you are doing!


    Hi!! In reading your msg, I can see myself in what you describe, endless days, infants crying at night, piles of bills lost in piles of housework and misplaced toys. You wake up at night worried about the mortage and the new bug of the week at daycare, The challenge of patients and finding time for the boards…. I have 3 kids and with each one of them I have felt the same way you do. Guess what? You will be fine, life is a series of changes, and with each stage in your life you will feel sometimes trapped and up against a wall. and with each new stage there will be new challenges as well as exitement. The only constant in life is change someone once said, so be flexible, enjoy your babies and the stage you are in now, I know it sounds insane… but it will be ok, my oldest Baby is 20 and in college in NY now, my youngest is in 5th grade… I’m a single mom, in solo practice, and yes my dear I get to see the beach and the ocean every weekend…..


    Wow! How glad I am to find this board! And here I was thinking I was the only one with two children – a 17 month old and a thirty year old. Just knowing that other successful women are married to the inertial equivalents of compost heaps makes me feel better. Some nights, hubby gets on the sofa and doesn’t leave – while I feed, bathe, and rock to sleep our daughter, then proceed to tackle the laundry/dishes/mold-du-jour in the shower stall. While supposedly studying for IM boards, I might add – which are in SIX WEEKS. Yippee!

    Despite the frustration – not I, nor one of you I would dare say, would trade life such as it is for life without our precious children. Don’t they make your heart sing?

    Hang in there everybody!


    I agree with BBDoc. It is a challenge but it can be done. You just have to set your priorities and then modify your life and your practice to meet those priorities. I had one child during residency, one during fellowship, and one since I have been out in private practice. I must admit that I had more support and “protection” for maternity leave in residency and fellowship than I had in private practice. I think having your children during training can be done and the struggles of nightcall and daycare can be overcome with a little creative thinking and a little less sleep. Plus I am fortunate enough to have a spouse (also a physician) who does at least 50%. 😀 Some time away is a really good idea for making decisions such as have been mentioned above. It really gives you perspective.


    I’d just like to add my voice to those who’ve urged that there’s always more flexibility in your choices than you might realize. I’ve got a 5-yr-old son and a 2-yr-old son and am currently a PGY3 in Psychiatry. I left a career at a large law firm more than 9 yrs ago (and then left my 1st husband) to go back to school to pursue a career in psychiatry, and despite the obvious financial sacrifice have found my passion.

    My current husband’s been underemployed or unemployed ever since we moved 2 yrs ago for my residency, and our kids have been in full time daycare the whole time because he’s still in the job market and has done temp work on and off. So the ~$50K/yr we needed just to live relatively comfortably has never materialized. Even so, we’ve survived, and I know that we can continue to do so though our cars are hand-me-downs from my in-laws and it seems like I rarely buy anything for myself that costs more than $5.

    Like many of the rest of you my marriage has been under strain repeatedly during these years, even though my husband honestly does far more than half the work around the house. We finally got a cleaning service to come in every now and then (maybe about once a month) to make our house less of a wreck and there are many, many things that just don’t get done (eg what is ironing, dusting, etc.).

    My experience after leaving my last career has been invaluable as we weather this rough patch. I know that even though we feel broke, we’re actually very fortunate–we’ve got a lovely house, good daycare, and will never be hungry or truly in need of any essentials. It sounds sappy, but it really is all that matters, and there’s nothing better than having a career where you wake up every day (or almost every day) eager to go to work. If you’re not getting that, then there is probably a way to restructure some of your priorities to make it happen, but there will still only be 24 hours in each day, and you may find that your partner’s priorities are not the same as your own.

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