Thursday, October 07, 2010

more dialogue & debate

thought-provoking posts
looking back through my archives (i dug deep for all those links for yesterday's work page effort) was interesting. just a couple of years ago, my blog was pictureless, mostly focused on medical training, and i did not post every day. i also feel like i used to blog in sort of a black hole -- there just wasn't the online community back then like there is now, or perhaps there was but i was just oblivious.

i do think it's more fun to write now that people often respond and ideas cross over from site to site. very frequently, the topic of my morning post comes to me while foraging in my google reader over breakfast. and i don't mean that i'm copying (at least i really hope not!) -- i'm just inspired.

this morning, two very different posts stood out to me as . . . well, blogworthy.

i stumbled upon another follow-up post from hollaback health on the marie claire affair. i commented on her site, (respectfully -- i hope!) disagreeing with the notion that popular bloggers need to be responsible for the effect that their content may have on others. i stand by my freedom of expression argument, and i think it applies especially to the 'bigger' bloggers who earn a living from their sites.

on a completely different note, i had a minor freakout after reading this post about balancing (or not) work and motherhood by anesthesiologist/book author/blogger/mother of two michelle au.
available for preorder on amazon, and no, i am not getting any kickbacks.

let me preface this by saying that i am a huge fan of michelle's writing, and i cannot wait to read her book. (fine, i'm also more-than-a-little-jealous. but that's unrelated.) there are certainly parallels between michelle and me: we both graduated from small colleges in massachusetts. we both did at least half of a pediatrics residency (michelle later switched to anesthesia). we both write blogs that tend to center around the non-medical parts about working in medicine. we are both married to doctors. and we both really like good pens.

however, she writes better than i do, with a cleaner style that doesn't involve nearly as many parenthetical asides (i know, it's a problem i suffer from terribly. see?). she can draw. she loves new york. and she can't cook. she also has two beautiful children and deals with balancing motherhood and a full-time career as an attending anesthesiologist.

i have to admit her post made me panic, and it made me sad. i hate that she had such feelings of inadequacy, and i fear feeling the same way someday. my gut reaction was to grab josh and read the article to him frantically. however, i barely got through the first paragraph when his voice of (i hope) reason and truth cut me off -- he said,

"babe, that is NOT going to be you."

i really hope he's right.

and now for something completely different
hey, remember my happiness project? i haven't abandoned it; i guess i just took a little break! josh and i were talking about internet dependence and the downsides of being 'connected' all the time, and i think i'm going to try something borderline crazy and try a one-week detox.

that's right: no internet for a week, with the following exceptions:

☑ i can log onto my work email on an as-needed basis at work

☑ i can use the internet at work for work-related tasks only (ie, pubmed to find articles)

☑ i can use the hospital web browser to look at patient data

☑ i can check my regular (nonwork) email twice daily -- once at lunchtime, and once at the end of the workday before leaving the clinic

☑ i can blog once daily (of course!)

it's not that i am against the internet or blogs; as you see above, i think a lot of good thinking and learning can come from reading these things. but sometimes i feel like it's just all too much, and i would like to see what it would be like to be more minimal about these things. i will start on monday (10/11) and of course i'll let you all know how it goes!



workout: yesterday i took a rest day; however, i have to mention that tuesday i had a spectacular 5.5 mile run in 60 degree temps. i love fall!

family night: i interrupted my real simple cooking challenge for a special guest who might be just a little on the picky side and requested italian:

actually, she might not be that picky at all, but i wanted to make sure the meal went over well. i went back to an old standard -- one of my top 10 recipes from my 2009 journey through martha's great food fast.

this was great, if i do say so myself! martha, thank you once again.

board prep report: i am pleased to announce that i am now only 4 days behind on my study plan (i was >10 just a couple of days ago -- it was bad). steady progress . . .


  1. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Sorry, Josh. But that IS you. Or will be you. I was just discussing this with a friend and fellow PhD/mother yesterday. As a mum I always balance work and being with my children and most of the time I feel like I come up short on one end. Like, every day. But I tell myself that it is ok, because what I am doing is Good Enough. It is not perfect and it is not easy. Being a parent is the most important thing in my life. But I also want the intellectual challenge I get from my job to stay sane. So I do what Michelle and every other mother out there do, we make it work. Why is that so sad?

  2. I hate to disagree with Josh, but you're right. I don't know any mommy doctors who don't feel like Michelle at least part of the time. In fact, I don't know any working moms who don't feel that way sometimes. So babe, that will TOTALLY be you. And you know what? You'll still be a great mom and a great doctor. It's the nature of both motherhood and being a physician that makes us strive for excellence and continue to question our decisions. Just like you want to help your patient as much as possible, you will want to do the absolute best you can for your child(ren).

    There are ways to compromise, like working part-time, but you will sometimes be reminded that you're compromising. You may not be able to attend the back-to-school meetings. Your son's teacher may be obviously annoyed with you for forgetting something after a late-night shift. You may not have read the recent 4 months of your endo journals and may ask for one less shift, to the annoyance of your supervisors.

    In the end, though, you won't trade it for the world. My kids are the most wonderful thing I've ever been involved in. They make me a better doctor and, to some extent, being a doctor makes me a better mom. It gives me perspective beyond counting dirty diapers, allows me to have interesting conversations with my spouse, and provides a good example to my children about intelligent women in the workplace. Is it perfect? No, but it's my life and it's wonderful. And it will be yours too.

    Email me if you want to talk about generalities or details of working and mommying. I'm always happy to talk!

  3. Stacey9:50 AM

    Really well put, Molly.

    I don't know any working moms (myself most definitely included) that don't feel guilty at times, but what's important is not getting overwhelmed by the guilt, and instead using it to help you prioritize and focus...making sure that when you're at work you're fully focused on work, and when you're at home, you're fully focused on the kids. Of course, that's much easier said than done, but it's something to strive for. Like Molly, I wouldn't have it any other way...

  4. Anonymous10:21 AM

    Sorry, like the other commenters, I also have to completely disagree with Josh. These feelings happen to absolutely all of us who try to balance a challenging career and children. I think the beautiful point of Michelle's post is that you have to be ok with what you can do. I think the most damaging aspect of feeling the guilt is being consumed by it and resentful of either jobs or kids. Having acceptance with 'half assed' I think is a sign of success and health. I also don't mean to be insensitive to your response of depression and panic. I think I also would have had that response prior to having kids. In contrast, post-kids, I felt tremendous validation with what she wrote. Thanks again for the opportunity to have this dialogue.

  5. I have nothing to add about the motherhood topic as I'm not a doctor or a mother, but I wanted to say I've also been thinking about taking mandatory internet breaks. I work at a computer all day, so I was thinking about doing an internet "sabbath" on Sundays so I don't feel like I'm "working" (even though it's fun stuff and not actually work) while it's the weekend.

  6. molly and the other anonymous commenters -- you all don't have to be sorry! i truly value what you have to say, and recognize that i cannot possibly have any idea what things will really be like until i myself have these challenges to contend with. i really appreciate your input and will reflect on it. in the future, i'll probably also have lots of pleas for advice! thank you all.

  7. OMG - I went to college with Michelle Au - she was lovely back then and I am loving her blog now. Thank you for sharing. And I am sorry about the freakout.

  8. i love parenthetical asides, although i tend to use brackets for mine, even if they are not grammatically correct, i prefer them visually ;)

    and good luck with your studying - i'm beginning to study for my architecture licensing exams, and am having a horrendous time fitting it it, especially with training for a marathon. as of today i have a month to go - time to get cracking.

  9. I'm not sure I have much to offer on the busy mother advice. I actually just came here to comment that very successful writers, such as Dave Barry, can get away with excessive parentheticals (he even wrote about how his editor told him to do so, in a parenthetical-laden article (and I will note that he published many books!)). Did you like my use of parentheses?

    Anyway, I agree that there is a tinge of sadness to Michelle's post, in that "Cats & the Cradle" by Harry Chapin way. I know that I personally saw women in the legal profession experience this balancing of work and motherhood in a unique way, which is why you fail to see many women managing partners that have children and stable marriages, and why you fail to see many women managing partners, presidents, supreme court justices, and so on. It is tough for any working mother, regardless of profession, however. Even though I'm not in the law anymore, I do feel apprehension about what it will be like to parent a child and have a full time job. I think what the heart of Michelle's point was in Anonymous #2's comment. I hope I find the peace that she has found one day.

  10. Anonymous6:46 PM

    I do not know you or your husband personally, so I cannot say whether or not I agree with him. However, not all mothers in medicine feel inadequate. Not all of them feel like they need to "have it all" in a vastly over-fantasized way. Some realize that they do "have it all" once they learn to view their lives in a more objective and realistic way, as I suspect Dr. Au is attempting to do now.

    I left a long comment on Dr. Au's website. I am the anonymous mother and medical student who feels like she does have it all and is very happy. I will concede that I am not yet a practicing physician, I will graduate in a little over a year and a half. Nonetheless, the certainty of a job, the knowledge that you do not have to move unless you choose, having some financial security, and being a little higher on the totem pole, all of which come with being an attending, certainly can't be worse than being a medical student. So, if I can feel like I have it all, I would like to think that an attending should be able to do so as well.

    It is about readjusting your attitude.

    My first instinct after reading Dr. Au's post was to ask her: "How much more do you want? What is so difficult, wrong, sad, challenging, or complicated about your life that you feel so angst-ridden?"

    I feel very grateful for my life and I do believe I have it all, especially since I am keenly aware of the fact that millions of women throughout the world would gladly give up a kidney, a lung and half a liver, for the mere chance of living a fraction of my, or Dr. Au's, or your life.

  11. I don't think it's just doctors. As a teacher, I can't imagine having kids. I work from 7-4 usually, and then I still have grading to do when I get home. In addition, I've been with kids all day, and I'm exhausted. If I had to come home and do all of my work plus entertain more kids for four or five more hours, I don't think I could do it. Honestly, I'm always amazed that anyone with a job has a kids.

  12. I'm sure you will make it work, but when I read Michelle's post the other day, it completely resonated with me. I'm ok with the career part--I've already vastly lowered my expectations (though it still includes being a doctor, so I guess they aren't that low). I think for me, it's more of an understanding that I only get a few meaningful hours each weekday (and some weekend days) to spend with the kids. It's all about quality time. When I am home, they are my total focus, until they go to bed. I sometimes work from 9 PM till 1 AM (or later), get up at 5:30 and start again, but it means I get protected time. Everyone I know struggles with the balance, but you just have to find a way to make it work. And tell yourself you are being a role model of how to be a strong woman--that's worth something too!

  13. atilla10:11 PM

    I personally love parentheticals and you will find a balance and josh will help you do it. in any profession balancing work and life and marriage and child rearing is always hard, but it can be done.

  14. As a non-doctor, non-mother I'm no expert...but I kind of agree w/ Josh on this point. I found Michelle Au's post depressing. No, you can't have it all, but Dr. Au kind of made it seem like you have almost nothing as a working mom--no career satisfaction AND barely any time w/ your kids. My mom worked more than full-time as a laywer w/ three kids and I know for sure there were times when she felt pressed for time or unsure how to manage everything--but it was just her life, she managed everything without complaint, and we ALWAYS had dinner together(for some reason, I found the the most distressing part of Michelle Au's post to be that the family seldom had dinner together). Maybe I will look back on this comment down the road and think I am being naive here, but I do believe you can make choices in your family and career lives that make it all easier to handle--like working part-time, living close to work to minimize the commute, and saying no to extra projects on the work and home fronts.

    With your superior organization skills and willingness to work part-time, you are in a very good place w/ this. Plus you are planning to live close to family support. All of this makes it easier. I believe in you!

  15. It is interesting that the non-mothers found Michelle's post depressing while most mothers instead saw the joy she described in trying to make the balancing act of job/kids work and feeling like you are doing well enough at both. Perspective changes a lot when you have a child.

    Right now it might seem like setting yourself up for failure to try to have both an intellectually challenging job and spend time with your children. But wouldn't failure be to give up trying instead? I have worked hard to become a medical scientist. I have ideas and resources to offer in my work. I wouldn't give it up completely to just do mothering. Likewise, I love being a mother. It is my first priority, always. I'd never give that up for a position in a fancier lab or more money. The way I look at it, I do "have it all". And I think you will too.

  16. I completely agree with you about the whole Marie Claire thing.

    Unfortunately, I have no advice to give on motherhood.

  17. As a non-doctor (but nurse?) and certainly a non-mother, I don't have too much to contribute to this, other than I think that many working mothers would agree with the same feelings as Michelle. My mom said that she was very lucky to be able to stay home and raise us, and she went back to work part-time when we were all old enough to be in school and day, and then eventually full time when we were old enough to be left at home for a few hours without a parent at home. Both medicine and motherhood (as I imagine them) are both incredibly time-consuming and emotion-consuming, but I think they're what you make of them. It would be glorious if you could find a part-time position as you've mentioned in the past, but who knows what the future holds. You have an excellent head on your shoulders, and you will make the most of whatever will happen to you...even if a few freakouts are involved.

    That being said, I definitely appreciate how being a nurse is really accommodating to being a mom. So many opportunities exist for part-time, per diem, weekends, or simply a couple twelve hour shifts (okay, easier said than done on that one), but it's a great "mom job." Not that I'm saying you should become a nurse...haha.

    Anyway, I'm really looking forward to Michelle's book, and perhaps it will inspire our own doctor/nurse duo book!

  18. Hi there, late to the game on this one. I just Michelle's post and the comments on it and one of the comments-- "do SAHMs feel they are fulfilling their mothering duties 100% all the time? I doubt it." certainly resonated with me. I left my job to stay at home full-time for several reasons, the most important being that we would have made a meager profit from my continuing to work after factoring in daycare, and the second being that I believe I can re-enter my profession on a part-time basis at a later time. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I have been my son's full-time caregiver since his birth, that I am there nearly every waking moment, and I still have plenty of moments of feeling like I am not being a good mother. If you stay at home and therefore cut back on expenses (no dry cleaning delivery, no housecleaning services, etc), then you need to balance taking care of life tasks and the every need of your child, and that can also be challenging (no, not nearly as challenging as working full-time as an attending doctor, I'm sure). I am rambing but my point is this: I read somewhere that from the moment your child is born, you feel guilty that you are never going to be the perfect parent to this amazing little person. And it never goes's just one part of being responsible for another person's life. You seem like a focused, caring, reflective person with a strong marriage. You will figure it out.:)