Some Little Things

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7AM this morning.

I just finished one of the more challenging call weeks I have had in a long while. The volume of calls was one issue it was not the problem so much as the timing of the calls.

For instance:

Two calls came back to back as I was packing up to go get my kids from school, already pushing the envelope where if I don’t pick them in the next ten minutes they were going to be given away to some other family.

Another came when I was getting the kids buckled into their seats in the school parking lot. 

Several came during the 30 minute drive home, requiring me to pull over and address them.

While trying to get dinner ready for two very hungry kiddos. Several while eating dinner.

In the midst of homework, piano,  readers.

Several nights as I was getting the kids ready for bed. 

All day long on Saturday…

Don’t get me wrong, taking call is part of my job. I get paid for people to have access to me at all hours, to miss out on the things I want to do instead like catching up on Game of Thrones. It is what it is. 

My kids, however, do not understand that there are times mommy has to be a doctor first and a mommy second. Typically when I get a call they act out. 

Screaming, crying, fighting, begging…

“Please, don’t go, mommy! Stay and hold my hand just one more minute.”

I understand why they do it, why that is the exact time that they desire my attention most. Jealousy. Someone else gets mamma’s attention and that is not cool. But understanding does not make it any easier. 

The whole thing is exhausting and I hate it with every fiber of my being.

This week, though, they both seemed more at peace. They wanted to “help” but they didn’t fight it. They did not throw screaming fits. They sat quietly, snuggled up next to me, and waited. It was almost pleasant. 

So much less stressful. 

That helped me tremendously.

Maybe they are finally old enough to understand? 

Maybe.

But…

I picked them up early from school the Thursday before my call week started and told them that I had informed all the sick people they would just have to figure something else out because I was taking my kids to go get hot chocolate instead. My son and daughter repeated this to me over and over again, laughing gleefully, as we sat on the porch of the coffee shop sipping away. 

“Tell us again what you told those sick people, mommy!”

It made an impression.

Maybe they just needed to know that they could be more important sometimes, too…

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110 thoughts on “Some Little Things

  1. When they are little it is so hard for them to understand. My husband leaves the house for work, which doesn’t really bother them as mommy is more important anyway. But what they have a hard time with is when I am on the computer editing photos or working on a logo that I am getting paid for, and then they need me for something trivial and I tell them I am working, they look at me and say…”no, you’re just playing on the computer” It’s like the fact of me not leaving the house for work they just don’t get. But I am learning to let go of the mommy guilt because let’s face it, I wasn’t put on this earth to only wipe butts, get snacks, and change the tv to something else. I have a life too. Plus when you work hard and your kids see that you work hard it sets an example. Work ethic is so important to me. I strive for my children to have great work ethic and therefore I must lead by example. But there’s always time to fit in some hot chocolate moments too!

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  2. It must be a real bugger to have to be a doctor first and a mummy (sorry, I’m British!) second. Another important part of your role that people often overlook. I bet your kids are so proud of you! And that hot chocolate made you an instant hero ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

  3. One of my biggest regrets is taking advantage of my son’s easy going nature and canceling plans or cutting short our outings just so I could go into work. It’s not like I did not already work too much anyway. I just felt like the most important thing was to make sure I could support him.

    Good for you! Allowing your children to feel like a priority. It’s a good lesson for me. I have to make sure I remember to make time for the people in my life- not just the work in my life. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. When my kids were little, I stayed home. My girls begged me to get a job so they could go to after school day care like their friends. When I did get that job, it took about two weeks fir them to start begging me to give up the job! You know…the grass ifs always greener and all that stuff!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Well played, Dr. Mom. Perhaps some fictitious sick person could become an occasional aggravation or the butt of a family rebellion — occasionally. I completely understand your kids, too. With his mom being a child care provider, my son (from 19 months old) had to share not only his toys, but his mom, too. Right in front of his face. All day long. There was hugging going on! Sometimes his resentment hit a fever pitch of acting out. He must have been 10 or 11 before he finally accepted that he was the lucky one.

    It’s bound to get better. โค

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It must be so hard to juggle the two jobs together. Kids have a radar for when your attention leaves them and they act out to get it back. They don’t know any other way, I guess. Reward and praise the good behavior is the best we can do. Remember, in a few short years, the tables will be turned and you’ll be wanting their attention as it drifts away from you. That is a pink slip that is hard to take!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That is so hard. I used to be on call too, and every time the phone rang, my kids would act up, even as teenagers. Really funny, we had a cat that would do it too, start twisting around my legs, jumping onto the counter, taking pot shots at me.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Kids will be kids as the saying goes. Thankfully yours are now old enough to grasp the fact your love for them in not about being first all the time. I think you came up with a perfect response before taking them for chocolate. It surely appeased their apprehension.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Many years ago, I saw an episode of the Donna Reed show. Dad was a doctor. In this episode, the son had a special song for his dad in a school show. Naturally, along the way to the show, a car accident happened and Dad was called to attend the victim(s). He missed the show and the son was heartbroken. the Dad explained that because he missed it, somebody was alive who otherwise might not be. I’ve always remembered it. Here’s the song. (I’m tearing up remembering this.)

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  10. My Hubby began his residency when The Middle Boy was about two and The Youngest was 6 months old. My Kiddo (who has autism) was five and half. It was a very tough residency…a surgical sub-specialty. Before he began his program, we told the kids Daddy would have to sleep at the hospital some nights. Every morning, they would ask if Daddy would be home that night. If he would, they would be happy and laughing and chanting “Daddy’s home tonight, Daddy home tonight!” If he wouldn’t be home, they would be inconsolable for about an hour…it broke my heart. I always let them ask, I didn’t bring up the topic. After about six months, they stopped asking if he would be home or not….it broke my heart.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I guess they got used to him being gone..which was good. But of the younger two (the oldest is severely autistic), neither had any interest in becoming a physician. The Middle Boy is a scientist/mathematician and for about two seconds contemplated going to med school but remembered his Dad’s residency (TMB was in second grade when Hubby finished) and NO WAY was he going to go through that. One wonders how many physicians’ children never consider med school because of their parents’ profession and what they know it means as far as sacrifice to the whole family .

        I always worked part-time so I could be *on-call* for our family. With a child with a disability in addition to the normal kids, we felt someone had to be there for them. We give a lot for The Patients…..as do you as a physician….but physicians families give more than the general public realizes.

        Your kids will be fine. And they will become more understanding adults than many of their peers because of your profession. In the meantime….do what have to do!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That is such a good point about medical kids not choosing medicine because they know the sacrifice. One parent has to be on call for the family. Thank you for all you have sacrificed.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I always remember my Mum and my Pop feeling that they just didn’t spend enough time with us but I know that I “won the lottery” when it came to parents. I never doubted their love for me (and my siblings). I never remember feeling left alone or unloved for a second. I learned independence, curiosity and a very strong work ethic. I keep those traits even today. I also know that parents don’t have to be perfect for kiddos to realize that they are loved unconditionally and accepted for the unique humans that they are. My guess is that you are a kick-ass Mum that your children will come to appreciate most when you least expect it. Godspeed to you for having the courage to do the most difficult job on earth coupled with medicine.

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  12. I’m so glad I never had a job that required me to be on call, and I’m also glad my kids are grown. It’s never easy being a mom, but being a doctor and a mom takes dedication and strength most of us don’t have. You obviously have an abundance of both, as well as the love to make it all work. Your kids are very lucky.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. All of us – big and small – occasionally need a gesture that shows we are important. You just proved it doesn’t have to be big and grand … only meaningful to the recipient ๐Ÿ™‚
    That is an occasion they are likely always going to remember.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Bravo for letting them know how important they are and at the same time showing the value of what you do. What a splendid Mom you are!
    Everyone needs to know they are important to someone every once in a while. My hubby this weekend said that no matter what was going on, our Saturday was important to him to spend time together.It was honestly the first time someone ever said I was more important to them. It was an amazing simple thing but meant the world to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I think you handled it brilliantly – letting them know with the hot chocolate time out that they were important to you and then enlisting their “help” – I think asking for their help is the way to go!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Doc, you’re amazing. You have a great, enviable career; you have kids, mom duty, and time to write a cool, much followed blog. Nobody’s perfect. American society is such that you have to sacrifice so much to have a flourishing career, sometimes at the exoense of home life and good mental and physical health. The fact that you’re holding on, and finding ways to reconcile work and home life is a triumph. Keep it up!๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    Liked by 1 person

  17. So, are you making life or death decisions while on these calls? I find the dichotomy at work fascinating. Dealing with severe illness while buckling a child in or driving down the road.

    Funny that you would title this ‘…little things.’ Anything but, I’d say.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The kids are the little things. They are little but they can sure add a thick layer of stress over everything and yet at the same time serve as your salvation. More than once I have picked up one of them as babies and held them while they were sleeping until whatever evil of the day was washed off of me.

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      • That’s a very meditative thing to do. You can learn to ‘breathe’ away the evil of the day. I saw an exhibit by Yoko Ono. She placed smooth rocks on a gallery floor. You were supposed to pick one up and transfer all your angst into the rock. People were laughing but I thought it was a nice thing to put out in the universe.

        Liked by 1 person

  18. I remember wanting my mother’s undivided attention. It was a rare occurrence. You’re aware of it at least. And do it when you can; don’t feel guilty in-between. Almost no one gives undivided attention these days, they’re too busy texting. (K)

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  19. I’m pretty sure they know. But children being tyrants, they will throw fits whenever they deem necessary to establish who’s the Boss. ๐Ÿ™‚ And if they meet/feel any guilty conscience… You are toast, my dear. They have to learn that they cannot own you al the time. And that the fact you have to take a call does not mean you love them less. Buts fits and tantrums? That is a no-no.
    (Dr Brian, Analyst…) ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Be good Victoire.
    PS. Just an anecdote to put things in perspective, a few years ago a competitor and friend of mine arrived late at the Market research society meeting. He was a bit harassed. I asked him why. And he said: “Man, I think we are the first generation to be both children of tyrants and parents of tyrants…”. I nodded. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

      • Haha! Here’s another one. When daughter #1, your now colleague, was two, we were in a store and she threw a tantrum, on the floor, kicking and wailing. I told her in a clam voice: “You can keep on doing that as long as you like. Me? I’m leaving”. I turned around and walked away. Ever so slowly. When I was only a few yards away, she got up, stop crying ran to me and put her little hand in mine. Pfffff! She never did it again. But this was very very hard to do. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

  20. As usual, Victo, you seem to have an amazingly uncritical readership. So, allow me to offer a bit of criticism. Your story is a good example of someone trying to do too much.

    Now almost anyone can be a stay-at-home mom, but doing that job really well ranks right up there with the most challenging. Elements include child education, good nutrition, good habits, a clean and organized home, time for appointments (teachers, vaccinations, etc.) and of course, safety. And, lots of attention. How can you do all that and still have a full time career? From your essay I gather that the quality of both jobs suffers as a result. What you chose to do was typically American, but what were your motives? Just curious.

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    • Low blow Jim. When you have one child you think that you could never love more and that two children would mean less love for each. When you have two children, you realize that suddenly there is twice as much love – and that it isn’t the amount of time you spend with each, it is the quality of time – for isn’t that a universal truth? It is not a mathematical equation,as you have framed it. When Victo uses her big brain to help others through her doctoring, when she goes home she is a better person with the kids. I too had two kids and worked on call all weekends and nights – it make you cherish the time with the kids even more. And the reverse is true as well. i’m a dialysis patient and the nephrologists work the unit in rotation. We had a young female doctor who was an excellent diagnostician and had the personality of a venemous snake. She never consulted patients with changes, she ignored patient questions, she prescribed without explanation – we called her the steam roller. She had a child ( a healthy baby girl) and her attitude flipped completely. She is now understanding and helpful and quick to ask how a patient feels and she explains and is concerned. That baby made her a much better doctor. We don’t see her as much but we don’t need to because she is that good.

      So maybe the unimportant stuff receives less attention – stuff like whether the windows are washed or the cat is bathed – but Victo’s kids and her doctoring are not mutually exclusive – in fact they are mutually reinforcing (except for time considerations and that just means using time smarter). My life used to be full with kids and family and a 60 hour a week job with on call – and then I decided to do an executive MBA. I added that 40 hours of work per week into the schedule and I felt more fulfilled than ever (it took 2 years and my reading went up to 120 pages per hour and I didn’t watch any TV for 2 years). I still volunteered with the young guy’s hockey team and took the young girl to her soccer and baseball games – and my wife and I instituted Friday night dinner out with just the two of us. there is always more time Jim, if you use it smarter.

      Surely you heard the story of the university lad and the rocks? It seems this young lad new to university, went to hos first economics class. The prof had a large glass jar on her desk and various piles of different sized rocks, as well as some sand. the prof started out by explaining that time management was key to success both as a student and as a professional. She asked the class to imagine that each rock or sand grain was a part of the student’s life as a task or concern or responsibility. The more important the task, the bigger the rock. So sand grains were things like partying, small rocks would be like clean socks, mid sized rocks would be like doing homework, and large rocks would be family or health or food. She impressed upon the class that time organization often meant changing the order of the tasks to guarantee completion. For instance if you put partying first – she poured the sand into the glass jar – and then tried add all the other rocks – they would no all fit, some were left on the desk. Then she said if you put the big /most important items first – she put in the big rocks – then the next most important – and she put in the smaller rocks which settled between the big ones when she shook the jar and so on. She finished by pouring in the sand which when she shook the jar settled between all the rocks and filled the container to the top but nothing was left over. Then she declared that this clearly showed that time management was critical to get everything into your life and now the jar was full. One student at the rear with a backpack put up his hand and standing, declared that the jar wasn’t full. the professor disagreed and pointing to the jar declared it to obviously be full Jim. So the student strode to the front of the class, pulled a beer bottle from his back pack and opening it, slowly poured it into the jar and it all fit. he turned to the class and declared loudly – “See? there is always room for another beer.”

      Full is a function of frame as much as any reality Jim. i used the above stories to make that point and my personal experience is that the more fulfilled you are in job, family, writing, travel, whatever, then the better person you become in all aspects of your life.

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      • Thank you, Paul! Beautifully said. Now, Jim, for my part, I really don’t know how to respond to your question. Are you really saying I should be a stay at home mom because I have children?

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      • Paulโ€™s eloquent take on this situation certainly causes me to take another look at my comment. I was reacting to your post, in which you were having a frustrating week because of the conflicting demands of your dual roles, doctor and mom. At one point you even said,

        The whole thing is exhausting and I hate it with every fiber of my being.

        That sounds pretty serious. Now I donโ€™t know the ages of your children, nor other of your circumstances such as the role of the childrenโ€™s father, although from the context I gather heโ€™s not in the picture. But the post ended with your patients being relegated to their own devices or to the nearest ER regardless of the seriousness of their complaints. (Personally, I have to be near deathโ€™s door before I telephone the doctor, but I suppose others are less reticent.)

        No, Iโ€™m not recommending you abandon your profession because of this conflict, but I guess Iโ€™m suggesting, for the consideration of other readers, that how motherhood will conflict with a job is something to be treated with great seriousness when planning a family. Some people will be able to handle it with great aplomb, just as Paul describes it, but others may find it exhausting to the point of destructive.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think you are misunderstanding the last few paragraphs. I am not leaving my patients to their own devices and screwing them over. I have partners that cover the office when I am not there in case of an emergency just as I do for them. I am entitled to take time off periodically. What I hate is being yelled at and fought over by my children when they are scrambling for my attention during patient calls. Short of tying them up and gagging them, it is a phase that has to be endured to get to the other side. That is what is exhausting. Ask any lady-doc about this and you will see it is a universal experience. If all women left the work force because it was hard to do that and have a family our society would suffer. Medicine in particular would suffer. Women should not retreat. I would hope the men and other women around us would recognize the unique stressors that we experience, the value we bring to our professional and home lives, and help to support our roles as both mothers and professionals.

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  21. Perfect! I’m making sure my daughter reads this one. She’s really struggling right now with the long hours away from the baby. She’s so worried about finding balance. Two more years of residency and then she’ll be working more normal hours at the university family health clinic in our town with fortunately only 2 call days per month.

    Liked by 2 people

      • It’s very difficult, but we’re all working together to help her through it. Here in two years, it’ll hopefully be a distant memory. She’s actually wonderfully happy when she’s at the clinic and our local university hospital. She did her last two years of med school rotations there, knows everyone, and has established clinic patients. It’s when she’s sent out for these two-month stints at other hospitals, that the university runs, that she dislikes.

        Liked by 1 person

  22. You are giving them the perfect balance at the perfect time.. planned or not, great job !
    They are adapting as naturally as some people succeed to do in life.. They are beginning to understand what on call really means.. And then you make them priority over everything by telling and showing them, when you’re not on call.. After all the dust settles from their growing years, I’ll bet you will have raised adaptable, reasonable adults.. ๐Ÿ‘

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  23. I worked full time, Day care and then a Sitter for after school. True I wasn’t on call 24 hours a day but it was still tough. Financial reasons was my dilemma. They are all grown with families of their own now and they all work. They also all told me that I gave them their work ethics, and, I was the best mom. I am now retired. Wrote, and had a book that was published and was told how proud they are of me. I also watch my granddaughters for my daughter. The older one who is 9 now gets picked up by my husband every day and comes to our home until my daughter picks her up. The younger one who is 22 months goes to day care three days a week and I watch her Thur. and Fri. They love it that Nonna and Grampi watch them and my daughter loves it. My other grand children live in New York, but call us all the time. You will find that what you are doing will shape their lives in a good way. You love them and they know it. I used to sing the Mr. Rogers song “I’m proud of you.” all the time to them of course when they were teens they would roll their eyes, Later on when they would get excellent grades in University they would call to let me know their grade, and I would still sing. Now when they get a promotion they still call and I still sing that song, they love it. I sing it to my grandchildren too, and, when my son made Vice President his oldest son sang it to him. It has become a family tradition.
    You and your children will be fine, as long as you keep telling them how much you love them and shower them with hugs and kisses even when they get older and roll their eyes or give you the “Oh Ma stop” they still need that and will never forget it. So fear not you are doing a great job in both your fields of choice and the rewards are waiting for you in the future. :o)

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  24. Most of us don’t have work in which people’s lives hang in the balance. Yet we still treat our work (and set our priorities) as if work is the most important thing. In your case, finding that balance must be so difficult because lives do hang in the balance. For the rest of us…well, we really should take a step back and get some perspective!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Hi!

    This whole part warmed my heart and made me laugh out loud at the same time: “…I had informed all the sick people they would just have to figure something else out because I was taking my kids to go get hot chocolate instead. My son and daughter repeated this to me over and over again, laughing gleefully, as we sat on the porch of the coffee shop sipping away.

    โ€œTell us again what you told those sick people, mommy!โ€ ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

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