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Relationships, kids, and struggles of medical school.

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agdcmg7

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Hello Future DOctors,

I was just wondering how everyone is able to keep their relationships together at home with their spouse and kid(s). We moved out of state away from our extended family support system and it has been a rough year. We have one daughter, who has adjusted well, but the time demand for medical school is taking a huge hit on my relationships. As a mom, I still find myself doing the majority of the caregiving, like when she is sick or does not have school, etc. I am getting pretty drained physically, emotionally, and mentally. How do you maintain motivation? How do you make thing easier? How do you "balance" life with school? How do you keep a happy healthy relationship with your spouse?

Please share positive tips or suggestions on any aspects of family life in medical school. For the sake of keeping things motivational and encouraging for anyone else who might benefit from this topic, please avoid any negativity in your posts! :)

OMS1 Student
 

darknecrosforte

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You can't expect to avoid "negativity" if it's accurate and allows people to make their own decisions.

Expecting my 2nd daughter any day now. Traveling DO student with majority of 3rd year clerkships 30-80 miles from stay-at-home wife who lives with her mother and sister who are night shift nurses. I have to AirBnb during week days and drive 90-120 minutes to be a father for a few days at a time. There was one time my daughter appeared to want to be around my sis-in-law's boyfriend more than me because he visits nearly every day and I couldn't handle it. I canceled a room reservation for a partial refund and drove 140 miles daily M-Th for 4 weeks just to wrestle with a 1-year-old for an hour to give my wife a break to shower. I've scored in the 4th percentile for "empathy" on tests given by my school, but even I felt that doing this was one of the most important things I could do at the time. I also learned about what I'm going to look for when I start away rotations in the fall and making sure that my wife doesn't burn out in the process.

Tip 1: Accept that you cannot have it all. You can't give 100% to medicine AND to parenting at the same time. As a woman in medicine, you are disadvantaged due to the fact that you have the physicality that is optimized to form the most secure attachment to an infant. To replicate a similar secure attachment system, you'd need an unusually empathetic partner or several less competent caregivers to get the same effect. And good luck if any of these sources of help aren't consistently there. Yes, I'm promoting stay-at-home fatherhood. At least until the youngest kid is about 4 or 5. If you don't ensure your kids strongly attach to mature adults, they will attach to peers. It's like the blind leading the blind and Lord of the Flies. I have a generally aggressive/negative personality so it's probably better that I'm away while the kids are modeling behavior early.

Tip 2: Involve your child in as much decision-making as possible. This may mean asking them if they would prefer the family living in a tiny apartment due to you choosing to work less and earning less. Or if they prefer your partner to be a parent 24/7 and taking that pay cut. I'm 95% sure people know what the kid will choose. You now have the clarity to accept that this isn't exactly a dilemma, but a matter of priorities.
 
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agdcmg7

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Thank you so much for sharing your very real and insightful story.

I do apologize, what I had meant by avoid "negativity" was more along the lines of attacking or shaming. If the raw reality is somewhat negative, by all means, be true and real about it, as it can only benefit others. I appreciate your input and agree it will allow others to decide for themselves which tips, suggestions or comments to consider.

That sounds like quite the feat to travel that far for rotations and still see your little one. I can definitely sympathize with the difficult choices and the consequences of said choices. Since our child is 7 years old (I'm more of a nontraditional student), we have tried to always include her in our decisions. Unfortunately, we are unable to live in our current area on my loans alone, but she is at school during the week anyway. That being said, I am a huge fan of a stay at home dad or mom if the child is not school aged.

:)
 

austintr

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My wife and I also moved out of state for school, bringing our then 4 month old with us. He's about to turn 2 now, and it sucks most days, some worse than others. I see my son about 5 hours during the week give or take, but then I do nothing but take care of him all weekend because my wife kicks ass and provides for us by working weekends.

I think it's important to establish a routine, and for us that means my wife takes care of him during the week, I usually try and be home an hour before he goes to bed (about 50% success there) and my wife and I hang out after he's asleep. If I'm on campus late, we FaceTime before he goes to bed...every single time. It's hard watching your kid grow up with a parent and a half, and hard watching your spouse bust her ass just to keep the family running. But we know it's only temporary. My wife will occasionally bring me lunch or dinner on campus and our son will run around the empty lecture hall like a damn banshee. It works OK. Basically, take time to be with your family whenever you can, as long as it doesn't put you in a huge bind with your studies. Sometimes med school takes a back seat to my family, and I have no qualms with that.

As far as motivation goes, my wife and I just talk a lot about our goals and where we wanna end up for residency and what fields I have an interest in. We talk about her work and my school, along with plenty of other things. I also look at pretty nice houses and land where we want to settle down...I'm looking forward to giving my son a 10x better life than I had growing up. It helps with some of the short term inconveniences. If your school has a counseling center or spouses support group, there are plenty of options for you there as well!
 
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IntheClouds4ever

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I have an almost 4mo and currently in my third year. You just have to prioritize. Med school absolutely cannot always come first. There are some weekends you may need to study a bit extra but I’ve always placed med school as #2 on my list. My family and wife lived 120 miles away during years 1 and 2, and my clinical rotations have been anywhere from 100-200 miles away. Even with the ability to do something more competitive, I only want to do FM so I’m not losing out on family time. It’s all relative and you just have to set your priorities first, then set your goals and compromise what you have to so that you to keep your priorities in line.
 
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deleted480308

The other parent has to step up or you have to be tougher emotionally and more strict about editing anything that isn’t essential from your schedule

This is hard
 
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Goro

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Hello Future DOctors,

I was just wondering how everyone is able to keep their relationships together at home with their spouse and kid(s). We moved out of state away from our extended family support system and it has been a rough year. We have one daughter, who has adjusted well, but the time demand for medical school is taking a huge hit on my relationships. As a mom, I still find myself doing the majority of the caregiving, like when she is sick or does not have school, etc. I am getting pretty drained physically, emotionally, and mentally. How do you maintain motivation? How do you make thing easier? How do you "balance" life with school? How do you keep a happy healthy relationship with your spouse?

Please share positive tips or suggestions on any aspects of family life in medical school. For the sake of keeping things motivational and encouraging for anyone else who might benefit from this topic, please avoid any negativity in your posts! :)

OMS1 Student
Your fellow students who are also parents can be your support system. Unity in numbers.
 
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Dr. Death

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Prioritize.

Came to med school with one kid. Had a second during first year. 1st and 2nd year were easy to balance. Study 9-5 on weekdays and then 2-3 hours a day on weekends, still managed top quartile class rank and board scores. Other than that I was spending time with my wife and kids. If you need more time to study, take it out of your own schedule rather than punishing your wife and kids. Study through lunch, cut back on breaks, study after your kids are in bed, don't go to the random events your school puts on. You don't have a lot of time to be social with your classmates. You have a family, they are your social support, as you are theirs. Third year is tougher because you don't have much control over your schedule, but I advise you to choose rotation sites close to home or bring your family with you.
 
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BorntobeDO?

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Hello Future DOctors,

I was just wondering how everyone is able to keep their relationships together at home with their spouse and kid(s). We moved out of state away from our extended family support system and it has been a rough year. We have one daughter, who has adjusted well, but the time demand for medical school is taking a huge hit on my relationships. As a mom, I still find myself doing the majority of the caregiving, like when she is sick or does not have school, etc. I am getting pretty drained physically, emotionally, and mentally. How do you maintain motivation? How do you make thing easier? How do you "balance" life with school? How do you keep a happy healthy relationship with your spouse?

Please share positive tips or suggestions on any aspects of family life in medical school. For the sake of keeping things motivational and encouraging for anyone else who might benefit from this topic, please avoid any negativity in your posts! :)

OMS1 Student
One of you has to take care of the kid. If your in medical school, it needs to be him. Its sucks not having a support network. I suggest living cheaply and cutting out his job. As far as balance, you have to figure out how little sleep you can run on and do good enough. I agree with Dr. Death advise. You can do this, others have done it before and will do after, but you do need full commitment from the spouse. There is no more of this '50/50' split stuff, because you have a job that is basically 1.5 to 2x more time consuming than a normal job. I don't envy you being a mother and going back with a kid. I think its especially hard for moms, and all the ones I see doing it usually had someone to support the kids.

edit: now that I see that your kid is 7 and in school, I think your husband needs to do a job that will be part time or only during school hours. And he has to get the lion share of kidcare if you can't operate on less than 6 hours of sleep.
 
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Black Coffee 24/7

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I had a 2 y/o and 5 y/o at the start of med school. Now, I'm a third year, and will soon have a third one. Basically, if they're aren't in school already, your husband needs to take care of them during your study period, meaning min 9-5 first year and maybe all the time at some point during 2nd year.

If your kid is at school, then you need to utilize the school after school program.
 
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medschoolonthemind

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I basically follow Dr. Death's schedule: 9-5 on weekdays and half-days on weekends. I am surely in the bottom quarter of my class. Before exams I try to ramp up weekend study and hit the books after my kid is in bed. Doesn't always work out that way, though. My husband has a mental list of child-friendly activities and generally takes my son out weekend mornings leaving me to study. Are there any hobbies your husband and daughter might enjoy doing together? My son is younger so with weekend iPad time (I know, I never wanted to be that type of parent. Alas. Sacrifices come in all forms.) and nap time, my husband still gets some time to himself. I think once our son is older I will probably need to also find a shared hobby and commit to a chunk of time during the weekend where I take him out to give my husband a break.

With a younger kid, we do daycare pick-up at 6PM. You might be able to get away with driving your daughter to an afterschool activity at 3PM, but not much more than that. She needs some sort of activity (whether it be school or father run) that allows you that extra three hours of studying in the afternoon.

I will second the popular opinion here that your husband needs to step up. I realize that is a difficult ask if he doesn't naturally rise to the occasion. (And that telling someone who just moved away from their life for your education to "step up" is not a solid plan.) Maybe try making a list together so you can see all that need to be done and then divvying it up more fairly? We have a little family meeting once a week where we meal-plan, go over what needs doing and get through some of it together - laundry, kid-stuff for the week, finances. We outsource when possible - ie. grocery delivery. Some things I have just had to let go -- my house will be a mess for the foreseeable future. When both my husband and I were working we had a strict 1:1 policy on who took kid-related sick days. He has a less demanding job now (still full-time, but working from home) and has taken on sick days since my job of being a medical student is more demanding than my previous employment.

There are also some good books on how the second-shift still exists that most feminist-minded men would find compelling. I read an article recently that suggested asking one of your spouse's sisters or friends to send him one of these books if you think he doesn't quite get it. I also read, many moon ago, that when you think you're doing half it is a clear-tell-tale sign that you are doing less. When couples are each doing half each party believes they are doing more. I think that's probably about right and perhaps a good point to bring up. Your husband likely doesn't see or feel the extra work you're doing. Likewise, you may not see some ways that he is trying to make things work behind the scenes. Talking about it and letting him know that it isn't working for you right now is a good place to start. Trying to incorporate the rigor of your study schedule (compared to his work schedule) into the delineation of how household work should be distributed might help.

Being able to tell my husband about all the stupid little things that get me down, my near-constant fear that I'm not doing enough, and daydreaming together about what residency/full-doctor life/retirement might look like is a pretty major source of my motivation. We also spend a lot of time talking about how amazing our son is. (He is three. We are both obsessed with him.) I will say I'm worried about third year and then intern year. I think things will only get harder, so it is crucial to be going into those years with a solid foundation, open lines of communication, and explicit expectations. My husband already knows that these two years are going to require a different strategy. I tell myself that I am passing all my classes, and that that means I'm doing awesome :) By that measure, you are also doing awesome! (And I think it is a pretty fair measure - med school is hard!)
 
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NontradICUdoc

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When I started medical school, I already had three young kids. Basically I treated it like a full-time job. I went to school and then I came home for dinner. After dinner I relaxed a little bit and then went to the public library until it closed. Came home relaxed and went back to studying. I did this Sunday through Thursday. Friday night and Saturday night work for my family. I asked several of my classmates to be babysitters and I took my wife out on Saturday nights. In addition I instituted a mandatory “daddy and me time“ where each week I took one daughter (I have 4) to Starbucks and sat there and let them direct the entire conversation. Even if all they wanted to do was to color and show me. They asked for this time each week. This was only suspended during exams.

On breaks it was 100% family time. I also brought them to school events and even brought my daughter to class during “take your daughter to work day”.

I went to each school play, back to school night, parent teacher conference, and awards dinner for sports. You will find the time

It is very doable but also you need to be pretty anal with your schedule.
 
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Spectreman

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When I started medical school, I already had three young kids. Basically I treated it like a full-time job. I went to school and then I came home for dinner. After dinner I relaxed a little bit and then went to the public library until it closed. Came home relaxed and went back to studying. I did this Sunday through Thursday. Friday night and Saturday night work for my family. I asked several of my classmates to be babysitters and I took my wife out on Saturday nights. In addition I instituted a mandatory “daddy and me time“ where each week I took one daughter (I have 4) to Starbucks and sat there and let them direct the entire conversation. Even if all they wanted to do was to color and show me. They asked for this time each week. This was only suspended during exams.

On breaks it was 100% family time. I also brought them to school events and even brought my daughter to class during “take your daughter to work day”.

I went to each school play, back to school night, parent teacher conference, and awards dinner for sports. You will find the time

It is very doable but also you need to be pretty anal with your schedule.
I’m a 2nd year with 4 kids, we do a very similar thing. Good on ya!
 
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Mad Jack

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I made time for my now wife every night and weekend. Had very little medical school social life, but kept my relationship with my wife and friends from home intact
 
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libertyyne

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You learn to be content with a very messy house and flabby body. Other then that it’s pretty fun.
the trick is that I was always content with those things.
 
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giguerex35

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im not one to talk much becasue i don't have kids so i cant imagine that situation but personally i find it tough to manage relationships with significant other who doesnt really understand the lifestyle of a med school student or doctor in general. Medicine is a very different lifestyle from many professions and is hard to explain to someone who isnt in it. Just my 2 cents to add so youre definitely not alone if that helps
 
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