Archive for the ‘ Residency ’ Category

Crossroads

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Sorry for the lack of posting these days, you guys.  I’m sort of paralyzed at this crossroads in my life.  Up until now, I haven’t been able to put it together into anything coherent or remotely interesting for internet “strangers” to read, which makes me feel pretty bummed out about it all.

I mean, if you can’t even manage to construct a blog post about major decisions in your life, how are you ever going to figure them out and actually live them?

I’ve taken the military dentistry thing to the end.  I went to MEPS, passed my physical, filled out mountains of paperwork, and am waiting to hear back from the board regarding whether or not I’ve been selected for active duty.  I should hear back sometime this week.

Of course, in my own mind I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not this is the best decision for me and for Caroline.  Recently, Tyler, who I thought was on board with the whole thing since he’s moving out of state anyway, informed me that he really doesn’t want me to join.  I truly can’t decide what his motivation is.  I don’t know if he’s afraid about losing time with her (he never takes his full visitation anyway), or if he’s afraid that I’ll be deployed and he will be left solely responsible for her for months on end and he won’t know how to handle that.  It is probably a little bit of both.

His opposition is a big deal to me, as you can imagine.  I want to be on good terms with him and maintain his relationship with Caroline for everyone’s sake… and, legally, he could put up a fight about me taking her far away.  I don’t think he’d have much of a leg to stand on since he is also moving out of state, but to be honest with you, I’m not up for a court battle.  The major reason I left him was that I simply do not have it in me to fight with this man anymore.

He says reluctantly that he will let us go, that we will work out visitation, if the Army is what I really want.  But in the end it does not matter why he doesn’t want me to go.  If he wants to step up and be more of a father, I need to support that.  And if it’s just that he’s afraid to be responsible for Caroline all alone, then it’s not in my child’s best interest to risk having to leave her with him for months at a time.

If I don’t join the Army, it’s getting a bit late to be looking for other jobs, which is stressful.  After Tyler told me of his objections, I scrambled to line up a few interviews for private practices, because the end of my residency is fast approaching, and I’m a poor resident with a lot of debt and a child to support, and I cannot risk being unemployed for any period of time.  And further complicating the issue is a guy I’ve been dating that I actually really, really like.  Who lives around here, of course.  His situation is too problematic for me to even consider factoring him in to my decision, but realistically, if I leave him, I will miss him…

And yet.  I still can’t let go of the Army, because I really want to do it.  If I don’t, then I at least want to move away from here, from this state I’ve spent nearly my entire life in, from this dark apartment where my marriage crumbled and fell apart.  I need a change.  But I can’t even determine if that is a good idea.  I was talking to the aforementioned guy about it, and he told me that I am struggling with all of this because I don’t even know what kind of life I want to have.  I told him, with my usual tact and subtlety, that he was ridiculous and wrong, that I already know exactly what I want, that I always have.

He said, “The most important thing you have in your life is Caroline, right?  So envision the life you want with her, just you and her.”

I said, without hesitation, “I already have it.”

“Then why do you need to change anything?” he asked.  ”You may think you’ll be happy somewhere different just because it’s different… but you won’t be.  Not unless you actually figure out what you want.”

He’s right, of course.  But I’m no closer to a decision than I ever have been, and now my time is running out.

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In Which I Date a Guy Who Does Have Kids

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Remember that time I informed you all that guys without kids are too immature and crazy for a single mom to date?  It is with a heavy heart that I now report to you, from the field, that men with kids are just as crazy.  If not more.

Is it just me?  It’s probably me.

I clearly lied when I said that thing about taking a break from dating.  Hi, my name is Julia, and I’m a datingaholic.  (Hi, Julia.)  What can I say?  I get bored.  And lonely sometimes.  (So, apparently, does my reluctant comrade-in-arms Kate Gosselin.  All I can say to that is, DATING TIP: maybe don’t have eight kids and act like a crazy person on national TV for years on end and then try to play it cool like you’re totes normal and dateable.  You’re welcome, Kate.  I’m here for you.)

Where was I?  Oh right.  So I went on a date with this single dad, and this is how it went:

We had a relatively normal (if slightly awkward) conversation for about five minutes.  Then he heaved a giant sigh, clapped his hands together, closed his eyes, and said, eyes still closed, “Okay.  Full disclosure time.”

“Oh… okay.  What do you mean?” I asked, full of trepidation.  Does he wear complete dentures?  Is he wanted for murder?  Is he a Republican?  What could it be that’s so terrible that it warrants mentioning five minutes into a first date?

“I’m married,” he said.  ”Well, separated.  I just moved out.  I’m living with a friend until I can move into my own place.  This is all new to me.  But I want a relationship, and a serious one.  I’m definitely looking for long-term here.  I hope you’re interested in the same.”

“Oh,” I said. “That’s… efficient.  Thanks for telling me.”  I opened my mouth to tell him that I won’t be in the area for long, but he went off on a long rant about his wife and all the things that were wrong with their relationship and what a terrible nag she was, and admitted he was so miserable since he moved out that he gets drunk every night.  I quickly decided it didn’t matter how soon I’d be moving away, because even ten minutes more with this guy was probably going to put me over the edge into alcoholism myself.  We had met for breakfast, so I couldn’t even have a drink to take the edge off the terrible awkwardness that this had become.  I stared at the grapes on my plate, wishing they were wine.

So,” he said loudly, snapping me back to attention, “needless to say, I’m now trying to figure out exactly what it is that I’m looking for in my next wife.  For example, she needs to be a lady.  I mean, I’m a gentleman, you know?  I’ve raised my son to open doors.  My daughters will actually stand in front of a door and just wait for my son to open it.  I hope they expect that from men for the rest of their lives.”

“Wow,” I said, raising an eyebrow. “I can’t say I agree with you on that one.  Honestly, I’d prefer that my daughter didn’t ever depend on a man, for a door or anything else.”

He tried to backpedal, but I quickly blocked him with, “So what else is on the list?”

“You really want to know?” he asked with a grin.  ”I’ve got it!  Here, on my phone.”  He grabbed his phone and brought it up while I stared at him, trying to figure out what I had done in a past life to deserve this.  He handed it to me and I scanned through his list of “attributes”.  ”I must not find her annoying” was one of them, along with “she must be undeniably attracted to me”.  ”She must be M.O.” was another.

“What’s M.O.?” I asked him.

“Good question,” he shouted, banging his hand on the table so that the dishes rattled and I jumped.  ”The first word is multi.  And it has to do with sex.  I’ll let you figure out the rest.  Get it?”

That was it.  I looked pointedly at my wrist (and no, I don’t wear a watch).  ”Wow,” I said brightly, pulling out some cash to throw on the table, “look at the time.  I’ve got to get to work.  It was great meeting you.”

He stood up uncertainly.  ”I’ll walk you to your car,” he said.  ”So… do you want to get together again sometime?  I had a lot of fun.  I think this is a good match.  Do you think this is a good match?”

I felt bad and smiled at him.  ”I’m glad you had fun,” I said. “Good luck with everything.”

(So much for the single dad theory.  In case you were wondering, he did not open the door for me on the way out.  But then again, I’m pretty sure “gentlemen” don’t talk about multiple orgasms on the first date anyway.)

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Dental Care For Kids: Q&A

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Thanks to everyone who joined me at the American Baby Q&A session today on Facebook!  For those who missed it or anyone who’s looking for information on kids’ dental care, I thought I’d put together a post of the most commonly asked questions, and a few things I didn’t get to mention.  (Note: this post, just like any information on the internet, does not substitute for an exam and regular dental care– see your dentist for any specific concerns.)

When should I schedule my child’s first dental visit?

The official recommendation is by one year of age or the first tooth, whichever comes first.  The purpose of the first visit is to establish a dental home for your child, to educate you (the parent) about proper home care and diet, and to start establishing healthy dental habits and introduce the child to the dental office environment.

When should I start brushing, and what kind of toothbrush should I use?

You should start brushing as soon as the first tooth appears.  (Some parents like to wipe the gums with a clean finger or washcloth even before teeth start coming in, to get the baby used to the parent cleaning their mouth.)  You can use any brand of kid-sized toothbrush.  I like the Oral-B Stages brushes because they are appropriately sized for different ages.  If you choose an electric toothbrush, be aware that the technique is different.  With a manual brush you do the scrubbing motions, angling the bristles toward the gumline.  With an electric brush you hold the brush still for several seconds in one area and then move on to the next.

When should I start using regular toothpaste?

As soon as the first tooth appears!  The “training” (fluoride-free) toothpaste is actually not necessary.  Until your child learns to spit out well (around age 4), you should use a tiny smear the size of a grain of rice, twice a day.  It is assumed that the child will swallow it, but such a tiny amount is not considered to be harmful.

What about flossing?  When do I need to start, and how can I get my child to let me do it?

When the teeth touch each other (no spaces between them), you can start flossing.  Let your child watch you floss first so they know it’s not a bad thing.  You can try the mini-flossers that look like a plastic hook with floss threaded through it, and let your child hold one and play with it before you try any actual flossing.

(more…)

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Stepping Up

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Sometimes, the hardest thing you ever have to do as a parent is make a decision for you.

People keep asking me why I want to join the military. What the draw is for me. “Don’t do it just for the money,” they tell me. “Don’t do it just for the travel. Don’t do it just for the adventure.”

I’m not doing it “just” for any of those things. And none of those things are the major reason for me, anyway.

If I just wanted to travel and do field dentistry, I could volunteer abroad a few times a year. If I just wanted to leave Connecticut, I could move. If I just wanted financial stability, I’d go into private practice. If I just wanted to do dental work for soldiers, I’d be in the civilian service of the military or work at the VA. If I just wanted loan repayment, I’d work for the National Health Service Corps or the Indian Health Service. If I just wanted to avoid dealing with the business aspect of dentistry or malpractice, I’d work in a community health center. If I just wanted broader experience with procedures and new technology, I’d do another residency.

I don’t “just” want any of those things. I want all of them. With the Army I can have them, and more. I can do all of those things, and move with my daughter to a brand new place and join an already-established commmunity. I can do for my patients exactly what they need, without worrying about insurance coverage and whether or not they can pay for the treatment I believe they should have. For that reason, the military is a fantastic place to train as a new dentist.

According to all the Army dentists I’ve talked to, I should assume that I will deploy at some point just to be mentally prepared, but with Iraq over and Afghanistan winding down, it’s more likely that I won’t be deployed than that I will.  If/when I am, it will be for around 4.5 months, and I will be doing the field dentistry that I love.  (I had tried to do the Air Force, because they have shorter and less frequent deployments, but they don’t have any openings for general dentists at this point.)

Obviously there are downsides and hassles and risks. I don’t think anyone would seriously consider being sent far away from their child if the overall package wasn’t something they were very interested in for many reasons. Do I think I’ll make a whole career of it? Maybe, but probably not. But for the next three years, at least, I believe that this is the best career decision I could make. It isn’t spur-of-the-moment, either– I’ve talked about doing this off and on since I was in college, eight years ago.

This is hard for me to say, but I have always been completely honest in what I write and I don’t plan on stopping now…

When you have a child years before you plan to, and your career is very important to you, you are bound to hold some degree of resentment toward the immense, sometimes overwhelming responsibility that is your child… no matter how much you love them. I love my daughter more than life itself, but there are already enough things that I have no control over because I have her, that I wish I could do or wish I did not have to do.

I can’t let this be one of them. I will always wish that I had done it and I don’t want to resent being a mother.

The last time I did something like that, I took a year off from dental school to stay at home with Caroline, and back-burnered my own career so that Tyler would not have to. I sat at home alone, feeling like I had no control over my life or anything that happened to me. And I ended up stumbling around in a haze of postpartum depression and I could barely take care of my daughter, let alone myself. Even the memories of that time are foggy to me now.

To raise your child happy, you have to be happy. That is why I got divorced. That is why I’m doing this.

If I truly believed that I would be harming her, then I would not do it. But what is the cost to her, really, in the grand scheme of things? She moves to a new place. It gets harder for her to see her father, who hasn’t been consistently involved in her life anyway. If or when I get deployed, she will miss me terribly for a few months. And I will miss her. I know it will be unimaginably hard to spend that much time away from my daughter. But a few months spent away from her, one time, will not matter that much over the course of our whole lives. She will be with people she loves, and I will talk to her every day.

She will have amazing experiences, she will be part of a close-knit community, she will have financial stability and an undergraduate education paid for under the GI bill (assuming I stay in the reserves long enough).  She will have a mother and a role model who is happy and fulfilled in her career.  And she will be proud of me and the things I have done.  I wrote not too long ago that being a single parent should never be the reason you don’t follow a dream– it should be the reason you do.  I believe in that statement, totally and completely.

And if none of those things work out the way I had hoped and we both hate it, then, well, it was only a few years of our lives and at least I followed my heart and did what I felt was right, and I will have no regrets or lingering resentment for what might have been. Sometimes… you have to take a leap of faith.

If I were the kind of person to play it safe, I would be sitting here still married to Tyler and wishing, every minute of every day, that I had a different life. If you want a certain life you can’t sit around and hope that it will come to you. You have to step up and take it for yourself.

This is me, stepping up.

Army, here we come.

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In Which I Date A Guy Who Has No Kids

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Ever since the HSD debacle, I haven’t felt very enthusiastic about or interested in dating at all, which I think anyone would agree is understandable.  Still, when a friend told me recently that she had the “perfect” guy for me, I figured, hey, why not give it a shot?  He was a bit younger than me and didn’t have kids, and if I’m going to date I would prefer to date another single parent for all kinds of reasons.  But as long as I don’t get Caroline involved again, which you can bet your last pair of mom-jeans I will not, what do I have to lose but time?

Oh, and also my last shred of dignity?  There’s always that to be lost.  Well, there was.  It’s gone, now.

It started out fine.  Pretty great, in fact.  He asked me to go to this place where there was not only a bar but also all these kid-type games like mini golf and skeeball and a climbing wall, et cetera.  We had a great time and had tons to talk about.  It went so well that when he invited me back to his place to hang out with his friends, I accepted.  (Because, again, why not?)  I followed his car back to his place, and that’s where I realized I had made some kind of… miscalculation.

I walked in the door and met his two roommates, who were very nice, just like he was.  But the place reeked of smoke, and not the cigarette kind.  There were giant speakers scattered around the floor, recycling bins overflowing with beer cans, a hookah sitting on a scarred kitchen table, beer pong “house rules” tacked to the wall, and above the fireplace was a giant whiteboard with a single word scrawled across it in dry-erase black marker: DIARRHEA.

(Well… at least it was spelled correctly?)

One of his roommates rolled by me (yes, in the house) on a Razor scooter towards the bathroom.  I went to sit down in one of the chairs at the hookah table and my date grabbed my shoulder.  ”Oh, not that one,” he said. “It’s only got three legs.”

“So, how long have you guys lived here?” I asked, brightly, and a little too loudly, in a desperate attempt to drown out the chorus of I’mtoooldforthisI’mtoooldforthisI’mtoooldforthis that was screaming through my brain.  ”About six months,” my date said cheerfully.  ”No, wait, longer than that…”

I’m not trying to be a snob, here, but really, how could I ever imagine bringing my child to a place like that if we started seriously dating?  And what would he think of my place, which is usually nearly spotless and has organic kids’ snacks in the pantry and the lyrics to “You Are My Sunshine” hanging next to silver-framed smiling photos of me and my daughter on the wall?

Really, the last straw was the awkward moment where he playfully whacked me with a couch pillow and blood started gushing from my nose.  ”Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” he gasped. “Captain Take-It-Too-Far over here.  Are you okay??”  ”I’m fine,” I insisted, peering at him as I tilted my head back and applied pressure to staunch the flow. “I’ll send you the bill for my transfusion.”  (Awe. Some.  This sh*t only happens to me.  On dates.)

And yet he was such a cool and funny guy and throughout the few dates we had, we never ran out of things to say to each other.  In the end I broke it off because I just couldn’t see it going anywhere– he seemed far too uncomfortable with the fact that I had a child, and I couldn’t get past the fact that we were in such different places in our lives.  He seemed a little hurt at first, but quickly agreed that he wasn’t ready to date someone who was already a mom.

I’m in such a strange place in life, you guys.  Being a mom defines me to such a degree that I would really prefer to date men who also have children, because they understand me and my priorities in a way that people who don’t have children never could.  But I’m also young enough that I still really like to have fun… so 35-year-olds who have kids and go to bed by 10pm on weekends (like HSD) aren’t a good fit for me, either.  I used to have a different life, back in college, like the guy in this post… and I loved it at the time, and sometimes I miss it, but I don’t want to go back and I don’t want to date someone who is still there, either.  As I told him when I broke things off, I think that for younger guys who don’t have kids, my life might be a nice place to visit, but they probably wouldn’t want to live there.

So, it turns out that I’m extending my break from dating– indefinitely.  Whatever happens will happen, but my life is apparently incapable of being non-crazy even when I’m not looking for anything… so who knows what unbelievable situation I’ll end up in next.  (Stay tuned for the next episode of “Hey, At Least You’re Not Julia”.)

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