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Tuesday, January 31st, 2012
Caroline is in Arizona for the week with Tyler, visiting his parents, because he has her for her birthday this year. Which means, of course, that I’m on momcation… and missing her.
Whenever she’s away from me for more than a day or two, I always try to make the most of it, and this week has been no exception. Since she left on Friday, I’ve been going nonstop, doing all the things that are impossible to do when you are a single mom to a toddler who’s in bed before 8pm. I went shopping with friends, salsa dancing with my South American friends from work, have been out partying with friends until all hours (a more-than-semi-ridiculous night which actually ended up with me stitching up my friend’s face after she nailed herself with the car door), went on a really fun date with a very cute guy (judge me), celebrated match day out at the bars with my dental student friends, and of course enjoyed the requisite sleeping in and staying up super late, just because I can.
Clearly, I’ve been enjoying my single, childless life to the fullest. I actually almost started to be grateful that she was gone for so long, because I was having so much fun and had really been in need of a break. Then I was at work today, talking to Caroline in between patients via FaceTime, and she noticed my scrubs and head covering.
“Are you done being a dentist yet, Mama?” she asked.
“No, not yet,” I said, thinking she meant for the day. ”I have awhile yet to go.”
“Oh,” she said sadly. “I thought it was time for me to come see Mama. I asked Daddy if I could see my Mama and he said no because you were far far away. I miss my Mama.”
That was the sound of the Fun Train coming to a screeching, crashing halt– stopped in its tracks by the Divorced Mom Guilt. I felt so guilty that I kind of wanted to cry. Here I am, going out nonstop and having a blast, while my poor kid is 2000 miles away, missing her mom.
It’s not that I don’t miss her, of course… I keep as busy as I do because there is no point in wallowing in the sadness of her being gone. All I can do is enjoy myself as much as I can until she gets back.
But man, that made me feel bad… as it should… I think. What about you, fellow parents, single or otherwise– are you able to enjoy your kid-free time, or do you feel guilty about it if you do?
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Caroline, Dating, Divorce, Friends, Residency, Single Parenting, Visitation | Categories:
Caroline, Divorce, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting
Saturday, January 21st, 2012
Every once in awhile, I like to take a break from talking about all the mommy stuff and the toddler stuff and the heavy life decision stuff, and write a post about what takes up most of my day: being a dentist. I know I have a lot of dental readers who enjoy them, so, this one’s for you guys!
Being a dentist can be tough unless you don’t mind being pretty unpopular. It’s a universal truth that we all have to face: people just don’t want to come see us. And let me tell you, patients will come up with pretty much anything to get out of coming to the dentist.
The following is a list of the best (worst?) excuses I’ve heard to cancel or miss a dentist appointment. (Most of them are from my own personal experience with my patients… All of whom I love dearly, of course.)
10. “I forgot how to get there.”
Here, let me introduce you to this thing called a map. Or a GPS. Or Google. Or just your memory of the route from when you drove here last week.
9. “I have really bad gas.”
This excuse came complete with excessive detail about how she stunk up her whole house in ten minutes and she couldn’t stop “tooting”. I’m so sorry, but “I’m not feeling well” would suffice. We are dentists for a reason: we don’t care to hear about your other end. Ever.
8. “I don’t need to come back. I don’t have any teeth anymore.”
Right, but you might want us to continue to screen you for a little thing called oral cancer and besides, dentures need maintenance. If you had a prosthetic arm you’d want it checked out every now and then, wouldn’t you? Same goes for prosthetic teeth.
7. “I couldn’t find parking.”
Granted, parking at the hospital where I work is pretty terrible. But there’s always parking for patients, and even if the patient lots were full, I’m confident a person could find one parking spot in the entire hospital campus, which is the size of a small town. Either way, if you have a hard time finding parking, you show up late– you don’t just panic and leave.
6. “I don’t need to come in anymore. I got that tooth out myself, at home, with my Swiss Army knife.”
Yeah. Just… No.
5. “My car broke down.”
Okay, this one is acceptable. Once. Maybe twice. I’d even give it to you three times, being the kind of person for whom oil changes are rarer than a solar eclipse. One of my friends in dental school had a patient who tried it five times. The fifth time, she told him, “Maybe you should get a new car.” “Maybe I should get a new dentist,” he snapped. “At this point,” she said, “you’re gonna have to.”
4. “My house burned down.” Really. Your house burned down? A less dramatic made-up excuse would do, like, “I have a cold”, or “I can’t get the time off work”. Using an excuse like that to get out of having a filling done is like killing a housefly with a grenade. (Although in this case, I googled the patient’s address and it turns out her house really did burn down, so actually this isn’t funny at all, in the end…)
3. “I have a toothache.”
Patient: I’m sorry, I can’t come in tomorrow, I’m feeling terrible.
Dentist: Oh, I’m so sorry! Thanks for calling, though. What are you sick with? Stomach bug? It’s going around.
Patient: No. I have a terrible toothache.
(Good luck fixing that at home… Wait, no, I just remembered that number 6 actually happened so I was only kidding, please come in.)
2. “I’m in jail.”
Overhead page: Dr. Landry to the front desk for a phone call.
Me: Hello, this is Dr. Landry.
Patient: Hi, I’m definitely not going to make it to my appointment today. I’m in jail.
Me: …You used your one phone call to call your dentist?
Patient: I don’t have a lot of friends.
1. Being deceased.
It might be a little unsettling to come in to work, look at your schedule, and see a line through your denture patient’s name with the word “DECEASED” next to it… But at least we can’t really argue with it.
So, fess up: have you ever made up something crazy to get out of a dental appointment? Dental people, got any better ones than mine?
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Tuesday, January 17th, 2012
For us working moms, achieving a healthy work/life balance can be a real b*tch.
Right? I mean, even on the best of days it’s close to impossible. Work keeps you so late or makes you so tired that you don’t have much energy to be Enthusiastic Mom, or work is mad at you because you’re calling in sick too often because you have to stay home with a sick child who can’t go to daycare, or you’re mad at yourself because you feel like work is taking up too much space in your head and you’re being a preoccupied mother. You’re only one person, so there is always someone who is getting shafted. But I’m here to say stop yelling at us, everybody. We are all doing the best we can. Now run along and make us a cocktail.
It’s even worse when you are facing a giant life decision like I am at the moment. I have this career path that I’ve thought about choosing for a long time, and the circumstances in my life are finally right, or close to it, so all I have to do is just… go for it. Right?
Wrong. It’s not so easy.
I reject the idea that being a single parent means that I can’t do anything. That I know for sure. But does that make me determined and forward-thinking, or selfish and irresponsible? Do the huge, life-changing decisions I’ve made in my not-so-very long life make me confident and ballsy, or fickle and crazy? Am I setting a strong and inspirational example for my daughter, or am I stubbornly dragging her along with me on a path of insanity and instability?
It may be the right career decision for me, but is it the right decision for her? And if it isn’t the best decision for her, does that make it the wrong decision for me?
My head hurts from thinking about it.
I talked more to the Army about my concerns regarding deployment for long periods of time away from my daughter. They assured me that the 90-day deployment policy is something I can depend on with the kind of work I would be doing. Everyone else I know assured me that recruiters will tell me anything, including out-and-out lies, to get me to sign on the dotted line.
I just don’t know. If I do this, I will be a soldier first and a dentist second. I would be proud to be that… Except, well…
I am a mother, first.
I want to do both, and find a balance between them, but the Army will not care that I have a child, or that I’m a single mother. They will send me where they need me, because that’s what I’d be signing up for.
This is something I really, really want to do, for all kinds of reasons. What it comes down to is this: is it all worth it, if I could potentially miss out on months on end of my daughter’s life? That time flies by fast enough as it is, as any mother knows. And I’ve criticized Tyler constantly for putting his career before our child. Would this make me just like him, in the end?
She will not understand the honor and the sacrifice and the incredible career opportunities and experience. She will only know that her mother is gone.
And when I inevitably get deployed, and I come back… will she still know who I am?
I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know…
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Caroline, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance
Sunday, January 15th, 2012
Okay, first of all I just wanted to thank everyone who sent me comments, emails, tweets, and Facebook messages supporting my big decision. I really, really appreciated every single one of them.
To answer all of your questions…
You realize you won’t actually have a lot of choice in where you are stationed, right? Yes, I do realize that. I don’t mind that, because I don’t have anywhere in particular I’d like to move, but taking Caroline too far from her father is an issue. Which I will discuss in a moment…
Who will Caroline stay with when you are deployed overseas? All branches of the military require something called a Family Care Plan before any single parent can sign up, so I had to have this figured out before even starting the process. (Side note: I was surprised to discover that being a single parent actually disqualifies you from enlisting as a soldier, though apparently not as an officer.) Caroline will stay with Tyler, since we have joint legal custody, and if he needs to travel while she is with him (which he no doubt will), she’ll visit my parents or his parents. I actually even had a good friend offer to take Caroline during my deployments after I told her of my decision… one of the most selfless and touching offers I have ever received, and proof (not that I needed any) that I have the best friends anyone could wish for.
Do you have to complete the same boot camp as everyone else? Yes and no. There is basic training for officers (the length and location varies based on the branch), but by all accounts it is a somewhat watered-down version of what enlisted soldiers go through. I’d totally do it even if it weren’t, though. I am badass like that, you guys.
How will you handle all the traveling/being away from Caroline? The Army often extends deployments months beyond what you were promised, and can even redeploy you within a year. This was concerning news to me… I had believed the recruiter when he told me that deployments were only 90 days. It may be different for a dentist than it was for the people I talked to who were pilots, etc., but is still a sticking point for me, as you can imagine. All of it sounds great until I think about being away for my daughter for as long as a year– I’m just not willing to do that, I don’t think she could handle it, and from a purely practical standpoint, I don’t think I’d be able to nail down childcare for that long. Multiple people told me I should consider the Air Force because their deployments are shorter and less frequent, so I am currently looking into that. I’ll keep you all posted!
I was surprised that no one asked if I was legally allowed or willing to move Caroline far away from Tyler, because that really is the biggest issue with my entire plan. He may not take his full visitation that he is entitled to, but he has been doing really well with seeing her often, and they’ve formed a pretty solid bond– much better than it used to be. Both of us are worried that moving Caroline far away from him will damage that bond. I do have full physical custody but I can’t imagine how I’d feel if he proposed moving Caroline out of state away from me, so we are trying to come up with a plan together. We haven’t figured out the details just yet, but I’m confident that we will.
So, this week I’ll be meeting with an Air Force recruiter to check out that avenue, and then get the process started with one of the branches once I figure out which one will work best with my single parent status. I’m incredibly excited about this new chapter. Thanks again, everyone, for all your support!
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Caroline, Divorce, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance
Thursday, January 12th, 2012
Have you ever had an idea about something you think you might like to do with your life, but the circumstances just are never quite right? You keep coming back to it, spinning in circles around it, feeling out your options, but never make the final decision to do it.
For a lot of people I think this idea is going back to school, or maybe starting their own business or opening a restaurant, or a home daycare, or moving across the country or overseas, or quitting work to stay at home with their kids. It’s the thing you’d choose to do in a heartbeat if you were another, less-practical version of yourself.
For me, that idea is joining the Army to work as a military dentist.
There are a lot of reasons I want to do it. It’s a great way to travel, experience new places, develop leadership skills, practice dentistry without worrying about any of the business aspects, and of course the benefits and bonuses are unbelievable and include student loan repayment. As a dentist I would be direct-commissioned as a captain, and would have some degree of authority and choice over where I was stationed. It would allow me to start over in a brand new place with an already-built-in community. And if I’m ever going to do it, now would be the time– before I’m involved with a private practice, before Caroline is old enough to be in school, and while I am free and single and unattached.
So? Here goes nothing. I’m gonna do it. I’m joining up.
If you’re going to make a major change in your life, I firmly believe you should make the choice that you keep coming back to when you are really and truly on your own, when your own happiness doesn’t depend on another person. This is that choice for me. Maybe it would be better for my daughter if I stayed here forever, near people she knows and kept her in the daycare she is used to. I am also running the very real risk of deployment and leaving her behind (though it would be only for a few months). But she needs a happy mama, too, and change is a part of life. Stability for her does not have to equal stagnancy for me.
Sometimes, being a good mother doesn’t mean playing it safe. It means making choices for yourself, that keep you going, that keep you alive and passionate and engaged in your life and in what you do. As long as those decisions aren’t actually irresponsible or detrimental to your child’s well-being, I firmly believe that stepping outside the box can make you be a better parent. For me, my divorce was one of those choices. This is another.
Maybe I will hate it. I’m a hippie and a liberal and I’ve never touched a gun. Maybe the time spent away from my daughter to go to boot camp will prove to be too much for me and for her. Maybe this is a completely crazy decision and I’m being a total lunatic. I won’t know until I’m in it and there’s no going back. But all I know is, the idea makes me feel alive in a way that no other career option does for me right now. I applied unenthusiastically for several jobs in private practices here in Connecticut and never answered any of the replies, because my heart just wasn’t in it.
My heart is in this.
And if I don’t do it, I will always wonder, and wish that I had done it.
I called one of my friends and told her about my plan, and she said nothing for a moment. Then she sighed through the phone and said, “Jules, you are a crazy person. Totally and completely insane. But you’ve got more balls than any dude I know.” (I’m sure it’s a measure of my craziness that I was nothing but flattered by that assessment.)
So bring it on: the next big adventure in my life, and Caroline’s. Sure, there are downsides and there are risks. But overall, it’s an incredible opportunity for both of us… And I’m gonna reach out and take it.
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Caroline, Must Read, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance