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Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
When I got to the hospital this morning, I opened my work email and did a double-take. Fifteen new messages, and all of them with a little red exclamation point next to them. If you hover over the exclamation point, it says “this message was sent with high importance”.
I had to laugh. Really? Every single thing anyone has to say to me is of such high importance that it has to be flagged?
I love my job and I love being a single mom, but to tell you the truth, my double life wears me down a little bit sometimes. I could use a break. Or a nanny. Or a cook. Does anyone have a nanny who cooks that I can borrow?
Sometimes I get caught up in work and all the things that are expected of me during my residency, so much that when I get home I am too tired to interact much with Caroline. I get her fed and bathed and put to bed, sure, but it’s more like I am surviving than living. It’s hard to pick out exactly what should be demanding more of my attention, which, let’s face it, will never be undivided.
I mean, sure, my patients will always be one of my top priorities: a woman who is too embarrassed to smile because she is missing her front teeth, a man who needs multiple root canals and lives in pain because of it, a cancer patient who needs infected teeth extracted before she begins the chemo and radiation treatments that will save her life but temporarily destroy her immune system.
But what about my daughter, who needs me more than any of those people? They just need a dentist… any dentist. Caroline needs me. I’m the only stable figure in her life. All the little things like reading her a book before bedtime, blowing bubbles, drawing on the sidewalk with chalk, listening to her daily list of who she hugged at daycare, or just sitting down and talking to her about what she did that day… those messages are of ”high importance” too.
So, I try to be strict about compartmentalizing my day. When I’m at work, I devote my full attention to my patients until I’ve dealt with every issue and every chart. When I’m home and Caroline is awake, that is her time. I don’t pick up the phone, I don’t return pages, and I don’t turn on the computer. She’s in bed by 7:30– partially because she needs her rest, and partially because I need my time. After she’s in bed, I take a half hour to quickly clean up and get ready for the next day, and then that time is for me.
The thing is, not every single thing is of “high importance”. Some things are. But the others… you just have to draw the line somewhere and let go of them. That chart that the finance department desperately needs right this second? I’ll get it to them after my next patient. That fourth book Caroline needs me to read before she can possibly go to sleep? It’s 8pm and I think three is enough for tonight, kid.
It sucks to feel like I’m being pulled in a million different directions, and I can’t always figure out who needs me the most. Fortunately, I can usually scrape together enough hours in the day to devote to everyone… including myself. It doesn’t leave much time for sleep, but hey… there’s always caffeine, right?
Working parents, married or single– how do you manage to fit everyone in to your day?
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Thursday, July 21st, 2011
Last night was my first night on call.
It wasn’t too bad. I was really nervous going in, as I usually am with things I’ve never done before. Being a new doctor is kind of like being a new parent. You have no idea what you’re doing, but you have to pretend that you do because they can smell fear.
I took the beeper at 6pm and it didn’t go off until around 7. A friend of mine who is a second-year resident stayed to help me through it, which was good because the ER is kind of confusing if you don’t know your way around. It was a toothache, so I took an x-ray, gave the patient a prescription for pain meds, and told her to come back when the clinic was open to have the tooth extracted.
Then I didn’t get any more pages. I started to get bored. My friend suggested that I bedazzle the beeper and then hand it off the next day as if it had always looked like that. I seriously contemplated it, but in the end I went to the bar across the street with a few friends (not to drink, okay, gawd) and around 9:30 I figured I could head for home. I stood up.
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP!
Of course. I smashed the beeper, I mean, I called the ER and they said a patient was there with a broken front tooth. I went back to the hospital. When I brought the patient in, he looked me up and down doubtfully and gave me one of my least favorite (but most common) lines: “uh… you’re the doctor?”
He was adamant that he didn’t want me to do anything if he was going to be charged (okay, so, why’d you come in?) but finally he let me take a look and the fracture wasn’t far down enough to affect the nerve, so I told him he could see his regular dentist in the morning. He said, “oh, sorry, I hope you didn’t come in just to see me!” which was nice of him to say but honestly, I really don’t do too much hanging around the ER just for funsies at 10pm.
So it went as well as I could have hoped. My mom stayed with Caroline (I totally took advantage by doing my grocery shopping at 10:30pm) and thankfully the beeper didn’t go off during the night. Now all I’ve got to do is make sure I hand off the beeper early enough that I can run to daycare before it closes.
I think I can do it– successfully balance a residency with single motherhood. As long as I have a little help, of course. It’s a pretty good feeling.
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Sunday, July 17th, 2011
I occasionally get emails asking how I do it on my own, financially, as a single parent. Honestly, that is one of the toughest parts of a job that’s not so easy in the first place.
I’m a dentist, so I’ll be fine in the long run. Being a new dentist and a resident, however, is an entirely different story. I’ve got mountains of student loan debt and an extremely low income. With only one small paycheck and a child to care for (and daycare being as expensive as it is), it’s a real stretch. I’m very lucky in that my parents will help me out in a pinch, but it does get old to be worrying constantly about finances. I’m pretty much at the point where if my online banking website had a box you could check that said “stop sending me statements because I just don’t even want to know”, I would totes check that box yesterday.
While I was in school, I didn’t qualify for any kind of assistance because I wasn’t technically employed. Now that I am employed, I make just barely enough to not qualify. I kind of have a thing about not accepting help anyway, but it would be nice to have the option. Unfortunately, I do not.
So how do I make it work, several of you have asked me? Well, I do get child support from Tyler and he is pretty good about paying it on time. I have a strict budget and use mint.com to manage my finances. I get the vast majority of things I need for Caro at consignment stores. I plan our meals for the week every weekend and shop only once, so that I cut down on unnecessary grocery store trips. I buy meat in bulk and split it up into smaller portions in ziploc bags and freeze those. I’m big into clipping coupons and shopping at this discount grocery store which is a little sketchy but I haven’t contracted food poisoning yet. (Although once a lady in the checkout line saw me pull out my coupons and must have assumed I was using food stamps, because she rolled her eyes and sighed, “babies having babies they can’t afford”. Yep. That happened.) And I never, ever buy anything that’s not on sale.
It is exhausting to worry about money all the time, but I am lucky that for me, it won’t be forever. Someday soon I’ll have a real job, a good one. Hopefully in the not-too-distant future, I’ll be able to buy a little house or a condo for me and Caro… and things like a new car, and organic food, and shoes that don’t come from Payless.
But until then, I’ll just keep plugging along and being as careful with my money as possible. Anyone care to share your money-saving tips for fellow parents (single or otherwise) in the comments?
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Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
So I’m a couple days into my residency orientation, and I’m starting to fear that I might be in over my head.
It’s not the being-a-real-live-dentist thing that has me worried, although I am a little nervous about treating patients on my own for the first time. It’s the on-call hours that are making me twitchy.
The call hours at this residency are pretty minimal because there are 19 residents, which is why this is the only residency I applied to. Basically, we rotate through the 19 of us and see emergency patients for a period of 24 hours, from 6pm one day to 6pm the second day, at which point we hand the beeper off to the next resident.
6pm is not a very convenient hour for a single mom or actually for any mom in general, let’s be real. Daycare closes at 6. Dinner is at 6. Caroline needs to be fed and bathed and rocked and read to and put to bed… all of that starting at 6. And in my case, all of those jobs are all mine, all the time. So I’ll have to have someone else pick Caroline up from daycare and do all of those things for her, while I take the pager and stay at the hospital until 10pm, at which point I can go home but could possibly be called in during the night. And then I have to go in around 8am and stay there until 6pm when I can hand off the pager… except daycare will be closed, and both daycare and my apartment are 20 minutes away from the hospital, so I guess I’ll have to have someone else pick Caroline up again?
My mom is happy to help me but she lives an hour away (and works over an hour away) so I feel badly about making her drive back and forth all of those times. I could have a friend help me occasionally, but then I’ll have to get another carseat. I am not afraid or ashamed to ask for help, but I don’t want people to feel like I’m using them and anyway Caroline is really my responsibility and no one else’s.
Also, what if I get called in during the night? It supposedly happens very rarely. But I guess if it does, Caroline’s coming in to the ER with me at 3am to learn how to write a prescription for Vicodin. Baby’s first drug-seeker. It’s a precious milestone, not to be missed.
For the millionth time I sat in my seat in that lecture room and looked around the room and thought, why can’t I be one of these other people who can just come and go as they need to? Some of my coresidents are also mothers, but they have husbands or family close by to help.
I guess residencies are just not designed for single parents. But I am gonna do this. I’ll figure out a way.
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Monday, February 1st, 2010
Okay, so I’m still alive. And things are going really, really well. I had kind of a hard time getting back into the swing of things, but only for maybe two weeks or so. I went pretty quickly from wanting to quit every 20 minutes, to only wanting to quit every day or so, and then it was all uphill from there.
It was hard to sit alone in the lab, drilling my fake teeth (a prerequisite to clinic since I was gone so long), while both my new and old classes were up in clinic. And it was a lot harder than I expected to see all my old classmates so far ahead of me, and so close to graduation. Still is, I guess. I feel a little bit left behind, like I failed somehow. And I know that next year will be really lonely when they are all gone and have DMD after their names.
Getting used to my new schedule has been a little bit difficult, too… I won’t lie. I went suddenly from staying at home all day, every day, to the insanity of clinic and classes and daycare. Caroline had kind of a hard time adjusting to napping at daycare, which resulted in interrupted sleep at night, so the first week was kind of a blur. I definitely had days where I’d be trudging up the hill to the health center, two different socks on and my hair all a mess, thinking things like “man, I don’t even remember half of my drive here. Hey, what’s that crud on my wedding ring? I hope that isn’t Caroline’s poop. ::sniff sniff:: Nope. Indian food. Phew. …Wait, when did I have Indian food?”
But overall? I am so glad that I went back. It hasn’t quite been a month yet, and I already feel like I am back in the game, and I’m loving it again. Yes, I am tired and I’m stressed and I feel like I’ve forgotten a lot of really important stuff. But I remember why I wanted to do this. And I’m really glad that I made myself go back and get through the first tough few weeks.
I do miss Caroline during the day. Some days I don’t get home until she is already in bed… and that sucks. A lot. I go into her room on those nights and watch her sleep for a little while, half wishing that she’ll get up during the night, just so I can see her.
But daycare is good for her. She still isn’t mobile (a topic for a whole nother post…) and so I’m hoping that being around all the other kids will help with that.
AND. She’s going to be a year old on Friday. A year old. Can you believe it? I can’t. I absolutely can’t. I want to type all sorts of horrendously dull cliches, like “where did the time go?” and “she’s growing up so fast.” She is talking up a storm these days. Her latest tricks include (very) short sentences, like “whadat?” and “wassdiss?” and, Tyler’s favorite, “ohshish!” (Yes, we can go ahead and blame that one on her father. You have to watch what you say around her, even though she isn’t even one yet.) Even though she doesn’t crawl or pull up or walk, she is so smart… which helps me feel better about the lack of mobility. We will have to call early intervention back, though, because I’m pretty sure she’s going to need some physical therapy. Oh well. At least she can curse. Right? (That was sarcasm, right there.)
What else? I know I am rambling, because I am tired. I still have to study for a final, and probably I should take a shower, because I haven’t done that since… well… nevermind. Before I go, I’ll share a few recent pictures of Caroline. I do have a video of “ohshish!”, but we’ll go ahead and keep that particular parenting failure off the internet, kthx.
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