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Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
Well, after all kinds of back and forth and craziness regarding my future employment, I can finally say that I’ve settled on something and gotten a job.
An awesome job. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s about as good as this whole “job” thing gets. (I wouldn’t know. I’m 28 and have been in school for-literally-effing-ever, so I have never had a real one before.)
I’m going to be an associate at a private practice in Massachusetts, about 45 minutes from where Caroline and I live now. It’s a busy and successful practice with two other super-nice young doctors who also have kids, the office is beautiful, and my hours are perfect: Monday and Tuesday 8-7, and Friday 8-5. I’ll have to find a sitter I trust to pick her up on my long days, but this will leave me four full days of the week to spend with Caroline. And this poor child has been in daycare from 7:15am to 5:30pm nearly every day of her life since I went back to dental school and then residency, two and a half years ago. I am so excited to actually make a comfortable living and still be able to spend more time with my daughter… particularly since her father is moving eight hours away, and I’m sure she’s going to be somewhat… out of sorts.
Basically, it’s my dream come true, I think. I have worked so hard for this.
So all of that is a huge relief and very exciting. I’ll be finishing my residency at the end of June and starting at this practice in early July, assuming I can get a Massachusetts license by then, because as it turns out, it is the most giant pain in the butt ever to acquire a Massachusetts dental license. I need to pass a physical and take a legal exam and get a passport photo taken and donate a kidney and give up my firstborn child and wait, I’m not even sure what we’re talking about anymore, but all of that seems reasonable, no? Thanks a lot, Massachusetts. We might never be friends.
Caroline and I also found the most adorable house for rent ever, located in a fancy-pantsy town nearby, so we are waiting to hear back about whether or not we are cool enough to live there. I suspect we might not be, seeing as how I have been known in the past to forget to pay my bills until whatever I’m not paying for gets shut off (well played, cable company) and I am a scandalously single young mom. But, we will see.
So, things are looking pretty good for me and Caroline these days. As my friend says, “Great kid, great job, great future– only one piece is missing now, Jules…” She means men, of course, and although I have pretty phenomenally terrible luck in that category, I’m sure that someday, all of that will work itself out, too.
And if it doesn’t? That’s okay. Because I’ve got my dream job… and I’ve got my baby.
Categories: Caroline, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance | Tags: Apartment, Breakups, Caroline, Dating, Dentistry, Friends, milestones, Moving, Private practice, Residency, Single Parenting
Thursday, April 19th, 2012
I made my decision about what to do with my life. Finally. After this, I will quit talking about it. Promise.
I told myself the other night that once Caroline was in bed, I was going to sit down on my couch and figure out what I was doing once and for all. I’ve been going around in circles for months and nothing is going to change, I’m not going to have any sudden epiphanies… I needed to just sit down and reason it out and decide.
So I did.
I’m not joining the Army. I’m not moving to DC with Tyler, where he’s accepted a postdoctoral position. I’m not staying here in my apartment, either. I’m going to look around New England for jobs, try to stay within a reasonable distance of my family and friends so that I don’t lose my support system, and I’m going to move wherever I find a job that I am happy with. And because my program director was kind enough to offer, I’m going to stay in my residency until the end of the summer to take the pressure off of immediately finding a new job (and apartment, and preschool).
It is somewhat disappointing to let the Army thing go, but more of a relief, really. I don’t want a legal battle with Tyler, which he threatens on and off, I don’t want to be incredibly far away from my family and friends, I don’t want to risk being sent away from my daughter to serve in a war that my hippie self will undoubtedly not believe in… I don’t want to be away from her at all, really. I guess the truth is that as the reality of the situation approaches, and sets in, that career choice is not worth the sacrifice to me. I will still be a dentist no matter what I do. And if the idea of nine weeks away from her for training makes me want to cry, then I can’t even imagine up to a year or more of deployment…
Whenever I am faced with a decision in my life, I think I am often drawn to do the crazy thing. The thing that most people are afraid to do, or wouldn’t choose. I take a lot of pride in it, for some perverse reason. I’m afraid that this is one of those things that I would do simply for the reason that it is different, and that I would regret it (and its effect on my daughter), and I’d still have years stretching out ahead of me with an unbreakable commitment to the military…
I made list after list and thought about pros and cons and all kinds of logical things. And it helped me make the decision, I’ll admit. But what I couldn’t get out of my head was this:
I had picked Caroline up from Tyler’s place on Sunday afternoon after she had spent the weekend there. I was giving her a bath that night, and from out of nowhere she looked at me and said, “At night time at Daddy’s house, when it starts getting dark, I sit on the rug and I think about Mama.”
I can’t risk leaving her. I just can’t. Not for my career. Not for anything. She would be traumatized and I would be miserable.
Maybe I’m finally growing up. (Just kidding. That’ll never happen.)
I do need a change, though, so I’m going to move somewhere else in New England. Honestly, if Tyler were moving permanently to DC, I would probably pick up and move there too, just so she could have as full of a relationship with her father as possible. But even he admits that he is most likely going to bounce from postdoc to postdoc for years on end, so I am going to put off relocating with him until he’s settled down, and then I’ll see where I’m at in my life and reevaluate the situation.
It feels good to have a plan, and one that I am happy with. I came within mere inches of doing the crazy thing, but I am turning my back on it and walking away. It sounds a little anticlimactic from the outside, maybe… but I think it’s the perfect solution, and I couldn’t be more at peace with the whole thing.
I get to have my new start, and I don’t have to leave my baby. I don’t know why it took me so long to get here, but I’m glad that I did, in the end.
Categories: Caroline, Must Read, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance | Tags: Apartment, Caroline, Custody, Dentistry, Divorce, Military, Moving, Residency, Single Parenting, Tyler, Visitation
Saturday, March 31st, 2012
I would have to say that the most interesting thing about writing this blog is the email I get from my readers.
I guess it comes with the territory of revealing so much of your personal life for so long, putting it online for anyone to read. I had a good friend tell me once that when she read my blog for the first time, a lot of it surprised her, because she had had no idea that I had felt that way (before my divorce). I’m fully aware that this is a ridiculous statement, but for some reason I almost find it easier to talk about things here than with people in real life. I have a lot of people contact me and tell me they feel like they know me after they’ve read the whole thing. I do get so personal here that I guess that in a way, they’re right.
Enough about me. Back to you guys.
I’ve gotten a lot of hate mail, certainly, for my more controversial posts (see here and here and here). I mostly try to ignore that. I’ve had people email me and ask me questions that I can’t possibly pretend to know how to answer, like “should I get divorced?” or “should I have an abortion?” (I have to say that although I’m always glad to offer a listening ear and a sympathetic shoulder, I don’t exactly feel qualified to offer concrete advice.) I’ve had guys email me and ask me out, women email me and ask me for advice on how to go about getting a divorce, people contact me for dental advice or to talk about going to dental school. And of course I always love the encouraging emails, when people contact me just to say that they love reading about my life and Caroline’s, and to keep it up.
But the kind of correspondence that really makes my day is these: the single mothers who tell me that because of things I’ve written here, they feel more inspired to go back to school for their children. The working moms who tell me that they take comfort in knowing that there’s someone else out there going through the same struggles, and feeling like their compromises and sacrifices are worth it.
If anything I write makes even one person out there feel less alone, then hey– I’m happy. If I get just one of those emails for every ten pieces of hate mail, it’s been more than worth it. So, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has let me know that putting myself out there on the internet like this has made a small difference in your lives. I can’t express how much it means to me.
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.
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.
Categories: Caroline, Must Read, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance | Tags: Caroline, Dentistry, Divorce, Military, Moving, Residency, Single Parenting, Travel, Tyler