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Friday, January 27th, 2012
Working moms, has anyone ever said to you, of your life with a job and a family, and possibly school or whatever else you do– “I don’t know how you do it?”
Scratch that. It’s not a question. I know you’ve heard that before.
These people mean well. And hey, I’m certainly not complaining. It’s a compliment, really. It means they respect you and the things you have accomplished. But although I’m appreciative of their admiration, I can’t help but think that they don’t exactly understand.
I was chatting with a friend this week and we somehow got talking about traveling, and I was telling him about the trip I took to Belize to do dental work. He leaned back in his chair and looked at me and said, “I don’t get how you’ve done so many things with your life, in spite of the fact that you have a kid.”
It was a compliment, but, well… he doesn’t quite get it, does he?
We don’t do things in spite of the fact that we have children. We do things because we have them.
I finished dental school and travel and write and do all the other things I’ve done (and all of the things I want to do) because I want to be the kind of woman my daughter wants to be when she grows up. I want her to respect me and look up to me and basically just think that I am really, really cool. I want to be her biggest role model. I want her to be proud of me.
And most of all, I want her to have all the opportunities I’ve had, and more.
Being a single mom does make having a career more difficult and complicated, I certainly won’t argue with that. But Caroline isn’t some impediment that I’m trying to work around– she’s the reason and motivating factor behind everything I do.
When I graduated from dental school (at last), I wrote that Caroline was not an obstacle to my achievement, but my biggest motivation and the reason I never lost sight of my goal. And I think that’s how it is for all of us who choose to take on both a career and motherhood simultaneously. Being a parent, and to a greater degree, a single parent, should never be the reason you don’t follow a dream.
It should be the reason you do.
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…
Categories: Caroline, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance | Tags: Caroline, Dentistry, Military, Moving, Residency, Single Parenting, Travel, Tyler
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!
Categories: Caroline, Divorce, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance | Tags: Caroline, Custody, Dentistry, Divorce, Military, Moving, Single Parenting, Travel, Tyler, Visitation
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.
Categories: Caroline, Must Read, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance | Tags: Caroline, Dentistry, Military, Moving, Residency, Single Parenting, Travel
Thursday, October 13th, 2011
(If you haven’t read part 1 of my Jamaica trip, you can find it here.)
The next day, I focused on sitting on one butt cheek while we made the short drive to Dolphin Cove Negril (ages 5 and up). If I had to pick a highlight activity of the trip for me, this would be it for sure. We put on lifejackets and jumped into the enclosed cove with five dolphins. Their trainers had them “dance” with us, swim under our hands, kiss our cheeks, and give us rides while we held onto their flippers. I think I squealed like a little kid the entire time, at a pitch only dogs can hear.
In the afternoon, we took off for Montego Bay. First we toured the all-inclusive Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort. Now, if I were going to Jamaica on a budget with kids, this is for sure where I’d stay. It’s a nice 524-room resort on the beach with several pools, a little private island, and tons of activities and sports and bars, and a spa. Kids age 12 and under stay, play, and eat free. They have a ton of kids’ games and activities divided into three age groups, free babysitting until 9pm for age six months and up (with paid services thereafter), and a “KidSpree Vacation Club” that’s basically a full-service daycare center for all ages. There’s a kids-only “snack hut” and a separate kids’ menu at the main buffet at every meal. There’s also a teen center with Xbox and air hockey and stuff like that. They have ten “KidSuites” that have a kids’ room within the suite, with bunk beds, a TV, and a play table (shown at right).
The crazy thing about this place is the price– $210 per night for a family of four, and it’s all-inclusive. I mean, it’s not a luxury resort. It’s a Holiday Inn. I wouldn’t go there without kids, for sure. But it seemed like a destination where kids of any age would have a blast, not just tolerate being there while mom goes to the spa and dad plays beer pong. Oh yeah. That’s the one caveat. While we sat there eating lunch, there was a beer-drinking contest happening at the main pool right in front of us. I’d personally want to make sure the kiddies were all “KidSpree’d” away before any of that took place. But other than that, it seemed like the perfect budget place to stay with a family.
We left the Holiday Inn for the Rose Hall plantation, which is rumored to be haunted.
I won’t ruin the story if you choose to go, but basically this crazy chick lived there and murdered all her husbands and slave lovers because she was bored, or maybe crazed from all the lead in her pewter dishes. One or the other. (You might have noticed from my blog that it kind of sucks to get divorced so maybe this White Witch was onto something, is all I’m saying.) Anyway she allegedly still haunts the Great Hall, and I’ve got to admit that it is a very spooky, if fantastically-renovated, place, especially in the rain– so I’d maybe keep this trip to ages ten and up to avoid too many nightmares later on.
From Rose Hall we went to historic Falmouth, where we set sail on this techno-dance-pirate booze/dinner cruise. No, I’m not kidding.
It was called Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship Adventure and it included drinks, dinner, and a cheesy but truly hilarious singing, dancing pirate show with audience participation and lots of pretty cute pirates, just sayin’. I think this would be best enjoyed by kids age ten and up, alcoholic beverages not included for them, of course.
We were up bright and early the next morning for a day trip to the South Coast, where we met up with a different branch of Chukka Tours for a ziplining tour of the canopy over seven-tiered Y.S. falls. Now this was super cool. We climbed up a path next to these waterfalls:
And went shooting through the canopy on five different ziplines, one of which ran directly down the falls. The view was truly beautiful and I felt like I was flying. There’s also a rope swing halfway up the path that you can use to swing out over the falls– and jump out into them, if you’re brave enough!
From there we went to Black River to take a safari tour of the river of the same name. We saw egrets and herons, petted crocodiles that came right up to the boat:
And got out at one point to climb among the mangroves on the shore. There’s also a crocodile nursery at the end of the tour where they raise and rehabilitate the endangered Jamaican crocodiles.
On the way back to our resort, we stopped in beautiful freewheeling Negril at the famous cliffs of Rick’s Cafe to see the sunset. Now, I’m just a dentist, not a real doctor or anything, so I might not be qualified to say for sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion that a bar that serves booze and encourages you to go cliff-diving may not be classified as the safest idea in the world. Just a thought. It was a gorgeous view, though.
I spent the last night having dinner and drinks with the wonderful ladies I met through this trip. They were truly the best travel companions I could have hoped for– friendly, easygoing, hilarious, and possessed of fascinating stories about their previous travels. I had a fantastic time meeting and bonding with them. I only hope I am lucky enough to see some of them again someday (outside of Twitter, of course).
And I can’t close the post without noting that even aside from all the beauty and adventure of Jamaica, one of the country’s best assets is its people. Everyone we met was friendly and chill and very, very knowledgeable, with an answer to any question, always an interesting story to tell, and a pride in their country and heritage that I think is rare and enviable.
So that was my trip. I think I’ve made it clear that it was pretty much one of the most fantastic experiences I’ve had. If I were going to take Caroline on a tropical vacation, for me– Jamaica would be it. I hope I am able to go back soon.