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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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Caroline, Dentistry, Divorce, Military, Moving, Residency, Single Parenting, Travel, Tyler | Categories:
Caroline, Must Read, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance
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, Custody, Dentistry, Divorce, Military, Moving, Single Parenting, Travel, Tyler, Visitation | Categories:
Caroline, Divorce, Residency, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance
Saturday, December 17th, 2011
Remember that time I blogged about how Caro potty trained herself? Yeah… forget I ever said that.
She was pretty much fully potty trained when I wrote that. And then? Then she went to Arizona with Tyler for Thanksgiving, and he put her in diapers the whole time. And she promptly un-potty-trained herself. I cannot, for the life of me, get her to go on the potty.
I’ve written about degprogramming after visitation before, but this is way worse. If we’re all being honest, this is pretty much grounds for murder. Right? I picture the scenario to go something like this:
Judge: You are here to be sentenced for the murder of your ex-husband. Do you have anything to say for yourself?
Me: Please, your honor, he un-potty-trained my almost-three-year-old.
Judge: Case dismissed.
(Brutally obvious disclaimer: I am kidding about that, okay, people?)
I know, I know, some of you warned me in comments and tweets that potty training regression might happen. But I guess I had hoped they were vicious lies. Turned out you were absolutely correct. I’ll never doubt you again, internet!
I shouldn’t completely blame Tyler, because regression seems like a pretty common thing. And I probably shouldn’t have made the final push on ditching the diapers shortly before she went on that trip. Oh well… poor planning on my part. But the end result is the same: she will sit on the potty, but she won’t go, and sometimes she’ll beg to put a diaper on and throw a tantrum when I tell her that we don’t do diapers anymore.
(I swore I’d never be that mom who talks about potty stuff on the internet, but well, here we are. Great to be here with you guys.)
I know that potty training is something that can’t really be pushed, and she’s definitely the sort of kid who has to make it her decision, so I’m kind of at a loss as to what to do.
So I turn to you all, who gave me such great advice about ditching the binky: what do you do about potty training regression? I hope someone out there has something that worked for them, because preschool age is rapidly approaching, and I’d like to have her re-potty trained so she can start on time!
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Thursday, December 1st, 2011
Anyone who has ever tried to coparent with someone after a breakup or divorce knows that it’s… kind of the worst thing ever.
For me, it’s a mixed bag. Tyler and I have good phases and bad phases. Lately it’s been pretty good. I think that as time passes post-divorce, it gets easier to keep that necessary distance while still staying civil. Both of us being in new (healthier) relationships helps a lot, too.
There are a lot of challenges, though. To me, the most frustrating one is trying to develop a coparenting relationship that has a different dynamic than our marriage did. Relationships have momentum, you know what I mean? Once the interaction between two people is established, the pattern is pretty well set, and it’s hard to change.
Tyler and I were together for seven years. We developed a way of interacting over those years that I clearly did not care for, since I filed for divorce. From my point of view, it was basically him telling me that he was going to be gone for long periods of time and that I would need to rearrange my career to accommodate caring for Caroline, so that he could build up a reputation in his field and finish his PhD. In the beginning, before we had Caroline, to be honest… I liked it. I liked to mother him and take care of him and cook him dinner and keep his house, and I was proud of all the things he had accomplished so young. (He treated me more like a subordinate than a partner, but as you can see, I am also at fault for encouraging it.) I liked that he depended on me, even if I didn’t always enjoy being alone while he worked. But eventually I became resentful of everything he asked of me, and the very little that he gave in return… both to me, and to our child. And I didn’t want to back-burner my career anymore, because it was important to me.
Too often, our coparenting relationship reminds me of our marriage. He will text me to say “I’ll be away for x number of days/weeks and I’ll be picking up Caroline for these days and I’ll need you to take her back on this day.” I’ll say okay, rearrange my schedule to accommodate his, and basically do whatever he asks… but then I’ll get mad, and resentful, and pick a fight with him, and then we snipe at each other via text for a few days and act sullen when we finally see each other. Sounds healthy, right? And by no means do I claim that it’s all his fault– fighting takes two.
But how do you change that pattern of interaction? How do you reverse the momentum of a relationship when you have to stay in constant contact after a breakup, because you have a child together? How do you put the pieces of a broken marriage back together to form a healthy coparenting relationship?
It’s hard. It really sucks. I don’t know the answer. I tried, today, to establish something new. He texted me, telling me the way the next visit was going to go. I told him that I had a conflict with my schedule, but I would be happy to have a two-way discussion about it if he would rephrase his order as a request. Somehow, we ended up fighting anyway.
One of my friends said to me tonight, “I hate seeing my ex every day at school. It doesn’t seem fair that I still have to deal with that, every single day.” I looked at him. “I win,” I said. “I have to deal with mine for 18 years.” (He was kind enough to refer to my one-upping as “perspective”.)
But, hey, that’s just life and coparenting after divorce. You’ve got to make the best of it… right? If you’re a single parent, how do you and your ex manage?
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Caroline, Coparenting, Divorce, Marriage, Single Parenting, Tyler, Visitation | Categories:
Caroline, Divorce, Single Parenting, Unexpectedly Expecting, Work/Life Balance