Hi, friends! I'm thrilled to be introducing you to my dear friend Kirby Nelson today as the first guest-writer in the Marriage & Medicine series. Kirby is a new mama and is as kind, laid-back and relate-able as can be. Her husband Jacob is about to finish residency in a few months (WHAT), so she's been paving the way for me since we first were introduced by mutual friends. I've learned so much from her (whether she knows it or not) over the past few months and I knew I had to have her share some of that wisdom with y'all too. I love the advice that she shares about letting go of expectations, especially in light of her new role as a working mom. Enjoy!
For most people who start a new job, it can be expected that you know what time you start work and what time you finish. Unfortunately, this is not the case for residents. When my husband started residency, we had hopeful, but unreasonable, expectations regarding what we anticipated his schedule to be like. For example, when his inpatient schedule noted that sign-out to the next shift would be at six, I assumed that I could expect him home by seven. I quickly learned that an internal medicine residency does not operate on this sort of timetable.
I would frequently ask or text him, "When are you going to be home tonight?" Unfortunately, the time he would expect to be out of work seldom occurred; either a late consult came up, a patient presented with more problems than originally expected, the list of delays he encountered at the hospital would go on and on. Initially, I found myself becoming very resentful of him and his career choice. I felt he was unreliable and not focused enough to get his work done to be home when he had expected.
In January 2016, we found out we were pregnant with our first child. Jacob was half way through his residency at this point and we were both nervous about how his schedule would impact our growing family, especially since we were still struggling to adapt. During my pregnancy, Jacob began connecting with other residents and physicians, asking about their experiences regarding working long hours while also raising a family. One physician's comments really resonated with Jacob. She told him that after the birth of her first child, she struggled when returning to work; she felt pressure to get home as soon as possible while feeling unsatisfied with quality of work she was getting done. Even though she was home earlier, she felt distracted and not present. She told Jacob that she finally realized that she learned that she needed to be completely present when she was at work, focused on the tasks at hand, so in return, she could be completely present at home with her baby and her husband.
Together, after reflecting on this advice, Jacob and I determined that we were better served in our marriage if we had no expectations regarding the timetable of the residency schedule. We have found that Jacob doesn't feel rushed to get home and leave things unfinished or not completed to his usual standards. As a result, he is able to be more present at home and not worried about how he left things at work. For me, I have learned that having Jacob home at 9:00 PM and not distracted is better for our relationship than having him physically, but not mentally, at home potentially a little earlier.
Since our daughter, Thatcher, was born, we have continued to adhere to this mindset, although some days are more challenging than others. There are days when I feel like a single parent, especially when its solely up to me to get her ready in the morning, do the daycare drop-off and pick-up, and put her to bed. This all needs to be done while also fitting in a full day at my own job while also making dinner and getting other household jobs done. There are also weeks when Jacob works nights and Thatcher and I may not see him for days. Although these days can sometimes seem isolating, I have come to value my support system in our friends and faith community. I have no qualms in reaching out to friends to come to my house for dinner after I put Thatcher to bed, even at times requiring friends of mine to make me dinner in my own home, while I soak up the adult conversation! I also make sure to connect with spouses of other residents for coffee and baby play dates, knowing that they also understand this unique period of life.
As a result of having no expectations, I have come to truly value the time we are able to spend together as a family when Jacob has a day off, even if its only one day a week. We enjoy cooking together, going on hikes, and playing with Thatcher. We take full advantage; these days together are full of love and gratitude.
Jacob will be finished with residency this summer and has accepted a position as a hospitalist. We are thrilled he will be working less than he did during residency but we are still aware that there will still be busy shifts that will require his time and attention. But above it all, I know that with our no expectation mindset, when he is home, he will be completely present, as the most attentive and loving husband and father.
Kirby, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to share some of your wisdom and advice. I'm sure I can speak for many of us when I say that we're grateful for your gentle reminders and encouragement. :)
If you'd ever like to contribute to Marriage & Medicine with an essay of your own, or if you'd like to be interviewed, please let me know! The more voices we have in this corner of the internet, the better.
Love & Respect,