By Erin Allen
If you are in med school, residency or fellowship you hear over and over that “it gets better”: that cookie (or in my case, glass of wine) that is dangling in front of you at the end of training. I’m not writing about how hard the training years (all twelve of them) are or how I survived. I’m writing about what happened next when I finally reached that dangling cookie (glass of wine) and my spouse took his first private practice job in our dream location. It was definitely better, we had more money, Geoff was actually home regular hours during the week and the weekends, we were close to family, I stopped working and stayed home with our girls, and we were living in the middle of San Francisco. What I forgot is when the celebrating is over, life had still changed and change is not always easy.
To give you some background, I have been with Geoff since freshman year in college. I have seen the entire medical process through from med school applications to intense cardiac surgery fellowship. While Geoff was in medical school, I started working as a special education teacher and then went to graduate school to become a speech-language pathologist. I took general surgery residency as an opportunity to work as much as I could and took pride in being the “sugar mama,” bringing home the big bucks. It got more complicated when our two little girls came along, but that only motivated me more and made me feel more successful and capable. I was “pulling my weight.” Geoff was working really hard, but so was I. We had planned that when he took his first post-training job, I would stop working, take a break, take time with the girls and explore my own interests … my “it gets better.”
Now in my “it gets better,” I was staying home with the girls, exploring our new city and on the days they were in school, I was going to workout classes and meeting friends for lunch. This sounds pretty great and it was! But, I was struggling with how I was “pulling my weight.” I was no longer stressed and trying to balance a full-time job and taking care of two kids. I had too much free time. I started to feel lost, unsuccessful (stay-at-home mom life is hard), bored, and longed for days that I went to work and brought home a paycheck. I started to feel guilty because here Geoff was so happy in our new life and excited to be done with the training life, and I missed the superwoman status I felt I once earned. This might sound ungrateful or selfish, but I think it’s real. We all want to feel success and accomplished in our lives. I had always felt accomplished when I was masterfully or not so masterfully balancing a demanding work life and home life. Suddenly that wasn’t the case and I needed to find other ways to fill my cup and embrace my new stay-at-home role.
Flash forward a year later. I can say that I embraced the change and my stay-at-home mom life and found that with a little balance and new challenges, I could find the success and accomplishment I craved. I went back to work a couple of hours a week to keep my license and I plan to add more as the girls get older and more independent. Another challenge I took on was becoming a certified fitness instructor for FIT4MOM, where I teach workout classes for groups of mommies and their kiddos. Lastly, I got involved in what I was passionate about: my kids’ education/school and the American Medical Association Alliance. I’m back to balancing a crazy life and embracing the chaos. Once I knew what I needed to do I felt successful as a stay at home mom, fulfilled in my volunteering and excited for my new challenges. I’m fully enjoying the “it gets better” attending life. “It gets different” has become my “it gets better.”
Erin lives in Mill Valley, California with her husband Geoff and two beautiful girls. She is a speech-language pathologist, mom, fitness instructor and serves on the membership committee for the AMAA. She has never written a blog before, but thinks she just might do it more often.