(Editor’s Note: We’re hearing a lot from Jordyn Hagar this summer – mostly because she has SO much valuable insight! Jordyn wrote this piece for another blog a few years ago, back when she had only one child, and we thought it was appropriate because so many of us are experiencing endings AND new beginnings as we approach Medical New Year – truly a time for reflection.)
Taking a Step Back
By Jordyn Paradis Hagar
I have been reflecting lately. I think it’s a natural thing to do as my husband nears the end of his intern year, the sleep deprived haze of having a new baby is lifting now that she is sleeping through the night, and I more regularly live the reality of having both an infant and a surgical resident for a husband.
My husband and I have been together since before he started med school. We have done the whole ‘move away from family for med school, start a new life, struggle with that new life, then make that new life work, only to relocate for residency, start a new life again, have a baby, and then struggle to make THAT new life work’ thing.
We have done the ‘I resent my husband for all the difficulties that his life choices have created in my life’ thing and the ‘I resent my wife for having expectations of me even though she’s the one with more free time’ thing. We have done the ‘let’s compete over whose life is more difficult, stressful, time consuming, exhausting, etc.’ thing.
We have talked about all these things, and dealt with all these things, and worked through all these things multiple times. We have each made changes, concessions, efforts, and adjustments. We have reached a place where we know we really love each other, we know we don’t want to be without one another, we know that each of us has a great deal to take care of and manage, and we largely appreciate what each has to do on a daily basis.
And yet that doesn’t change the reality of our life. Sure, it makes getting through it together a hundred billion times easier, but it doesn’t change the facts. And if we’re being honest, the fact is that both of us end up having to operate at the intensity level that medicine requires.
You all know the drill… my husband does the long hours at the hospital, reads and completes research projects at home, and hopes that he gets enough sleep to keep up. I do my part time job as a therapist, take care of our daughter, and keep the rest of our life functioning (everything from running errands, to household chores and maintenance, to managing finances, to thinking about, planning for, and making decisions regarding everything that needs to get considered on a daily basis). We both operate with a certain intensity level that medicine has infused into our lives. We each handle it differently, and it impacts each of us in different ways, but we both live it.
I don’t like this intensity level. I don’t want to operate at this intensity level. I don’t want to feel like I am constantly moving and doing and fixing and running. I don’t want to feel like I have to always be ‘on’ and always take care of things myself. This isn’t what I wanted for my life. I did not choose medicine, and I did not choose this intensity level.
While I may not have chosen medicine, I did choose my husband. And I have chosen to stay with my husband. I have even chosen to start a family with my husband. Because of this, I get a certain level of intensity in my life. However, I find myself lately refusing to indulge it. I find myself trying to lessen the intensity where I can.
I can’t make my husband magically come home early from a shift to feed my daughter dinner when I’m exhausted and feel like it takes too much energy to lift the spoon to her mouth, but I can say “I don’t care that the dishwasher isn’t full, I’m running it tonight anyway just because I don’t want to stand at the sink and wash today’s bottles by hand.” I can’t stop paying the bills or going grocery shopping or doing laundry or showering (well, at least not completely), but I can determine when these things get done. They don’t have to get done immediately all the time.
Recently, instead of using each of my daughter’s naps as a time to mad dash and get everything done, I have been trying to use at least three or four of her short ones over the course of the week to relax- whether that be watching a recorded TV show since I can’t stay up past 9 pm to watch anything live, or reading a book that isn’t about how to get your baby to sleep, or just staring out the window and breathing.
I have found it helps. The intensity level in my life IS higher than I would like for it to be, and unarguably it is because of the impact that medicine has on our life. But this is my life. And I refuse to live it in a way that makes me unhappy.
I have already decided that I want my husband in my life, and as a result of that, there are certain realities that I cannot change. Will I always wish that he could be more involved, offer me more support, and take some of the burden off of me? Probably. Does he try to do those things when he has the time? Sure. But the remainder of the time, that falls to me to manage.
So through my recent reflections I have decided, now that the sleep deprived baby haze has lifted, that I will be treating myself more kindly, cutting myself some more slack, and living as much in the present moment as I can. I am deciding to live less intensely where I have the power to do so. Because this IS my life, and I don’t want to have lived it so intensely that I miss it.
Jordyn Paradis Hagar is a licensed clinical social worker doing therapy with children and families. She is also the proud mother to two daughters. She published her first book, “At Least You’ll Be Married To A Doctor,” in February 2012.