“Your Tribe is Your Vibe”
By Erin Allen
In my post-medical-training-years reinvention of myself I have become a fitness instructor for Fit4Mom. Fit4Mom is a business that provides workout classes for moms with their kiddos in the stroller with franchises all over the United States. It’s not only a workout class, but a community of moms who are there to understand and support each other. The Fit4Mom motto is “Your Vibe is Your Tribe,” recognizing that we all as humans are searching for our “tribe.”
It is part of human nature to want to find people that we connect with through common interests or life experience. We look to our “tribe” for support, understanding, and, well, not trying to be dramatic, to survive the ups and downs of life.
This got me thinking. Yes, I’m a mom and these strong mamas are my everyday tribe, but there is another group that is also my tribe and has been my tribe since long before I was a mom. That tribe is the medical spouse community. It may have started out small when Geoff was in medical school and I was close to a few girlfriends of fellow medical students. Our common bond was that we knew that when a test was coming up that we wouldn’t see our boyfriends for days. We nervously talked about Match Day and commiserated on not knowing where the next few years would take us.
Then residency happened and even with finishing graduate school and working full time, I was still home alone many nights. For my birthday, two girlfriends gave me a membership to our hospital’s auxiliary. I was hooked; I threw myself into chairing committees and eventually becoming vice-president. I spread the word like wildfire – in fact my husband used to joke that I could spot a medical spouse a mile away and by the end of the evening I had recruited them and most likely signed them up to our auxiliary. I had found my tribe.
Residency came to an end and it was time to move for fellowship. I was so sad to leave my tribe behind and was frantically trying to find the auxiliary at our new hospital. I was very disappointed to find out that our hospital didn’t have one. What was I going to do? Luckily, I found a group of lovely women in a Facebook closed group called “Lives of Doctor Wives.” I started having conversations, posting funny anecdotes that only other medical spouses understood. Their laughter at my funny stories, encouraging words of “hang in there, “ “you got this,” “been there, done that,” got me through. Most of the women I have never met in person, but they got me through two of the toughest years of my life, CT Surgery Fellowship. I learned that even when there wasn’t a local hospital auxiliary to join, I could find my tribe, whether it was online or in person. I didn’t necessarily need a formal group with monthly meetings or event; my tribe was bigger than one hospital, town, or state.
But personal connections are important, too, and I found my new “formal” medical tribe through that Facebook page when I “met” some people who belong to the American Medical Association Alliance, a national network of physician families that has been around for almost 100 years. I have enjoyed volunteering and getting involved, feeling a part of something once again. It provides a sense of comfort to be part of the AMA Alliance tribe and I have enjoyed meeting and talking to other physician spouses and hearing their stories and advice as we transition from the training years to the working life. I also enjoy sharing my experiences and advice with the spouses in training and hopefully providing a light at the end of the tunnel. I see it as a chance to give back and say “thank you” to the many who were there for me as I experienced the crazy world of being married to a doctor.
I am proud of my “tribe” and hope that all other medical spouses find their local tribe. If an auxiliary or spouses’ group is not readily available, or you have trouble finding a local community of physician families, know that you are not alone and we are out here. You can find us through the AMAA website (www.amaalliance.org), on Facebook and Instagram or even by taking the first step and chatting with that woman or man that you overhear talking about how excited they are that their spouse has a “golden weekend” coming up. Chances are that man or woman will “get it,” just like you. Most of all, know that you’re not alone – we’re here and we’re happy to be YOUR tribe.
Erin Allen 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 and internal communications committees for the AMA Alliance. When she wrote her first blog in February 2016 and it turned out that she’s pretty good at it, she said she might do it more often – and so she has.