Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

Grey's Anatomy: Doctor Mom

I was named chief resident. Plus . . . we decided to have a baby.



During the season finale of "Grey’s Anatomy," Dr. Callie Torres entered uncharted "Grey’s" territory, boldly attempting to seize a career triumph (being named chief resident) AND start a family (with her emotionally estranged new husband). With little reflection about the implications of taking on a new, high-pressured post while simultaneously having a baby, Torres would make the Leslie Bennetts and Linda Hirshmans of the world proud. She believes she’s poised to grab life with gusto and milk it for all it’s worth. She’s going to be a powerful career woman and a mom without relinquishing either dream. (Her love life is another story entirely.)


Then, on the flip side of the coin, there is the formerly butt-kicking Dr. Miranda Bailey, whom the interns used to fear. A new mom herself, Bailey also pursued the chief resident position by relentlessly clocking in countless hours at the Seattle Grace Hospital, starting a free clinic and knocking interns’ heads around when they needed it.


And yet. . .


The chief of surgery, Dr. Richard Webber -- who sacrificed his own marriage in order to succeed at his job and who many thought favored Bailey for the position – chose Torres. As Webber waded through the remains of his marriage, he repeatedly admonished the late-working Bailey, telling her that you can’t have a high-powered career and a family at the same time. Bailey’s character, however, saw it differently. With planning and with determination, Bailey believed, you can have both. She was determined to prove it.


And yet Bailey, who suffered the indignities earlier this season of having her professionalism questioned because she’d become a mother, was passed over for the position.


When paired with Dr. Addison Shepherd’s story (she has a thriving career but is now infertile because she postponed parenthood), is this a statement that it’s impossible for women to do both mommyhood and career? Or is this analysis simply directed at the medical field’s inhospitable atmosphere for professionals who want to have lives? Shonda Rhimes, "Grey’s" creator and writer, shed some light on this in the show’s blog, "Grey Matter [1]:"


"Bailey’s got a lot to contend with next year. She thought she was going to be Chief Resident – she really believed it. After all, the Chief [Webber] spent the season practically anointing her with Chief Resident oil. But he also spent the season warning her. Because from his own life, he knows what it is to get so caught up in a job that you neglect your family. And he wouldn’t wish that on anyone. That is a lesson Bailey’s not ready to learn – the fact that there may be a choice between family and career isn’t something this generation of women has been raised to believe. It’s not something I’m ready to believe. But, like I said, what the women start to see this season is that maybe they may not necessarily be able to have it all. Because maybe having it all has a price.  Is it fair that Bailey has to pay this price? Absolutely not. But isn’t it ironic that Bailey’s got the strong family and (in her mind) a shaky career while Callie’s got the solid career and the shaky family life?"


Soon after the closing moments of the third season of "Grey’s" faded to black, a real doctor, who logged in 60 hours/week when she had an 18-month-old at home and a full-time working husband, wrote an essay for the web site Babble [2] explaining why she decided to temporarily leave medicine. "Nine months into my first year of fellowship, I unexpectedly got pregnant again," Dr. Tara Bishop wrote. "Instead of being overjoyed, I felt overwhelmed. With the pregnancy test in hand, I turned to my husband, tears blurring my vision, and asked how I could keep doing what I was doing with another baby at home." So she left her job and struggled with being an at-home mom, and now says she plans to opt back into the workforce when her children are in preschool, "but not on the ambitious track I was on before."


How sad that in both real hospitals and in fictional ones, mom doctors – people rarely if ever mention dad doctors – frequently have to choose between family and practicing medicine, and, in the case of "Grey’s" Bailey, are discriminated against because of their maternity by an inflexible, inhospitable work environment, one that rewards people who have no personal lives and penalizes those who do (and those who do tend to be the ones with ovaries).


It will be interesting to see if, when next season’s "Grey’s" commences, whether Torres does have a child and then faces a "maternal wall" (the mom version of the glass ceiling) and whether, upon finding it, she tears it down with her bare hands and, in the process, remakes Seattle Grace. That would be something to see.



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