by Amy Campbell Smith
I got a letter in the mail this week from my OB/GYN. She’s been my doctor for 10 years and she delivered my two sons. As a matter of fact, we have both been having babies for the last five years. We were pregnant in 2006 (she had twins) and had preschool age sons at home.
She and her partners have a very busy and growing practice, which matches her busy and growing life. Her husband is also a doctor and now they have three children under age 4. After the twins, she took 6 weeks off and was back in the office, thin again, smiling, with pictures of the little darlings on her desk.
So, my mouth gaped open as I read the letter. As of April 1st she will be staying home with her children full-time.
A wave of disbelief hit me. I will miss having her as my doctor, but my reaction wasn’t about that. It came from sudden doubt about my entire life trajectory. In the 30 seconds it took me to read the letter everything was up for grabs again.
I thought about what she’s leaving to do this; the beautiful offices, all those years of hard work in medical school, the joy of delivering babies, the money. Maybe she plans to practice again someday, but right now she is walking away from it.
Well don’t I feel like a bad mom now. I could stay home without giving up nearly as much. We don’t need the money I make. I don’t have the kind of fancy education that is hard to walk away from. I love my job but, yeah, I could quit for a while.
Let’s see, if I stayed home I could cook better meals. The house would be more organized. I could volunteer more at the school and maybe be a room mother! We wouldn’t have to pay a bajillion dollars this summer for day camps. We could travel without planning around two busy work schedules. There would be playgroups and trips to the park and picnics in the back yard and rainbows and ponies and shooting stars!!!
Hum, should I bring this up again with Husband?
A letter revealing another woman’s choice made me second guess myself. It caused me to struggle to justify my own choice. I believe this is because her decision implies that she’s making a radical sacrifice for her children. And that somehow implies (in my small brain) that I’m not choosing my children, not putting them first.
So, why am I working? I’ve asked myself this question over and over this week. My answers have seemed lame.
In a tired, bored voice in my head…
“I do make decent money and have my own retirement plan. Yee-haw.”
“We use my company’s health coverage for the family. That’s nice.”
“I enjoy my job. Really. Almost always.”
“My kids are as happy and well adjusted as I can imagine them being.”
There it is; that last one. The kids are happy. The fact is that we have worked out a nice, child-friendly situation for ourselves that we are comfortable with and the boys are thriving. And the minute they are not, I’m outta that office without looking back.
Most working mothers will second guess themselves on occasion and look for reasons to either keep going or bow out for a while. For now, I think I can keep going.
But then again….