I’m not actually on TV, but there are days I feel like I’ve accidentally stumbled onto the set of a sitcom. When neighbors have never seen your husband in the light of day and friends joke that he is make-believe, then you might be married to a … well, you know the joke.
Being married to a busy physician can leave you playing the role of single parent. In all reality, I actually was a single mom at one time, to three rambunctious boys. Raising them alone, I believed it couldn’t get any harder than that. And then I married a doctor. Then, I added a vivacious baby girl to the mix and realized, oh, things can get much, much harder.
When my husband and I started dating, he warned me of the woes of the medical world and I warned him of the insanity of children and a blended family. Despite the terror we portrayed to each other, we both jumped in headfirst and never looked back. We married, got pregnant and had our daughter. I left my rewarding, fast-paced position in state government to stay home and take care of the madness. Oh, the madness. Seriously, can anyone say Lifetime original movie?
I don’t know exactly what I was expecting when I married a doctor. I’ve known my husband since we were very young children, and he still felt much like the little boy on the playground to me. He was in residency three hours away when we first started dating, and I was completely oblivious to the reality of the time commitment required as a doctor. It wasn’t until he finished residency and moved home with me to start his first job, that I was slapped in the face with the realization that I was still alone and still a “single mom” in many ways.
Here are a few things I’ve learned through this journey:
1. Take care of me. This is number one for a reason. If I go down, this whole ship goes down, and I have a lot of ship to take care of. I take time out to recuperate from my full-time job at home. I get a massage, have lunch with a friend, window shop Target for three hours and then take a nap in my car. I didn’t say it had to be pretty.
2. Don’t wait for your spouse to be available before taking care of something. There are inevitably important things that my husband and I must both discuss, but there are a lot of things I just need to handle or else they’ll never get done. I used to want his opinion on everything, but I finally started to believe him when he said he trusted me and my decisions. He has enough to worry about and doesn’t need to help me decide between ABC Plumbing and Bob’s Plumbing. We just need a functioning toilet.
3. Explain to the kids that the amount of time dad or mom is home does not equate to the amount of love he or she has for them. Dad would rather be home hanging out with you. Period. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the type of job that allows him to be home as much as he’d like. I try and spend time explaining the why and what of his job. Some day, they’ll be the best advocates for the perception of the medical world. I want them to know that their dad is out there doing great things. The best way we can show Dad love is by making our time together count. I also tell them the thing Dad loves most is when you ask him questions. Especially the question “Why?” You don’t need to waste the “whys” on me. Be sure to ask him that one over and over again.
4. Don’t let your kids off the hook because you feel bad that their dad or mom works a lot. As a mom, I want to smother my children so much with love that they can’t breathe. Because they don’t have the luxury of having two parents around all the time, it’s easy to want to make excuses for them and coddle them. I’ve learned that this is such a disservice to them. Life is hard, but it doesn’t stop. My children won’t be children forever. I have to squeeze in as many life lessons as I can and most of the time; I’m their only teacher.
5. Keep a planner. I have to brain for two adults and four children. My husband uses all his brain at work. When he walks in the door, he has no more left. Therefore, between my brain, his brain and the brain of all my children, there is a lot of stuff to keep track of. It needs to be on paper, in a calendar, preferably in pretty colored pen for it to happen.
6. Let go of the guilt. This is by far the one I struggle with the most. When I think of something exciting I’d like to do with the kids, I get an immediate pang of guilt deep in my core. I think about how my husband will miss out and how I shouldn’t be having fun while he is going on 100 hours of work that week, with no end in sight. I think about the years he’s sacrificed to get to where he is today and to be able to provide this wonderful life to our children and me. But then I remind myself that I can’t waste this gift he’s given us. Because of his sacrifices, I have the choice to stay home full time and the resources to provide wonderful adventures to our children. I also remind myself that I make a huge contribution to this partnership (see number five about all the brain I must manage). I too am going on 100 hours of work this week, with no end in sight. Different work, different sacrifices, all are valid.
My life really is like a sitcom. Less like Grey’s Anatomy, more like Scrubs. The characters are charming and quirky, there’s humorous dialogue, and always a lesson learned at the end. And with each season finale, I get more excited about what the new season will bring.
Mandy Silveira blogs at Physician Family where this article originally appeared.