Monday, January 30, 2017

In Which Our heroine decides

So I just made a Big Decision.
 I agonized about it afterward and was literally shaking, but I did it.

I turned down an academic position.

I only ever wanted an academic position.  Teaching nourishes my soul.  When I was almost suicidal, teaching still made me happy.  As a devotee of lifelong learning, I also wanted the chance to participate in didactics, and grand rounds, and morning report, and scholarly activity.  This particular position would also have allowed me to learn more about infection control, and get some special training, as well as training in how to teach.  I would also see clinic patients one half day per week.

Sounds like a dream job, right?  And at my beloved home institution.

It almost was, and I only barely was able to turn it down.  Because my biggest dream came true, and I have (turn the Evil Eye) two precious miracles who are finally asleep, and that job takes precedence over everything.  As that means spending at least half the year working six days per week and the other half working five days per week (probably with another few Sundays thrown in) is not the right fit for me at this point.  Especially since I am no fool, I have seen the life of an attending, and I know that the stated hours are just the tip of yhe iceberg.

But it is so incredibly frustrating.  I am forced to choose between a satisfying professional life and dedicating time to my children.  It shouldn't have to be this way.  There should be a paradigm for part-time academicians.  We who want to be part-time are just as serious.  In fact, maybe we are more intense, because we are truly trying to have it all, knowing that one can never actually have it all.

Another problem I think I grapple with is the perception - and probably even my own - that by taking this low-key, private practice position, I am being lazy.  After all, I only want to work three days a week and every fourth weekend.  Getting into and through medical school, residency, and fellowship is all about hard work and pushing onceself to excel.  My personality is also such that I don't do things by halves.  And my parents, for whom I have everything to thank, taught me to push as hard as possible to reach my full potential.  But that is exactly the opposite of what I am doing right now.  I am knowingly rejecting career advancement.  Acknowledging that someone else will make the next breakthrough.  Agreeing to watch others take over the field.  And truthfully, it makes me feel like an underachieving loser.

I haven't figured out how to deal with this yet.  But one approach I think I dislike is that I am "sacrificing" my career for my children.  That approach paints children as a burden, a roadblock, and something to be resented.  I am spending two days at week with my children because I want to be with them.  It is draining and at least as exhausting as taking call.  But there are too many precious moments that I would miss if I were at work.

At any rate,  I have decided.  I hope I can find ways to enjoy private practice.

On the plus side, the enjoying-the-children part is easy.  But that's another post for when I am not typing on my phone and it isn't after midnight


  1. Here from Mel's round up. It is so hard and it shouldn't have to be. I am an academic. My husband has the tenured position and I do the odd bit of teaching. Partly this is because there are no academic jobs, but the major factor is one of us has to be available for the kids. I keep trying to find meaningful part time work and it is astonishingly difficult.

    Is an academic position an option for later down the track or are you in the same boat where once you get off the full time track you cannot get back on?

    I often feel I am letting down myself and feminism more generally because I am bright and capable and yet I have intentionally derailed my career path for my children. I don't regret it but I do wish we had more options.

    1. Sorry for the delayed reply -- absolutely wretched gastroenteritis followed by A's third birthday party and finally tackling the caught up!

      I have been following your blog for over a year and it is exciting to see you here! I am also a Spock fan :o) I'm certainly not "glad" to see other women in my same boat but it is interesting that this problem spans fields and countries -- somehow I thought Canada might be better.

      I may indeed be able to find an academic position later. My own mom went from part- to full-time and switched institutions when I started Grade 12. It's a little different in medicine because clinician educators are not always tenure track, even if they are ranked the same. My father retired this past spring as a non-tenured full professor. The main challenge is my self-imposed geographic limitation because there are only four teaching hospitals in reasonable driving distance, and another two which are about an hour commute (doable but more than I'd like). Another challenge is that often in academic medicine they want you to support part of your salary with grant money. This makes you a more attractive candidate since the university doesn't have to support as much of your salary, and also gives you more control of your schedule since some of your time becomes "protected" research time. Alas, even if not for the current political climate, getting funded will likely be difficult since I won't have the same research opportunities as a private practitioner. But I intend to try my best.

      What courses are you teaching this term? You seem to be adjusting so well to being a family of four even with all the events of your family in the past year...and so must teach me your secret! I constantly feel like I am just on the reacting side of things.

      I'm also glad to know I am not the only one who feels like she is letting herself and feminism down. I guess we just have to keep reminding ourselves that we are NOT slacking -- we are likely doing far more at home than people who work full time, and nobody forced us to do this, but it is still frustrating. Are there other parents in similar positions in your area? My mom was in a playgroup when my younger brother was small and it was all professional women working part-time. I haven't found anything like that as yet, but also am just barely starting to meet the other moms in A's school. Will you be able to adjust your career path once P is also in school?

      Hopefully by the time our children grow up, there will be better choices available for them.

  2. I went back to work full time with one child (I do not know if I could do it with two...I think not.) And for the first year in particular I struggled with the feeling that I was doing nothing particularly well. I'd also started a new job, new school, my dad was very sick with cancer and later passed away, so there was A LOT going on. But when you base at least part of your self-image and/or self-worth on how well you do your job, or perceive that you do it, it's hard to accept that giving 100% to career isn't always possible. This year is better; I'm quite a bit more relaxed and confident in myself and my family. BUT if we get very very lucky and do somehow have another child, I'll be right back in that decision making place, and may well decide differently. And it does suck to contemplate giving up what I've worked for years to achieve, even if it's for a very good reason. Wish I had answers! I hope the path you have chose turns out to be fulfilling even if it's not the one you would have preferred right now.

    1. Hi!

      It sounds like you really had a challenging year -- as if a new baby was not a big enough adjustment! I am glad this year is better.

      It really is true -- we work so hard to get where we are, and we are brought up to give 100%, and then we find out we can't, and it is frustrating. I remember my mentor telling me just to accept that the first year I would get minimal if any studying done.

      Your post about aggressive treatment is so wonderfully written! It was such a fascinating juxtaposition of two very different but both incredibly stressful fields of medicine. Of course only you and Mr. Turtle can make the decision and whatever you decided will be right for you. I am happy to share thoughts about our decision making process if it helps. In the meanwhile, enjoy your miracle AJ because doesn't it go by so quickly!

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