My initial motivation for starting "The Other Half" when I did came from reading Erica Camp's "What I wish I knew: Advice for Spouses of Doctors and Residents." It was when I got to #4 that I really rolled my eyes, refilled my wine glass, and started typing.
Not too long ago, someone asked me if the term "resident widow," referring to the status of a spouse of a resident, was a term I came up with. I didn't really think it was, and a quick Google search confirmed this. (See here; at least one other person in the world has used it).
In starting this blog I've been thinking a lot lately about whether I'm just whiny or if there is a larger issue with non-traditional spouse relationships in the larger world of medicine. I fear the whiny label because frankly that's how a lot of the younger wives sound to me when they complain about their doctor husbands not paying enough attention to them.
I got your attention with that headline, didn't I? Let me explain.
I'm working on a new fiction project that involves an extra-marital affair. I, myself, am a serial monogamist. I used to think that I didn't get the whole affair thing. And, on many levels I still don't. But, I remember remarking to a friend in the first year of residency that I think I can understand how it happens better now than I ever could before, at least in medical marriages.
When I was in graduate school and when I had my first full time job (and when I was a professional adjunct at multiple schools) I always felt like I was between arriving where I was and leaving for the next place. I feel that way again right now, in the middle of residency.
Don't get used to me posting daily. If you do, you will be as disappointed as a resident spouse with a romantic dinner reservation. You'll be as sad as you are when you are 15 minutes into a movie only to hear snoring next to you. I could go on all day.
So, I just roped myself into doing something. I was sitting here with a glass of wine and dinner (in my office at 8:30) waiting on the other Dr. Mrs. to get home. And there it was.
Another helpful blog piece about how to survive as a resident wife. There are a lot of those. And, I am one, so you would think that I'd be all happy-slappy about the essay. And, on one level I am. I can certainly relate to the tips to plan your days without your doctor (the old "make your own plans"). After all, I'm eating dinner and having wine in my office where I came to do some writing after my day job was officially done. I also get the value of networking with other resident spouses.
But, that's also one of the blank spots I see in this article and many of the ones I read about medical spouses; the other resident spouses and significant others I know are men--they aren't wives. The residency program that my wife is in is all female. I'm the only resident wife in the group. So, while I love my fellow residency slayers, I have about as much in common with those fellas as I do with the wives who stay at home and raise children and sing Tammy Wynette songs (don't get me wrong, I have long been a fan of TW; I'm sure Hillary Clinton probably appreciates her too).
Let's face it--medical school is enrolling a pretty even group of folks gender-wise. And while there are some gay docs out there that have husbands at home and lesbian docs with wives at home, we are still in the minority. But hetero-husbands and boyfriends are not in the minority. In fact, I would dare say that with the small gay male doctor contingent, husbands (and husband-like creatures) could actually out number the hetero-wives.
So, why are so many of the articles and books on "medical marriages" (I bought that one, the book The Medical Marriage in moments of intern year desperation) so focused on remembering the (straight and procreating) ladies and resident support groups so focused on meeting at places like Monkey-Shines (I did not go, but my understanding is that it's sort of like Dave & Busters for kids and there was no booze--hence my lack of attendance) and on why their husband won't change diapers or pick the kids up from school?
And then there is the other small group among the resident widow crowd--those of us older and non-procreating (we happen to be both). Most of the medical spouses I know are pretty competent grown ups with other things going on than small children. While the older student body (40 and up) was small where Dr. Mrs. went to medical school, they were present. So, for some doctors and their spouses this is a second act. Children may be non-existent or may be already into adulthood.
I feel for Erica Camp because of the backlash she got from folks who have my same concerns. We first need to realize that her post was originally made on her own blog--it is from her own experience and her perspective about what she personally wishes she knew. We can't devalue that any more than others can devalue our experience. What we can do, though, is realize that we have to step up and share our experiences too. Until we do, we can't complain that we--the other half--are being ignored. You can't be silenced if you never speak up.
So, I decided to start this blog. I can't guarantee I'll be great at keeping up with it, but I can offer space to anyone else who fits in this groove of the other half(ish) to contribute your experiences and the challenges you face. Because even a stay-at-home dad has different challenges than a stay-at-home mom.
This blog is written from the perspective of an older medical spouse who happens to be childless by choice. I hope that husbands, older spouses, those childless by choice, and others will find this entertaining and occasionally useful.