Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Married to the job

Six Months ago...

I’m in the changing rooms, getting into my scrubs at the start of the day and I’m chatting with Jeremy, one of the other novice anaesthetists.

“I’ve started seeing someone,” I say

“Oh yeah?” Jeremy raises his eyebrow at me, “Who is she? Tell me more.”

“I’ve actually known her for a little while now, but things are just starting to get more serious. She’s fantastic though, and you know me, I don’t say that lightly.”

“What’s her name? Is she another medic?”

This is what you find in medicine. There’s the tacit implication that doctors only go out with other doctors and it’s almost as if you’re breaking the rules if you go out with someone totally non-medical.

“No, she’s not. She works in fashion, she’s called FashionGirl.”

“Oh that’s cool, so how did you meet?”

The conversation goes on along this vein for a few more minutes and then Jeremy leans into towards me and asks.

“Does she understand?”

“What do you mean?” I query.

“You’re planning to sit your primary exam this year aren’t you? Does she understand about the time you’ll need to study as well as spending so much time in this place?”

“Yeah, I’ve explained that to her.” I avoid his gaze as I say this because even in my own head, I’m not sure that FashionGirl really understands what lies in the few months ahead. I’m not going to be there a lot of the time. In the run up to my exams, I’m going to be married to my text books and there are going to be times when I’ll be so tired after work that I won’t want to speak to anybody at all.

“I’m sure it’ll be OK,” I continue, hoping that what I say will turn out to be true.

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Last Friday Night...

FashionGirl and I are sitting having dinner and sharing a bottle of wine. I’d really been looking forward to seeing her because it felt like I hadn’t seen her in ages.

“You know, Michael” she says as she takes a sip and fixes me with her blue eyes, “I was really pissed off with you the other weekend.”

“When I said that I wasn’t going to come to Emma’s birthday do?”

“Yes. It’s not that you didn’t come, it’s that you said you would and then changed your mind the day before.”

“I know, but I’d just done a week of long shifts and I just wanted a night in.”

“I know that babe, but…” her voice tails off.

“But?”

“I don’t think it’s very fair that’s all. It’s just that sometimes it seems like I’m the one making all the effort. I’m always the one that comes over to see you. I know that you’ve had your exams and everything, but I feel that I’ve been really supportive over that whole period.”

“You have!” I interject as I recall her sitting in bed with me, quizzing me about the Gas Laws. “Very much so.”

“But, it seems to me that now you’ve got this free time that you could be making an effort too.”

“FashionGirl,” I say. “Remember that was my first free Saturday in weeks and I’ve been over to see you loads in the last couple of weeks.”

“I suppose that’s true.”

“And besides, I don’t think I would have been a whole lot of fun that night and, had I gone out with you guys, I reckon I would have spent most of the evening asking you to come home with me. I was in bed by 8 that night!”

“Actually, I’ve been meaning to have this chat with you for a little while now.” I continue. “There will be times where I won’t be able to do things that I said I would. There will be times when I miss doing something with you because of my job and there’ll be time where I really just want to be left alone and just sit in a dark room for a while. But please remember that all of that is just because of the job I do. It doesn’t mean that I care about you less, because I care about you loads, you know that.

“I remember in my first year after graduating, after a real nightmare shift, I called up my Mum and Dad and ranted and raved about how I was spending all my time at the hospital and it seemed I never got to do anything else.

“They said to me, ‘Son, it’ll only be for the first couple of years you know. As you move up the ladder, you’ll have to do less work and you’ll have more free time in a couple of years’ time.’

“But that’s not true, FashionGirl. It’s really not true at all. The higher I get up the medical career ladder, the greater my responsibilities get and I’ll be doing more work and have more commitments - not less. And that means that going into the future, this problem is just going to get worse.

“What I mean to say is that I do really care about you, you know I do, but there will be times when I let you down. All I can say to you is, when the choice is in my hands, I promise I’ll put you first. It’s the best I can do.”

11 comments:

Jobbing Doctor said...

I have been down this journey myself. I started off wanting to be a diabetologist like my first boss, and things were going pretty well, then I met my FashionGirl.

It took me 12 months to realise that I would rather do any job and stay with her, rather than be a lonely old diabetologist.

It was the right call (30th Wedding Anniversary in 3 months time)

Jo said...

{lots of hugs}
I hope that she understands.

Oliver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oliver Smith said...

I hope she understands and it works out.

The Law can be just as bad...joy.

steph said...

Good on you for tackling the subject anyhow.

Difficult one! I've seen several medical marriages go on the rocks through lack of communication.

You're doing all the right things.

And btw WELL DONE for passing your exam!

Dr Andrew Brown said...

JobDoc: congratulations on your 29.75 years! (Just made it past silver, myself.)

JunDoc: you describe the dilemma very well. And I think that your honest and open discussion is the best policy. As Oliver points out, medicine isn't the only profession that has this problem, but it has it particularly badly.

All relationships work on give and take, and it's important that both sides are happy with the bargain. FashionGirl may reasonably ask whether you are more concerned about your job than her. She may decide that the sacrifices are worth it - for if you become an item then she shares in your sacrifices.

Negotiate, negotiate! And I very much hope that you two can work it out.

drunkenspaniel said...

If she loves you enough, she'll stay. If she doesn't, then she won't. There's not much middle ground. Heartbreaking, but true....

Michael Anderson said...

Thanks for all your comments and well done to JobDoc and Dr Brown for finding someone to spend your lives with.

I think last Friday's chat was something that we both needed. At the end of the day, FashionGirl and I both feel that things are fantastic when we're together but things get more difficult when we're apart. I think that's much better than the other way round and I'm feeling really positive about our future.

She's one of the most amazing people I've ever met and we're going away together for the weekend in a couple of hours.

I can't wait

Lala said...

Nobody outside medicine really understands. I don't think anyway. And i've only just started!

AF said...

I'm just catching up on your blog as I've been away for 2 weeks.

My FashionGirl is in Management Consulting. In our relationship she's the one that seems to be married to the job, although we are actually married!

She does get really disappointed that I end up doing things some weekends, especially the last 8 months with doing the Final (which I passed), but she realised long ago that it was going to be a case of on-calls and so forth sometimes getting in the way. I think it helps her mum was a doctor.

OTBoy said...

Hey Junior Doc,

I am a FasionGirl, or Occupational TherapyBoy if you will, so I'm kind of on the other side of this discussion. It is hard for the other person to truely understand the craziness you guys live through but as with her we try to understand and support. My fiancee is about to finish her 1st F1 placement and she has spent most of it sleeping or working. What is positive is that she has made an fantastic effort to be around and awake but part of me misses being able to just hang out with her doing nothing and something. Ah well this is what I signed up for and I'd rather have her sleeping form muttering attractively for more tea than be 'a lonely old OT'.

Hope you guys worked out.