Wednesday, December 9, 2015

you asked, I answered: married to a medical student

This is a question I get asked a lot through social media: "what is it like being married to a medical student and/or having kids in medical school". When I sent out an open invitation on Instagram to ask me anything you wanted to know, I got this...

"Life as a med student's wife! My husband is starting med school new year"

"Life with a student husband. Mine is in law school, so only three years - I can't imagine any longer than that!"

"Stuff about marriage and med school!"

So, you asked, I'll answer!

Our whole relationship was sorta wrapped up in the medical school process - we were dating when Stephen started applying to medical schools, engaged when he started interviewing and married (for one month!) when he started his first year.

People told us it would be hard - we were actually advised to not get married before medical school. We were told our marriage might not make it through the four years, etc, etc... Hearing that was sorta terrifying, yes, but we were newlyweds with infatuation and bliss on our sides and we weren't going to let their negativity and skepticism ruin our plans, or our marriage.

Now that we've made it through medical school and are well into the first year of residency, I can say with absolute certainly that those people were wrong. It was hard, yes, but not get married because of medical school? Get divorced because of medical school? Really?! And maybe that has a lot to do with our personal view on marriage, but the advice we got, looking back now, was very drastic and unrealistic.

So my advice?

1. Don't ask them what time they'll be home. I used to do this all the time. Sometimes I break my own rule and I still do it (and I regret it every time! Stephen will even say, "you're not supposed to ask me that!") I'll be having a long day with the kids and want to know when I can hand them off or I'll be trying to put dinner on the table and want to know when I should put it in the oven so it won't be cold when he gets home... But, don't. Because when he realizes he forgot to go over an entire section that is going to be on the test, or he gets one more patient admitted at 6:50 when he is off at 7, or his professor/attending asks one more thing of him that he wasn't expecting to have to do... That's not his fault. He'll say 5 and then it'll change to 8 and he'll feel awful and you'll be mad but you'll try not to act mad so you'll just subconsciously make him feel guilty and you'll be annoyed when he finally does come home and just DON'T. Instead...

2. Do your own thing. Not necessarily your own thing, but the thing you would normally do with your husband, just by yourself. You got me? Don't wait to start going to your church's small group until your husband is around to go with you. When will you ever be able to go, then? Don't wait months to try that new restaurant until your husband has a night off and you're able to line up a babysitter, because what are the chances? Now I'm not suggesting your husband will never be around or that you should take every date night idea and throw them out the window (or try them out for yourself), but don't sit around all day just waiting for him to come home, either. If he doesn't know if he'll make it home for dinner, eat without him. If he can't make it to church, load up the kids and go anyway. If you walk by that restaurant every day and can no longer avoid the craving, meet a friend for lunch. I used to hate the idea that Stephen would get off work and I wouldn't be there when he got home, or he'd find out last minute that he could come home for lunch but we'd already be out. And I still hate that idea - we get such little time with him at is it, I want to enjoy it all - but what I want to do and what I need is important, too - don't forget that. A happy wife makes a happy life, right? ;)

3. Count your blessings. It is so easy to jump on that complain train and think that you have it worst. I see other moms and wives complaining about their husbands being so busy in undergrad or with a regular 8-5 job and my blood boils. "You think you have it bad?!" But why am I so eager to be in the harder situation? Why do I want to prove that I have it bad, worse than them? Everyone's level of "hard" is different, so when I start to complain about things, I consciously try to step back and count my blessings. Medical school/residency is hard, but is my husband over seas fighting a war? Is he dying of cancer? Is he unemployed, searching for a job, unable to provide for our family? No. He's across the street at the medical center, alive, healthy, learning and doing something he enjoys while I am able to stay at home with our babies like I've always wanted to, cook food for our family and clean the house that is providing us shelter and heat. Reality check.

4. Respect your husband (and his time). I would always see Stephen's time in school or at the hospital as "alone time" because he wasn't home with us. So when he'd get a day off or get off early and want to go grab a beer with friends, go to the gym or play volleyball for a couple hours, I would get so angry and feel so hurt - "You've been gone all week and now you're here and you're going to leave me, again?!" But his time away isn't alone. His time away is spent learning a lot of deep and intricate information, leaving him physically and emotionally drained. His time away is not relaxing, but nor is it necessarily uplifting. Are you not a better, more attentive mom when you've been given a break from your whining kids? A better, more selfless wife when you've been able to pour some time into yourself, first? The same goes for your husband. Recognize that, support that, encourage that and try not to make him feel guilty about that.

Every medical school is different and every student is different - how much time they'll need to spend studying, how many hours of class they have each day, how much extracurricular activities they'll need/want to do... It's hard to give all encompassing advice. Each semester, each rotation... Things will change - they'll get easier and then they'll get harder - but that's life, no?

My friend Summer (a fellow resident's wife) said once that she'd rather have a 100% man, 10% of the time, than a 10% man, 100% of the time. Stephen may not be around as often as I'd like, as often as he'd like, but when he is around, he's the genuine, thoughtful, funny, caring, dedicated man I married and knowing that, having that, makes all the difference.

To read past posts on medical school, click here, and to read a guest post I wrote for Just A Mama in Love, (which is completely applicable to these questions!), click here.

1 comment :

  1. It was such a blessing to find this! I've followed you on insta for a while now but haven't spent much time on your blog. My husband is starting medical school this coming summer/fall and I'm starting to stress about moving and being in a whole new busy situation as a momma to an almost 2 year old (my babe and Ezra are like a week apart). But these were such peaceful, encouraging words truly sent from God. Thank you for being open and willing to share your journey.