trying to be a little more balanced. I do think that happiness in medicine is very dependent on specialty choice and a person's compatability in a given specialty. It is hard to find that. I have noticed the psychiatry moms on this forum seem very happy. The surgeons seem happy too, once they are done with training. Primary care (medicine, family medicine, obgyn and sometimes peds)seem to be more burned out. though I would say some peds people seem very happy with it. just my two cents.
I am extremely happy with where I am now and would absolutely do it again. I love what I do.
That said, I went to med school on a full ride +stipend (so no debt other than a pinch from undergrad and our mortgage), I do have a spouse with a good income AND a flexible job, and I chose a very family-friendly residency program in a very family-friendly specialty, and I'm currently in a highly time-flexible research fellowship in a field I really enjoy. If any of those factors were different my answer might be much different as well.
I don't think I would have gone to med school if I had had to pay for it tbh.
The problem for me was that I had no idea how much I would want to be around my kids before I had them. I wasn't even sure I wanted kids. Before kids, I would say my satisfaction with work was 10/10. Absolutely no complaints there and loved my job. I felt my 55+ hours/week and call were no burden at all. Loan payments were not a big deal at all because I felt I had unlimited disposable income for how I wanted to live.
Now that I have kids, loan payments do feel like a big burden. I really wish my husband had a high paying job. I want to be very very part time and have a zillion kids.
The discussion of the factors that sway one one way or the other is interesting. Emily, I like your system =). I'm another example of someone in psychiatry who says "yes! I would do med school again! (I think...)". The thing I'm far less sure about, actually, is the PhD part. Which sort of shows you the "grass is greener" part of it all - while I got a free ride + stipend in med school, the cost is that now I'm on a resident's salary (with a husband who is NOT earning a lot despite working a lot, which is important context) with two young kids, which is frustrating. And I missed more of my first kid's young life than I would have liked to - it would have been better to be able to cut to part time sooner. So I fantasize sometimes about a do-over where I do straight MD and thus am 4-5 years further along in my career before having kids. But that may partly just illustrate that, not dealing with the debt issue myself, I downplay its impact, while focusing on my own frustration....