× Women in Medicine Blogs & Diaries

When you don't choose medicine....

14 years 8 months ago #68755 by mommd2b
It might seem odd that I have continued my membership/moderatorship here at mommd after laying aside my medical school aspirations. I have been a proud mommd member though since before there even was a mommd website to speak of and my medical school aspirations were a large part of my life.

Many of us will pursue the medical school dream, but not everyone will end up choosing medical school in the end. I guess I feel that there is still a spot for me here, as I communicate regularly with members here who, like me, were accepted to medical school and then chose another path.

So here is my story and my blog for those who are curious or who decide that medical school isn't where they want to be right now.

I had a double major in ugrad in psych and german. I didn't actually know what I wanted to do with the 'rest of my life' until late in my junior year when I finally got around to taking my freshman required science courses. I was absolutely hooked. I began making connections between things that I had learned in my psychology classes and the biological foundations of behavior and felt certain that I wanted to pursue a career in Psychiatry while doing basic biological science research.

I had already applied and been accepted to a foreign exchange year in Germany and so I put my newly budding medical school aspirations on hold to pursue what I thought would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study in germany (and would look great on a med school app :D ).

Little did I know that during the course of that year I would fall head over heels in love... and that I would eventually leave europe to return to the US several years later with a husband and two children. In that time I had taken more biology and chemistry classes, had applied to medical school and been accepted...and had turned down the opportunity thinking "there will be time for me later".

I had met my husband during his medical school rotations and we were married during his first 18 months of residency in germany. Then we had moved on to N. Ireland for another year of residency (more good stuff for a med school application) and finally, he had started over again as an IM resident in the US. We completed three years of IM and then moved again for him to complete 2 more years of ID fellowship.

When we finally settled in after fellowship, I realized that he was living my dream...and he wasn't very happy doing it. The cost to our marriage had been high and our children didn't even know him. Our youngest child at the time (baby #3) would walk around the house saying "papa working, papa working" and none of the kids would believe me if I told them that Papa was upstairs or in his office or in the kitchen....

I began to realize that someday for me just...might not come...and I felt panicked and trapped by a life that I had basically made for myself. I had always thought that it would be possible to combine family with a challenging career like medicine...and for some families, it is. The realization though that my husband's fellowship (and the Molecular Biology MS program I had finished) had taken such a heavy toll on us was hard for me to swallow.

Could I put my children through the rigors of medical training again? Was it selfish for me to pursue my dreams or did I have to sacrifice my happiness for the overall well-being of my family? Would my children suffer if I returned to school? Could my marriage survive another hit like q3 call or studying for the USMLE exams?

Quite honestly, I felt miserable. I would sit at the computer late into the night calculating my gpa if I took 'class x, y, or z', doing sample mcat questions, researching 'family friendly' medical schools or distance learning options. I drove myself crazy...and my husband too. There was only one career that I could see myself in...and that was medicine. I imagined that if I didn't 'go for it' that I would be a cranky, bitter old lady who felt unfulfilled and angry at the world. Even worse was my envy that my husband was living my dream every day.

I got a job teaching biology labs with the idea of keeping my feet in the science field and again...having something to put in that med school application. Much to my surprise though, I found teaching to be really rewarding. I improved every semester and discovered that it was possible for me to see a 'back-up' plan for myself just in case med school didn't work out. Still, I was on the 10 year plan to med school.

I let myself have a small glimpse of life other than medicine by promising myself that I ...wasn't going to get away from my med school plans...I was just going to explore more of myself....there was no risk involved. Med school was still a certainty.

I got involved in teaching german to children through a german Saturday school program. I began being able to see myself as an immersion german teacher. I started a big writing project that I have almost finished, learned how to sew and organized all of our pictures into scrapbooks.

Slowly, I began to realize that I could still be an intelligent, capable woman even if I didn't end up choosing medicine or science anymore. I could follow alternative paths in my life that would allow me to more ideally combine family and career without sacrificing my own happiness. I began to take more time for my husband, myself and my children....and for the first time in years I really began to relax. It became ok to actually NOT choose medical school anymore. In a way, it was a relief to open the door to other opportunities for myself.

Which leads me to where I am right now.....I have decided to stay at home for 2 more years and then to possibly pursue a PsyD program.

I have the gpa and research background to go for the PhD program nearby....but I have taken a good hard look at what I really want. I want to help people and work in a clinical setting. I have already played the research game and at this point in my life I don't feel willing to step back on the treadmill.

We have 4 wonderful children and my marriage is stronger than it has ever been. I'm not willing to give that up for prestige...and I feel at peace with that decision right now.

For me, at this point in my life, it is all about enjoying the here and now. I realize that I will continue to evolve over the next few years as I make my decisions about where I want to end up, but I want to focus more on the journey and less on the destination right now.


In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

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14 years 8 months ago #68756 by mommd2b
Thanks to all of you who PMd me about this post. I have considered writing about this decision-making process for awhile, but was unsure of how it would be perceived. This has been a long, gradual process and it has taken me a long time to find peace with where I am at in my life right now.

I must admit that I felt tearful as I read some of the PMs/emails. I remember 'coming out' of the closet as a pre-med. It was a really significant moment in my life...'coming out' of the closet as no longer being on that path was actually more difficult than I thought it would be.

I received many different responses, and I am grateful for the postive ones. I do feel that I have to address two issues though before continuing my blog:

In no way do I feel that the choice to pursue medical school/residency etc is a selfish one... I'm not taking the moral high ground here. I'm simply taking the path that is best for me and my family right now. Everyone here has different life circumstances and medicine and the pursuit of a more demanding residency may be doable for many of you here. Our family situation is different because my husband is not in a position to 'step up to the plate' and help out more.

There is also the idea floating out there that if you don't 'go for it' and try and 'rise to the top' as residency program director or chief resident, etc that you are somehow letting down women in general. I think that each woman needs to find her own success/fulfillment and happiness. It is insulting to women who find happiness or fulfillment in spending time as sahm's and classroom volunteers etc to suggest that they are failing or aren't good enough ... just as it is an insult to suggest that working moms are failing as mothers.

We all have different life circumstances and we should respect each other and our choices! I tip my hats at all of you who are juggling/balancing this medical school dream right now.


In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

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14 years 8 months ago #68757 by mommd2b
Being a pre-med isn't just a mindset...it's a lifestyle. Since finally admitting to myself and to everyone around me that I am no longer on the med school track I have begun to discover how ingrained this way of life is in me.

A friend of mine is taking organic chemistry this summer and my first impulse was to sign up for a science class myself. My pre-reqs are almost all too old and I thought "I should take it too"...and began leafing through the catalog and trying to decide whether or not to retake the old class or try and take an upper-level class. Then it occurred to me that I didn't have to do it anymore...which...made me sad in a way.

Later in the week, I was browsing some of the graduate marine science courses offered via distance learning at Nova and my first thought wasn't whether or not the course would be interesting to me....it was how it would be perceived by an ADCOM because of it's 1. distance learning nature and 2. because grad classes are seen as being 'easy A's'. I didn't even catch myself on that one until I had decided not to take something. It occurred to me about an hour later that I could take the classes just for me...just for fun.

I think I became obsessed over the years with constructing a life that eventually (even though I wasn't studying full-time or working full-time) would 'look good' on a medical school application. I have been teaching biology labs at our state University part-time, have been writing bio questions for ETS, have been volunteering as a german teacher through our state's german language organization, and have been taking classes on the side. In addition, I have been doing writing and have developed a support community for spouses of physicians. I feel like I always have to keep doing, doing, doing to prove my ability and my worth.

I'm grappling lately to come to terms with the fact that I really, for the most part, feel ok with not going to medical school now. Thatis the hardest part of this, actually. There is a huge societal image that goes along with being an MD....Doctors are smart, compassionate people who 'save lives' as a 'calling...and sahm's are 'too stupid to do anything else' or 'not ambitious' or have 'wasted their potential as women'. I've even heard some of these types of comments here at MomMD over the years.

Yet most of the sahm's that I know are very bright women who have all different levels of education but agonize over the choices that they have after their children come along. It's one thing to work 80 hours a week when you don't have a baby...but not everyone wants to do that. Instead of respecting that, women who choose to jump off of the treadmill are viewed as weak, or unwilling to sacrifice. Somehow, we've gotten away from the idea that 'women have the choice to be anything that they want including a doctor' to 'any woman who isn't a high-powered careerwoman is failing all women'. Being 'just' a mom isn't ok anymore. It is perceived as being menial labor that can be accomplished by any teen-ager who has taken a red cross babysitters course.

I understand now why women who end up choosing family over career end up kind of isolating themselves from the 'career mom'. The choice to stay at home isn't an easy one for most women, but they do it out of necessity, or because they want to experience these years to the fullest. Instead of having this choice respected, they are looked down on by those women who have chosen to try and 'have it all'.

I honestly don't believe you can have it all at once. I know the difference between being a full-time working/studying parent and being a sahm parent...and for me, anyway, there was a qualitative difference. At the same time, over the years I made the choice to work and/or return to school more than once simply because I couldn't stand the monotonous, at times too boring for words life of being a sahm. I had those days where I cried when I walked into every room in the house because I felt like my brain was turning to mush and I was so bored and feeling so unfulfilled.

I won't pretend that I was the same mom that I am now though when I was in school full-time. I was busy and pre-occupied with what I had to get done. I wasn't a bad mom, but at the same time, even when I was reading to the kids in the back of my mind I was trying to mentally go through the organic chemistry of nitrogen mustards or planning what I needed to do that evening when I went in to work on my research.

Now I am more patient and know much more about the day-to-day happenings in the lives of my children. That doesn't mean that I don't have times where I feel absolutely lonely, bored and resentful....but I handle it differently now because I have given myself permission to be at this point in my life. It's ok to be at home for awhile..It's ok to embrace this life with the negatives too. I'm reaching out more to other sahm's for the first time and am trying to put the same effort into parenting that I have been putting into pre-meding over the years.

Let me just add...I'm not quite there yet though.

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

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14 years 8 months ago #68758 by mommd2b
Last night I felt like I was almost on the fence about this issue all over again. My husband noticed immediately that something wasn't right and we had a long talk about all of this.

I guess for all of my vibrado about my feelings I still suffer from a lot of self-doubt and am still questioning what I want. I can't decide if I'm depressed, resigned to what's 'realistic' or am truly at peace with this decision.

I have been teaching bio labs for the last 3 years and have really come to love it. I enjoy teaching, I like science and I have often thought that science would be my 'plan B'. My job at the state U was made more difficult though by the fact that I only have my MS. It didn't matter how much extra time I put in or how dedicated I was....at the end of the day, my MS wasn't enough.

I taught the lab portion of the majors (pre-med/dent/pharmacy/bio) intro to biology class. It was so poorly organized when I came that I ended up rewriting the lab manual from the ground up. Many of the labs were simply bare-bones skeletal descriptions full of spelling errors. They provided no background information or direction at all. I took an entire year to revise all of the labs and write a manual for the TA's to help them in their teaching.

My second year, I was in charge of the TAs and I admit that I made my mistakes...but I learned and for the most part felt that I did a good job.

This year, however, the course director changed. My new 'boss' and I just didnn't seen eye-to-eye and he didn't respect my Master's degree.

It was very frustrating.

It was obvious to me that this instructor simply did not want me to be a part of the class. He told me that I had been given too much responsibility for my degree in previous years and that I was only going to be able to teach and have no more say...so I decided to resign. :ouch:

The dept. chair was very disappointed but was understanding. I had already committed to teaching for the summer session and I'm doing it even though I feel so resentful and sad that they were so willing to just let me go after I put so much of myself into the position over the last few years.

I feel down about it all. I feel tired of having to fight so hard to stay just in the middle of the herd.

In any case, I think all of this has something to do with the fact that I have been withdrawing from the academic world lately. I just don't want to jump through anyone else's hoops anymore. I'm getting old and stubborn I guess. :D


In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

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14 years 8 months ago #68759 by mommd2b
We've been struggling in our house all year with the issue of bullying. :( My 10 year old is into math, maps and muppets instead of hockey, soccer and football. He is a sweet boy who walks into the house each day and says "where is my baby boy" and then picks up his 18 mo old brother and goes in and watches Sesame Street with him.

In short, he is a very sweet, mild-mannered boy who is a little on the sensitive side.

He has endured a ton of ridicule this year as a result of not fitting the 'mold' of the 'typical 10 year old'..though to be quite honest, I'm not sure what that is.

We did everything possible to try and prevent the teasing. I spoke with his classroom teacher almost daily some weeks, met with the principal etc...but nothing worked. He had soup thrown at him in the lunchroom and experienced a variety of threats and was even elbowed and kicked by the girls in the room.

The last month of school though, things turned nasty. These 10 year olds began teasing him in a very inappropriate manner.

I am truly heartbroken for him. I could barely sleep last night because I feel so much pain for him.

This is truly the worst kind of teasing.



In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

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14 years 7 months ago #68760 by mommd2b
I turned 35 this weekend. Though my husband really did everything to make this my 'best birthday ever' (and it was great), I couldn't help but feel sad all day long. This was the year that I had promised myself that I would be applying to med school...I hoped to be a 1st yr student in the Fall. I couldn't escape this knowledge all day long...and dh knew it.

He finally said "we'll find something for you"...and we had another one of those long talks about how medicine just wouldn't be a good fit for me with such a large family. I know he is right, but it is a tough pill to swallow. We only have 1 med school near us and it is over an hour away without traffic. With traffic it can be a 2-2.5 hour drive. We could possibly move closer, but he has to be within 30 minutes of the hospital.

We started talking about other options...PsyD, PhD in psych, Science PhD...all of the other options started swimming around in my mind..and not a single one of these can be studied close by. I would have to travel to the cities to study any one of them.

He suggested I become a Montessori teacher and then open up my own German Montessori school...and offered to pay for me to register for a marine science course asap....But...what would be the point? With just a Master's degree, I can't teach anywhere nearby...my options are so limited. I feel like it would be more money thrown out the window for more useless coursework that gets me nowhere. I think he should just put the $1500 that it would cost to take the class towards my student loans that I owe on my Master's Degree and be done with it.

Today I still feel sad....that I've lost this dream. I keep going back in my mind to 11 years ago when I was accepted but turned it down thinking my chance would come later. I don't regret having my children...I don't regret having such a large family. Heck, I'd welcome having a larger family. I know this is a choice that I have made, and yet sometimes I do wish...that I could have it all.


In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

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