Top 8 Reasons My MommyDoc Rocks!

8) Some mommies wear yoga pants, my mommy wears scrubs. More cost effective than Athleta. Less see through than Lulu.

7) I always have a pro to go to for help with my homework. After all, she had to ace test after test to get into med school. And, she studies hard even now to maintain certification.

6) She’s taught me to suck it up. To quote “Unless there’s visible brain matter don’t cry!” I think this is because, in the absence of head injury, there were no days off during her many years of medical training.

5) But, for minor boo boos she always has a stick of dermabond handy to mend my wounds. Hours in urgent care purgatory thus avoided.

4) No episodes of Grey’s Anatomy wasting space on the DVR. Because you know, like she says “That *stuff* ain’t real!”

3) She doesn’t over think the parenting advice out there. She doesn’t have time to. So if I need a little screen time to give her a chance to to rest I get screen time. If I need to stay up late to get a chance to see her I get to stay up late. If I need toilet water…. There are no rules to MommyDoc parenting.

2) She understands science. So, I am up to date on all my vaccines.

1) She is a great role model. I know she feels guilty that she spends less time with me than other mommies spend with their kiddos. I hope she doesn’t get sucked into the mommy wars because those kids don’t have her to look up to.

Advertisements

Let them eat frozen pizza

As I have noted in the past, I am not accustomed to taking care of my own basic needs for food and shelter or those of my progeny.

Last time my husband left town for work (which was truly one of the first times I had ever needed to be alone with my children and responsible for feeding and watering them), I almost set the house on fire with my attempt to heat up a frozen pizza.

So when he recently left town again for back to back business meetings I was on a quest to not make frozen pizza (or set the house on fire). Here were my challenges:

1) My husband drives by our local grocery store on his way home from work every day and picks up what he will need whip up a quick meal. What he is going to cook is based on a scheme we devised a couple of years ago (because a lack of a scheme meant that even he was too often defaulting to frozen pizza or other pre-made processed foods for dinner) that involves “meatless Monday,” “taco Tuesday,” “wildlife Wednesday,” etc. As a result, we rarely have a meal we haven’t had before and we never have ingredients on hand to do a meal on the fly but he is always able to concoct a reasonably home cooked meal on a nightly basis. And, if I am not on call, I get to prance in whenever my 12 or 14 or 16 hour day is over to a warm meal.  I am ravenous after these long days at work. Stopping at a grocery store in such a state would be an utter disaster. Plus, my days are long enough (even when I modify them because my husband won’t be home by 6pm every evening) I don’t really have the time to get into the store and home in time to relieve the sitter. So lack of ingredients was clearly barrier #1.

2) While you might think I don’t cook because my husband is so good at it, the truth is I don’t really know how to cook. My immigrant parents were so into me and my sister being studious that our mother never imparted her amazing cooking skills onto us. (We are honestly both total domestic failures beyond even cooking!) I do think I might enjoy cooking in concept and have tried on occasion to help out with meals say for a party or a holiday event. But,  I have a hard time following recipes and, on the rare occasions that when I do attempt to cook, I simply toss things in and see what happens. With the advent of the internet, my go to method for meal prep is googling a meal I am craving and picking and choosing which parts of a series of recipes seem good to me. Sometimes the result is edible. Sometimes not. This failure of a single component of a meal or a spread might be acceptable for a dinner where my mom or my husband or my mother-in-law, or an event where the guests with “an appetizer or dessert of your choice,” make up the difference; but it won’t work if my kids are counting on this meal to fill their gnawing bellies. Absence of even rudimentary culinary skills was a high second. 

Here’s what I did:

First, I snuck out of work once to pick up a couple of things at the store that might help me through meal prep. Next, I spent far to much time during the work day contemplating what I might do for dinner. When I got home each night I rummaged through the fridge and pantry to see which of my ambitious dinner plots I could pull off. Finally, when it came to meal time, I made it clear to my kids that they would eat whatever I managed to make without complaining no matter how much it sucked. They were sufficiently frightened by my frenzied state that they dutifully complied.

IMG_2980.JPGDay 1: I cube some marinaded chicken, open a bottle of marinara sauce, toss in a shredded vegetable mix that was about to expire in the veggie drawer and cook it all up in a single pot. I find some “vegetable” farfalle that clearly predates our conversion to a low carbohydrate lifestyle and cooked it up as described on the box. I make my older kid shred the block of parmesan (my husband would never have a cheese drawer without a block of high end parm) while I cook hoping she doesn’t shred her phalanges into the mix. She does remarkably well. The result is a pretty edible pasta dish with added protein.

Day 2: We have some eggs in the fridge and some potatoes in the pot drawer (Why, I wonder does my husband keep potatoes there? Why do we even have potatoes in the house. We haven’t had potatoes in over 2 years for any meal? Oh wait, thanksgiving was a week ago and we did have mashed potatoes and lots of other carbs for that occasion.) Okay now that I have gotten beyond the existence of potatoes in my home I move on to “breakfast for dinner.” I look up a few recipes for “breakfast potatoes” online and decide to cube them, IMG_2983.JPGtoss on a bit of canola oil, sprinkle on a “French blend” I picked up a Penzy’s a while back for no apparent reason and speed cook them in the Advantium oven. I make 3 incredibly variable omelets with 2% American cheese slices as the main dish. I end up tossing in my mom’s left over apple sabzi from Thanksgiving for an added touch (I didn’t make it but it was yummy and I would feel awful if I let it go bad.) The result is a pretty okay but not so pretty breakfast for dinner.

IMG_2997.JPGDay 3: This is one of my grocery shopping days. I had picked up McCormick’s stir fry sauce and packaged stir-fry veggies from the produce section. I had grilled chicken left over from my husband’s last taco tuesday and I figured the kids wouldn’t notice any lingering lime marinade. And though I am sure there is a giant vat of basmati somewhere in the house because, well, my mom has been there, I am not sure where it is since rice has been banished along with most grains and pastas. Plus,  I am intimidated by raw ingredients that come out of burlap bags that are later turned into purses at Anthropologie so I also bought box of Jasmine rice from the store. So though not quite from scratch I did have to put some work in. I saute up the veggies in the wok with a bit of oil while I cook the rice in a pot (not the crazy two-tier rice cooker/vegetable steamer we registered for 15 years ago and have used 3 times but just a basic Farberware pot).  I follow the sauce instructions and mix it and the chicken together with the veggies and boom a dinner is born. This was perhaps the most edible of the meals reviewed here in since I didn’t challenge myself very much. It was more veggies than my kids usually eat to boot. Total win for the chicken teriyaki stir-fry over jasmine rice and I recycle the rice box (though not as a pocketbook!).

Day 4: During my previous trip to the store I had picked up some tricolor tortellini. The kids love ravioli and I thought the shape of the tortellini would tickle them. I know, yet another moment of weakness for my otherwise low-carb life (we literally stopped eating pasta at home in 2011 and haven’t looked back) but I’d been on a carb bender all week so what was there to lose? Turns out that I had used the last jar of pasta sauce on Day #1. What?!? What the hell kind of yuppie American household doesn’t have multiple jars of Newman’s Own Marinara in reserve in the pantry! Argh. I am already ravenous. My mind is set on the tortellini. I have no time to leave home and go back to store lest I buy its entire contents due to IMG_3004.JPGmy hungry state. So I find a can of tomato paste and some milk and some cream that have yet to expire (if my husband were he home these would have otherwise been in his coffee). I dump them together in a pot while the older child puts her shredding skills to work yet again. I look in the spice drawer and toss in some dried oregano and garlic and later I mix in the cheese in an attempt to make some sort of a tomato cream sauce. I slice the remaining taco tuesday chicken and serve them a really, truly, awful chicken with a side of tortellini in a tomato cream sauce. Luckily, my kids are so pumped by the overdose of carbs that they ignore the hideous taste of the sauce.

Day 5: A weaker woman might have lost steam after day 4 but not me. I am determined. So I bounce back intent to use the ready made pie crusts that are still in the fridge from Thanksgiving. We caved at the last minute and bought an apple pie so the crusts remained. According to the packaging these unopened crusts should have already been frozen but like expiration dates on meds I don’t take this too seriously. And, for some reason (probably because I hate broccoli more than any other vegetable in the world) my husband has left 2 giant bags of broccoli florets in the vegetable drawer. There is also a half cut white onion.  There are still a couple of eggs left and the open carton of egg whites only expired 48 hours previously. No biggie. And of course we have parmesan. I spend all day contemplating a quiche. I google a few recipes. There a many options but essentially eggs, cheese, dairy, flour, +/- crust, heat and voila a quiche is born. But should a crustless quiche be cooked for as long as one with a crust? Will a glass or metal pie pan make a difference? I quickly sort through this. I settle on 25 minutes in the Advantium in the Pyrex pie plate. I let my little guy whip together the two eggs with the egg whites and the place is not a total mess. The older one is on parmesan duty again. I reach into the kitchen for the gallon of milk that I swear was half full when I left that morning and it’s gone. I send the other kid to the garage fridge, no back up milk. What!? No dairy for my quiche. Dammit but I really want quiche! Luckily there is also a soon to expire half empty carton of non-fat plain Greek yogurt. I just toss caution to the culinary wind and go for it. I mix the eggs with diced onions and broccoli that I sauteed with a touIMG_3005.JPGch of olive oil in the wok that is my new best friend and add in the yogurt, a cup of shredded parm, and two tablespoons of quick mixing/gravy thickening floor. I am not sure if this is or isn’t the same as the all-purpose flour noted on multiple recipes I consulted but I don’t bother finding out. I am too flustered by the dairy debacle. My kids no never to drink the last of the skim milk ever again.  25 minutes later there is a sort of watery mess in the center of my pie plate but after cooling for a bit it hardens up. My older one’s only complaint is that the onion pieces were too big. My little one says he hates cheese and refuses to eat it. He went to be hungry that night. I proceeded to have quiche for lunch for 3 additional days. I really loved it. I think it was the yogurt.

Day 6: I am craving Indian food. This is the one thing my husband hasn’t tried to tackle but my ego is getting the best of me after 5 days of being super mom. All the dishes were done and the kitchen was spotless after each of these previous meals. Each was consumed with the three of us at the table (often I take my meals on the chaise where I eat in a half crumpled, totally exhausted state while the kids have typically already eaten or are still finishing up at the table) actually interacting. I am reminded of my youth and the family meals of my mother and I am set on Indian food. I have freeze dried chana masala and I have canned chick peas. I opt for the latter because, you know, I am feeling like a total badass by now. How to make the sauce I wonder? I don’t bother to look it up. I have no sauce ingredients and my kids won’t like anything spicy. I find another half onion in a different part of the fridge. There are also these miniature bell peppers strewn about the bottom of the vegetable drawer. I chop them all up. I once again pull out my trusty wok and saute it all up with a bit of olive oil and several pinches of spices that smell Indian when I open the jars then I toss in the chick peas and a can of Campbell’s Plain tomato soup. While I am doing this I mix up from whole wheat flour, oil, and warm water as suggested by a googled recipe to make dough for rotis. I apparently add in too much water and it becomes a gross tacky mess. There is no more whole wheat flour and my hands are covered. I ask my little guy to help get some all-purpose flour (of course, now I find it!) mixed into my sticky mess of dough. He proceeds create a snow scape on our kitchen island but we finally get to the point where texture of the dough sort of reminds me of when I used to beg my mom to help roll out rotis as a kid. Now my own child is begging to help me do that same but I think she must have failed geometry because clearly she does not know what a circle is. So I take out the flat pan that my mom clearly put in my pot drawer for roti making and proceed to make a series of rorschaIMG_3006.JPGch test rotis for accompany the bizzaro tomato soup chana. I also made some jasmine rice again which was a piece of cake compared to everything else. The kitchen looks like a storm came through and this whole process takes me a full 90 minutes. The result is reasonably tasty rotis, a decent mild chick pea something that is decidedly not chana masala and, well, thank god for that box of rice.

Day 7: And on the 7th day I was brimming with pride but exhausted. So I sat on my chaise nursing a sea salt dark chocolate caramel and let my 11yo set the house on fire with the frozen pizza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does my husband rant about me?

It’s 2014. Men and women are sharing, though perhaps not equally, more of the household and parenting responsibilities than ever before. So I was aghast when I recently read on a doctor mom site I have been following recently a “husband rant” from an exasperated woman who literally does everything in terms of home upkeep (cooking, cleaning, organizing, bill paying) and childcare (feeding, bedtimes, school drop offs) while her husband apparently enjoys his recliner and a beer. Whoa!

Embed from Getty Images

Are there modern men who really do not help around the house or with the kids? At all?

I am struggling to wrap my head around this unbalanced relationship because I have honestly not witnessed this in my generation of women friends across many different career paths. Even among my friends who have chosen to be housewives (if you want to know why I didn’t use the term “stay-at-home mom” read here) their husbands go out of their way when they get home from work or a business trip or just a day on the golf course to help with the kids or do some chores around the house–and not just the traditional male household tasks like lawn mowing and snow shoveling. Among my surgeon mom friends, even among some who are married to other surgeons, the balance of homemaking and child rearing falls on their husbands though there is often a village or a metropolis involved in making it all work.

sea-salt-dark-chocolate-caramelsAs I was reflecting upon this husband rant, I was obvious to me that I am that person in my relationship. “Does my husband rant about me?” I wondered. I don’t have a recliner and I don’t drink beer but if you replace the former with a chaise on the sectional and a dark chocolate salted caramel…..yup, that’s me.

He was travelling for work last week and I was a fish out of water keeping the house and the kids afloat. I had to fend for myself for a variety of daily tasks (making my morning cup of coffee, making my lunch, taking out the trash, charging my phone, setting my alarm, going to the grocery store, putting gas in the car, walking the dog, getting the kids do their homework or take a shower or go to bed or do anything that involved not annoying me, getting the kids to school, making an evening meal that doesn’t involve a frozen pizza, cleaning up after said meal, paying the nanny and the house cleaner, doing my delicates [yes he does my delicates, I am that lucky!]) that I too often take for granted because he gets them done without me ever asking. It’s as if he always has and I honestly don’t know another way of life.

Sure this way of our life started because I was always working a lot more than him. Early on, there were so many days where I was just too tired to even brush my teeth or walk the 10 steps from the couch to my bed that chipping in with housework did not even occur to me. At first, I tried to use my one weekend off to help with household chores but it quickly became apparent that such precious moments away from work were best spent enjoying each others’ company and building memories that didn’t involve Lysol or writing checks (recall, this was the pre-online banking era).

Since my husband’s mom had raised him well, he was able to take over most all of the housework even though both he and I were raised by a generation where fathers were not particularly involved in household responsibilities unless there was a power tool involved. In our life he does everything that his mom and my mom traditionally did around the home and everything that our dads did too. Luckily, as we have grown older and more financially stable, we have been able to outsource some of the more onerous household tasks.

When we had kids, I couldn’t be the one who stayed at home. It’s just not something that exists in the career path that I chose. So, he did. He was a great stay-at-home dad and I was not that person who came home after 37 straight hours at work and offered to take the kids off his hand so he could have a break. I suppose in retrospect it wasn’t fair for me to do nothing (though I did supply 26 months of breast milk that I hoped  offset the fact that I changed <1% of my two kids’ diapers) but I was in survival mode during those years. And he’s done 99% of the school drop offs, doctors appointments, etc. since these kids were born, even when he was back in the work force full time because his 40-50 hour work weeks were always more forgiving and flexible than my 60-120 hour work weeks.

So, as hard as this life must have been for him, we fell into survival mode together. He and I fell into a routine together where he was the rock of our domestic life. It continues to this day. As an attending surgeon with a research focus I have some more flexibility to attend to homemaking and childrearing but still a lot less than him. And, he’s just a natural at it after all this years while I am, well, a fish out of water.

Embed from Getty ImagesI find it heartbreaking that this woman is in a position where she feels so unsupported in her home life and in her work as a parent from the person she is hoping to share the rest of her life with; but I am grateful to her for making me take a moment to really appreciate how lucky I am to have found a partner who makes it so very easy for me to do the many, many other things that I do when I am away from our home and our family. Is it perfect? No. Do we ever fight about chores or kids? Hell yes. Do I say thank you often enough? Nope, definitely not.

I am fortunate that I don’t really have much to rant about when it comes to our home and our family. So, really, does he ever rant about me?

He should. But only after he brings me my dark chocolate sea salt caramels as I lounge sleep on my chaise.

asleep on couch

Will all part-time mothers please stand up?

Embed from Getty Images

Hmmm… Don’t see anybody yet… Wait, wait maybe… Oh, nope that was just a cricket I heard chirping in the corner.

Oh, riiiiight, maybe no one is standing up because it doesn’t f’ing exist.  You want to go find a part-time mother?  Try going to find a unicorn instead, you’ll have better luck.  And while you are at it, find a Kardashian that doesn’t take selfies and a toddler that doesn’t become an invertebrate whilst strapping them into a car seat.  Because aaaallll off that mess is going to happen before you find a “part-time” mother.

Unfortunately I just saw the intro to a House Hunters episode where the wife introduced herself as a “full-time mother and part-time advertising consultant”.  Son of a b!t$h, when are we going to stop doing this to ourselves and each other?!  The phrase full-time mother implies that there is another type of mother.  Like, I don’t want to be confused with a non full-time mother so I really need to spell this s&:! out.  But this begs the question, is there really another type of mother?

Sorry peeps, but, no, there isn’t.  I have friends who are divorced and share custody with ex-husbands, friends who stay at home but spend almost 20 hours a week training for marathons and triathlons, friends who work outside the home part-time, full-time, and in my case, crazy-time.  And guess what?  We are never off duty, none of us are ever not mothers.  Even when it is your ex-spouse’s visitation day, who fields the phone calls from the school nurse and settles disputes between siblings?  Plans birthday parties, does infinite loads of laundry filled with socks without mates and grocery shops for the “good” lunchbox snacks?  Yep, that’s you, mom.  Even if you need a “wife”, you are still always a mother.  I have been covered in blood and had a cell phone held up to my ear to tell my nanny, “No, my child can not eat a fifth packet of oatmeal for dinner.” (Yeah, that’s a whole other story…).

Anyways, the point is, regardless of your hobbies, your interests, or your career, whatever takes you out of the house or away from your child for whatever amount of time, you are still a “full-time” mother.  There is no time card to punch in and out of as mothers.  (I mean, if that were the case, then I would gladly clock out next week when we take our 2 year old’s pacifier away, *&%$!@)  But, the bottom line is, we can’t clock out, check out, or hand off to another person this special role that we have.  Let’s drop this full-time, part-time nonsense.  Let’s have enough confidence in ourselves to not feel as if we have to use these terms, and enough confidence to not let anyone make us feel anything less than awesome.

Now, off to find that Kardashian…

Reflections on ‘The Great Work Life Debates’

Last week I, along with nearly 10,000 other surgeons of various specialties, attended our profession’s premier annual meeting, the American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress. Of these, some 50 attended a panel session I chaired called the “Great Work Life Debates.” Embed from Getty Images

Quite honestly, I was so relieved by the turnout.

Every conference needs to have a last day and the desire of attendees to duck out before that day (especially given work life issues such as not spending another night away from your nursing infant or not missing another OR day) is totally understandable. Nevertheless, some sessions will be assigned the dreaded last session of the last day.

So yes, leading up it, I was filled with dread that the co-moderator, six speakers, and I would be the only people in attendance. I was delighted to be wrong.

Embed from Getty ImagesWhy did these hearty surgeons stick around for this session? Why were there so many men (also much to my delight) in the audience? Were they there searching for the right answers to the Great Work Life Debates? Did the panelists even have any answers to provide?

The committee sponsoring the session was the American College of Surgeons Women in Surgery Committee (WiSC). I would posit, however, that in the modern era issues of balancing the demands of work and the demands of life at home (or as I like to think of it, the joys of my profession with the joys of my personal life) are not limited to women surgeons. WiSC just happens to have taken the lead in bringing such issues to a format that I imagine years ago was limited to the best technique for such and such procedure or what’s new with such and such surgical disease.

Just because male surgeons of a particular generation may have propagated a particular stereotype about how they valued or prioritized their work relative to their life outside of work does not mean that the male surgeons of today fit into that stereotype. Just because women are increasingly represented in surgical careers does not mean that socio-cultural norms for women surgeons’ roles outside of work have dissipated. An so, I believe that both men and women sought out this session because more circumscribed professional meetings are less likely to address non-biomedical topics even though concerns for wellness both in and out of work—wholeness as a person inclusive of professional and personal needs—transcend surgical specialties, and yes even gender.

Surgeons, irrespective of specialty, gender, or sexual orientation, who haven’t found a life partner, may be prone to wonder whether they should marry another surgeon or seek a non-surgeon with whom to spend the rest of their days outside of the hospital. Those who do have partners, may wonder how to make it work for the long term irrespective of their lifemate’s profession. Surgeons of both genders who do not have children may be experiencing deep inner desire to start a family or may be frustrated by the perception that choosing not to have a family is somehow not acceptable. And, those with children surely have days when inevitable stress of modern day parenting leave them wondering why they did it just as they surely have days when every worry, whether it is about work or home or world peace, is dissipated by boundless giggles of a toddler or the unexpected talkativeness of an otherwise moody teen.  Surgeons whose careers or family situations throw childrearing into chaos must consider the pros and cons of care rendered by nannies in the home or childcare in the diverse, highly regulated environment provided by out-of-home daycare. And, no matter what option or combination of options they choose there will be less than perfect days when both work and child(ren) will be needing you at the exact same moment.

Surgeons—not male surgeons, not female surgeons—but just surgeons sharing similar work life concerns came together to listen to these Great Work Life Debates. These points (and barring time limitations we could have point/counterpointed countless other work life dilemmas) were argued by women with different life experiences, different perspectives, and different debate tactics but both the pros and the cons resonated with the women and the men in the audience who it seems, based of their feedback thus far, simply desired a venue that acknowledged that we surgeons are in fact humans—we have lives outside of work, lives that are made ever more complex by long hours, possible lives at risk while we are working, and myriad other professional demands (which include, by the way, attending such meetings for so many hours/year for continuing medical education credits).

acs

So what was the bottom line for the men and women who stayed for one of the last sessions on the last day of our conference? Not surprisingly there wasn’t one.

Thus, while marriage is challenging no matter what your day job is (if it wasn’t they would just call it dating forever!) you can’t always control who you fall in love with; a loving, supportive spouse will make your work more manageable whether he/she understands to a tee what you go through every day work or has a vague understanding of why you sometimes come home tired or distracted or not at all. But you too have to be loving and supportive in return and that rendering of love and support may take different shapes.

While children come with the stress and anxiety of raising them along with the costs (~250-500k per child up to 18 years before including the costs of college according to one debator) raising them also brings the joy of nurturing, chubby cheeks, Disney World vacations, etc. but choosing to be childfree also brings many joys (e.g. unfettered travel that need not involve animatronics, increased focus on nurturing your relationship with your partner, increased time to pursue personal wellness) that parents often forego or delay.

Finally, both a nanny and daycare can provide a loving, caring environment replete with both educational and emotional growth while you are working but relying on a single individual may limit diversity and back-up options while relying on daycare increases the day to day burden of prepping the child(ren).  Either way, your children will know you are their parent and they will love you back even on the days when things don’t go smoothly.

My hope is that listening to a spirited debate on these issues related to the dilemmas of partnering, parenting, and childcare will have enabled the audience thoughtfully consider what matters to them and various strategies to help alleviate the strain between the joys of work and the joys of personal life. While there are no perfect solutions (and to strive for a vision of perfection is to set yourself up for disillusionment in your choice of life partner, your decision to (or not to) have children, or your childcare preferences), it’s about crafting a reasonable approach to your own great work life debate based on self-reflection and practical needs.

Thomas the train should get fired: A parents’ guide to children’s programming.

 

photo 1-4

Unfortunately (for everyone involved), my 2 year old son recently had to get his tonsils and adenoids removed.  This resulted in a 2 week period of giving my child nothing but juice and having him cling to me or my husband almost 24 hours a day whilst whimpering pitifully.  NOT fun.  In addition, this meant that for 2 weeks my husband and I were subjected to watching a lot of children’s television programming… a LOT of it.  In fact, it got so bad, I had to start shoving tampons into my ears they were bleeding so badly.

Prior to this, I knew my son loved Thomas the Train, but just thought it was a little show with some trains on it.  Little did I know.

Have any of you watched this s”:t?!

For those of you unfamiliar with Thomas or if you are worried you might have missed an episode, (be glad your brain cells were spared the opportunity to commit suicide) here is my handy guide.

Episode starts:

Meet Thomas, the f^%kup train.  Sir Topham Hatt, the “Fat Controller” (what the f”:^k is a fat controller by the way), asks Thomas to complete some task.  Thomas then promptly goes and f*$ks it up, usually due to a combination of not listening and thinking he knows better.  

Go pick up hay for some baby pigs? Sure, I’ll go pick up some milk and strawberries instead, because baby pigs want milk and strawberries instead of hay to sleep on.  Dumba$$. Then, Sir Topham Hatt gets “cross”, i.e. the literally chubby controller gets pissed.  Then he yells at Thomas, then Thomas realizes he’s a complete pile of stupid junk, then he asks his friends to help fix his f’ups… again Unfortunately, Thomas’ friends are as stupid as he is, and instead of kicking his sorry a$$ to the curb, they continue to fix his problems for him.

Good job, children program writers, a great lesson to teach children.  Don’t listen, do what you want, mess everything up, then have everyone else bail you out.  Smdh.

And really, unfortunately, Thomas is just the tip of the iceberg.  Here’s a quick guide to some other popular programs.

Caillou: The whiniest most nasal voiced 4 year old child in the world who routinely cries about, well, everything.  All I want to do is tell this kid to grow a pair… and get his hormone levels checked. For real, every time I am forced to watch this, I feel like I should make a donation to an alopecia foundation. Kid, if you can’t grow any hair by the time you are 4, you need some expert help… here’s a dollar.

Zou: A family of zebras who live in a 4 story house. Where do they put the great-grandmother who lives with them? Yep, you guessed it folks… in the bedroom on the 4th floor while giving the preschool aged child the 1st floor bedroom.  So, then, the brilliant illustrators build great-granny a f’ing motorized chair lift up 3 flights of stairs.  Awesome.  The trauma surgeon in me just knows this old zebra broad is probably on some damn Coumadin, too.

Sponge Bob Square Pants:  A sponge that lives in “Bikini Bottom”?! WTF, they might as well air condom commercials during breaks.

Tree Fu Tom: A show which encourages your child to makes moves like the title character on screen to “make magic.”  First of all, these moves resemble a very drunk Peyton Manning trying to do the Macarena.  If you have no clue how this might look, click here.  Secondly, this is a poorly veiled attempt to assuage parent guilt that instead of your child running around outside, he/she is sitting his/her a$$ in front of the TV.  Let me break it down for you, the 2.5 calories that your child will burn actually attempting these moves will not actually improve his or her health.

And, TV producers clearly don’t understand that the SOLE reason we let our children watch this kiddie crack is because we want their Energizer bunny butts to SIT THE F*&K DOWN and SHUT THE HELL UP!

Don’t even get me started on Curious George. That monkey needs a tranquilizer shot in his a$$…

Relax, Recharge, Reunite: Analysis of a Girls’ Getaway

I am just heading home from a 4 day weekend with some of my college roommates. We have now known each other for longer than we hadn’t before we met in our late teens. As our 40th birthdays were approaching a couple of years ago, I suggested that we all get together to celebrate sometime this summer. After multiple Google searches for ‘girls’ weekend,’ many destinations proposed and rejected, and several ‘anonymous’ doodle polls, four of us amazingly agreed on a time and place and pulled it off.

It was the first time since graduation that we met ‘just because.’ There was no wedding or baby shower, no reunion, no conveniently timed and located work meeting. We wanted to, and in retrospect needed to, just be together for the sake of reconnecting with women we hold dear in our hearts, who will forever share a piece of our soul even if the hustle and bustle life keep us largely apart and disconnected from each others’ daily lives. We came together from different corners of the country. This is what friendship is all about.

So we friends, who have moved geographically and/or practically away from each other over the years, slipped right back into our easy friendship in a swank condo in downtown Denver. (Denver BTW is a great destination for a girls’ weekend offering a balance of outdoor adventures, culture, and urban fun but this blog post is not about that.) We laughed together. We cried together. We ran, hiked, biked, swam, and lifted/toned/burned* together. We shopped together. We relaxed together. We perused social media together. We ate and drank together.

20140724-000514-314415.jpg 20140724-000514-314797.jpg 20140724-000513-313975.jpg

Mostly we just talked and talked and talked while we did all these things together. We had so much to catch up on: so much advice to seek; so many opinions to render; so many feelings to share. It’s not that none of us have equivalent friendships in our daily lives to do all this sharing, all this bearing of heart and soul; but the same challenges of life, be they work, kids, personal health, etc., that get in the way of us keeping in touch also get in the way of those local friendships.** Some of us, however, just don’t have women who are true friends close to our current homes, part of our daily lives. And for us, the reconnecting was ever so much more meaningful.

In theory, since we value each others’ friendship so much, we could call or text each other, we could Skype or Google Hangout together, and we could email or (gasp) send letters to one another to stay connected. But we don’t. We just don’t. It’s not that we don’t need or want to. We just aren’t able to execute on our friendships when everything else is a more immediate priority. So, without the rigors of daily life bearing down on us, without the distraction of some other event calling us together, we were able to just let go of all the things that keep us perpetually apart and be together this past weekend.

We all benefited. We felt unconditional love and received honest input on things that are weighing heavily on our minds. We learned more about ourselves and our relationships with others. We deduced what undergarments should and shouldn’t be worn and for what occasions. We exorcised demons of roommate fiascos of long ago. We built new memories and hatched ambitious plans for the future.

From gut busting guffaws, to smirks and smiles and frowns and tears, we had a great time. Part therapy, part fun, part vacation—girls’ getaways are an undeniable fact of life long friendships, quickly mitigating the challenges of distance and distractions of modern life. A perfect way to relax, recharge, and reunite.

*See Pure Barre

**This is why so many women who are in geographic proximity do ladies’ night out much in the way we did this weekend.

 

 

Four Behaviors to Start Having It All

Recently, @surgeoninkicks wrote about what it means to “have it all.”  Her main point, which I wholeheartedly agree with (and have a difficult time complying with), is that “having it all” is how you shape your “all” and not about what anyone tells you “having it all” is about. Reading her piece reminded me of the four behaviors that I constantly struggle with on a daily basis that I think we all need to exhibit if we expect to “have it all.”

1) Savor the moments 

I really have a hard time savoring the moments. I am always rushing to get something done whether it’s at work, or at home, or on vacation. It’s as if my life in all these domains is one giant list of check boxes that I absolutely must be attacking at all times lest I fall even more behind than I already am. But, living this way is destructive.

Embed from Getty Images

Sometimes you just have to ignore the dirty dishes on the counter and sit on the front porch with your husband having coffee. Sometimes you have to put off billing/coding or writing a manuscript to catch up with a colleague over lunch and get your intellectual juices flowing. Sometimes you just have to let yourself sleep in on vacation even if the world outside is filled with sites that will be more crowded as the day goes on. Sure there is necessity, and perhaps even some “feel good” value to the items on your to-do list, but you just have learn to put the check boxes aside every now and then and savor the moments. The bliss from moments savored will ultimately provide the necessary fuel to eventually get everything else done.

2) Drop the guilt

I am constantly feeling guilty about something that I should be doing, should have done, or should be planning to do. Sure work-life balance is hard; some might even say its a fallacy driving me to wallow in guilt. But, nothing will disrupt balance more than feeling guilty about what’s weighing down the other side of the scale.

Embed from Getty Images

So, when you are at work because you have to be, or even because you have chosen to go in on your weekend off, don’t feel guilty about that ball game or family barbecue or whatever else you might be tempted to feel bad about missing. Lamenting what may be going on outside work will simply make you less productive and lead to errors of distraction. If you are with friends or family, don’t perseverate about what you might have left behind at work. Engaging fully with those around you, unencumbered by guilt, will allow you to return to work more refreshed. Similarly, if you are enjoying some alone time don’t feel bad for not choosing to be with your friends and family; the people that love you need you to be centered and will appreciate you more when you have taken time for yourself. Finally, if you chose that cupcake instead of the run, enjoy the damn cupcake. So what if you may have to run more in the end burn it off, why ruin the taste of the cupcake by feeling guilty while you eat it?

3) Face the future

I struggle with putting aside the retrospectoscope often wondering how things might have turned out if I had made different choices. Do I need to learn from past mistakes? Sure. But, once the lesson is learned, lingering too long on the past can be paralyzing.

Embed from Getty Images

If you get stuck on what could have been with the boyfriend left behind, you will prevent yourself from finding your next true love. Think about what did and didn’t work for you in the old relationship so that can you better define and accept a good relationship in the future. If you let a medical error shake your confidence, your future patients may suffer from your hesitancy. Embrace the processes of debriefing, morbidity + mortality, and continuous quality improvement to prevent future errors and be a better doctor to everyone moving forward. If you behave badly with someone you love, don’t retreat from them. Apologize and work on being a better mother, wife, sister, daughter, or friend to them. If there is substance to the relationship (and there almost always is) you and your loved one will develop a stronger bond as you work toward a future with less bad behavior. True, your present is absolutely shaped by each moment (fleeting or prolonged), each decision (forced or willingly made), each act (of kindness or of hatred) in your past; however, the present is better lived lived looking to the future than lamenting the past.

4) Stop the judging

I am prone to imagine myself in others’ shoes when I am bitter, angry, or upset about what’s going on in my own life. When I am down on myself, envisioning how easy, happy, and wonderful it must be for someone who is not negotiating a career as a trauma surgeon with family life and personal well-being is tempting. But, judging others is harmful to my sense of self.

Embed from Getty Images

You routinely put in crazy hours or travel for work and are quick to assume how nice it must be to have a more 9-to-5ish schedule. While there may be some out there for whom it’s all bonbons and massages during and after work, for most it is not. Why judge the life that you assume they have when you are lucky to have the salary to outsource some of the more onerous household chores that they might spend their nights and weekends doing while you are on call, to have a spouse who makes your crazy schedule livable when they might being going through a divorce, or to do the kind of work that delivers the privilege of occasionally saving someone’s life when they may hate their desk job but need to do it for additional income. This same story can be written for any aspersion you may feel tempted to cast on the life of another when you fall into a “woe is me” way of thinking about the reality that is your life. Instead of being jealous because you think she is able to be a better mom because…, she is able to have a hotter body because…, she is able to travel the world because…,  figure out how you can, within the bounds of your own reality, be a better mother, have a better figure, and see the world. It is the only reality that you know. Live it, love it, shape it (start by doing #1-3 above) and stop judging others who should also be living, loving, and shaping their own realities.

Yes, I do have it “all”, and how you can, too.

 

Two very successful and very powerful women, Shonda Rhimes (creator of the television shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal) and Indra K. Nooyi (CEO of PepsiCo) have recently been in the news for announcing that you can’t “have it all”.

Honestly, the phrase having it all is becoming as nauseating as being here for the right reasons on the Bachelorette. It really should become the new drinking game for women in their 30’s. Another CEO comes out of that hideous self-and-society-imposed guilt closet and announces you can’t have it all? Take a shot…

My first response to these famous women was, “duh.” But then I really started thinking about it. When was the last time you heard a commencement speech at an Ivy League school given by a man at the top of his profession that centered around not having it “all”? Let me save you the Google search, it hasn’t happened.

The phrase and concept of “having it all” is a strictly female phenomenon. We do it to ourselves, and we do it to each other. I always felt slightly insulted when a female medical student would tell me that she would never choose surgery as a profession because she wanted “a life”. I know they didn’t mean it personally, but it implies to me they believe I don’t have a life. I then started asking them, how do you define “a life”? Because I’m pretty sure most people have different definitions, based upon their personal goals, personalities, and hobbies.  For example, one of my friends enjoys running 20 miles a week and this is fulfilling to her. On the other hand, if another one of my friends even looks a treadmill she gets nauseated.  One friend gladly left her office career to stay at home upon the birth of her second child.  Another friend is just as gladly returning to work full time after her 3 month maternity leave.  This then leads me to the title of this piece.

What is “all”? Who is responsible for simultaneously defining this and holding us up to this unicorn of a standard? Is Shonda Rhimes’ or Gwyneth Paltrow’s “all” the same as mine? Or the same as a single 30 year old woman? Or the stay at home mother of 3?  I would bet my paycheck that the answer to that is no.

The phrase “having it all” implies to me having a happy, healthy, and fulfilled life. The reason that I am proud to say that I do have it “all” is because I choose the definition for myself.  My roles as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and physician lead to my sense of fulfillment. The time that I allot to each role in my life changes daily and sometimes drastically so, but the roles are always there. When I am at the hospital, I am still a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. My husband and child don’t disappear when I go out for a girls’ night.  I’m sorry, but I just don’t see how missing an occasional bath and story time at my home means I am “failing” as a mother.  This isn’t failing, people, get a grip!  This is life.  Things happen.  Workouts get skipped, dinner occasionally gets picked up in a drive through, and sometimes you just have to wear bikini bottoms as underwear because you are behind on laundry.

The people in my life, and the joy these relationships and my work as a surgeon provide are my “all”. I refuse to let Pinterest, Shonda Rhimes, or anyone but me set the definition for what my life is supposed to look and feel like. I encourage you all to do the same. Whatever floats your boat is fine, it is your boat to float.  Say goodbye to someone making you feel guilty (including yourself!) for not being able to squeeze 26 hours out of a day. Let’s stop saying we don’t have it “all” because we didn’t bake a dozen cupcakes, do 3 loads of laundry and accomplish another 1,000 tasks before breakfast. So, f&*! the unicorn that doesn’t exist, and embrace the awesome, amazing, thoroughbred horse that you are.

What you don’t know about your doctor

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile, and finally, am going to spill some “secrets” about me and my colleagues.

 

We are in debt.

I mean, real debt.  It actually costs most of us almost 1 million dollars to become your doctor.

 

It has taken us a long time to get here.

Let’s do some math.  4 years of college + 4 years of medical school + 5 years of surgery training + 2 years of fellowship = a long ass time and saying goodbye to my 20’s.  While my friends were off going to clubs, getting married and taking vacations, I was busy trying to learn about microbiology, genetics, and anatomy.  So, although we “appreciate” Jenny McCarthy’s medical degree from Google University, please listen to your real doctor.

 

We hate when you ask us when you can go smoke.  Um, duh, the answer is never.

 

Being a doctor is oftentimes like being a parent.

We have to have the hard conversations that can often lead you to not liking us… and, that is okay.  Yes, just like your mom tells you, “We are doing this because we care about you.”  Let’s face the facts, almost 70% of the United States is overweight or obese and that is not healthy.  This means, as the person who is supposed to care most about your health, we have to TALK to you about it.  Remember when you didn’t take your seizure medications and then wrecked your car?  Yes, we have to TALK about that.  You are addicted to your pain medication.  Yep, we have to TALK about that, too.

 

We joke about some pretty gross things.

Poop, snot, amniotic fluid.  Nothing is immune or off limits to our often very warped sense of humor.  If you happen to overhear us, you will probably think we are all a little crazy.  However, with what we see on the daily, we gotta find humor somewhere.

 

We make really good secretaries.

Ha!  Just kidding, I wish you could have seen my assistant’s face when I told her I was going to add this.  But, we do a ton of paperwork.  Out of a 12 hour workday, up to 4 of those hours will be devoted to writing notes, signing orders, filling out insurance paperwork, and returning phone calls.  Let’s do some more math.  40 patients in the hospital to see (which is an average for me) x 6 minutes to document the patient’s concerns, my physical exam, lab and/or radiology results, and my plan for that day = 4 hours.  Don’t forget to add in that I spend a large portion of my day in the operating room.  Unfortunately, there is this new found belief that if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.  All of these factors combined create an atmosphere that is paper centered, not patient centered… And we hate it.  We went through umpteen years of school and training (see above) to take care of you, not fill out forms.

 

Our families sacrifice so we can take care of yours.

I was on call the night my husband tore his biceps tendon in half.  I had to tell him to take ibuprofen, put ice on it, and try to not pick up our 18-month-old son until I could get home… the next day.  Although, our families understand this most of the time, it can still be hard on them… and us.

 

We take you home with us.

Like one of my own mentors recently stated, we do have our own cemeteries.  You may not remember the faceless doctor in the white coat who told you that we could not save your loved one.  But the pain, the anguish that we see in your eyes makes an imprint on our hearts.  There are patients that we never forget and days that we wish we could.  We see unimaginable horrors and yet have to press on.

 

And lastly, although we may have bad days and curse ourselves for choosing this sometimes tortured profession, we love what we do and care deeply about you, our patients.