(let me preface with the disclaimer that my husband and I both laugh when I resort to making the title statement of this entry).
Last week, after a brutal spring of bad rotation after bad rotation after someone else's bad rotation on the hit list, we finally reached a glorious milestone in the grueling world of residency: My husband became a senior resident.
Back in the old days (as in, just a couple years ago) senior residents lived The Life. They'd put their time in and could relax as junior residents skillfully managed the interns. Many even made good money moonlighting while they were officially working their senior resident shifts. No more. The work is flowing up in an effort to protect interns (and their patients) from the notoriously hellish existence of those early residency years. Most practicing physicians I've spoken to believe the regulations have recently gone too far, and that patient care is now jeopardized by too-short shifts (meaning a complex hospitalized patient gets a brand new doctor every 16 hours now, instead of every 30), among other issues. Suffice it to say that it needed to change back when my dad went through it on Q2, but even with our crazy commute my husband's intern year wasn't that bad. What was bad was his junior year, when the work flowed up to residents who already had a full plate.
In any case, all of a sudden my husband is back "at home" (working regular hours). Well, for a few weeks anyway. This is the moment we've been waiting for, and the moment to savor before he's onto the next bad rotation, and then his brutal first year of fellowship.
So... why is it fraught with frustration?
I'm sure the medical spouses (and significant others) who do read this blog can relate. It's the "reentry shock." Suddenly your medical spouse, who is used to being "The Boss" in his or her world, is supposed to be someone else's equal - *your* equal. And the goal is no longer efficiency... it's happiness and contentment. Move over Mars and Venus: We're talking a whole new galaxy here.
In the medical world, your spouse is prized for his (or her) ability to make tough decisions quickly, and to be sure of the decision made. When my husband talks about why he loves MGH, and why he believes physician training can't be a cakewalk, he'll say he doesn't want to be one of the physicians who wavers or is unsure for lack of training. The physicians he looks up to are the ones who know their stuff - cold - and can practice medicine with confidence and efficiency. The better a doctor you are, the faster you'll catch things, and the less your patients and their families will suffer. And he's seen mistakes... even at the revered MGH.
But how does this translate to being at home? Well... it sort of doesn't. If one "partner" is making lightning-speed decisions and just announcing them to the other partner... especially if the other partner has more experience with, say, how a baby's schedule needs to work... it just doesn't work. Compromise is key in relationships and homes. (By the way, can anyone even imagine him being this way? Our college friends out here are shocked at the transformation... at first they thought it was Boston, but it's definitely the residency.)
Even AS I'm typing this and reading it TO my husband - and we're both laughing - he is insisting that I go on my run now so that I can bring back portabella mushrooms and he can make a caprese salad for lunch. Okay... but what about the fact that I don't want to jog while holding my wallet and mushrooms? No, no we "have to try new recipes!" he declares. This would be great in the hospital: Doctor sees the best end-game solution and sacrifices all to achieve it for patient. But home isn't about the end-game... it's about enjoying life and stopping to smell the roses.
To be honest, I don't think there's a great solution here. I just assume that being one week into a "normal" work schedule isn't enough for my husband to really be "himself." Plus, sometimes it's good - he's been grilling up culinary masterpieces this weekend and we had the Andersons over for a truly gourmet dinner (even if it did result in a super messy kitchen and an off-schedule baby). He also forced me to go to a pilates class that I ended up loving, and will now go to every week. So, I find myself choosing my battles. I don't think I'll be jogging with my wallet and portabella mushrooms in tow; he'll have to understand that. But if he wants to bring grilled-veggie gazpacho soup to our get-together today, sweet; I will relax about the kitchen getting messy :)