Surviving Husband’s call days is all about distraction for me. Today, that means watching The Devil Wears Prada on FX.
If you haven’t seen it (has anyone not seen it?), it’s the story of Andrea (Anne Hathaway), a wanna-be serious journalist who winds up with the enviable position of assistant to Miranda Priestly (the inimitable Meryl Streep) – head of fashion centerpiece Runway magazine. Andrea, who begins the job with disdain for the position and the fashion industry, quickly discovers how hard she has to fight to get ahead. She constantly has to choose between her job and her personal life, with serious consequences.
It got me thinking.
Many jobs are like this. Especially, it seems, those that promise good pay or exciting lifestyles or prestige. They require backbreaking work and perseverance. They require making hard choices. Putting in time. Paying your dues.
Being a physician is one such job. I remind myself all the time that Husband’s job comes first. He’s got to put in the time, work hard, exceed expectations. He has to do this to excel at his work. To learn how to save lives. To gain the confidence he needs to comfort patients and treat them swiftly and accurately.
But for the people on the outside… it’s brutal. Anne Hathaway’s character (spoiler alert) nearly loses all her friends and her live-in boyfriend. And (double spoiler alert) the only way she wins back her boy toy is by quitting her job at Runway.
SPOILER ALERT: Real life is not like the movies.
The patients come first.
Except for about 12 hours this weekend – 6.5 of which he spent sleeping – Husband has been at work. He’s on call Thanksgiving – which means that he won’t get to eat turkey and mashed potatoes slathered with gravy. And I’ll have to postpone my Thanksgiving or have it without him – which I haven’t done in at least six years. He’s scheduled to work on Christmas. The first Christmas in 28 years that I haven’t spent with my parents.
And this is just the beginning, folks.
My own parents have struggled with this for years. I remember countless dinners interrupted by phone calls from patients or nurses or other doctors. Dinners postponed or eaten without my father while he handled an emergency or a baby being born. I remember sitting outside the hospital in the packed car, waiting for my dad to deliver a baby so we could go on vacation. There have probably been hundreds of nights that my mother slept alone.
I don’t say this to paint a critical or unflattering picture of my father. He’s a wonderful dad – and he’s always been there for me and my family. But he’s a doctor. And the patients come first.
It’s something my mom knows. She doesn’t always love it. But she knows it. It’s like any other thing you accept about the person you love. You may not like it. But it’s part of the package. So you find a way to deal with it.
I make it sound easy enough, right? Well. It’s not easy. I’m not even halfway through my husband’s FIRST YEAR of training… and I’m lonely. Let’s put aside for a minute the fact that I work from home, am living in a city with no real friends, and am super shy. Even if I had tons of friends, I would still miss my husband. He’s my favorite person in the whole world. I love spending time with him. But now, that time has been sliced into tiny pieces. Sometimes he’s cranky (understandably so!). Sometimes we meet up with his colleagues for dinner or drinks – which is necessary for our sanity. Sometimes he just wants some much-deserved time to himself. And when we do get a few hours to ourselves… he’s usually fighting the urge to fall asleep.
If there were some emergency, I know I would come first. But right now… Husband’s priority is his work.
I miss him. And this is just the beginning.
My question is, how do you get to the point of acceptance? How do you avoid resenting him? How do you not turn into a whining sniveling pile of neediness the instant he comes home?
You’ve got to have your own life, sure. Your own friends. Your own hobbies. Things to keep you busy and fulfilled.
But even if you have all that… you still want to be with person you love more than anyone else. You still want to share your life with that person. You still want to be first string, rather than second fiddle.
How do you make sure that the moments you have together are happy? How do you make the most of the time you have?
I haven’t figured it out yet. (Advice is welcome.) The only thing I’m holding onto right now is this mantra:
The patients come first. The patients come first. The patients come first.