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Attempting Aloha: It's been a rough week -- Doctor's Wife Poem {The Resident's Wife}

Sunday, January 8, 2012

It's been a rough week -- Doctor's Wife Poem {The Resident's Wife}

It's been a rough week. I know not all of you know my husband is in residency, but I know some of you have taken the time to read my "About Me" page and noticed that that's where we are in life. And I've been surprised at how many have emailed me saying their husband is in medical school or residency, and they connect with what I have to say.

So, if you're just here for the tutorials, please feel free to skip this one. But if you happen to know a doctor's wife, resident's wife, or med student's wife (or someone who likes to complain about their doctors), they might be grateful if you pass this along.

And if you're one of the ones who have emailed me and are in our same boat, perhaps you can appreciate it on weeks like I've had this week.

The Resident’s Wife

I miss you.
My companion. Love. Friend.
You’re never here.
But then you are, but not you.
Hollow. Lights dimmed.
Physically, mentally, and emotionally drained.
Then pieces of you shine through,
And I have renewed hope.
Then you’re gone again.
The sign above our bed taunts me daily,
“P.S. I love your laughter,
And I love the way you make me laugh.”
We did laugh once, right?
I miss you.

My life seems busy. But not.
I fill it with things to help me feel busy.
It pales in comparison to your daily dread.
Fighting, disobedient kids.
Dinner to cook.
Laundry. Groceries. Bills.
A house to clean.
Schedules to keep.

Monotonous? Yes.
Dull? Possibly.
Frustrating? Sometimes.

But there’s no one looking over my shoulder,
Watching my moves and critiquing my care.
No one waiting for me to make a mistake
And ready to sue.
Or criticize at my first falter.
No one competing with me to impress.
Well, maybe a few.
But only rarely do I have the fear that
I might mess up and truly ruin a life.
For a doctor, that fear is omnipresent.
Babies to deliver. Watching new life. And first breaths.
But also seeing death.
Suffering and grief.
Pain. And sorrow. And Fear.


Wounds to treat. Patients to heal.

You’re tired, so I’m tired.
If you’re miserable, I must be miserable, too.
Why should I be happy when my other half appears ruined?
“Just a few more weeks. Then a new rotation.”
“Just a few more years, then residency will be over.”
Will it be better?
Worth it?
At what cost?
The kids have stopped asking if you’ll be home for dinner.
I miss you.

You’re jealous of me. I get to have a hobby. And exercise.
Does it make you love me less?
Are you angry when the house isn’t clean?
When you wake at 3:50 am,
Do you stand over me lovingly?
Or do you resent that my alarm will be silent for another 3 hours?
I resent it for you.

Four days off per month is criminal.
80 hours? Ha.
Paperwork not included.

Holidays have no meaning.
Just another time to be reminded that other families are together.
Like weekends.
I only look for 4 chairs at church.
Remember church?
But you and I, we are still faithful at saying our prayers.
Do they count if you fall asleep during them?
And when you’re away, our prayers here always include,
“Please let daddy have a good day at work.
Please help him be a good doctor and to be happy.”
And I silently beg and plead that you will not fall asleep while driving.
The kids include, “Please let him come home early.”
And, “We miss him.”
They know.
I miss you.

No days off this week.
But we will savor those minutes from 7:15 to 8:15 pm
That the children have to jump on you and love you.
And I will try again to make you laugh.
And then watch you sleep.
And pray again that somehow He will make 6 hours
Of rest be sufficient for your tired body.

It will get better.
It will be worth it. It has to be.
I’m so proud of you.
Do I tell you enough? Do you believe me?
I know other people need you.
They need your naturally skilled hands.
They need the knowledge you’ve worked years to acquire.
They need your comfortable, easy attitude and manner.
They love you, too.
I will share.
But I miss you.

*                            *                              *                             *                       *                      *

Now, don't get me wrong and think that our house is just a big, black pit of despair. That's not the point I'm trying to get across. If you're a regular blog reader, you know humor is a big part of me and my house. But there are dark moments that outsiders may have a hard time seeing. My husband is on a demanding rotation and was on call (30+ hours at the hospital with no sleep) numerous times during the holidays, and has two more no-bueno rotations coming up back-to-back. So it's been a rough week, and the outlook for the next couple months seems dismal for spending quality time together.

I'm also not trying to say that doctors' (or residents' or medical students') families are the only ones to experience this. It may touch some whose husbands are deployed or maybe who have other high-stress jobs with excruciating working hours. But I can only tell my story.

Thanks for reading. And thanks for sharing.



At January 8, 2012 at 1:12 PM , Blogger c.w.frosting said...

It will get better... will email you!

At January 8, 2012 at 1:17 PM , Blogger AntiqueChase said...

My husband is not a doctor so I don't fully understand but I will tell you... anyone who has a husband that has traveled for work, was gone, and then home, and then gone again can relate to your story.

Great that you wrote your feelings and words down... because one day this will be a distant memory and you will be able to reflect.

Hang in there... the days go fast, and before you know it, your kids will be BIG (I forget how old your kids are) and you may wish to get these years back... even though they are so hard right now...

At January 8, 2012 at 2:43 PM , Blogger Mike-Jami-Bridger-Foster said...

Oh Charlie i love you! This made me cry. You and Scott have always amazed me.. I could never imagine what you guys go through.
Call me my main computer crashed!

At January 8, 2012 at 4:53 PM , Blogger Annie said...

I didn't even know you blogged! How exciting. I always just assumed you stopped blogging because I only have your last address. thanks for sending this my way. I am totally passing this on to ALL my friends. We are the wives with no husband too. I wish we could live closer. Doug is just finishing up 4th year. I'll have to check out some of your crafts. You are looking like one sharp cookie! Way to do it all. LOVES!!

At January 8, 2012 at 5:09 PM , Blogger jaredandgina said...

Oh man Charlie every sentence was like yep that is exactly how it is. Hang in there it will get better.

At January 8, 2012 at 5:28 PM , Blogger Loni said...

You don't know me, I was passed along this entree from a friend. But just thought I'd let you know that we're in the second year of my husband's residency and I hear you! It's always nice to know you're not alone during those rough weeks. Good luck!

At January 8, 2012 at 5:29 PM , Blogger Loni said...

Oh, just saw Annie's comment, she's my friend who passed it along. :)

At January 8, 2012 at 5:51 PM , Blogger West Family said...

A friend of mine passed this along to me tonight. I read your poem and thought...yep, we have had many rotations like that! We are finally looking at a very dim light at the end of the long medical training tunnel. 6 more months of residency, one year of ortho spine fellowship and we are DONE! You know, I actually have been feeling sad about being done. It has been a LOOONG road, but one I would not give back. We are about to have our 6th baby and I know our family would not be as close if we had not had to hold on to each other with all our strength these past 10 years. Good luck, and hang in there:)

At January 8, 2012 at 9:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just gave you a versatile blogger award. I hope that helps you to feel better.

At January 9, 2012 at 9:00 PM , Blogger Nicole Caywood Photography said...

My friend sent me a link to this post and it rang so true to me that it actually made me cry! My husband is a third year med student (and is on call at the hospital tonight so I am home with our two boys) and it is really tough sometimes.
Thank you so much for sharing!

At January 11, 2012 at 7:20 AM , Blogger M. said...

I think we were in Grenada together, and my husband is now in first year residency. I hope you don't mind that I shared your poem on my blog under the title "Couldn't have said it better". You nailed it. Beautifully.

At January 14, 2012 at 6:46 AM , Blogger Step-parent's Cove said...

Hope things are better. I will send you a email.

At January 20, 2012 at 9:04 AM , Blogger Catie said...

My husband and I are both pharmacists who had rotations in hospitals during our last year of school. It isn't as hard for us, but between that and knowing lots of residents and med students, I know it is very difficult. People think drs just go to school and then make lots of money, they don't know the struggle and work they go through. It is a long road I know. I hope the light at the end keeps getting brighter and brighter!

At March 19, 2012 at 1:52 PM , Blogger Renewed Upon a Dream said...

I love this. I feel this way often. My husband is in his intern year for pediatrics. 2 more years after this year's done then on to 3 more years in fellowship. It seems like it will never end. We don't have kids, but I also work full time & have to do everything around the house as well since he doesn't have time & is too tired when he is home. It's rough & I totally miss him too...

At April 12, 2012 at 7:07 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

I googled "being a resident's wife" and your poem popped up. I am in tears. This is our first year of marriage and he is a surgery intern, and while we don't have any kids, this poem is so on point. I will have to bookmark this and read it anytime I am feeling lonely, because I am not the only one. Thank you.

At May 10, 2012 at 11:44 AM , Blogger Krista said...

I dont have quite the burden you have, but being a teacher's wife (and he coaches, too) is no picnic. It would be nice to have a 9-to-5 life...but then he wouldn't be who he is, called to serve others self-sacrificially. Keep on working hard by his side!

At June 20, 2012 at 3:25 PM , Blogger Katey Edwards said...

I am a military doctor's wife here in HI as well. We were here ten years ago for my husband's residency and are now back with him as a subspecialist. I remember so well... call was 36+ hours in the hospital every third night. One weekend off a month. My daughters and I would bring him dinner just so we could see him, but he often didn't have the time to stop. The saving grace for me was that he loved what he was doing. Yes, he was tired, no, he didn't get to spend time with us or enjoy living in HI very much, but he was doing what he'd always dreamed and that made it worth it for me. Also, we formed a group of resident's wives and we would go to lunch together every Friday. It was a great way to get out (I just brought my kids)and have some fun (we would take turns picking a different restaurant each time) while making great friends and getting support from people who were in our same position. Things do get better, but we will never have a "normal" life, where our husbands have predictable hours with weekends and holidays off. The stress lessens, and the exhaustion is less omnipresent. You seem to be balancing the loneliness and stress of "single parenting" with a warm and accepting understanding of your husband's situation, which is truly a gift to him. Keep reaching out- you'll get through it together. In the meantime try lunch, it really was a great thing, my husband still can't believe all the places I ate in those three years!

At July 5, 2012 at 7:32 PM , Blogger Elissa said...

PGY-7 for us here!!! We've survived this far while creating 3 little boys along the way! This is the beginning of our last year of training, I can't really believe it, this is all we know. We are in vascular surgery no-less, ha. Will it get better??? We shall see. I just want you to know many have walked the road before you and it takes a strong woman to stand by her man in this field!

At July 21, 2012 at 10:21 AM , Blogger Mindy said...

Loved this! We just finished four years of residency/fellowship...it does get better! We made it and while we still don't get 9-5 or a regular schedule, I actually get to see my husband and the kids get to spend real time with daddy. Hang in there! (we did med school in HI...hubs is from Laie!)

At August 2, 2012 at 3:36 PM , Blogger Melissa Stringham said...

My husband just started intern year. This made me cry! I can relate 100%. Hang in there!

At August 3, 2012 at 8:31 AM , Blogger Allison said...

Hi! I'm also a doctor's wife. My husband has been finished for one year, so I can tell you that it does get better! It's still not all roses and sunshine, but it definitely does get better! We have a support group on fb if you want to join, email us at doctorswives@gmail.com and we'll send you more info on it. :)

At August 3, 2012 at 2:03 PM , Anonymous Julia said...

You have no idea how much this pulled at my heart. You have summed up this life perfectly; this life of lonely and waiting. I often find myself asking the question, "Will this be worth it?"

At August 5, 2012 at 12:52 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you haven't already joined us please check us out at Lives of Doctor Wives on facebook. We are a group nationwide of doctor spouses here to connect, vent, and laugh about our journeys! We'd love to have you join us!

At August 29, 2012 at 9:23 PM , Blogger Marcy Powell said...

I am a female OB/Gyn that started medical school with a 6 month old daughter, had our second daughter 3rd year med school then added our third girl to the crowd my 3rd year of residency. Everyone asks "how did you do it?". The answer is 100% my husband! I am certain it is the same answer for your husband only substituting my wife. He undoubtedly feels forever grateful that you take care of everything so he can use that one hour every other day as quality time with his children; the farthest extreme from resentful I am sure! You will never regret having your children sooner rather than later but may have regretted not trying sooner! Kids are amazingly resilient and will be that much stronger for witnessing hard work from both of you! Take it one day at a time and celebrate the passing of each rotation as being one step closer to a better way of life. Make sure you both VERY carefully consider the job following residency to allow a work/life balance and make sure you look for occurrence based malpractice and NOT claims-made malpractice insurance or you could end up paying a huge tail. I did not understand this with my first job and despite no law suit history (knock on wood), I am paying off a $68,000 tail in case I get sued over the next 18 years. A price we were sadly willing to pay to move to a more family-friendly life! You are welcome to e-mail if you have questions.

At September 3, 2012 at 2:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're comments about life in residency reminded me very vividly of when my husband was a resident years ago. Thankfully life has gotten much better. But some of the same stresses come back periodically. It's hard to be happy when your spouse is miserable. My husband took six weeks off after completing residency before starting his new job. That was a good move. Good luck to you and your family!

At September 8, 2012 at 6:22 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't know me, but I was passed along the link to your blog. My husband is in his 2nd year of residency and your poem xplains it perfectly! We don't have kids yet, but I work full time an can relate so much to this! It helps to know on this 30+ hour call nights that we are not the only ones going through this-thanks for your past!

At September 11, 2012 at 8:26 PM , Blogger Callie said...

Goodness!! I cried when I read this!! Was just looking at one of your recipes on pinterest & somehow ended up reading this! I could have been saying all of those things 4 years ago...that's how long my dr hubs has been out. 80 hours, yeah right. ;) it's a long road but hang in there & make great memories when u can! Take pics of the fun times and that's what the kiddos will remember the most. Still works a ton and worries about getting sued, but that fades a little every year as he mellows. Take care!!

At October 21, 2012 at 3:42 PM , Blogger Kristy said...

Thanks for sharing this side. I'm sure my husband can relate to you since I'm the one that is the doctor and he was the stay at home dad. I know how much I appreciated an needed his support during those times (still do). Hang in there. It will get better.

At October 27, 2012 at 10:16 PM , Blogger afmommy said...

Not a doctors wife but a military police wife...ur writing brought tears to my eyes. So often I hear people complaining about their spouse has to work this holiday or that...or that their spouse has to work late again...and while it sucks that these jobs tend to take priority, I am grateful for the fire, police and medical people who are away from their families so often to make sure my family and others are taken care of. I have spent many a nights in a hospital er with a sick child and if it weren't for people like your husband, those ers would be a 9-5 office. Thank u for your husbands service and your support for him.

At November 8, 2012 at 1:35 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every time I read this, it makes me tear up. I feel like this describes my life perfectly. My husband is in his second year of residency, and even though we've found a balance, there are still some really rough times. Glad to know that there are others like me. My 3 boys miss their daddy, and I miss my husband.

At November 26, 2012 at 1:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I accidentally scrolled over while reading an entry of yours I found in pinterest. Happy accident. I cried while reading this too as we are in year 6 (a fellowship) and have had to move away from the support system we built during residency. I know it will all be worth the struggles, but like you mentioned, I wonder sometimes if he knows how amazing I think he is. He served in the Army before this, so our life has never been as settled as we'd like, but it was nice reading this and knowing others can relate.

At November 29, 2012 at 10:43 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My sister-in-law just sent me this, and it had me ready-eyed! My hubby just finished his 5 years of residency and is now in his fellowship year. So, we're nearing the end of that tunnel. I know now that middle-of-the night calls and long, exhausting days will be a part of our family life for the rest of his career, but it took some time for my kids and I to come to terms with that. It does get better, and it does get worse, too. But, we somehow ride through the rough patches until we make it to calmer waters. Then, we do it all over again. And again.

At December 3, 2012 at 12:05 PM , Blogger ~Larry and Julie~ said...

Thank you very much for sharing this poem. It has been a tough 2.5 years of residency for me and my husband of 5 years. We have 2.5 more years to go but I am hoping it gets better. Your poem has helped me realize that I am not alone and it I loved that it put into perspective their lives as well. It's hard to remember that they are going through such strenuous work while we are stressed about our days and missing our husbands.
While the poem brought tears to my eyes it also opened them to understanding it's not so bad ;)

At December 19, 2012 at 1:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, you hit the nail right on the head. I'm also a resident's wife. The adjustment to residency has been MUCH harder than adjusting to medical school, the support system is much different. We're 1700+ miles from our families. We still have 5.5 years left to go (E.N.T./Facial plastics). People often encourage us to see the "end prize." What is the end prize? A lot of money? Hardly a consolation prize for all we go through sometimes, right? I think doctors earn every penny. But families deserve every moment we can get with our spouses. I just remind myself, my husband, our sweet children, and others that if we can't be happy in the moment, then what good is the future? It's a rough ride sometimes, but also helps us to greater appreciate those good things now, and the things we have coming in the future. Makes me more grateful for every person who works crazy hours, crazy shifts, and crazy jobs like so many others who have commented (police, military, etc). Thanks again for sharing!

At December 29, 2012 at 9:06 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for that poem! It brought tears to my eyes because this is the first Christmas without my children this year. I was married to a resident but unfortunately we divorced the last few months of his residency and before the start of a 3 year fellowship. I'm sad because while I was going through this I felt so alone and you could have taken the words right out of my mouth. I feel like I failed not fighting for my marriage but after moving around so often and then having to endure another 3 years I was not strong enough to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Kudos to all of you and all you sacrifice to support your partners and children. It's tough but I'm sure you will look back one day and be glad you did.

At December 30, 2012 at 8:47 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your poem really moved me. My husband works pretty hard too and there are periods that we hardly see him or he is very distracted and spent when he gets home. I am a mother of two girls and it's my job to keep the home and them going smoothly or as smoothly as I can. I can so relate to the part about keeping busy to keep yourself positive and focused but I struggle sometimes and question the validity or meaning of that. I am really tired sometimes just trying to maintain that and feel very alone then. It makes me question the friendships I have and the depth of these and also the commitment I make personally to friendships. Then other days it feels much better, we will spend some time together as a family, laugh or sing a silly song and I feel light again. Able to achieve tons and light on my feet with this. I'm learning, it feels to be a grown up in all this. I'm 38, it's about time and I've always been one to get stuck in and carry on but I mean to develop and blossom as a person and to find peace internally. It's a journey. Thank you for your poem, it really moved me. I wish you the best and send you lots of encouragement.

At January 21, 2013 at 6:34 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this poem - my husband is in his second year, and I have three preschoolers at home. Been a long, hard season. Thank you for letting us know that we are not alone.

At February 8, 2014 at 12:22 PM , Blogger Shanna Koenigsdorf Ward said...

Hi, Charlie - Wow, you have real courage. I always hesitate to express what being married to a surgical subspecialty resident is actually like - for both of us and our children. Thank you for sharing! Hang in there! Warm regards, Shanna (shannaward.com)

At March 11, 2014 at 8:32 PM , Blogger Lauren Mar said...

Hi there,

Your poem made me cry....Im a medical student (I know, not a doctor yet, but hey Im getting there) and married. In contrast, Im the female gone all day (7am to 5pm then I need to disappear for 5 hours at night to do clinicals)....with my husband at home. Even though he doesnt clean or do dishes, he does take care of a lot of other major things around the house. Your poem reminded me that I can be so forgetful that I have my other half at home, alone.

Anywho, I wanted to say that I hope God blesses you for serving your family and husband. From the other side of the fence, Im sure he appreciates you and couldnt be the same doctor without you. You inspire me and make me want to be more grateful :)

At March 26, 2015 at 1:11 PM , Blogger ElleMura said...

I sobbed reading this. It captures our last 5 years perfectly. Hanging in there with you...


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