Guest Blogger: Mrs. Panda Bear

My Better Half

(Every guy has one great love. A woman who sets his heart beating by her beauty, her wit, and her charm. She doesn’t have to be Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm but some combination of her looks and personality strikes you like a thunderbolt the first time you meet her. Unfortunately, not every guy marries this girl and many end up settling. I was lucky enough to trick the perfect girl into marrying me and I have never regretted or been unhappy for a single day in our marriage, probably because our relationship is built on a long friendship before we started dating. Not that I didn’t want to date her the first time I saw her, you understand, but I guess I had to grow on her.

Of love, that over-rated and poorly understood emotion, respect is the better part and without it love would be little more than thinly disguised contempt. Such a relationship would be an unhappy one if it even lasted. I am lucky, on the other hand, to have the respect of my wife and I work hard to justify it. I owe her a lot. Simply because I wanted to, she allowed us to trade a good career, financial security, and stability for the instability and poverty of medical school and residency. She has given up a lot. The last move was particularly hard as we had just unpacked, it seemed, when we began the long and arduous process of selling the house and moving again.

So I don’t ask for a lot of sympathy from my wife and she is confident enough in our love and our friendship to give it to me straight, especially when I am tempted, like most interns, to feel a little sorry for myself. Residency is hard but there are harder things, particularly the sacrifices of a stay-at-home mom taking care of four young children. Those of you who are married with kids need to keep this in mind as you slog through medical school and residency. It is a grind for your wife, too. My wife periodically had to set me back on track last year when, as you my faithful and tolerant readers know, we had suffered the setback of scrambling into a specialty and a hospital which I disliked intensely.

In this article, Mrs. Bear identifies one of the worst aspects of intern year as well. -PB)

It was that time of the month. Those first five days when he felt awkward, inadequate, and really, really dumb. Every month of intern year he suffered from the anxiety and low self-esteem of being the new kid on the block. As for myself, being a stay at home mother of four children, I have many many things on which to concentrate my efforts. I depended on my husband to fulfill his commitment to his residency program so that I could take care of the home front. So why did he exhibit anxiety and depression?

Children often have temper tantrums when their routine is changed. I suppose these children grow up to be adults who flourish in a stable consistent environment. I knew our son had difficulties with changes in his routine. I wasn’t expecting my husband to have these difficulties as well. In fact, he was the last person on Earth I would have expected to have difficulties with switching from one rotation to another during intern year. When I knew him as a Marine, he was always on the go. He never owned more than what would fit into one sea bag. I cringe at the things he tells me he and his Marine Corps buddies threw overboard as they approached shore.

My job as his wife metamorphosed to include therapist. I sat on the couch and listened to his stories about his day. They were a lot more interesting than what I had to say about our children’s bowel habits (which are very important to a mother). It was several months into intern year that I recognized a pattern. During the first week of a new rotation he was almost miserable. As the days went by he became more and more confident. About the time when he felt he had become a useful team member it was time to begin a new rotation.

When one member of the family is suffering, the whole family suffers. It became my purpose to remind my husband that everything is new and “they” didn’t expect him to know anything when he started a new rotation. With this realization he became more at ease with his ever changing schedule thus becoming a better human being to live with.