by Anonymous MS. 1
I am an ER doctor’s wife.
I did not mean for this to happen. This is not how I expected my life to be.
Somehow, I’ve become my husband’s keeper.
Let me explain.
He told me our lives would be easier once med school was over. Once internship year was over. Once residency was over. I looked forward to the time we’d eventually be able to spend together, once we both had our careers in place.
That time never came. My career got derailed, mostly due to health reasons. Meanwhile, he graduated residency and became an attending. Income, finally! We can get paying those student debts, and *finally* have some time together.
But it hasn’t quite happened that way. The standard 130 hour contracted month didn’t happen. Hospitals in the rural areas by us kept having major staffing issues; there were physically not enough ER doctors in the area to keep even the minimal staffing needed. For some reason, his company was hesitant to hire locums.
Instead, they called. And called, and called. All hours of the day, requests to take last minute shifts, often in less than 24 hours, because the schedule hadn’t been filled. Occasionally, a “bonus” was offered to offset the inconvenience but as time went on, it wasn’t about that. It was about the canceled date nights and irritation at the unpredictability of our schedule.
But what was worse was what it did to him. They guilted him, they goaded him. My husband is a middle child, a natural people pleasure. He likes to be the superhero and hates to let people down, so he would end up taking these shifts. And taking them, and taking them. Twenty-four hour shifts, often just twelve hours apart. Seven night shifts in a row, twelve hours a piece, with a two hour commute. Last month we hit a new low, with nine night shifts in a row.
Mentally, he’s exhausted. It’s hard for him to get enough sleep on night shift schedules. If he sleeps, he has no time to decompress or destress. If he takes time for his mental health, he doesn’t have time to sleep. He’s a creative man, with a natural talent for leather working. On these stretches, his tools lay abandoned, gathering dust. It’s sad to see. But people’s lives are in his hands.
That’s where my job comes in though. My job as a doctor’s wife. Not my job as an academic, or a lawyer, or a researcher. No. My job is to keep my husband sane. While we used to have an egalitarian marriage because we were both equally busy, the household has become my domain. I am the scheduler, the bill payer, the one who runs all the errands. Things which, frankly, I ****ing hate. But I love him. His health and his mental wellbeing matter more to me than gender roles and career prestige.
My graduate school is just about done, and theoretically I should be heading back into the workforce. Honestly, I don’t see how it’s possible. Keeping life running smoothly enough that he can work these insane hours and still maintain a working marriage has become my full time job. Any schedule I throw in on top of his will mean we’ll barely see each other, our pets will become neglected, and the house will (probably literally) fall apart. Is my pride in being a financial provider to our household worth it? I don’t think it is.
Next month, he’s set to work 240 hours due to a scheduling problem. I have no idea how we’ll both get through this, with our sanity intact. I have to be strong though, for him. He has people to help and lives to save. And I have errands to run.