Reply turned post, single mother in medicine style

I am a contributor at the wonderful site Mothers in Medicine, and this week a guest poster wrote in to ask Do Single Mothers Go to Medical School? Please go read her original post and the other comments. Here is my very long-winded reply:

Hi! I am a single mother who just finished medical school. I would be happy to chat with you through email, if you’re interested. Please feel free to let KC know, and she knows how to get ahold of me. Also, you can read the posts I have written on here (click on the MomTFH link in the labels to the right–>) or read my blog at http://momstinfoilhat.wordpress.com. Not all of my posts are about being a single mom, obviously, but it is my constant reality as I write. As I hope you have discovered, it is easier and harder to be a single mom than you may have expected, and it does not dominate all of my thoughts, conversations and interactions.

OK, on to your questions. Let’s start with the simpler one. I took the MCAT after being out of the basic science classes for several years, too. I used a single review book and did OK. I happen to be a good test taker. If I had a time machine (Oh, geez! the things I could fix!) I would have taken a review course and probably scored higher. I think taking a targeted MCAT review would be higher yield for you than retaking all of your premed. That will also take quite a while. But, if you think having domestic good grades will improve your chances of admission, it’s definitely an option.

As for RN vs. NP vs. being a physician, that is really up to you, and I don’t think there is an easy answer to that. There are many days in which I wish I had the time machine and could go back and be an NP, but I may be a unique case. I am older than you, I want to go into obstetrics, and I didn’t match into residency last year. If I was a nurse practitioner / midwife, I could be working already, no residency required, and be doing everything I want to do as a doctor (I am not super gung ho about being a lead surgeon and am more interested in low risk obstetrics, obviously, but there are plenty of NPs that assist in the OR, just don’t lead surgeries).

Obviously, yes, single mothers do go to medical school. I was pleasantly surprised at the diversity in my class. I sat next to a grandmother all of 2nd year, and I was not the only single mom in my class. Also, single mothers do a lot of things that take them away from their kid(s). Many single moms work outside the home for long hours and have to rely on different forms of help and childcare. And, most of these single moms are not pursuing a life long dream, one that will most likely provide financial security and a fulfilling career. Moms have guilt, single moms have guilt. I don’t let that keep me from pursuing my career in medicine.

Medical school is not a bad situation to be in as a single mom. Especially the first two years. There are many schools that even stream most of the classes online, and do not have an attendance policy for many of the classes (mine did). Your clinical years may be more difficult. Your schedule can change from month to month, and I have had to ask a caregiver to show up at my house at 4:30 am some months so I can get to my rotation on time. Even more difficult, my schedule would change in a month. My kids were in school and had after school care from a trusted family member, so my main issue was the early mornings.

As for being able to handle it, I was the president of more than one extracurricular club. I won a research fellowship and full tuition scholarship. I was recommended and inducted into the humanism honors society by one of my attendings / professors. I qualified for the regular honors society, but I won’t go into the political BS that kept me from that group. I aced my boards and never failed a class. I am not just tooting my horn here; I am telling you that, if you work hard and have the aptitude and right attitude, you will do well.

I have written on my blog about my sometimes frustration with some of my former classmates. These are things my single, childless classmates have told me: I gave up using any washable dishes or glasses during medical school because I don’t have time to do any dishes. I gave up my dog to my parents during board review because I can’t take care of it. I don’t have time to do _____ activity or ______ club. I didn’t have time to take the required scrub class before rotations started because I wanted to go on a vacation. I need to take off a month because I am planning a wedding. I can’t make the meeting at that time because that’s when I nap. (Yes, for real) I would see some of these same students go to yoga 3 times a week, or party frequently, or get their mani/pedi once a week, or watch every episode of the Jersey Shore, or make what ever bargains or compromises they chose. So do I. (Make compromises. I don’t do any of those things on the list. I have a dog and two cats, I cook and use real dishes and plates, and I don’t get to work out often if at all, watch much TV, or take care of my fingernails, hairdo or other beauty routines often. I also schedule my naps, rare as they are, around my obligations, not the other way around). So will you, compromise, that is, regardless of your path.

As for divorce, moving, family support – that stuff is not easy. If you email me and are up for it, I can regale you with the soap opera that was my divorce and coparenting (they don’t call it custody anymore) agreement, and the sacrifices I had to make to be able to move if I matched out of the area. Single parents relocate all the time for many reasons. It is not fair to expect every single parent to remain, forever, in a 50 mile radius of where they divorced. There are a lot of moving parts to this, and I could write more words than this entire post already (seriously not kidding) about it. A lot of this depends on your ex. This battle was infinitely harder than medical school for me.

Anyway, I hope this wasn’t too much, and was helpful in some way. Good luck, and please keep us up to date.

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