I read a blog the other day that was written about being the wife of an ER doctor. Multiple people commented regaling stories of absentee husbands, husbands devoid of empathy, husbands constantly stressed and on edge. I am also the wife of an ER doctor, so I could relate on some level, but my perspective is slightly different in that I am also an ER doctor myself. I honestly don’t know if this makes things easier or harder. There is, of course, the benefit of having your partner know your pain and all of the ins and outs of what you deal with every day. Well... sometimes it’s a benefit. You would think it would be easier to get sympathy from someone who knows your pain, but it can be hard to suffer through something all day at work and then come home and suffer it all over again through your partner’s stories of his or her day. Sometimes you just can’t stand to hear about a single other patient or another asshole consultant after you have finally escaped from the ER.
I’m also not sure if it is better or worse that we are both on erratic shift work schedules. It’s nice to get weekdays off with some frequency to get “business hour” type things done. We probably do get to “sleep in” more often than other people- although not that often with each other. The biggest problem is just being completely out of sync with your partner. I’m on days, he’s on nights... We get a day off together, but he’s post overnight and needs to sleep all day when I’m up. I need to go to bed early to get up for my 7am shift and he doesn’t get home and into bed until 2am... I’m eating dinner at 6pm, he’s eating dinner at midnight... And the schedule that we had last week is likely to be completely different next week, so forget planning around it or getting used to it. I could go on.
There is an analogy that I like about how there needs to be a flower and a gardner in a relationship, and the same partner doesn’t need to be the flower all the time, but I’m afraid that too often in my dual ER doctor relationship- we’re both flowers. We spend all day at work taking care of other people’s needs and being empathetic and tend to not have much left to take care of anything else once we’re home. So not only does that leave us both without a gardner for ourselves, but who gardens the house? Who gardens the relationships with friends and family? And what scares me the most- even though we don’t have kids yet, who’s going to garden the kids??
If being the spouse of an ER doctor is hard, what must it be like to be the child of a dual ER doctor couple? I’d love to read a blog about that (if you fit that description, comment please!) Beyond two stressed and exhausted parents, because let’s face it, that is not at all unique to ER doctor couples- kids need routine, and there is absolutely no routine in the home of a dual ER doctor couple. It would be bad enough if only one parent was an ER doctor- when do I get to see Daddy today? Is he going to be home for breakfast? Or maybe he’s going to be leaving for work right after I get home from school? Is today a day that I have to be extra quiet because Daddy is sleeping? Daddy’s shift is over at 3, but who knows when he’ll actually be home. Imagine if there was no certainty about Mommy or Daddy! How about holidays? My husband and I get one holiday off among Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years- and each year it’s likely to change which one you get. To only get to spend one of those holidays per year with both of your parents?? Or possibly even none of them if Mommy and Daddy don’t get the same holiday off? It just makes me sad to think about.
I know that people must somehow make this work. There must be plenty of couples who both do shift work and raise children. My question is how. Live in help? Super-human powers? Benevolent grandparents? Confused children? Seriously, if you are out there or have any insight- I need to hear it!