The minute you got married, you and your DrSpouse became one, and you no longer lived only for yourself.

But the minute you have kids, you live for them.

We learned this lesson when we heard this during MS4:

IT’S A BOY!!

His brother came 2 years later in residency; then his sister another 2 years after that in fellowship. We basically hit the trifecta of popping out a baby at every training stage.

Having kids made it clear to us: The real boss is not your DrSpouse’s program director, hospital, senior partners, or administration. They come and go.

It’s your kids.

Kids are forever. They are the most important work you will ever accomplish.

Welcoming Boss #3
Photo: Sarah Branaghan Photography

A lesson in Vietnamese history

In Vietnam where my husband and I are originally from, there is a word that doesn’t quite have an English equivalent. The word is mat giay.

You call somebody mat giay to mean that they are bad, because their parents, grandparents, and teachers are all bad.

Being a very old culture, there is wisdom in the Vietnamese language that developed. Those generations who came up with the word, mat giay, agreed that insulting somebody’s career is…eh whatever.

But… insulting three generations of somebody’s family? And their teachers? Man, that’s brutal.

In Vietnam, the biggest insult is not about your career, but your legacy.

A look at previous generations of doctors

The generation of doctors who are our now our grandparents were very doctor-y. (Yes, that’s a real word)

They followed a strict script: Graduate medical school and training. Work 14 days in a row. Read only medical review journals.

Basically, they had zero time to explore outside of medicine. When they felt unsatisfied about their careers, the best coping mechanism they came up with was a sporty car or timeshares.

It didn’t seem to them like society gave them a choice.

Doctors today have a choice now.

Your DrSpouse can engage outside of medicine and with your family and your community. In fact, it’s almost an absolute necessity as we continue to see rates of depression, suicide, and substance abuse in physicians on the rise.

Having an identity not solely tied to your career is so important.

Leaving a legacy

Your DrSpouse is probably a type A, sacrificed his prime 20’s and 30’s years to become a physician, and on his way there, may have lost his sense of purpose.

“Theresa, isn’t saving lives a pretty good purpose?”

It is. And we are all incredibly proud of our DrSpouses for that.

But the workplace has its own problems with bureaucracy, policies, and other frustrations.  It can feel daunting wondering:

“Is this life for the next 20-30 years?”

Encourage your DrSpouse to challenge himself, continue to learn, and find new goals. Don’t let him coast on current skills, but develop new ones.

(My mom never touched a computer for 52 years. She is now texting me with emojis and has an email. My mindy is blown. So, I know it can be done! 😂😜😍)

Pursuing purpose-driven projects outside of his career can help change his mindset.

If he spends time in a cause he believes in, studies show he will be happier and more fulfilled.

He is not just a doctor, or a spouse, or a parent. He the only version of himself in the world.

Medicine is his job. But it is his calling to inspire his kids.

My husband’s dad worked two full-time jobs at the local factory as if he were a forever resident-in-training making minimal wage on a hourly basis. He was gone most of the time. My husband doesn’t remember what his dad did at work, but he remembers how his dad loved to cook and grill for his family. Today, my husband loves to make and eat good food.

Surprise! He wants to go into GI.

Your DrSpouse’s daily behaviors when he’s not at work, which your kids are watching carefully, reflect the values that are most important to him.

What are your kids learning from you?

This is the true work.

What does your DrSpouse like to do outside of work, especially with the kids?  Share a story in the comments!