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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Being a Single Woman (in medicine)

Disclaimer: I can only speak of my experiences and those people have shared with me. 

"You need someone to share your life with". Is a common remark people say to me. It comes in many different wordings, from many different mouths, and with many different intentions. Is it true? Maybe. Does it overlook everything else I've accomplished in my life? Yes. Maybe that's what I'm thinking too. Maybe that life isn't for me or won't fulfill me the way medicine has. I have no idea. But it's for me to decide without other people's judgement.

I've never minced words about how demanding medical school is. It is my husband, my child, and everything else in between. It takes up my money, my sleep, and my time. It leaves me with nothing left to give. But it has given me so much. I'm proud of how hard I've worked and what I have accomplished. I'm proud of being able to claim something as my own, knowing that I'm the one who put in the blood, sweat, and tears to make it work. I regret some of the sacrifices I've had to make but I wouldn't change it for anything. 

That being said. Is that not enough? Do I have to have a bouncing baby and doting husband to be seen as an accomplished adult? I don't think so. I didn't think other people thought so. But they do. What bothers me the most is this isn't something my male peers encounter. Men are never asked if they'll pick a more relaxed residency to be home with the kids. Men aren't expected to know how they'll balance it all and if they even want to. It isn't expected of them as a condition of their success. No one comments on how older dads can still be great dads when they hear they're in medical school, not planning on kids for awhile. No one asks them if they'll give up their practice to have children. Everyone assumes they'll marry someone who is not a doctor who will take care of those things for them. 

It's almost as if society will allow women to become physicians but only under the condition that they remain in their typical gender roles. Yes, you can be a doctor but you also better be at all the kids' soccer games and support your husband. Male physicians are not expected to balance it all. It's assumed someone else will handle the home front. But women? We're expected to not only want to take on both but bad mothers, wives, citizens if we don't. 

I'm 26. I'm single and have no kids. But I feel this pressure often. I notice the lack of women physicians in a room (which is a whooole other topic). I cringe when my friends comment on how happy they'll be to stay home with the baby, how lucky they are to have babies young. I quietly smile when someone asks me why I'm still single as if succeeding in medical school is not enough unless there's a man cheering me on. I don't know where my life will take me. I don't know if I'll have children or get married and frankly, I don't care. Right now I care about medicine and I care about doing my very best. It breaks my heart that people don't care about my passion or drive, preferring to hear about who I'm dating. But that's what it's like. People don't see female physicians as doctors first. They seem them as women and mothers first and doctors second.

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