[Disclaimer: The following post was written by a very sleep deprived person.]
So, I’ve decided to go part-time. And that decision is on the verge of materialising into a part-time job. I’ve said ‘yes’, now just waiting to see it all in writing. This is happening.
Part-time. Being a mother. These are kind of controversial things in the hospital, I feel. When you mention to your consultant that you’ve just returned to work from maternity leave, you might observe their sharp inhale of breath. Because really, you just told them that you’re unreliable, a little bit demanding, definitely difficult.
Which is probably true.
I’ve taken more sick days this year than any other. Ever.
I have needed family meetings and MDTs to be scheduled around the times I needed to express milk.
I try my very best to leave on time.
I am permanently exhausted. I have word finding difficulties, and my memory is shot.
When I’m doing a double shift, it’s not hard to make me cry. It will be more than 24 hours till I see my little boy, and my heart is broken.
I never volunteer now to take other people’s shifts, stay back, or cover an absence unless it’s absolutely necessary. Sometimes even then, I still can’t say yes.
This little human, entrusted to my care, has non-negotiable needs (and I have legal responsibilities as his guardian). And besides, I love him.
The outcome of all this is a heavy burden of guilt. I’m a shit mother, a shit doctor, a shit wife. A barely functional human. (I write this, of course, after 3 hours sleep and 24 hours of gastro*).
Even when we’re all healthy and well, or at least mostly so, just the logistical challenge of toddler and two full time jobs is exhausting. Together with study, nothing I can do is enough. I feel like a failure.
Last night I dreamt about sitting the exam. I opened the paper and the words were a jumble. I spent my time drawing a picture of a person, until I ran out of time. I woke up in a panic. I’d only been asleep 45 minutes or so. The longest stretch of sleep I got last night – and I wasted it, stressing about an exam.
Someone posted a schedule of their morning on Facebook. It included exercise and a 9am start. My work roster is fairly kind at the moment. 10 hour days, Monday to Friday, no weekends. But a long commute out of the city. To my husband’s annoyance, I wake up our son early so I can spend 15 minutes with him before I leave. I get home to say good night. I cry in the car, often.
I’m getting fat. And it’s hard to sleep, even when I have the chance. I hate driving. I don’t have time to clear my thoughts after work, when my time is spent in the car. I come home to guilt.
I feel so sad to have missed my little boy. I think of the first 1000 days, and what harm I might be wielding. I worry that he’s not yet walking, that he doesn’t sleep through yet, that he’s due for his vaccinations, that I can’t get him to brush his teeth.
I feel guilty that my husband shoulders most of the domestic responsibilities at the moment.
I dread the nights, knowing scarce sleep awaits me. I hear my little boy crying, even when he’s not – my mind always vigilant to his needs.
I stress that I should be studying, I should be exercising. I should let my husband know how much I love him, how I appreciate everything he does. I should be there for my little boy more. I should be anything or anyone but what and who I am.
So, I’m going part-time. It seems like the only option.
I canvassed this idea a few months ago with colleagues I respected. Someone told me that would be a waste of resources, catering to my needs. He told me there is no such thing as a part-time doctor. I rolled my eyes, while quietly adding it to my list of things to feel guilty about. Other people responded with incredulity. Why would I do that? Get it over and done with. Push forward. Get past this. Which makes sense – except I can’t.
Even now as I type this, I feel so useless. I have one small child. The most delightful, lovely 18 month old little boy. He is healthy and normal and affectionate. And even with this good fortune, I struggle. This much: job, family, study, THIS is too much for me. I don’t want to live like this. I can’t push through this, because my little boy is only a little boy once, and I can’t ask him to wait a year or two for me to be his mother. I want to be there for him now. But I can’t study, parent, doctor and live all at the same time. I’m just not that good at any of those things.
Other women: stronger, better women, do more, achieve more, are more. But me, I’m going part-time.
*Childcare. In case you don’t know: childcare is an incubator of infectious diseases. Enjoy!