I got That Text the other day, the “sorry babe, not going to make it home for dinner; probably not home before you go to bed” text.
It’s not the first time or the fiftieth time he’s missed dinner. The first time – the worst time – was his first day of his first M3 rotation, and he was operating with the chair of surgery at his medical school, the reigning president of the American College of Surgeons, and it was late and I was pregnant and I called because he rode his bike to school each day and I was worried he’d been in an accident. I could almost hear his chair-president-attending’s eyes rolling when the nurse took my panicked call. And I really should have known better, since this was not my first medical rodeo.
This year I turned thirty and also celebrated, if that’s the right word, half my life as a bystander to medical training. My mom started medical school when I was ten and finished residency when I was seventeen, and then I got a five-year reprieve until I married a premed and started it all again.
Like I said, with a half-life in medicine I should have known better. I blame the pregnancy hormones.
Half-life is a decent phrase to describe life with a resident. Assuming they work eighty hours in a week, that leaves eighty-eight hours at home. When all is said and done, half-life may even be optimistic: subtract sleeping and studying and showering, we have a quarter life with our residents, a tenth during bad rotations.
Which is why I try to remember that just as we only get a half-life with them, they only get a half-life with us. And I want him to love his career, but I want him to love coming home even more.
So I get his text and I swallow my disappointment and I send him one back: “You will get home before I go to sleep, because I will still be up and your dinner will be late, but warm. I love you and I’ll see you tonight.”
And the kids and I eat dinner alone, and I tuck them in and get my Netflix on and reheat his dinner when I hear the garage door open just after ten.
I don’t always like it but I sure love him. A half-life or a quarter life or a tenth life with my resident is time I’ve learned to treasure, and I’ll take what I can get.