Jake and I have now, officially, lived through the real life version of Grey’s Anatomy, Season 1 although it seems worth noting that our version of the intern year of residency was much less dramatic than what you might have watched take place at Seattle Grace Hospital (Apparently highly unusual medical scenarios don’t wheel themselves into the hospital every single day. Who knew?).
Today, the label “Intern” gets taken from Jake and given to the new class of first year residents who are are coming to a hospital near you (they say, “Don’t get sick in July” for a reason, you know). As I think about the transition so many spouses and significant others are about to embark on, I feel this incredible need to have them all to my house for coffee and scones, so I can tell them things like, “You’re not alone!” or “This year will, really, go so fast!” or “Sometimes it will be really terrible!”
But mostly, I want to tell them how we’ve made it work. I want to pass along the tips that were passed along to me so that people who live with people who work long hours can know that they can make it through. (This is, of course, not limited to those in the medical field. I see you, friends whose spouses work equally long hours in their own chosen professions.)
So, please grab a scone and a hot cup of coffee. I’d like to tell you five personal principles that have helped me through the longest days of the longest weeks of this past year as as I’ve navigated my way through this whole “Wife of a Resident Doctor” thing.Communicate. This could also be called “Name your feelings,” but that felt a little bit chintzy. It also applies, very obviously, to every single relationship, but I have found it to be an especially important principle to keep at the forefront of my mind during this season of our lives. You see, it’s easy for me to stop talking about my feelings when there’s really no way to change the thing that is bothering me. I mean, I could say to Jake, “It frustrates me that you work so many hours,” but, as it would be, he’s still going to keep working long hours. So, instead, I often choose to suck it up and deal until suddenly I hit my breaking point.
Bitterness and Resentment (who are never welcomed guests) set up camp when we stop talking about our feelings and assume the other person is keenly aware of our internal distress. Sometimes, just saying, “I’m sad. I miss my friends.” makes all the difference even if it doesn’t change the situation at hand.
Turn off social media sometimes (but mostly around holidays). Now, I cannot complain in this regard because I have been very fortunate to have Jake around for all major holidays thus far. He has, though, worked his fair share of American holidays in which I’ve found myself at home eating leftovers with the girls while my Instagram feed fills up with family feasts and gatherings and general merriment which I am not a part of. It’s hard to be alone especially when you know everyone else is together.
So, every now and then, I’ll delete all my social media apps completely from my phone and prove that I can go days and even weeks (okay, I only managed the latter twice) without Facebook or Instagram. You don’t own me, social media! As an added bonus, I find that I’m more present for the girls when I do this. Yeah, I know. Shocker.
Don’t wait up. The hours Jake works on paper are rarely the hours that he works in real time. I used to wait for him. We’d wait to eat dinner or wait to go to bed, and every time he was late, I would be so irritated. We don’t wait anymore. We eat when we’re hungry and go to bed at our regularly scheduled bedtimes and go to the park even if there’s a chance that he might get home while we’re gone. We are all (Jake included) happier because new, super-flexible Molly has implemented this principle.
Enjoy the time when you have it. I have this terribly obnoxious tendency to waste a perfectly free evening with Jake solely because I’m hung-up anticipating all the hours he’ll be gone the next day or week. Of all my flaws, this ranks up there toward the most-annoying for Jake (above Googling the ends to suspenseful movies while we’re watching them but below my inability to remember to turn off overhead lights when I leave a room).
Everything is always better when I take it one day at a time and choose to be thankful for the time I have.
Die to yourself. I obviously saved the easiest for last.
Typically, when someone is putting in long hours at the “office,” someone else isn’t. If you’re married to a doctor, or a coach, or someone serving in the military (etc., etc., etc.), when they are working extended hours in their field (maybe it’s a literal field!), you’re likely picking up the slack at home. You’re doing all the cleaning or cooking or [insert any other thing that society would tell you should be evenly split in a healthy relationship] and that’s just the way it has to be for that season. You can mutter under your breath about how he never cleans the bathroom (of course I’ve never done this) or you can die to yourself and choose to love better.It’s not easy (we were never promised that it would be), but it’s always worth it.
So, here we are ready to embark on year two of residency while many others step foot into year one and many others outside of this field entirely live through equally long and taxing hours.
May we live those long hours well and outside of our own strength.
Oh, and one more thing: Grey’s Anatomy Season 2 was more exciting than the first, right? Like, maybe Jake will have to cut open a chest while he’s stuck between floors on an elevator? I’ll report back this time next year.