What do you sacrifice in pursuit of your dreams?
What does your calling cost you?
What are the returns on your investments?
* * * * *
Last week I mentioned Dierks Bentley’s, “Woman, Amen”, a song I love. After listening to it for many days on repeat this past week, I decided to tour his nine albums this weekend. His songs vary in topic and form, and at the same time he has a consistent style and vibe. I like it. Yesterday I heard his song, “Damn These Dreams”:
Now honey I know you miss me, I feel it when you kiss me
Trust me when I say every goodbye hurts
Well damn these dreams
Playin’ my heart just like a guitar string
Pullin’ me away from you and everything I really need
Well damn these dreams
Chasing that same old whiskey melody
All up and down these Nashville streets
It’s hard to look true love in the eye and leave
Damn these dreams
Instantly I remembered two other songs with similar themes:
“Goodbye Again”, by John Denver:
Other voices beckon me, and for a little while
It’s goodbye again, I’m sorry to be leaving you
Goodbye again, as if you didn’t know
It’s goodbye again
Have to go and see some friends of mine
Some that I don’t know
Some who aren’t familiar with my name
It’s something that’s inside of me
Not hard to understand
It’s anyone who’ll listen to me sing
…Lying by your side’s the greatest peace I’ve ever known
But it’s goodbye again…
And “I Play the Road”, by Zach Brown Band:
…She says daddy where to you go
When you leave me all these nights
With a suitcase and guitar in your hand
Kissing me and mom goodbye with a tear and a smile
Where do you go?
Daddy where do you go?
I play the road
And the highway is our song
And every city’s like the same three chords
Been helping us along when the story’s told
And the crowd is done and gone
Shaking off the miles and trying to make it home
…Mile after mile…
Baby, I’m comin’ home
Years ago, I think it was either Dana Carvey or Martin Short who said something like one can only tolerate the life of a comedian because s/he simply cannot do anything else—they must do comedy. If anyone can find the reference, please share!
* * * * *
As it is in music and comedy, so it is in medicine. For many of us, we simply must do it; we have no existential choice. These songs describe well our pain and conflict when we take call or have to work on weekends, or miss the kids’ school and sports events, and spend hours at home on the medical record or answering pages.
I recently read an article, “A Good Doctor or a Good Mom, Never Both”. Early in this physician mom writer’s career, an elder colleague told her, “’You can be a good doctor, and you can be a good mother, but you can never be both at the same time.’” The author disagrees, saying it’s either/or, never both, ever. At once hearing Bentley’s song, I felt a moment of panic, mortified that I’m destroying my family for my job. Am I totally selfish for choosing this career, and are my priorities so distorted that I so often put work before my family? Have I chosen to be a good doctor and a horrible mom?
Thank goodness for Simon Sinek who, in his 2014 book, Leaders Eat Last, referenced a 2011 study that showed “a child’s sense of well-being is affected less by the long hours their parents put in at work and more by the mood their parents are in when they come home. Children are better off having a parent who works into the night in a job they love than a parent who works shorter hours but comes home unhappy.” This idea has saved me from countless episodes of self-flagellation and guilt. It was so instantly redeeming that I recall the exact moment I heard it—I was at the airport, traveling solo, likely for a work related conference. I can’t say I’m ecstatic every evening coming home, but I generally feel satisfied by a fulfilling day doing something I love. I can confidently report that my husband feels the same.
I’ve attended one swim meet in two years. I miss any school event that occurs during the workday. I still get lost walking the maze that is the kids’ school, though we (they) have been there over a decade. But I get to choir and orchestra concerts, and dinner potlucks. I know my kids’ friends and am friends with their parents. The kids’ teachers think they feel loved by us. I think I do okay.
My kids hear me on the phone with patients and colleagues. They know it takes time and understanding to take good care of people. I’m confident they see and feel how meaningful this work and these relationships are to me. And the science is pretty cool, too. I would never pressure my kids to go into medicine, but I would not be surprised if they did. I would absolutely encourage it, if it gives them the joy it gives me.
“You can be a good doctor, and you can be a good mother, but you can never be both at the same time.” I respectfully agree and disagree. You can absolutely be both, often at the same time.