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How to be a Working Parent with a Partner in Med School

Updated: Sep 15, 2020

At 4:11 am awake to the sound of a screaming toddler. Wait ten minutes, hoping he'll go back to sleep. When he doesn't, you'll choose between consistency in sleep training and making sure that your partner isn't a total zombie for whatever exam he has this week.

There is always an exam. You may find it helpful to add all the exams to a shared Google calendar so that you will know how close the exam is when making this calculation.

When your alarm goes off at 6:30 am, savor a few moments of peace and quiet before greeting the day. Decide if getting yourself ready before waking the kids will make everything go more smoothly. Hear the unmistakable noise of your toddler waking up again before you're even able to change out of your pajamas.

Take a moment while making breakfast and packing lunches to bid your partner good luck on the exam and try not to comment on the look of certain doom in his eyes. Abject terror is very normal.

Your five-year-old either decides that she wants to do everything herself today or suddenly forgets how to brush her teeth and demands that you do it for her.

Check the time. Discover you are running late. You will always be late. It does not matter when you get up or how much you prepare the night before.

Arrive at daycare. Don't get your feelings hurt when the kids giddily run off to play and don't even say goodbye. This is a sign they are happy and you've chosen a good provider.

Arrive at home with seconds to spare. Start with a project that will allow you to be productive while finishing the audiobook version of this month's MSP Book Club selection. Become obsessed with a tiny detail on your project that isn't working. Hyperfocus on figuring out why. Forget that you are listening to an audiobook for a chapter or two.

When your partner arrives home, ask about the exam. Learn that he is sure that he has failed the exam and therefore failed the class. Remind him that he did very well on the first exam and would have to do extremely badly on this exam to actually fail. Your partner will assure you that is what has happened and all hope is lost. Offer further reassurance and depending on the severity of the spiral, gently suggest meeting with his academic advisor or the mental-health counselor.

Seriously though, the support resources through the school are great. Your partner will actually listen to them when they say the same thing you've been saying for weeks.

Abandon the audiobook. Begin responding to an urgent email. Don't be too startled when you hear a loud "Whoop!" from the other room. That is just your partner finding out that he did in fact pass. He will then tell you about how he only got this or that percentage, and that's not as well as he'd hoped. Jokingly remind him that not 30 minutes ago he was certain he had failed.

Suggest celebrating with lunch at Capriotti's. You only have about a 10% chance of him agreeing, depending on what else is going on, so suggest celebrating frequently.

Return to your project and become newly frustrated. Begin fondly imagining all the things you're going to do on your lunch break, or throw a delicious dinner from the last MSP Freezer Meal Swap in the crockpot. Revel at how amazingly productive you are going to be.

At 12:40, remember that you have a Skype meeting at 1 and needed to take your lunch early. Quickly reheat some leftovers to inhale while watching random videos on YouTube.

Accomplish precisely nothing on your list.

After your meeting, spend the afternoon rushing to wrap up whatever you can before 5 pm to prove that your employer made the right decision to let you telecommute. This isn't just for you. You are setting an example – blazing a trail.

Lose track of time. As you rush out of the house at 5:05 pm, realize that you forgot to start dinner. Decide to just cook a frozen pizza. Your five-year-old will refuse to eat this pizza and demand celery, blueberries, and string cheese for dinner. Concede that she is probably better at healthy meal planning than you are and give in – but only if she tries at least one bite of pizza.

Miraculously get the kids bathed and in bed with only three rounds of stories and lullabies and minimal screaming. Pray that they will stay asleep and not interrupt your partner's studying while you catch up with your friends at an MSP event.

Leave the event early, wondering how everyone else can stay up so late.

Upon arriving at home, head right to bed. You will need plenty of sleep to start the whole process again tomorrow.

Stay up reading random parenting articles on your phone until your partner finally comes to bed. Snuggle and fall asleep watching old episodes of the Simpsons.


On weekends, try to balance all the chores you didn't do on your lunch breaks with getting the kids out of the house so your partner can study in peace. Options include grocery shopping and other errands, the public library, the Children's Museum, the Dinosaur Discovery Site, Sand Hollow Aquatic Center, Thunder Junction, as well as a multitude of parks and splash pads.

Bonus points if you can coordinate a playdate with another RVU family - a great place to do that is here.

By Richelle Warr

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