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The Mrs Behind the MD

I wanted to share my experiences over the past 3 years as a working med school spouse (the good, the bad and the ugly). As a quick background, my husband and I had been married for around 10 years when we moved here from Texas. We are not natives of Utah, nor did we have any connections to this area so it was a really big life change for both of us to leave our family and social and professional communities behind.

I have been working full time as a dentist in St George since we moved out here in 2017. We welcomed our son, Andrew, in January of my husband's first year and I was at home for 7 weeks with him before heading back to the office. It was never really an option for me to stay at home while Rusty was in school because I have my own professional loans to pay off and ultimately I love my career and wanted to make sure that I didn't completely lose my professional identity to the med school grind. I'll be honest, I thought that having been through dental school while married, I knew what to expect and it would be a piece of cake. The first 6 months of our med school journey was really not a big challenge for me emotionally. I had plenty of time to hike and kayak around the area and my husband's absence never seemed to be a burden. But...surprise, all that changed (big time) when you threw a child into the picture! After my son arrived, I felt so isolated and resentful of my husband for not being around more (or not being available when he was around). To be honest this is still a very real challenge for me, but I have learned to communicate my frustrations and cope with them better over the years.

I have told my husband (and others) that I feel like a single parent a lot. Because rotations are incredibly unpredictable, I am the one that bears the burden of childcare, housework, errands, pets, etc and I am also working full time. It has been a steep learning curve for me, but I can tell you that not only is it possible, but it's worth it! I may complain about it and there are definitely tears, but ultimately my life is wonderful and incredibly fulfilling.

For me the key to having any level of sanity in all this has been to have very frank, and sometimes uncomfortable, communication with my husband and to find some way to get a little "me time" every week. It is very easy to concentrate on all the things that you lose to med school. For me this list often sounds like "but I gave up a job I loved and all my friends and family and my independence and on and on...". When you allow this negative commentary to play in your head over and over it does nothing but breed resentment and anger. As a wise person once said, "resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die". Instead I make myself concentrate on all the wonderful things that I have gained out here and how excited and proud I am of my husband for working so hard to pursue his dreams. This difference in perspective gives me a better head space to approach my husband from. I can ask him for help or share my struggles without bringing the past frustrations and emotions into the conversation. Believe me, you can feel and see the difference when you are not allowing your resentments to direct the narrative.

My "me time" might be as simple as watching something on TV for an hour and having a special treat from Fiiz or sending Andrew to daycare on a day off so I can have an entire day to myself. It doesn't have to be expensive or extravagant but find some time to just feed your soul and recover from the stress of work, kids or just life in general. As a spouse, know that you are in med school too and it is a stressful experience. You are NOT alone though! I have allowed myself to believe that I was many times over the past 3 years but it is completely untrue. There are so many spouses going through the same thing you are whether you are a working mom like me or not. Find your community (through RVU or elsewhere) and get plugged in. One of my biggest regrets is not doing a better job of that in our time out here. It takes a village to support a med school spouse. If there aren't any activities that you can participate in because of your work schedule or your kids, or whatever, then try setting one up. Post something online and I'm sure you'll be surprised how many other spouses are in your shoes or have the same interests.

If I can answer questions or just be a sounding board for anyone out there, please feel free to call me or email me anytime.

Sara McLin

(817) 939-3672

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