Medical School with Children

August 28, 2019 · 8:00 am

A few weeks ago I was up late taking a practice test for Step 2, my last major exam of medical school.  I didn’t feel prepared and was dreading the exam, but when I finished the practice test, I was pleasantly surprised to score higher than I had expected.  I ran up the stairs to wake up Yohannes (yes, it was the middle of the night) and share my good news, but stopped by Lily’s room to drop off a stray pair of socks.  When I went in, I found Lily awake, with tears in her eyes. 

“What’s wrong?” I asked, and I leaned over to kiss her head. It was hot with fever. My elated flight up the stairs turned into searching the house for the ever-missing thermometer and trying to find children’s ibuprofen in a flavor that Lily would agree to take.

Med School with Kids

Nati and Lily wearing my white coats.

I get asked all the time what it’s like to be in medical school with children.  I usually try to give a short answer: “It’s hard, but also has its perks.”  It’s difficult to accurately characterize the complexities of my situation in a casual conversation.   I think there’s the obvious fact that parenting is hard, and medical school is hard, and doing two hard things at once is…hard.

But I always try to remind myself of the positives as well.  When I’ve been overwhelmed, or gotten a grade that disappointed me, I’ve always been able to come home to the reminder that I am loved, and I am needed, no matter how things are going at school. While classmates are holed up in their apartments studying alone for weeks on end, I am forced to take breaks and interact with my family, and I think that has added a healthy sense of balance to my life.

Nevertheless, there are times when a hard thing is just a hard thing.  Spending time with my kids means that I don’t always get to study as much as I should, and studying and being at rotations means I’m not home as much as I’d like. This year, I do some of my rotations at other institutions, which means I sometimes go weeks without seeing the kids. It’s just not the same to face-time your crying child when they need you as it is to hold them.

Today is Nati and Lily’s first day of school, and I can’t be there. Instead of studying, I spent the weekend before my current rotation shopping for school supplies and organizing their clothes and backpacks so that they would be ready.  I put a card in each of their backpacks so they’ll know that I’m thinking of them and cheering them on from here, but I wish I could be there in person.

I can’t wait for this season of separation to be over.

6 Thoughts on “Medical School with Children

  1. Ahhh I want to be there as their nanny like what I was like 🙂 you’re a good mom Esther, they will know that too.

  2. Rose M Bender on August 28, 2019 at 10:24 am said:

    No easy way around this…only through. Sending love!

  3. Chris Cichocki on August 28, 2019 at 5:02 pm said:

    As tough as it maybe, your dedication to family and school will and I am sure does instill hard work values that will payoff in ways yet to be imagined by your children. Getting to know you and Yohannes, Nati, and Lily over the years we have come to truly admire your commitment and dedication to your family and career. These times away will continue to be hard but ultimately the lessons taught and learned will FOREVER instill values you will see in your children. Stay safe if you need anything we are here.

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