Keeping a marriage together while becoming a Doctor.

I am 29 years old and my wife and I are the new parents of a gorgeous 6 mo. old girl. We have been discussing much the difficulties we may face if I am indeed accepted to medical school and then the trials of a residency. Can anyone tell me anything that we could take into consideration? Anyone who has been there or who knows someone who has been there that can sort of tell it like it is and tell me how they made it through? Am I going to miss my child’s formative years? Help!

As OldManDave always says, both you AND your family will be going to medical school together. You cannot do it alone. That said, medical school is stressful, as you know, and those stressors can strain the best of marriages at times. Honestly evaluate your situation, because if there are already some underlying problems, they WILL come out once you are in medical school (I found that out the hard way). As for your daughter, you CAN study well and have fun with your family too, and by the time you were in residency, she will be ready for school. As a parent, you will always spend time away from her in relation to a career. Just make sure it is a career that YOU love, so that joy is transmitted to your family. Best of luck.

I am 26 yrs old now, with a soon to be 6 yr old daughter and a soon to be 4 yr old daughter… I just took Biology I (got an A!! yay!!) and am taking Bio II this Summer… I am taking classes in preparation for a career in healthcare… All along, I’ve been thinking that I would take the MCATs in 2010, but, because of your same concerns, I am wondering if I really want to go through the grueling residency years when my eldest daughter is 13-16 yrs old… I don’t know about the other women on this forum, but, I know those years were very crazy for me, and I feel like it was a time when I needed my mother or some sort of guidance the most… I would hate not to be there for my daughter during those critical years… So, now I am wondering, if I should consider Dental school or Optometry school, so I can avoid the residency, however, I don’t feel I’ll get the fulfillment that I’m looking for in helping patients, if I go that route… It’s a tough decision, but, I still have a couple years to think this through… Any thoughts?

The biggest thing I underestimated was the geographic restrictions. You may not have much choice about where you get into school, and where you match for residency.

Both you and your partner have to be flexible, but also be clear in knowing and communicating what you will not compromise on. It is a constantly evolving process, and very challenging at times. Really, it’s like putting Miracle-Gro on any tiny flaw in the relationship.

I spent many, many hours driving over the past 4 years, and I am going to suck up the commute for the next 3 so that my partner can stay in his job and we can live in the place that’s best for him. We had no idea going into this that there was no residency program closer than a half-hour commute from our house.

Shameless plug: my husband and I will be doing a session on this subject at the upcoming OPM conference. Our hope is that it will be highly interactive; we’ll be encouraging participation from everyone in the room, as we don’t pretend to be experts but we DID survive the process and remain happily married.


I really appreciate this topic. I’m coming to the party late, and, unfortunately, didn’t attend the conference.

I’m just starting out, considering going back for prereqs. I’ve been concerned about this. We don’t have children, but I’ve worried about the impact on our marriage. We’re very much in love, though we do have our issues.

One thing that’s great: he said he’d do what he has to do to help me through. I thanked him profusely. I acknowledged the huge sacrifices he’d have to make (less time together, more chores, moving, probably more than once, finding work in a new area). He’s quite open to the moving, for one. We’ve wanted to return to NJ, and we may ultimately do that. He’d be fine, though, if, say, I went to med school in CA and residency in OH, or something.


I waited until my daughter made it through high school, then started on my own journey. Would it have been nice to be starting medical school at 27 rather than at 47? You betcha! But I don’t regret my decision to wait. I was there for every school thing, every church thing and every growing up thing. Plus, I had a wonderful career that gave me the opportunity to make a difference in a few people’s lives and that will, hopefully, make me a better physician eventually. Guess there are pro’s and con’s to any course of action. It’s a tough decision…

Kathy, it’s so nice to hear from you on OPM! I have followed your posts all the way from the US to Europe to the Caribbean to Florida and have wondered how you’re doing. I hope the medical school, residency process has/is going well.

As a person who is married with 3 kids and starting my 2nd year of medical school I can tell you that it is not easy at all. However, it is a little like working. You leave for work around 7:30, come home around 5:30 right? Well, I leave for school around that time and come home around that time. The biggest difference is that after about an hour, I head to the library.

We set up a schedule where I do all of my heavy studying Sunday afternoon through Friday afternoon and then I do not study from Friday to Sunday. I told my wife that we can go out Saturday nights as long as we get a babysitter and my classmates are pretty good at offering.

It is hard but doable.