My wife's half-hearted support!!!

(Note: Sorry, but I had to repost this again since I am not receiving any replies or input on the matter. Hopefully, that will change within this venue.)
To all:
First timer, here! I have been reading numerous posts on OPM and I just want to extend my appreciation to all that have contributed to its content. It truly helps when you know you are not ALONE in your endeavor.
Brief History:
I am 38 years old, married, with children ages 4, 3, and 1 1/2. I am currently employed in the IT industry as a Security Consultant/Analyst. Before moving into IT, I worked in Health Care as an O.R. technician for 10 years, in which four were served in the military (91-Delta!).
It was during my early experiences as an O.R. tech that I had first realized my interest in becoming a physician – an anesthesiologist to be more specific. I shouldn’t bore you with all the details, but I decided not to pursue the interest. I had reasoned that I would only be doing it for the money. I did not feel that my motivation level paralleled the level of commitment needed to succeed in becoming a physician, for I felt one could only succeed if one sustained an earnest desire to help people. So, the thought was abated.
Current History:
Fourteen years later, here I am seething with excitement at the prospect of continuing, yet fulfilling, this sojourn entitled, ‘To be or not to be; A Physician (A dilemma in the making),’ which brings me to the point of this posting:
I know now that I want to become physician. There were many internal and external events that had immerged in my life to help solidify my resolve in this decision. I am currently finishing my BS degree in IS. I am also working with the school’s Premedical Advisor /Career Counseling Offices to iron out any deficiencies that I currently have, i.e., Medical School requirements, references, MCAT, etc.
BUT, my wife! She’s an ex-O.R. Nurse, sixteen-year veteran. At one point she supports me in what I want to do, but at the next she is frustrated and angry. Below is a listing of her legitimate concerns:
1. The general upheaval it will cause our household.
2. The possible impact it will have on our cohesiveness as a family.
3. The burden of her serving as the sole provider and stagnating her professional choices.
4. The impact this will have on our retirement planning.
5. The plausibility of a Fifty-year old finding employment.
6. The unpredictable nature and climate of Health Care, as it pertains to HMOs and Insurance Premiums (She wants to settle down in Pennsylvania where insurance premiums are driving Docs out in droves), and their impact on potential income earned and the physician’s role in Medicine/Health Care.
7. The call and 24/7 lifestyle.
8. At what point will I turn a profit and truly immerge as the family provider.
9. If she says, “No,” I will always resent her.
I need advice from those whose spouses may have had similar concerns to the ones that I have just related, and how you have managed, or are managing, to address those concerns. At this stage in my life, in pursuing medicine, I cannot do it without the support of my wife; it’s a two-person approach in which all implications must be considered and explored at the outset before we jump in. But if my wife's support is half-hearted, does this spell trouble down the road?
Please, any advice or input is welcomed!!!

Your wife has every right to be concerned. What you’re talking about doing is one of the most selfish endeavors a person can underake–if you’re married and/or have kids. Think about it: you’re saying, "I want to spend the next 7-10 years thinking of me and other people (meaning those outside your house) first or relatively first. It is selfish.
The dilemma is how to get your wife behind that selfishness. I’m sure there is a reson for her lack of enthusiasm. I know that when I was in grad school, my wife and I were doing pretty well. She had a great job and financially we were doing okay, but we didn’t have new cars, etc. In her mind, she had built this dream that once I finished grad school, a second income would come in and we’d be really living in style. Perhaps your wife is expecting similar things since you’re close to finishing your degree. And you suddenly have the gall to go talking about getting more than $100K in debt and spending less time with your family, basically shoving all household responsibilities onto her? (Of course, this is an exaggeration). Of course she’s not going to get behind that plan.
Her list of concerns are valid. The only thing I can suggest is to talk about it and try to reach a compromise.
You might point out to her that you’ll only be unemployed during the first four years of school. During your residency you’ll be earning in the $30’s, which won’t be what an IT professional might make, but you won’t be starving. And you could point out that there has been a dramatic down-turn in the IT market. People are leaving it in droves, and companies aren’t replacing them. There will always be jobs in medicine, especially now that there seems to be some momentum gathering for capping malpractice claims. The pendulum is swinging the other way, it seems.
Good luck.

QUOTE (jpatter916 @ Oct 17 2002, 12:08 PM)
At this stage in my life, in pursuing medicine, I cannot do it without the support of my wife; it’s a two-person approach in which all implications must be considered and explored at the outset before we jump in. But if my wife's support is half-hearted, does this spell trouble down the road?
Please, any advice or input is welcomed!!!

Hi Jack,
There is no question that your wife will have to bear a considerable load in terms of providing for your family if you decide to get out of the work force and into the long-term aspects of preparing for and attending medical school. You have a family and you have a life-style that she has grown to expect and has made contribution to. It will change for you all if you decide to undertake this journey.
I think that your real job is convincing her that you understand and echo her concerns. Medicine is not the career for you if it means that your family has to suffer. Yes, there are sacrificies to be made but your wife has come to expect that after a certain time in the workforce, she should see some rewards of her hard work not get thrown back into the world that you both worked so hard to overcome.
Again, this career is not fair and equal for non-traditionals. We have life and life demands that someone fresh from undergrad after high school does not have. Few medical schools recognize that non-traditionals have needs that have to be met above and beyond those of the traditional applicants. As more of us get into medical school and demand that those needs be met, it will become easier.
Medicine does not need to be a 24/7 proposition beyond then internship year. Most specialties with the exception of the surgical specialties have pretty reasonable hours. With the new limits on resident work hours, even the surgical specialties will have better hours but they won't be 9-5. Some specialties like emergency medicine enable you to spend the maximum time at home with your family. Most ER docs do 11 8-hour shifts per month. This makes EM pretty competitive because of lifestyle. Dermatology has great hours as does radiology. Most of the surgeons are still living at the hospital but urology and plastics have great hours.
Your retirement will suffer, you will be reduced to quality time while in school and internship, you will be out of the workforce at least during the time of medical school. Residency is not going to pay as much as you are making now. There are no guarantees on the other end with the practice of medicine changing almost weekly. Your wife's support is anything but half-hearted. She has some legitimite concerns that you both need to address. Get a plan together that addresses her concerns with strategies to solve them and then see how you can fit a medical career into your life. I am sure that your wife would be 100% behind you if you can accomplish this. Good luck and welcome to the group.

Ash-O-Rama, Natalie:
I do thank you for your honest opinion and advice. Yes, I am being quite selfish in wanting to pursue medicine, particularly since I do have a family and because of our current stage in life. And, yes, my wife’s support is not half-hearted; her concerns are legitimate.
Thank you both for pointing this out because these announcements have humbled me. It made me realize that I have not been truly focused on understanding her hesitation/reasons in commiting herself to helping me acheive my selfish goal. I must admit that I have been so “hurt” by her reservations, which have, at times, fostered into anger on her part, that I just stopped listening to her.
I need to reexamine her concerns and address each and every one with a sound, detailed answer based on documented facts and statistics, as well as pointing out my commitment to preserving my marriage and my place as a father. I should also ask her to visit the OPM website to peruse any and all topics that may apply to her specific concerns.
Again, thank you for your input. Is there a forum on OPM where you two may have previously given accounts of your history and medical pursuits? It would be wonderful to learn more about people such as yourselves who serve as an inspiration to us all (non-trads).
I do have one more question. Straight up. Based on your experiences thus far, do older physicians (38-50 yrs. old) emerging from med school/residency encounter age discrimination, to the point that it excludes them from gaining leverage in the Matching process for Residency and/or from gaining leverage in initial practice opportunities?

Your idea about having your wife visit the site is a great one. Any information that she can gather will answer the endless questions and concerns she has. The answers may not be what she, or you for that matter, wants to hear but at least you'll have them.
Please visit the Pre-med introductions and personal discussions forum. You will find all kinds of stories of the path to MD or DO.
Also, on our main page ( there is a link to diaries and Natalie has posted her experiences in her general surgery residency.
Welcome to the OPM group!

Jack, I’m not aware of any statistics regarding the employability of OPMs when they become MDs/DOs, but you can check out this article which gives the topic a pretty positive spin:…50a5b226e4b4108
As long as you are doing some deep thinking about medicine and your marriage, can I point out one more thing? When you say you are going to marshal your facts and arguments to win your wife over… well, you aren’t in the IT field now for nuthin’! biggrin.gif (and I can say this, my husband is in IT and I recognize all the symptoms) But I suspect her deep-down concerns are not about whether it will be financially feasible to practice in Pennsylvania, or how you’ll get student loans, etc. etc… She is afraid for the LIFE she has built with you, and a case presentation on how you can manage medical school is not going to convince her. It may be that she is raising these very practical concerns because she knows that you are fact-oriented and she hopes to make a case presentation AGAINST medical school, one worded in a way that you’ll understand. But I really doubt that’s her concern.
I suggest that you step far outside your usual way of thinking. Don’t be afraid to give the emotional reasons why you feel a pull to medicine. It doesn’t have to be 100% rational - he11, if I were 100% rational I would probably be doing something else! Putting forth the feeling side of the equation will give you wife the freedom to get out her real fears and concerns, and then maybe you guys can have a real heart-to-heart discussion rather than a business lunch to discuss this stuff. tongue.gif
When it comes down to it, this is not a decision you can make by listing the positives on one side of the paper, the negatives on the other side, and seeing which side wins. Nor is this a decision where you’ll “convince” your wife with facts. There are intangibles for you, your wife, your family - both positive and negative. You need to talk lots, see if you can start giving voice to some of these things. Notice that many of us refer to our pursuit as a “dream” - to me, that signifies a level of emotional commitment that just can’t be quantified.
My husband was very concerned about the implications of my going to medical school. We talked and talked and talked some more… I needed to reassure him frequently that I would not disappear, I wouldn’t forget him, that he and our kids were still the most important things in my life. Early on, I set my limits: only apply to local schools, and only apply twice - if I didn’t get in after that, I’d move on to something else. In many ways, through many discussions, I made it as clear as I could on an emotional level that our family came first.
Keep talking!

Thanks, Mary, for your valued insight.
I have never been the kind of person to commuicate my thoughts or emotions effectively because I have a hard time interpreting my emotions into a form of “code” that I think is reasonable and easily understood.
But you’re right in that I don’t think that I have ever told my wife, emotionally speaking, how I feel about “why I want to pursue medicine.” I think that I’ve just taken the position that it should be understood since I am considering such a drastic change in career.
Again, thank you.

As a spouse, I hope I can lend some insight from that side of things. I completely agree with everything that has been posted thus far and would just like to elaborate as a spouse that has lived through it (thus far, anyway!)
Dave is now just about 8 months from graduation (thank goodness!). To look back on things, there have been things that have been worse than I expected but also a lot that were better than I expected. You have some advantage over us because of the resource that OPM is-- we really had nothing to tell you what life would be like for a nontraditional family to go through this process.
Our main concerns entering this process were:
money-would we be able to make it financially?
our life together- would we have time together, would we be able to do the things we wanted to do, as in vacations, buy a house, have a family?
my personal goals- was my life going to have to be on hold during this time in order for Dave to pursue his goal?
Obviously there are a lot of smaller issues within these categories,but those are the main ones. Now that we’ve almost made it through the school part of this,here’s how those issues stand thus far—
Money- We went from 2 incomes to mine and Dave’s part-time when he started u-grad, then just mine when he started med school. It’s been tight, but not nearly as tight as some of our friends have had it. I’m a nurse and have worked full time the whole time. Have I wanted to? Not really- I don’t really enjoy nursing and look forward to the day when I don’t have to do it anymore. But, at this point in our lives, I would likely still be having to work full time whether he was in school or not, so there isn’t much to accomplish by lamenting the fact that I have to now. There have been both positives and negatives to me working full time. Positive-- obviously, a regular. reliable income coming in, the ability to still have some semblence of a life (we still eat out, we’ve even taken a couple of vacations). Negative- I have a hard time getting time off when Dave has time off, especially if his time off is unpredictable as it can be in the 3rd and 4th years. But honestly, by no means have I felt like we were poverty stricken. Some things have been put on hold, but that’s part of it.
Our life together/my personal goals— What a big subject! I worried that “we” would be put on hold throughout this, but really the opposite is true. I truly feel like we are closer and better as a couple now than we were at the beginning of this. We had been married for a year when he started ugrad, then 4 years when he started med school. We’ll celebrate our 8th anniversary just a few weeks before graduation. Would I do it all again? God forbid. Do I regret it? Nope. I think one of the things that has brought us closer is that we tackled this as a team effort and continued that mentality throughout for as much as is possible. In addition to tackling Dave’s goal as a team, we paid attention to my goals during this time. I am currently taking 2 undergrad art classes (a long-time goal of mine and a source of my own sanity!) in addition to working full time. It works for us. We are also expecting our first child in February. We plan to buy a house whenwe move for residency. So, while life outside medical training has progressed at a slower rate than it would’ve otherwise, it has continued to progress and I don’t think either one of us regret how things are for us. We have only been able to do this through a very concerted effort though-- by no means did we just stumble through this and wake up to find ourselves this blissfully happy married couple. THere is a date night each week, even if we just stayed home- it is off-limits to homework. We make an effort to talk about things other than medicine. We include one another in even small decisions in this process. In other words, we kept “us” as a priority. It has not always been easy- there have certainly been some rocky times, but I’m pretty sure we will be fine.
You guys definitely have some issues to work out. I can understand a lot of her feelings because I’ve been through them myself. The upheaval in your home is unavoidable-- it’s a big change whether you have to move for school or not. THat’s an issue in which you have to be willing to do damage control and just know that it is going to happen. The dust will settle and you’ll adapt. Cohesieveness as a family is something you have to make an active effort to work on-- simple as that. It is something you have to work on anyway, it just takes a little more work during medical training. The burden of being the sole income-- it can be a burden and she has a legitimate issue there. I’m personally tired of being the main income,especially as I am in a field I don’t enjoy. But it’s a committment we made and I’m holding up my end. It is an issue that you guys will have to work out. Ash makes a good point that you do have a income again as a intern-- some is better than none. As for issues 4,5,6, those are better addressed by others on the board. The 24/7 lifestyle Natalie addressed very well. Even during the med school years, your time commitment isn’t 24/7 unless you choose to make it that way. You have less say in internship and residency, but to a large extent that is dependent on what you choose to go into.

Even more than addressing these individual issues, you need to work on understanding the feelings and motivations behind these issues. That can go a long way toward alleviating the time and energy spent on the individual issues and reaching a compromise/decision on this subject. This is a practice in using the skills that you’ve used to maintain your marriage thus far. That doesn’t change during medical training-- you just draw from those skills at a much greater level. That actually can be a very good thing. There are a lot of couples that just sail through life with each other, then wake up one day to find that they don’t really have much in common anymore or don’t really know one another anymore. Medical training places enough stress there that you’ll either work to overcome it and emerge stronger, or give into it and find yourself to be like the couples I just mentioned. It’s all about making decisions together, being willing to compromise on a level that you’ve probably never had to before, committment on a level something akin to marriage, and making a huge (but worthy) effort to keep the things that are the very most important in your life as top priority.
Hope this helps.

I have posted this elsewhere, but I wanted you to see it, too:

Hey, thanks for the words of encouragement!
My wife and I had a little time to ourselves this weekend – the kids were off with their grandparents. We had a chance to go out for dinner and then, afterwards, take a nice walk along the riverwalk. The next day, we had a relaxing midmorning and afternoon of uninterrupted studying and finishing homework.
My wife says to me, “let’s sit on the porch awhile (Pennsylvania Dutch Vernacular).” So, we go out to the porch. Then she starts talking about what bills we need to pay off; budgeting for one income (her income); arranging for pre-school and kindergarten for our three children; the extra work she might be able to do on the weekends to make more ends meat should we need it; and the possibility of her becoming a Psychologist.
I was like, “Wow!” “I guess you are becoming more comfortable with the prospects of my attending med school?” She said, “Yes, Iam.” She said she had realized how important it is to me and that she knew I have always wanted to pursue medicine. I can’t say how happy this made me because I now knew that I had her full support and that we were in this together, now.
I was also pleased to hear her talk of pursuing psychology because she has always held an interest in it and I have never understood why she had not pursued this interest. Anyway, since I have the time at work, I told her that I would research the field for her and bring home some information to help her to get started in possibly moving toward this direction. We’ll see.
So, the momemtum is gathering. This January I will leave my very secure job (which is a 124 mile commute, one way, for me. So, I won’t miss it) and enroll full time in my college’s pre-med program. Hopefully, I can find some part-time work somewhere.

I am glad that you and your husband made it through the transition of u-grad to med school. And I hope that it’s smooth sailing in residency. And a hearty congratualtions on your soon-to-be ‘new arrival’ and on your anniversary.
To be honest, I don’t know how you’ve managed with being pregnant and ensuring that the stress level associated a first pregnancy, coupled with med school lifestyle, wouldn’t compromise your pregancy or sanity. My hat is off to you. I hope that you are able to focus on a career path in which you find rewarding. My wife is an RN, too – OR nurse. But, now she is working in Health Care as an ADON. I know what you are going through when you say you don’t care for Nursing. I have so many friends who are Nurses, but who abhor the profession. That’s why I am behind my wife in her efforts to find something more meaningful to her. You might want to consider Health Care Policy/Administration or Public Policy for public or non-profit groups, in terms of seeking a graduate degree. They would only build on the current experience and skill-set that you currently have.
I’ve bored you long enough. Thanks for your post because I really appreciate the perspective from those who are, or have been, in the trenches.

Thanks for the update. It's great to hear that she's coming around. Feel free to send her this way if she ever needs to hear first-hand that she doesn't have to give up her dream in order for you to pursue yours.
I think that one of the other things that make things work so well for Dave and I is that he knows when to back off and give me time to absorb things. He and I are polar opposites in that respect in that he loves to fly by the seat of his pants and I need to have time to mull over things. For most things we meet in the middle, but there are times when I just need to cope with it my way and he's pretty good to recognize that.
Even though she is coming to terms with this whole decision, don't leave it at that. There's a lot of things to come to terms with along the way. If you don't have the greatest communication now, establish it. If you do already have it, put it to good use because there are going to be a lot of things to talk about and deal with. Some of those you will feel completely different about and the only way to make this doable is to talk about it.
As for me pursuing my dreams… it's funny that you made the suggestion you made. I actually did start work on a Master's in Public Health. It sounded good in theory, but that is about as far as as it sounded good! I worked on it for a little over a year part time and was miserable the biggest part of the time. I kept thinking it was because I was so busy when it was really because I didn't enjoy getting more involved in health care. Once that lightbulb came on, I did some serious introspection regarding what I wanted to do with my life. Dave was able to offer a little more objective view of what he believed made me happy vs what I was actually pursuing for a career. So, I bit the bullet, stopped working on the Masters, took a couple of art classes (which I had wanted to do for several years) and was hooked. The reason I can balance it all now is because I love the classes I'm taking. Rather than being an additional source of stress, they are stress relief. I truly look forward to the days I have class because I can forget about nursing for a while. The plan is to complete a Bachelor's in Fine Art while Dave is in residency. Photography is what I especially love.
So, I've not had to give up my dream at all for Dave to pursue his. I have to go at a slower pace because of it, but I'm still working on it. Yes, it's a little easier because we don't have a child yet,but we will work it out so that I can continue to take classes once we do have a child. Let your wife know it can be done.

Dave was able to offer a little more objective view of what he believed made me happy vs what I was actually pursuing for a career. So, I bit the bullet, stopped working on the Masters, took a couple of art classes (which I had wanted to do for several years) and was hooked.

Great!!! It's funny that you say this because although my wife is leaning towards psychology at this point, she was going to apply to Health Administration/Policy Masters programs, too. But, even more so than psychology's appeal to her, we both know that what she truly wants to do is to buy homes and refurbish them as a means of livlihood.
But, it will be some time before we are in a position to afford her the opportunity to do this. In the meantime, we'll have to talk to see if her pursuing a Masters degree really warrants her time and effort, as well as money.
Good luck on your artistic career. There was a time when I was younger that I was deeply involved with the Arts: Acting, Dance, and singing. So, I can relate to it's pull. Maybe, one day when you have works for sale, I can buy one and state, "Yeah, I knew Wendy back when she was just starting out!!."
Thanks, Wendy!