Variation of a Train Wreck


I have a situation brewing in my home and thought maybe some advice would be helpful.

The quick snapshot goes like this;

I am 33 with a 2.5 year old and a significant other who graduated college and has worked since 1996. I finished law school in 2005 so between 96 and 05 we were never able to ‘live fully.’ When I say that my sig other means like others as far as buying a home, settling down, being secure, etc…

When I decided to go to lawschool my sig other was not very supportive other than to say if that’s what you want to do, do it, but I think it’s the wrong choice. After completing the first year of law school I had a pretty strong feeling that law school probably wasn’t (a) all that was promised and (b) not really what I was looking for.

Before I went to law school I was debating between taking the time to do the pre-reqs for med school, becoming a teacher, or going to law school. A side note, while a freshman in undergrad I did the classic waste of time stuff, thought about pre-med, bombed a couple courses and said well on to something easier. It still stuck in the back of my head the whole time that maybe the bombing had something to do with external factors rather than some sign from above kinda thing…I teetered back and forth but ended up going the law school route because it was something I could do immediately, the other 2 would have required prep work to make them work, not to mention my horrible undergrad gpa. So I chose the quicker option.

I’ve regretted it from first year on…but still held out hope that maybe I was being too pessimistic, maybe those statistics that you see showing career options really aren’t as dire as they appear, etc…I graduated and lo and behold they were just as dire as they appeared.

I wanted to start taking med pre-reqs while in law school, but decided to focus on doing the best I could while in school. Not to mention, that whenever I would mention med school, my sig other would put her foot down pretty hard. She would say, I’ve waited on this, I’m tolerating law school, but this is it no more.

I don’t think I’m some dilettante or professional student who doesn’t want to work. I want to do something that is engaging, helpful, and actually means something. I thought that as an attorney I could do those things and provide for (at the time) my future family. Turns out, the law doesn’t really hold all that much in the way of problem solving or actually effecting change or making a positive impact.

For the most part, the law isn’t really that engaging…A monkey could do most of the things I’ve done and it’s more a business involving advertising, marketing, networking, etc…rather than actually making arguments, researching, etc…Everything is subjective. Allegedly, there’s a right and wrong answer…Not in the law, it’s only about who’s paying at the moment.

Not to disparage the legal professsion any more than I have because many people probably love it. I keep hoping that I could find that “thing” that sparked the desire but even when I talk to others working in different aspects of the profession, no one really has that experience.

So anyway, fast forward out of why I dislike the legal profession. I’ve dropped hints, made comments, etc about doing medical school. I’ve admitted I made the wrong choice, apologized, etc…Doesn’t matter. My sig other is still very “We have no financial stability. We aren’t making ends meet and you want to go back to school?”

I’m in a position now that is relatively low stress, but time intensive for what it is. As is she…I work around a 50 hour work week and she works 40-45. Our son is in daycare 40 hours a week…I work every other Saturday. Because I’m new at my job I don’t have sick time, vacation time, personal time, etc…So everything child related now falls on my sig other. She was used to being able to rely on me as a student to take care of those things while she worked.

Theoretically, we earn more than we spend on mortgage, bills, etc…actually we’re bleeding right now…So there’s really no financial option for going back to school full time. To do this, I’d do it slowly at first. Which probably makes sense anyway, to prove that it is something I can do rather than some new windmill to chase.

But here’s the rub…How do I get my sig other on my side? How do I assuge her concerns about having been the bread winner for the last 9 years in a job she hates. It’s one of those arguments you can never win. Even if I work for 9 years full time, with my current wages she can’t afford to quit her job, so she will continue to work. She’s always going to have worked more than me. I’ll never be able to “make up” for going to law school.

Specifically then, I guess I’m asking, what’s life like during medical school and more importantly post-medical school. I’ve read the posts about medical school. First and Second years are going to school. Probably very law school like. Third year is the year that matches the horror stories of med school…working 12 hour days etc…But then it seems that’s only during some rotations not all…Fourth year is whatever you make it, mini-vacation to another year like Third.

But what then? I’ve talked to some doctors, some pre-med counselors, etc…But it’s funny the answers I get. They’re not quite as bad as when I chatted up lawyers pre law school but it’s close.

Most doctors I talk to or read conversations of etc…complain about their daily struggle…The decline of the profession etc…Oh it’s just horrible, they don’t make as much as they used to, don’t know if they’d do it again if they could, etc…The last pre-med counselor I spoke with was actually a doc who stopped practicing because he didn’t like it. So now he teaches bio at a university instead. He gave me a big helping of don’t do it. Become a college professor instead.

Biggest problem I have is getting people to be open about parts of their lives that are not things we normally share. How much do you work, how much do you make, etc…It seems everyone for the most part feels like they work too much for too little pay. Lawyers, doctors, union workers, McDonalds workers, doens’t seem to matter.

So if I’m working 50 hours a week now making less than 50k a year and not loving it. Spending my time thinking about what could have been. About how as a doctor I could really help somebody as opposed to file some papers or write something to get someone out of a problem or escape responsibility for their actions etc…Help…

I’ve posted before asking for all the “numbers.”

I fully understand and agree that it shouldn’t be about the money…There are so many ways to make money that it shouldn’t be the motivator…I can tell you it’s not…But it is a huge consideration.

If the average debt after med school is 150k…that puts me around 250k after med school because of undergrad and law school…

I read someone’s post recently where they were complaining that it took getting to their 3rd year before they felt like the first two were worth it. Because in 3rd year they found the speciality that made the first 2 years worth the grief. At this point in my life I don’t think I want to miss my child’s life…Depending on who I talk to or read posts of, or observe, it seems not all doc specialties mean you have to miss you child growing up.

Sure there are some that do, but some are more 9-5 or 9-6. I do more than that now, doing my monkey work for peanuts.

Help me out here…Any pointers for dealing with a sig other who is concerned about the financials and “living a real life?” Any info on what life is like during medical school, did I get it right or close on above? Any info on the after med school stuff?

Is it really just Doc Jones in a small town doing general practice that works 50 hours a week or is that pretty much all gen practice? Peds? Internal Med? What do the other specialties require?

And of course, what no one wants to talk about, money? Not just the surveys or the average incomes. But actually, after insurance, earnings.

It doesn’t matter if you make 150k a year if you have to pay 100k for insurance. But then again, if you earn 350k a year and pay 150k a year for insurance that’s different.

I’m not looking for the yacht or the country club, but I am not sure I can sell 250k in debt in order to make 60k a year. Or 70k a year 5 years from now working 80 hours a week. I just havne’t been able to nail down numbers that I can use to make the arguments. Help me please.

I convinced my sig other to wait out law school, and here I am earning less than I did pre-law school doing work that’s no more fulfilling than the pre-law work I did. But I did triple my loan debt and spend 3 to 4 years.

Any help would be great

Help please and thanks for reading,

  • jdroger Said:

But here's the rub...How do I get my sig other on my side? How do I assuge her concerns about having been the bread winner for the last 9 years in a job she hates. It's one of those arguments you can never win. Even if I work for 9 years full time, with my current wages she can't afford to quit her job, so she will continue to work. She's always going to have worked more than me. I'll never be able to "make up" for going to law school.

I can't speak to your questions about med school since I am still a premed. But it seems to me that you'll probably never make this work out for your SO until this matter of her working at a job she hates is addressed. You seem to be looking for what will make you happy, and trying to get her on board. What about what will make her happy? If she resents you for "making" her work while you went to school (I put it in quotes because it was surely a decision you made together) then the idea of you going back to school is not going to go over well. What does she want to do for a living? Why can't she quit her job but you can? Maybe you should make a deal - you support her (and keep working, while taking prereqs) while she goes to school (or whatever) to follow her dreams, and then she can return the favor. If you want to make this work for everyone involved, I have the hunch it will need to involve compromise.

Good luck.

I agree completely with the compromise etc…

Sadly she doesn’t really know what she wants to do…And you were correct to put “made” in quotes…I didn’t make her and actually advocated for her to quit her job many times…But she is the more ‘sensible’ one and decided that the steady paycheck while she thought about what she wanted to do was the better way to go.

So here we are years later, and she’s still no closer to what she wants to do. Just that she hates what she is doing.

I had hoped that once I graduated and started working that everything would be hunky doory but sadly,no.

I don’t make enough to allow her some time off to “find herself” and I don’t actually do anything meaningful to make up for the years of contemplation etc…toward med school.

I came close about a year ago to getting her to chuck it all to the wind and quit her job and we could move somewhere completely different and start fresh. But sadly the window wasn’t open long enough and we settled into a plan that involved us settling down for a couple years here. Which resulted in us buying a house here. Much easier to go with the wind when you rent.

But my 5 year plan has and still does contain the idea that within 5 years I’ll have the pre-reqs done and will be ready to apply…But it’s the getting her on board part that’s one of the problems.

With my current job it’s going to be probably be one class a semester at first. In a couple years she hits a milestone at work that involves her retirement vesting and so on, so she could revisit the idea of leaving then…

Your 5-year plan to be done with pre-reqs and apply should be extended to 5 + 4 years med school + 4 years residency (average) = 13-year plan. This is how long it will take before you start the “earning potential” a physician has to pay back loans and be able to give your SO her time to “find herself”.

Since you are in this relationship, compromise is definitely required if you want to stay in the relationship.

Personally, as a completely objective person, I would encourage you to continue to work in law to pay off your accrued school debt and to allow your SO time to do what she wants. It’s fairly selfish to think that she should drop everything and support you while you pursue another professional degree.

Perhaps she could go back to school now, and when your child is ready for school (1st grade) you could begin to pursue pre-reqs while she works. You won’t need all-day daycare at that point, and if your SO works 40-hour weeks, you guys should be able to manage to have someone take your child to school and someone pick them up.

Another option is for the both of you to go back to school now, only part-time, so the both of you can work and afford daycare, but get some schoolwork done in the process.

If your grades from your undergraduate degree were decent (3.5 and up), then you might look into taking the pre-reqs at a community college. They are typically cheaper, and have more flexible hours (read evening classes). You could do you General Bio/Chem and Physics/Orgo sequences in 2 years or less, taking 2 classes a semester. This would be the bare minimum needed to cover the MCAT material and pre-reqs for 99% of the medical schools (since you already have a B.S. or B.A.).

At this point, I recommend concentrating on:

  1. Is medicine what you really want to do?

  2. What classes do I really need (e.g. just the pre-reqs or do you need to make up for a low GPA in undergrad. This could mean taking more high-level science courses in add’n to the pre-reqs).

  3. How can/will I pursue this and make my SO happy? (this may mean putting it off for some time to let her do some things, or for the both of you to be part-time students).

  4. How can I afford whatever decision me and my SO choose?

  5. Make my decision and keep tabs on steps in the medical school process (pre-reqs, MCAT, LORs, shadowing, volunteer, etc.)

    As far as which med school to apply to, difficulty of didactic vs. clinical years, residency specialty - worry about that when it’s time to worry about that. That part is completely unwritten right now, so concentrate on the about 5 things.

    Despite the problems in health care today, physicians will always make a good living. Don’t worry about the salary until you’re job hunting.

    I’m sorry if I sound too frank, but I want to be realistic for you. I don’t have children, but I am a working professional with a graduate degree, too, and it was a hard decision for me and my husband to decide to go back. I work full-time and take pre-reqs part-time at the local CC (and I took a genetics course at the university since I wanted that course). So far it’s been good and I’m applying this June. I’ve had great feedback from the med schools I’m interested in, and the rest is up to my MCAT score in May.

    Good luck!

Thanks for replying and frankness is good. Open discussion is great.

I’d like to think that I’m not being overly selfish for wanting to go this direction.

I appreciate your thought out suggestion of repaying student loans before doing anything else…But sadly undergrad and law school made a nice size debt load. So while it’d be awesome to go into med school with 0 student loans, that’s not likely to happen.

While I like the idea of working at my “law job” and letting my SO find herself, (a) she has nothing that she knows she wants to do, (b) she’s locked into working for at least the next 2 years, ©I make less money now than it’s been posted that a resident makes.

Which leads to the 5 year plan plus 4 for med school etc…that you had listed out…If I’m right about the info I see of residents pay being around 40-42k a year, that’s more than I bring in now…So it would seem that my earning years would return after the first 4 years of med school are up. That’s assuming I am a non-earner for those 4 years. When I say earning I mean able to contribute to something financially…Her big concern and somewhat a valid concern, is that she doesn’t want to rent our lives away…We bought a house recently here because of her job and her being tied to it for a couple more years. But it was a transition home…2-4 years from now we plan to move on to something else…So her concerns are me reverting to student status leaving her paying all the bills…While she didn’t support me during law school, she was around, and went to undergrad as well, so she’s familiar with the concept of student living…Being in our early 30s she’s not all that eager to wait until our early 40s to start being more than a renter…or to begin to develop some stability.

It seems like maybe you’ve fallen into the belief that because I’m concerned about income that the income potential is the main reason I’m wanting to do this. I’m not saying that you definitely think that, but seems a very common misconception.

Many people post that money shouldn’t be a concern, do it for the love…Almost sounds like something sport related right, do it for love of the game not how much money you can earn as a pro-whatever…Sure that’s why kids aspire to be pro-whatever, it’s because they enjoy the game so much…But anywho…

My concern is what I think I’d stated, maybe I left too much out, but essentially, I’m saddled with 90k in student loans right now, earning sub 40k a year. Not loving/liking what I’m doing. Actually don’t know many people from my graduating class that are actually “happy” with their choice. Before law school I struggled with taking 2 years for pre-reqs and then med school or just going to law school…Since both are supposed to be helping professions and ultimately that’s what I want, an intellectually challenging profession that lets me help people, I went with law. After the first year I knew it wasn’t what the brochure advertised…adding in the career outlook going from 97% find jobs out of law school to 50% find jobs…I wanted to bolt, but decided that I’d stick it out rather than be a quitter…

So for the last 2 years of law school I waffled on pre-reqs or what should I do etc…I continued to hope and push it out of my mind, maybe law really would be what all the promises/dreams etc…were in the beginning…I graduated/passed bar/started working…Nope, not so much a helping thing…Certainly not all that challenging…

Sure I could go work pro-bono sleep under a bridge and help everyone that comes along with any problem…But I’m guessing we all know we’ve got bills to pay…

So that’s why I end up so focused on finances…I don’t want to put my family through the hurdles/troubles/effort of getting to and through med school if it’s not going to help them in the end…Maybe it’s my fault for believing people when they post about the horrors of the current medical climate…

But when I ask people, just like your answer actually, about what to expect, it comes back, “comfortable living”

My SO isn’t really going to be persuaded to back a major course change on “comfortable living”

I think some people had posted about the female mind being into the specifics and the security aspects of everything when someone else asked about a SO not totally on board.

Do I want to pursue medicine for medicine not income?


Do I need classes?

I need the whole menu of pre-req…undergrad was awhile ago and not very good GPA wise anyway.

How to do it?

That’s the question…Figuring 1 or 2 classes at a time while working for the time it takes and going from there…

How to afford?

Before med school for pre-reqs it’s me working and taking a class here and there. I don’t earn enough for SO to not work at this point…Lottery winnings, amazing new job aside, we both have to work…After in med school that’s the question…which is why I’m trying to figure out what I’m asking her to get behind…If it’s 7 years and 150k more student loan debt so I can make 10k more toward the family after all that, she’s not going to really care that I think I’d rather practice medicine than law…But if I can show her that not only will it be what I want to do, but it will be beneficial and maybe she can actually relax a little, then sure probably more on board.

Making decision what to do?

I’m trying

I definitely appreciate your feedback and hope to hear more from people or advice on the process…


I’m female, and I think that stuff about the “female mind” needing specifics is total horsepucky. There is no single “female mind” just as there is no single “male mind.” It took my (male) SO a little while to get on board with the idea, but now that he knows that it’ll make me happy, and that we’ll make it financially, it’s cool. He’s also got a job he likes and is pursuing further education as well. So we are equals, and things are copacetic.

In your situation, though, it’s hard to see it doing anything but fomenting more resentment. Even if you sell her on the final goal, you’ve got 4 years of her probably feeling like she’s trapped, paying the bills for someone else’s dream. What a crappy feeling that would be! What a crappy 4 years!

Perhaps there is a sneaky dream in there she hasn’t admitted to you. Perhaps she is scared to admit it, or feels it will NEVER happen. Maybe you should get her a copy of “What Color is Your Parachute” or a similar book, to help her find out what she wants to do, and/or admit it to herself. Can it be that nothing in this world would make her happy? That seems too tragic to be true. Unless she is clinically depressed. But I don’t know her, or you… so I hesitate to even suggest that.

I guess what I’m saying is that unless there’s a way for her to be happy too, this is going to be a very uphill climb for you and the relationship. Income’s important, debt load is important - but waking up happy is much more important. Not hating your job is very important. She sounds miserable right now, and misery loves company - why should she support you going after your dreams when for her there is no dream in sight?

Support her 100% in finding out what she wants. Honestly believe that something will make her happy, and help her find it. For your sake, I hope she finds it soon.

Good luck.

Thanks for the reply…

I was just repeating what I’d read on a different post as far as women wanting specific security concerns addressed…I’m thinking if I remember it was a woman that made the comment over on the train wreck thread…

You are probably right, until my SO sees a light at the end of the tunnel she’s just stuck in a dark hole…But yeah it does really easily look like depression and there may actually be some of that there. Some bad luck coupled with life events have definitely left her unhappy. Which makes it difficult to deal with for any number of reasons…

But we’re trying that’s for sure.


It sounds like a tough situation, and I really hope it works out for you.

With my spouse it was necessary to figure out a long term financial plan–I’m still working on this–and to do some research into income in the field I hope to enter. The loans are going to carry us through medical school, the (low) salary will carry us through residency, and then unless physicians are no longer in demand 8 years from now, we’ll probably have an acceptable level of income to pay off the loans in a reasonable time.

I’m fortunate to have a spouse who is the opposite of materialistic. She was quite upset when I bought an iPod recently. It’s good for me actually because I spent the 1990s making way too much money as a computer guy and never really learned to budget my money.

Anyway, setting up a long term plan can make a dream seem more achievable and can also earn some buy-in from your spouse. Regarding lifestyle issues, I guess that’s something you have to work out. Couples counseling is a great way to resolve difficult issues; we’ve been using it since before we got married and it’s been very helpful for clarifying and communicating our needs and wants while not hurting the other person in the process. We still have a long way to go but we have a toolbox now that we can dip into when we are wrestling with tough decisions. For what it’s worth, I think lots of people, especially nontrads, go through this kind of difficulty on their way to becoming physicians (or PhD, JD, etc.). In the end, it’s likely the rewards will justify all this pain you’re going through now.

Best of luck,

What an ordeal. I feel for ya. My spouse is supportive however we have been discussing the reality of medical school and things got “heated”. In essence she expressed the fact that she didn’t want to have all the pressure of being the sole provider while I’m in med school. She said she would deal with it but things “might get ugly”.

I had to reassure her that we are going into med school with ~$130k. Not in the bank but the military’s financial assistance program (FAP). So while we will be going into debt we will eventually make enough to cover the debt we get into.


There are programs out there that can help. The problem is you can’t get something for nothing. If you apply for and are selected for the military’s HPSP then you will have med school paid for plus receive a $1300 stipend per month. Not great money but it’s still $1300/month. The drawback is you are joining the military for a minimum of 4 years and all that entails. There’s quite a bit of fine print…

There is the military’s medical school, USUHS. You are a uniformed officer of either the Army, AirForce, or Navy and are paid as an O-1. So you basically get a salary during medical school plus all the benefits for your family. Drawback…even longer commitment to the military…7 years.

The other military program, FAP, is you basically pay your own way thru school, get into your own specialty and if there is a need in the military for your specialty you can get into FAP. Basically the pay you a monthly stipend plus ~$25k for every year your in residency for a max of 4. Don’t quote me on this because I’m still waiting to hear back from a recruiter to verify. This is the one I’m looking at. However I was Navy for 10 years so the military is not foreign to me nor my SO.

There is the public health service (USPHS) which offers the same as the HPSP but are limited to IM, FP, and Peds as a specialty. You get a stipend during med school but are on your own during residency.

I know that money during school well not solve your SO issues. I’m just not sure how much you knew about options to financing your education. These programs aren’t the best nor recommended, just some of what’s out there.

My thought in posting this is it might help. Perhaps your SO won’t have a problem if you are earning a decent salary during med school (USUHS) and with health benefits. She might not worry about your goal if it’s bringing in money from the beginning.

Understand that if you make any of these choices that you are sacrificing for her as well. None of these are free lunches and you might sacrifice your specialty to pursue one of these. Family life will take a hit but it’s all about pros & cons.

Just options.

Thanks for the advice.

I had briefly thought about the military route but doubt that it’d be the way for me.

I do find some of the other options interesting and will definitely look into them the closer I get.

I remember reading someone saying that pre-med is certainly not the place to “know” what you want to practice, so I’d hate to limit myself to later find out I loved X instead of Y. But if Peds or Fam Practice turns out to be me, then I’d definitely be interested in serving in an under-served area.

But thanks again,