Sometimes it takes looking at your life through someone else’s eyes to be truly grateful for what you have. I had a chance encounter the other day at the Honda Dealership, while waiting for an oil change. My 15 month-old son and I were sitting next to an older Caucasian woman. She was talking to him and commented on how advanced he seemed for his age. She mentioned that she was a retired Pediatrician, and my first response was “No way! I’m a Pediatrician, too!”
A chance encounter
Meetings like this don’t happen everyday, so I was happy to talk to her and to just pick her brain about her life and career path. We talked for over an hour, and I soon realized how very different our lives were. She was a single, never-married Caucasian woman, with a dog and no children. She had completed a Ph.D. prior to receiving her M.D., completed a Pediatric Residency, worked for a few years in Pediatrics, then went back for Psychiatry training. On the other hand, I was an African-American married woman with 5 children. I had an M.D. and had worked for 7 years so far in Pediatrics.
Me vs Her
Throughout our conversation, she kept commenting on how happy I seemed to be with my life and how envious she was that I had such a large family and was still able to make it in my career at a young age. All the while, I was sitting back envious of her ability to accomplish so much in her life without being tied down by really anything. In my mind, she had the ultimate flexibility – being able to focus on her career without the sacrifices that come with marriage and raising a family. She’s able to come and go as she pleases without having to check to make sure she has childcare.
She only has one schedule to maintain, not seven! I am certain her home and car are much quieter and cleaner than mine – without milk and apple juice spills or crumbs, without bickering and tattling, without dirty clothes being left where they shouldn’t. Her grocery bill doesn’t even compare! Her expenses, I’m sure, are much less.
I’m sure this woman’s family and friends appreciated the fact that she was so available to them – that she could drop what she was doing most times to attend to their needs. Meanwhile those who know me know that outside things have to be scheduled around date nights, nap time, bedtime, kids activities, etc. Last minute changes are almost impossible.
The Bright Side
I know her patients are grateful for the wealth of knowledge that came in her one package – M.D./Ph.D./Pediatrics/Psychiatry. While on the other hand, I know my patients cherish the fact that I’m living the same life they are, raising children of my own, and can relate on their level.
I had to remind myself that she probably gets much less hugs and kisses everyday. She doesn’t get to kiss the “boo boos” that I do everyday. She doesn’t get to hear about the crazy things that happened in Middle School that day or to participate in the in-home dance parties and concerts that I do. She doesn’t get the field trips, dance and gymnastics recitals, softball and football games, carnivals, trips to Disney. She doesn’t get to thrive in the good and the bad with a husband and 5 kids.
Same Pediatrician, Different Worlds
I realized that we were both sitting there, so envious of each other’s worlds. The reality is that our two very different worlds are what works for “us”. Sure, at any given moment, I may be exhausted, stressed, and have difficulty balancing it all, but I am at all times surrounded by love and lots and lots of noise! There’s hardly ever a quiet time in our house if the kids are awake, while I’m certain at her house there is absolute silence. With my “norm” that I have been used to for so many years, I’m not sure how I could cope with that!
I was so happy for this chance encounter, since it allowed me to truly take a step back and to be grateful for the “organized chaos” in my life. My life could have been very different, like this woman’s, if I had chosen it, but I honestly don’t think I would have it any other way!
Petra K. McEwan, MD is a Pediatrician with a career she loves in Boynton Beach, FL. She enjoys spending time with her husband and 5 children and is a huge Disney fan! Her website is www.wifeymommydoc.com and she can be followed on Instagram @wifeymommydoc