Are you lucky enough to have a supportive spouse in your life? I have always been thankful for my husband. The COVID-19 pandemic gave me even more reason to be grateful. I now see clearly the difference a supportive spouse can make. 

As a general pediatrician – as with most other medical specialties – I was still considered an “essential worker” throughout the pandemic. So even though the world shut down in March of 2020, I still had to make my way to work every day. My husband’s job transitioned to working from home and has remained that way to this day. 

Our daycare and our local schools closed at the beginning of the pandemic, and that meant my husband would be working from home with five kids, ages 2-15. Not only was he responsible for his own team at work, but he also had to entertain our toddler and make sure the other children stayed on task. It was no easy feat. But even as our daycare and schools reopened, he made the tough decision to keep our kids safe at home for the rest of the year. 

There was no way I would have continued to go to work every day throughout this pandemic without him. Besides helping with the kids, he sat and listened to all my feelings about the weight of the pandemic when I got home. And this is just one example of the support he has given me for much of our marriage.

While working 30-hour calls in residency, he was running the morning and evening routines for our three kids. He had night and weekend duty when I got my first job out of residency and was still working crazy hours. He still shuttles our kids around to their activities and steps in to be present when I have to run to do rounds on a newborn at the hospital. Not to mention his patience when I come home with loads of paperwork and charts to finish after work all day. 

My husband is just one of many examples of spouses who support those of us in medicine. There are so many reasons why having a spouse like this is so beneficial:

Help with the children

Even without a pandemic, I know how difficult it can be to balance a career in medicine with being a mom. Figuring out childcare, checking schoolwork, making it to activities, and making sure your kids have everything they need physically and emotionally can be tough to do on your own. A spouse who helps with your children can lift some of the burden of parenting and leave you with much less to worry about. 

Help you reach your goals

My husband has supported my crazy idea of starting a blog and two other businesses, on top of the busy life we already run. When I was stagnant in my career and was confused about making a change, he was the one that convinced me to leap. He has been the catapult behind many of the ideas that other people think are my own. Having someone there to push and encourage you to set and reach your goals is essential. Your spouse often knows so much about you and can see your true potential when you cannot even see it yourself. A supportive spouse can be an accountability partner that keeps you on your toes and helps you to be your best self consistently.

Someone to talk to

Let’s face it; we deal with a lot in the field of medicine. There is a lot of physical and emotional stress that can be tough to handle alone. I have always found it helpful to have a spouse that works outside of medicine so that we can talk about anything BUT medicine when I get home. But, I also recognize that a spouse who is also “medical” likely has a better understanding of the things you are going through. Either way, life is easier when you have someone who can be an emotional support system for you to share all your worries and to let out a good cry when you need to. 

Reduce your stress

I know that marriage in itself is a lot of work. And the demands of a career in medicine can also cause a lot of strain on a marriage. But there is still a great deal of stress reduction that comes with having a supportive spouse. Besides help with your children, a supportive partner can take items off of your to-do list and help with things that you may not have time for or feel comfortable doing. Not to mention the benefit of a shared income! Sharing a life with someone who supports you can be more fulfilling than going it alone.

On the other hand, having a spouse who is unsupportive of your career and your goals can have the opposite effect. A situation like that comes with added unnecessary stress – on top of everything else you are facing with your career. Be sure that you are on the same page from the very beginning. Set your expectations, communicate often, and try your best to support your spouse the way you would like to be invested in return.

Of course, a successful career in medicine is still possible without a spouse, but the added support makes all of these things that much easier. I know that I would not be where I am right now in my career if it was not for the support of my husband. He has been there for me through every step of my training. He knew what he signed up for with my career in medicine, and I am thankful that he still chose me! If you have a supportive spouse at home, be sure to let them know how much they are appreciated.

Petra McEwan, MD, FAAP, IBCLC, is a practicing Pediatrician and Lactation Consultant in South Florida, where she lives with her husband and five kids. She is also a Women in White Coats Fellow. On her website, https://www.wifeymommydoc.com, she helps working wives and moms balance their many roles. She can be followed on Instagram and Facebook @wifeymommydoc.