Friday, October 28, 2011

Medicine In The News

This morning I read a few posts and comments about the Physician reimbursement cuts proposed by the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MPAC) and the Presidents Student Loan program. What a great way to start your day: depressed. Does the world seem to be backwards to anyone else? I don't understand why we take issues and make them more complicated instead of finding a simple solution.

As a medical family that is on the horizon of starting a full fledged career in a specialty the thought of having reimbursements cut while trying to establish a practice and pay back hefty student loans is overwhelming. Medicare reimbursements set the pace for all other insurance company negotiations with physicians and hospitals. What they do, the rest of the industry usually follows.

Instead of worrying about student loan repayment why aren't we talking about why student loans have risen so high in the first place? The tuition at my husbands medical school was $32,000 in 2004. This year (2011) it is $50,000. Debt will be increasing at the same time anticipated salaries will be decreasing. It doesn't make sense to me. My DrH and I talked about this last night. The reason schools continue to increase their tuition is because people will pay it!  The reason they are willing to pay is because they aren't actually paying  - they are taking out loans that they will pay in the future. As long as they can get access to loans in greater numbers what is to stop a school from raising tuition. At what point will people stop paying? If doctors can't make a commiserate salary with their investment, maybe they will choose not to be doctors. Does anyone pay for their education at the time it is received any more?

I know that the vast majority of Americans are completely unaware of what a doctors lifestyle is like. How can we change that? Maybe my little blog will help, but probably not. Where are the doctors and their families? Who is perpetuating this idea that a doctor is some rich, selfish, high and mighty snob that is out to rip them off? The bill they collect for services provided pays for more than just their salary. Doctors are also employers. They have to pay the person who answers the phones, the medical billing coder, the office manager, the book keeper, the medical tech, the nurse, benefits for the employees, rent for the building and utilities, investment in equipment and tools, and medical liability insurance.

Of course we would be perusing a specialty with one of the highest rate. Obstetrics and Neurosurgery are at the top of the list. At the end of the day, the doctor isn't making nearly as much as people think they are. True they are making more than the average person, but I would argue that their investment isn't average, and their exposure to risk is anything but average.

The average person only sees the income and refuses to acknowledge the sacrifices that were made and are continually made. How much should a doctor be compensated for 4 years of undergraduate studies, 4 years of medical school, 7 years of 80 hr/week training, and $300,000 of education debt, so that when a patient (who may sue them) comes in at midnight, on Christmas Eve, with a brain tumor that threatens their life they can be seen by a skilled professional? I suppose the answer to that question depends on whether or not you are the person with the tumor.

On a brighter note, it is Friday. Our student loans are paid for the month, and this weekend the DrH might be home long enough to do something fun, or something really boring, but we'll be together!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

If DrH Would Have Been There....

This is a phrase I find myself repeating often: "If you would have been here (fill in the blank) wouldn't have happened."

It is October. Time for pumpkins, scarecrows, corn mazes, candy, and costumes. I am feeling the need to do whatever we can that is "local" while we still live here. We already missed the haunted trail because when DrH came home he was too tired to do anything, and I didn't want to take them by myself. My son is old enough that he knows what is happening and wants to do it all. Monday the DrH thought he would be finished early and we could go as a family to the local pumpkin patch. This place isn't so much about the pumpkins as it is about selling you admission to their pumpkin fun and sell you over-priced pumpkin inspired foods. That's OK... you see this will be our last visit, for more than one reason.

Monday came and DrH isn't going to make it. It is now my responsibility to 1) break their kids hearts and say we aren't going, or 2) Dad can't come, but let's go anyway. I choose option 2. Especially after the previous week when we were going to do the trail and didn't. I couldn't disappoint them again, even if that meant I would be taking them alone.

I hate always being the pessimist in situations like these. We get to the pumpkin patch and find a place to park. It is packed because it is a gorgeous day, no jackets needed, and everyone had the same idea. Within the first few steps it is obvious that this is going to be slow going. You see I have my four kids. I am not about to wear my 16 lb. baby all over so I bring the stroller. But the path is covered in gravel. Have you ever tried to push a stroller through gravel? It is nearly impossible. We finally make it, and decide to start with a snack.

Being the great mom that I am, we went directly to the pumpkin patch after my son came home from school so we could stay until it closed (because we are going to pay admission - we are going to use it). That meant we didn't get an afternoon snack. Inside we spend $10 on 5 pumpkin donuts (I was going to bring one home for DrH), 1 small apple cider, and 1 small popcorn. See what I mean about over-priced! Then we make our way outside where we fork over $14 dollars to meander around their pumpkin fun.

I wish it were meandering, it was more like plowing. I don't think the wheels on the stroller were even able to spin. We weren't going anywhere fast. At this point it is about 4:15 and the patch closes at 6:00. The plan was on our way out to make another stop at the food court and see what else we needed, because the food is really the only reason I am interested in the pumpkin patch at all. I'm not about to buy a pumpkin there!

The kids are having a great time. They had a huge trampoline like thing, a mountain slide, hay castle, little cute play houses, etc. Perfect activities for my  6, 5, and 3 year-old. I met some nice moms in the process and talked to one of them while our kids ran around. After we were done talking I took some pictures, and then realize I haven't seen my 3 year-old in a while. She usually plays with her 5 year-old sister. I ask where she is, nobody knows. I am stuck. Do I leave my 3 other children including a baby so I can find one of them? What do I do? I tell my 6 year old to sit "right there" and not to leave. Don't let your sister leave, and stay with this stroller.

Now I am starting to panic. We are at the far end of the play area, and adjacent to where we are is a corn maze. I have paralyzing thoughts of my 3 year-old lost in the corn maze. I am calling her name, looking everywhere when a nice woman says are you looking for a little girl? Yes! They have her in the gift shop, they have been announcing her name over the loud-speaker. Well, that speaker isn't very loud because I didn't hear it!

Luckily, the other three were still in my line of sight and didn't have to wait long. I gather them up and we make the slow track THROUGH THE GRAVEL to the gift shop. And here is where things really turn south. As I approach the gift shop the door opens and a woman looks at me, my lost daughter runs out, and the woman says "didn't you miss her"? Are you kidding me! I looked directly at her and said, yes, I did. She was supposed to be playing with her sister and I thought she was in the little play houses. And I no one can hear the loud speaker over there! I still don't know how long she was gone. It may have been as long as 30 minutes. I felt terrible.

And that's when I thought to myself: If you would have been here, this never would have happened! What was I thinking taking 4 small children to a crazy place like this! I can't keep track of them, especially when that stupid gravel made it all but impossible to stay near them, or keep up with them. Thankfully, she was found. Thankfully, she wasn't in the corn fields.

That sad part is, in the end I wasn't worried so much about losing her as I was about having people think I was a bad mother. I was embarrassed and we marched right out, and can't go back again.

Then I found myself being mad at DrH. He wasn't even there... and that's why I was mad. If he had been there we would have had two sets of eyes watching our kids. Between the two of us, we would have had them all covered and accounted for. If he had been there, I wouldn't have been distracted talking. If he had been there we could have moved more easily (that darn stroller). If he had been there people wouldn't have been looking at me like maybe I shouldn't have all these kids. Four looks like a lot when you lose one of them. If only he would have been there.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My Future in Medicine

Since we've been married my DrH has always been "studying" medicine. By virtue of that fact, I too have been studying medicine. I vividly recall driving to my parents home, about 3 hours from where we were living, with a huge stack of flashy flash cards. He was studying for Step 2 or 3 I don't remember. The front of the card would have a question like: Which of the following is NOT a common side effect of x... and there would be 4 or 5 choices. I would read these cards to him while he was driving and then give him the answers on the back. After doing this for a few years I started to feel fairly confident in my ability to diagnose (based on the flash cards, of course).

Even now, I will hear something and think "why or how do I know that? Oh, yeah - there was a flash card!"

In residency I don't help with flash card study so much. What I get now are images that my husband will put in front of me to see if I know what is wrong. Last night he did it with an image of the cervical spine. And I got it right! Slipped disk there, and disk compressions below. Yeah, I'm ready for my second career in Radiology. He then went on to explain how they were going to fix it. He is a fix it man.

Oh, and maybe your husband is like this too. I have to be careful when I ask a medical question because he likes to give an entire lesson. Last night it was on the circulatory system. I was really curious how the blood found it's way home after being severed/amputated.  30 minutes later and a few drawings on a scrap piece of paper and I have my answer. He would make a great teacher.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This Life Is Great!

I know that the majority of my posts are dedicated to the difficulties of being married to a resident doctor, but it's not always so dreadful:-)

My world often feels very small. Most of my daily interactions take place with 0-6 year-olds, or on-line. It doesn't have to be that way, I just allow it to be that way. For the record at least once a day I talk with a non-relative adult, and most days I do leave the house. (Although, with winter fast approaching those excursions may become fewer). Life really is what you make of it. I know I could do more, and some days I do, and I try to no criticize myself too much when I don't.

There really isn't anything unique about the trials of a doctors wife that cannot be found by wives in many other professions. I try to remind myself of that often. Take these careers for example:

Truck Driver: Often gone for 5 straight days during the week. Home on the weekends, and back out on the road. By virtue of the fact they they are on the road, they have a dangerous job. They work long hours, don't eat well (most trucks don't have kitchens:-), and don't get much rest. They miss the same things my husband misses

Attorney: Those guys work crazy hours, too! Depending on their specialty they may be working in a hostile environment, and with peoples lives (although not life and death). They miss their kids events probably just as often as a doctor. Their wives are probably at home doing many of the same things we are.

Military Personnel: Deployments for months or years. I don't think I need to say more, except I will. I've often thought that it would be easier if my husband were just gone so I knew I would be on my own, instead of hoping he'd be available and being disappointed when he's not. I would rather be disappointed that have him gone. Not to mention his life is in greater danger when deployed.

Firefighter: working 24 hour shift, often dangerous work.

Law Enforcement: Dangerous work  (i.e. the bullet proof vests and hand-guns). At least when my husband goes to work I am reasonably assured that he will come home alive.

And the Doctor: long hours, unpredictable schedules. Really not that bad when you consider the others I just listed!

The main point I wanted to make is that regardless of the profession your spouse is in there will always be something that is unpleasant about it. I can't think of a perfect job that would guarantee marital harmony and adequate funds to meet the needs of a family. Life is about making choices.

I chose to marry a medical student. Before I met him I had some requirements that I was looking for in my potential husband. The first was that he had a job, and the second was that he didn't live with his parents. As a student he didn't have a job, and even though he wasn't living with his parents he was living in a home they owned rent free. Technically he should have failed the test. I am glad that I made the exception for him.

I chose to have a baby when it didn't make sense. We had only been married for a few months when we found out we were pregnant. Not a big surprise when you aren't preventing it. Our son was born the later part of MS3. Having a baby changes everything... that is true. I can't think of a single change brought on by having children that didn't also have a direct positive benefit. Sure having kids costs money, but they are worth every dime and dollar, and then some. I don't look at my son, or my daughters, and think "I wish I would have had an exotic vacation or a new car instead". Knowing that we sacrificed that and more for them makes them even more precious to me. They are our greatest achievement and investment.

I chose to not work when it didn't make sense to do so. My co-workers were baffled when I decided to be a stay-at-home mom and give up "money". There is so much more to life than money. Thankfully, I had saved some money knowing that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom that lessened the blow a little, but it was still an adjustment. Over the last 7 years there have maybe been 5 days where I thought I should have just worked a little longer. Only a handful of days. I don't regret my decision.

I chose to move with my husband thousands of miles away from our family. I didn't know at the time how hard that would be, but I wouldn't have stayed behind and I wouldn't have asked my husband to give up his residency to stay. Our families are wonderful and I miss them dearly, but we have learned invaluable lessons being away from their safety net. We have had to rely more upon each other, and upon friends. He is my best friend, I share everything with him (except this blog, I still haven't told him about this - but this is my only secret!)

I choose to accept his unpredictable schedule and long hours. I try not to complain (to him) about how long he works, or how many conferences he attends (wishing I could go), or how many meetings he has. He often expresses appreciation that even though he knows it is hard for me that I don't make it hard for him.  We try to enjoy the time he does have with us.

I choose to support his choice of specialty. We talked about it in medical school, we talked about it during internship year, we've talked about it during residency. I support what he is doing. I wouldn't want him to do anything else. When I see how excited he gets about his work, I want him to do it. I know he wouldn't be happy doing anything else. His happiness is directly connected to my happiness and vice-versa.

I choose to support his fellowship. Even though initially I wasn't very excited about extending our training for another year, I know that it is important to him. I know he wants to be the best, and I want him to be his best. I trust that doing a fellowship will open more opportunities for him, and possibly for us.

I choose to drive older cars, skip vacations, buy 2nd hand furniture, and clip coupons to make what we have go as far as possible. I take pride in managing our household finances and taking care of our home. I know that the work I do doesn't have a salary, but that my work in our home contributes in ways that cannot be quantified by monetary values.

I choose to accept the years of training, incommensurate salaries, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt as an investment in our future. A future, that by all indications, should be bright and without want.

I choose to trust in a Heavenly Father who has plans for my life that includes blessings and experiences that I cannot fathom. I chose to believe that all the experiences we have had over the course of this life have been for our good. We haven't been given any challenge that we haven't been able to over come. I know that whatever the future holds we can handle it, of that I am sure.

This isn't the life I would have designed for myself... I couldn't possibly have dreamed this big. What an exciting journey it has been. I would have designed something safe, predictable, and certainly boring. In reality, easy is boring.

I have a wonderful husband who loves me, his children, and his work. I have my own little family that I get to teach, love, and influence. What an amazing life I have chosen to accept!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting My Hopes Up

Did you see that cute little counter I added a few weeks ago? It's the first thing in the column on the right. Today it says we have 254 more days left of residency. Yeah! We still have another 12 months of fellowship after that, but it is getting closer every day.

DrH decided to take a sneak peak at the jobs that were available at the moment for fun. Right now most of them are looking for people to start summer 2012 not 2013 so it really was window shopping. He read an recruiter ad that sounded too good to be true, so he had to call me to see what I would say about it.

Work 4 days/week 7 am - 5 pm.
2-3 cases/week
5 other Neurosurgeons to share call with
Protected research time
Starting salary $500K + Call $180K annually
Located in the Southwest in a community of 1M.

Besides my first thought being how can they really afford to pay you so much for working so little (not possible), but it was the last part that really got my attention. See, we are both from the Southwest and it is our ultimate dream to be there. Plus, there aren't that many cities of 1M or more in that area, so we were already guessing about where it would be. DrH called the referral number and yeah, it was too good to be true. You see, their idea of Southwest is Tulsa, Oklahoma. Really? Since when is Oklahoma considered the Southwest?

Being from the "real" Southwest I call any state that shares a border with Mexico the Southwest. Last I checked, Oklahoma wasn't near Mexico. I looked at the map and calling Oklahoma Southwest is really stretching the truth. Just because their northern border is the same latitude as the northern borders of both Arizona and New Mexico doesn't really make them a Southwest state. I consider Oklahoma more of a Central state, they could have called it South Central and been correct, but not Southwest. Really the state is almost smack in the middle of the country east to west, technically lower than the mid line north to south.... but I refuse to acknowledge Oklahoma as a Southwestern state. Furthermore, they are in the central time zone. Take that!

Warning: Read those recruiter ads with a skeptical eye:-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Didn't Know...Poor

Apparently there are a lot of things I don't know. I won't try to list them all here, but I will tell you about the thing I didn't know before today. And then I'm going to tell you how I really feel about it. Exploring my feelings, sounds fun doesn't it?

I ran into a new acquaintance (an interns wife) today who casually mentioned that she was working on an application to receive reimbursement for her insurance premiums from a state program that provides subsidies for families with children making below a certain salary who have employer sponsored benefits. My question to her was how did you hear about that!? She was taking her family off Medicaid, since they have benefits at the hospital now, and found this program online. She didn't know if they would be accepted or not but she was going to apply.

There are so many things I did not know.

One being that you could get on Medicaid in the first place as a medical student family. Seems pretty obvious right? Husband a student, wife not working equals no money. Well I didn't think about it, and no one mentioned it, because we had insurance through my employer when we married. When my husband took a year off to do research we got even better insurance through the University and our son was born. After that I stopped working. When his research year was up so was the insurance. He received insurance through the medical school, financed with student loans of course, and I know he asked the financial aid office about insuring his family and the verdict was he could use student loans to pay for his son's insurance but not for his spouse. So my husband and infant were covered, I wasn't.

And that is where I left it. I wasn't covered. Maybe a stupid mistake, maybe not... we didn't really need anything. Except that one time that I got really sick and didn't know what was wrong and a preceptor took a look at me for free and wrote a prescription. Thank you. I wasn't really concerned about not being insured myself. And then I got pregnant 4 months before we started our internship year. Again, not really worried about it. I'm not at risk for anything, I felt good, I was taking my vitamins, and I'm married to an almost doctor at this point.

My mother-in-law is a retired labor and delivery nurse who suggested that I get some prenatal care. She had a Nurse Practioner that she used to work with who was at a clinic that dealt mainly with patients that were on state aid, and she thought that I could get in and be seen without any trouble - because we have NO income. She talked to the NP and she said as much herself, that as students with no real income we shouldn't have any problems.

Well after the humiliation of sitting in the office and talking with their financial aid/enrollment counselors about how I was a poor medical student wife, it was apparent their idea of poor was not my idea of poor. They looked at the $1,800/mo we received from student loans the same they would as if he were working. And really isn't it the same? In the end I had 3 prenatal visits, but they weren't free. I think I paid $350 for all three visits. Visits I didn't really need in my opinion.

Yes I know prenatal care is important. But, having my blood pressure checked and my weight recorded, really? I could have saved $350 and taken care of it at home. I left that experience thinking that if I am not poor, what is poor? I don't want to know because what we were living at the time was hard.

So back to this encounter. At first I was jealous at the thought of her getting an extra $400/month rebate on her health insurance. THAT ISN'T FAIR my mind was screaming. Then I thought, well good for her for looking around and finding this program, I wish I would have been that savvy. Truthfully, I wouldn't have even thought to look. I have been on this journey blind. I just assumed that once you had a job you were expected to make it work, regardless of what that job was or how much it paid. That and my only exposure to people on "assistance" didn't look like me. Well, maybe they did but just weren't admitting it.

When I got home I looked the program up. Did you know in my particular state they make this claim about their program: "Some families pay monthly premiums for the coverage, but rates for middle income families are significantly lower than they are on the private market. A family of four that earns between $45,000 and $67,000 per year pays a $40 monthly premium per child, and a $10 copay per doctors visit." I wonder what the income range is for our now family of 6? I am sure we would probably qualify.

And here is where I get perplexed. Wouldn't it be great for me and my family to have cheaper health insurance? I have "needs" (ok, mostly a lot of wants) that could be paid for by that savings! If they make it available and I qualify shouldn't I take it? Shouldn't I at least try? Obviously they think I need it if they include income ranges like that? Why didn't they offer it to me in a mailing or search me out? How many other programs are there out there like this one? Could I get free food, too? Could I get discounts on my utilities?

I am not trying to judge anyone here... you do what is best for you family with the information you have. If that means finding every program you qualify for great. I am probably going to be jealous, but I would never felt comfortable with that. Programs like these I thought were for the poor and needy, not for people who just barely get by and can do it if they try.

And here is my soapbox moment. We are a generation that is adverse to sacrifice and doing without. We just won't do it! We aren't entitled to movies and popcorn once a month, eating out once a week, or having a bedroom for each child. We think it is an injustice if we can't have everything we want and then complain about the things we have to pay for that we really need. I am guilty of it sometimes, too. Maybe a little too often.

I don't know what poor looks like anymore. If you eat out, go to the movies, have two cars, nice furniture, a flat screen tv, shoes and clothes without holes, food on the table, and money in your checking account can you really call yourself poor even if it means at the end of the month you have nothing left? Is that poor? I always thought poor was living in a house much smaller than your family needs, worrying about how to feed your family (not when will the pizza guy be here), and having nothing to sit on. Oh, and don't forget looking poor. Poor people don't get their hair highlighted every 6 weeks. For the record I don't.

Wow, this is turning into some kind of political statement. Is there any wonder that our nation is in debt? If we keep subsidizing people who are perfectly capable of making their budget work (thats the category I would put myself in - and we do make it work, barely) but would rather not so they can continue building a lifestyle that is acceptable to themselves we are going to be in trouble. If every person who actually qualified for the stuff the government seems willing to give takes it, what does that say about us?

I may complain about not having enough, but really I am complaining about not having as much as I want. We are able to provide for the needs of our family and some of our wants. Other wants just have to wait a little longer. Who really likes to wait?

Case in point. I want a new camera. My camera was given to me by my mother-in-law when she upgraded. It happened to be about the time our son was born. I'm sure it was so she could see pictures of him when we moved away. Fast-forward 6 years. The camera is 10+ years old but still works great. I don't need a newer camera. I want a newer camera. I take a lot of pictures so I actually could convince myself that I deserve a *NEW* camera. I've settled on looking for a newer used model that will be 1/3 the price of the current model. So in the end I'll get a camera that is 5 years old. How am I going to make that work? Well, I'm selling some stuff on Ebay, if you are interested, and maybe I'll sell enough to buy a camera. Wish me luck!

If you read this entire post I would love to give you a cookie, maybe a dozen. I tend to ramble and this one was bad, even I didn't know where it was going!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Run Don't Walk

Several lessons must be re-learned often. One that I have had to repeat several times is when you have an opportunity to do something, do it because you never know when it will come around again. I am specifically thinking of the evenings when the DrH gets out of the hospital before the rest of the world shuts down for the evening and he says "you should get out of here for a while". Too often my response has been "I'm not dressed to go out of the house", "I have no where to go",  or "No, I'm fine".  My response should be "thank you, I'll see you when I get home if you aren't asleep". Run out the door, don't walk!

Most of the time I end up at the library looking through the stacks or at magazines. Other times I hit thrift stores because I know I can't spend too much money there:-) Or if the pantry is empty grocery shopping. Nothing exciting, but sometimes even doing mundane things can satisfy my need for alone time.

The reality of being married to a resident is that your life becomes equally as unpredictable as theirs. You have to be prepared for anything. Just because I don't "need" to get out of the house doesn't mean I shouldn't do it anyway. If I don't do it today, when I need it tomorrow it might not be available! That is usually what happens: I pass up a good opportunity and then wish I would have taken it.

This past weekend we had one of those freak days where there were no cases and DrH came home EARLY! We are talking about 9:30 am early. That is a rare occasion and cause for celebration. He suggested we take the kids out of town for the weekend and I said "OK"! Good for me, because all I usually think about is how much of a hassle it will be to get everyone put together and of course how much money we are going to spend. I am still patting myself on the back. I jumped in the shower, packed our bags, and didn't even check our bank account before we left.

A short three hour drive later and we were on the banks of the Mississippi checking out free museums and learning about our Pioneer heritage. Visiting Nauvoo always reminds me of how good life has been to me. We learned how they made cloth out of flax and wool. Did you know it would take two years for a flax plant to go from seed to cloth? That is a long time to wait for cloth. And I didn't know that linen is made from flax. They take the seeds for planting next year and use the stalk fibers to make thread that is then weaved into cloth. What a process. I will never look at linen the same way again. They made bread only once a week in a brick ovens, and candles once a year. Oh I am so spoiled! I can make bread whenever I'd like with my super star oven, and my candles smell good (not like the animal fat they made theirs out of). I am amazed at the level of the ingenuity and resourcefulness they possessed. I don't really make anything!

We only have 256 days left until residency is over and we move to another state. That doesn't give us much time to see and do what has been left unseen and undone. A rare weekend trip like the one we just took may not come around again for a long while. When it does I'm going to be ready to go! Remember:  Run Don't Walk!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sisters Wives Moment

Monogamy is great. I like knowing that my man is mine and that I am his. But I won't lie; I have hypothetically considered alternative lifestyles as I've tried to deal with the pressures of this life. For entertainment purposes only let's explore my options:

Polygamy: one man married to multiple women. I know this would not work. How is my DrH going to find more than one woman to do this? The cat fights over what little available time he had would be deadly. But from the first wife's perspective (because of course I would be the one in charge) it would be nice to have some extra help around the house. There was a moment during my trip last week when I was visiting with my sister at another sisters house. It's a beautiful home with kids running all over the place. We were sitting in the living room (the three of us) with 15 kids (in all fairness two were the neighbors kids). I wondered if this is what it would be like, minus the man problems?  Wouldn't it be great to always have someone in the house if you needed to run an errand without having to get a babysitter? Wouldn't it be fantastic to have another adult to talk to during the day that would know exactly what you are going through? Wouldn't it be awesome to share your household responsibilities so you didn't have to do them all? I can see it now: a chore chart with the cooking, cleaning, child watching, car pooling, and laundry divided between a few people instead of just me. Yeah, I might be able to do that... minus the man part.

Bigamy (I mean Polyandry:-): one woman married to multiple men. Now this might be something I could endorse. I already have it planned, but my version really is more like cloning the husband I have right now and infusing his clones with special skills and extra time. I need one to bring home a paycheck, I technically already have this one. But, he wouldn't have to be conflicted over the time he spends at work - stay as long as you need. I need another with handyman skills that can take care of the house, cars, and yard. That would take up a big chunk of time. Another with a sweet romantic side that will take me out and spoil me. This one would only need to show up for duty evenings and weekends. So really, I only need two more than I already have. That should be doable as long as they don't expect anything from me.

Communal Living: families sharing their resources and living in close proximity. This may be the best option with the highest level of viability. It could be a compound with several homes, or just a common street. There are places in the world where the parents and their adult children live not just in the same town, but on the same street, or even next to each other! I would love to be that close to my parents and my sisters. Right now, because they already live to close to each other, they probably wouldn't go for moving any closer. I'd have to really convince them that it would be in their best interest (rather, my best interest).

And here is where it all culminates. I want to share my life and my children with my family. I want my kids to know their aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. I want to feel the comfort of a safety net - the one that rises to meet you when times are tough. I want to know what it's like to live with a support system that is committed to being there for each other. My sisters who have lived in relative closeness for their entire lives, might disagree with my views. I know it wouldn't be bliss all the time, and that I would probably want to get away for a while, but that is what makes it so perfect! If I needed to get away I could because I could count on them (hopefully). They really don't know how good they have it. I see all the positives, they see the negatives.

We leave home and attempt to recreate our family with strangers and people we've just met. Some people are more successful at this than others. In the end, you cannot replace your family, and the only way you find that out is when you leave home. So what am I supposed to do?

If I were asking my mother that question her reply would be that having some extra money will take care of all the things I need. If I had the money I could hire a babysitter or a nanny. If I had the money I could hire someone to take care of the yard. If I had the money I could hire a handyman to take care of the little things that go wrong at the house. If I had the money I could visit whenever I wanted.

I am disappointed that money seems to be the answer to so many problems, but it is true. It is much harder being away from your family when you don't have much because you rely on them for the things you have to pay others to do. If we were near home and had a problem with our cars/house my father in law would be the first one to look at it, and in most cases would be able to fix it and we would pay for parts only. If I needed a babysitter or wanted to get out town for the weekend, my mother, mother in-law,  or sisters would be able to watch the kids. If we lived near home and a grandparent passed away we wouldn't have to buy airline tickets.

I wonder if anyone has done a study on the cost-savings of living near family? It would be interesting. I am guessing that I could save a couple thousand dollars a year if I lived near them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

This is the Hard Part

I am back. What a difference a week away from my home and children can make in my routines! I think I should take a week off every so often to recharge and reset. I needed a jump start, and that's what I got.

The purpose of my trip was not a vacation, but seeing as I didn't have to cook, clean, grocery shop, pay bills, do laundry or drive it felt a little like one.

For a week we celebrated my grandfathers life with tons of family. My grandparents have 5 children. They have 23 grandchildren and 21 of them were present with 9 spouses. Of their 37 great-grandchildren, 22 were there. I wasn't the only one who had to leave children at home. It was a great week talking about our favorite memories and getting reacquainted with each other. Some of my cousins I haven't seen in fifteen years.

But this is where it gets hard. Every time I go back "home" I am reminded of how far away I am. I have to reintroduce myself to my young nieces and nephews. I met a brother-in-law for the first time and my sisters step-children. I see all the things I miss because I live so far away. The shopping trips and lunch out together. The cousins playing and sleeping over at each others houses. The birthdays and holidays celebrated. Those are the things I miss the most. Their lives are entwined in a way we will most likely never know.  I felt like an outsider.

I long to be near my family. I can't help but think that life would be so much easier if they were and am convinced that it should be that way. At the funeral my uncle related that people ask him how he ended up with such good kids and he readily attributed it to having my grandparents live with them for 14 years while their children were growing up. He is right.

My memories of my grandparents are really limited to just a couple years. We lived in the same town, otherwise I probably wouldn't have any. All of my cousins on the other hand enjoyed either living with them at some point, or living near them for the better part of their growing up years. As we shared memories it was obvious that those who had been near them and spent time with them (not just visiting) really knew my grandpa. It made me sad.

I feel so bad for my children who will never know their own grandparents like their cousins will. Every one lives within 35 minutes of each other. Some live just minutes away. They will have a relationship with their grandparents, that we cannot hope to achieve visiting twice a year and my heart aches for them.