Recently, Kveller posted this image on their Facebook page of a baby bib with the words “Future Doctor” and a pocket adorned with coins. That alone is offensive enough but the product is labeled “Jewish Baby Bib.” [Update: as of this morning, this product has been removed from Amazon.]
These societal misconceptions are the main reason that I don’t write about the fact that my husband is a surgical resident.
The stereotype of money hungry Jews flocking to medicine is based on a very complex history that at this point is almost completely antiquated. Anyone, Jewish or not, looking to make it rich isn’t turning to medicine’s long hours and dwindling reimbursement, and the very slim odds of getting into medical school are in no way increased by religious affiliation.
My husband and I met in graduate school. Shortly after, we moved to a little rental house in southwest Ohio where he worked as a high school biology teacher for two of the most wonderful years of our life. He cooked meals, we rode bikes, and took impromptu trips to Europe. He had vacation days for when he wanted to go on vacation and sick days for when he got sick. We had what I look back on as a “normal life” before he was accepted to medical school.
Four years of undergrad, two years of graduate school, four years of medical school, six years of residency, and two years of fellowship all so that he can be a urologist.
My husband is the first in his family to become a doctor–he doesn’t have a trust fund or practice waiting for him to inherit. He is one of two Jews in his program with only a handful of attending physicians being Jewish. He doesn’t get time off from training to accompany us to services on Yom Kippur and he rarely makes it home in time for Shabbat.
We are Jewish, my husband is a doctor (a resident, but still a doctor), and we live on less than what he made as a teacher. The second I complain that my life is hard or that we are on an incredibly tight budget someone, somewhere says, “But you’ll be rich one day,” or, “Just wait until he’s done…”
The reality is that medicine is not as lucrative as it once was and he’ll be 40 years old before he practices on his own. Forty years old with no retirement, no pension, no savings, no hobbies, and a bunch of holes where memories should be. Memories of his son walking for the first time, his grandfather’s funeral, or Thanksgiving dinners–all missing. The part about medicine that stings the most is that more often than not, family comes second.
When my firstborn was 18 months old he became fearful of my husband. Long days brought him home well after bedtime for weeks in a row and when my son finally saw his Daddy he screamed and would not let him hold him. At our pediatrician’s encouragement we ended up adjusting our son’s sleep schedule in hopes of him seeing his father a few nights week.
When I was in labor with our second son, my husband left the hospital at 10:30 a.m. with enough time to drive me 7cm dilated to the hospital to give birth a mere three hours later. Immediately after our naming ceremony he drove out of the temple parking lot straight to the operating room.
On the nights he does make it home to read a bedtime story to our kids, he falls asleep before the second page is turned. He doesn’t own an otoscope and has no idea what is wrong when our kids are sick (unless they injure their penises).
There are families in medical training who qualify for food stamps and fathers who miss the births of their children all together. Many medical mamas go back to work a week after giving birth and pump in supply closets in between patients.
I’m not writing about all of this to kvetch about my husband being a doctor. I’m sharing this because from someone on the front lines–wealth, Judaism, and medicine are not as interrelated as the bib on Amazon may lead you to believe. Being rich is all in the eyes of the beholder. We have a full life and we cherish the moments we spend together as a family. My husband hasn’t had a sick day or cooked a meal in almost eight years because he is dedicated to his field and his patients. I’m incredibly proud of him and of the sacrifices our family makes so that he can cut with a steady hand and counsel with a loving heart.
So yes, the bib is offensive. People give up years, decades, of their life in order to learn the art of medicine. The bib should really read, “If you can Google your way out of an obstructed kidney, then my Daddy can come to my birthday party.”
You can follow Tamara on Twitter @oiler02.