I sat on the couch in my parents’ friends living room. We were visiting one evening during my winter break from senior year of college. “Whatever you do, don’t marry a doctor,” my mom’s friend warned me. Her husband was an infectious disease specialist. “He’ll never be around, and you’ll raise the kids yourself,” she added. I wasn’t dating anyone at the time, and I most definitely wasn’t thinking about having kids yet. But this advice went against everything I’d ever been told as a Jewish girl.
Growing up in the Jewish community, girls are surrounded by the idealization of marrying a nice Jewish boy who can provide for the family. And it wouldn’t hurt if they’re a doctor or a lawyer. While we’re at it, maybe they have a nice Jewish friend for your sister? In all honesty, it’s 2022. Young Jewish women have their own career aspirations to independently provide for themselves, but Jewish mothers and grandmothers will always have advice to share.
At the time, I couldn’t fully comprehend my mom’s friend’s advice. She stayed home with her boys when they were young and had a nice, comfortable house to call home. I’m sure her husband was around enough; he couldn’t possibly work every day.
Fast forward X many years later. My husband and I met on JDate. He was a member of the tribe (obviously). He loved sushi (win!). He enjoyed riding his bike (score!). And he was completing his internal medicine residency (win?). When we got married, it seemed that our life would be the perfect Jewish dream.
I can’t say it’s not wonderful. But my mom’s friend wasn’t wrong. Marrying a nice Jewish doctor isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
My husband is on staff at 14 different hospitals. Yup, you read that right. When he’s not working his main gig that runs Monday through Sunday, every other week, he’s working at one of the other 13 hospitals. His time at home is confined to two weekends a month. And during COVID surges, one of those four days becomes an extra workday to compensate for the abundance of patients being admitted to the hospital.
Working this amount is a choice, but only to a certain extent. It allows me to be home and available to our children. But — newsflash! Doctors aren’t rich like your bubbe said they are.
I’ll level with you; occasionally he’s home soon after the kids finish school. It sounds like a dream, right? But the moment he enters the door, the phone calls and texts from nurses and colleagues begins. Patient A just returned from the OR — can the patient have a meal? Patient B has a headache not relieved with Tylenol — can we try IV morphine? Dinner is never uninterrupted and attention is always divided.
This past fall, my boys competed in soccer tournaments. Having a physician husband gives “soccer mom” a whole new meaning. Mom packs the gear, cleans the uniforms, fills the bellies prior to games and cheers the kiddos on, all while finding a way to get two kids to their games on different fields at the same time. My husband missed 80% of the games, if not more, because work has consumed his life.
And about that education that made his completely booked work schedule possible… We’ll be paying back that debt until the day we die. Coming out of medical school with a quarter of a million in student loans isn’t a drop in the bucket. But hey, nothing’s cheap these days. Not even the education required to work yourself into the ground.
I can’t say I wasn’t warned. “I think I can handle it,” I said that day during winter break, as my mom’s friend showed me her husband’s pager (yeah, those were a thing back in 2004). “This thing never stops beeping,” she complained, strengthening her case.
Being married to a nice Jewish doctor may not be everything that I expected, but all in all, it’s got its perks. He may be at the hospital saving lives more times than not, but how many people can say their spouse keeps other family’s loved ones alive? When he actually shows up to a soccer game, you’d think the kids’ favorite YouTuber just arrived. And when your left pinky toe is feeling a bit off, there’s no need to turn to Google and fall down the doom-and-gloom rabbit hole. You’ve got your own WebMD right here in the house (assuming he’s home!).
Moral of the story: Go ahead and marry a nice Jewish doctor, but not because your bubbe or the yenta down the street told you to. Do it because you’re in love and because you don’t mind sharing your special someone with an entire community of people in need. I happen to think it’s a real reason to kvell.