I’ve moved twice in the last 13 months. There are many difficulties that make moving unpleasant, but at the top of my list is the need to find new doctors. Discovering a doctor that I connect with is always a very big deal to me. In Pennsylvania, I loved by OB/GYN so much that I purposefully planned to have my second baby before we left Philly, just so that I could see him throughout my pregnancy. Each time I schedule a new appointment at a new doctor’s office, I show up with trepidation. Will we click? Will I be comfortable? Will I feel well-cared for?
With all of the doctors I need to find, perhaps the most significant is the pediatrician. I want a doctor who will not only take good care of my children, but who will support me as a mother. We all make the choices we deem best for our children and it’s important to me that my children’s physician respects those choices. Of course, I am always open to recommendations and suggestions, as long as I feel supported.
Needless to say when I took my children, ages 4 and 18 months, to the pediatrician for the first time since moving to New York, I was nervous. I wanted it to be a successful visit so that I could stop stressing about it. If all went well, I could cross “find a pediatrician” off my to-do list and probably gain back a few minutes of sleep at night.
From the moment we arrived, everything was great. There were some issues with our insurance that the office staff dealt with kindly and promised to help resolve. My children are very active and were running all over the place and everyone was very understanding. The nurse who came in to weigh and measure the boys was wonderful with them. My four-year-old was being particularly defiant and the doctor didn’t shame me for a moment. She reassured me over and over that these are hard years and I should just take a deep breath.
And then it happened.
My four-year-old ran out of the room for the third time. I was getting increasingly frustrated (and embarrassed) when the doc asked me if he does this often. I told her that, yes, he does have a tendency to run off. When he returned to the room, the doctor looked at him and said, “Next time you run away, Mommy’s going to take something away that you like to play with. It’s called losing your privileges.”
I was shocked. For one thing, those kinds of punishments are not how I parent. Even if they were, though, the premise of that statement is something that I need to follow through on. How can someone make that kind of threat without first checking with “Mommy” to make sure I was okay with it? How could she involve herself in such a direct way with the disciplining of my child without first discussing with me her plan to chime in?
The message I received was that she didn’t feel that I was doing enough to deal with this problem so she was going to put me in a position where I had to do it her way. She didn’t ask me if I’d ever tried this method, she just went ahead and did it for me. It felt passive aggressive and manipulative, and though I do believe that she was mostly trying to help me out by getting him to stop leaving the room, it felt like an overstep by about three miles.
I left the office feeling devastated. On the one hand, take away that one incident and the visit was off-the-charts positive. How much should I let this interaction affect my impression of this doctor and the practice at large? Is it worth seeking a different pediatrician or requesting to see a different doctor in the practice on our next visit? I haven’t decided yet. What this visit did, though, is reiterate how important it is for pediatricians to make parents feel supported. An otherwise fantastic experience has been tainted by the fact that I felt my parenting being questioned rather than respected, and that’s not good for anyone involved.