Medical Monday: The most important thing to do as a resident’s wife

I recently received an email from a stay-at-home mom and intern’s wife, asking how we made it work {financially} during residency.

Ha! Well, I am not the one to answer that question. We pretty much did it all wrong. I may not be able to tell you the right things to do, but I can tell you all the things NOT to do.

But even still, if you are so frugal and pinching your pennies, I honestly don’t know how anyone can make it through all those years without incurring any debt (if you are a SAHM without a second income) on the small resident salary.

With all the pricey fees for board exams, the flights and hotels and application fees for residency and fellowships interviews, moving, and the daily mishaps of life, I would love to know the secret to making it through all those years and coming out in the black.

The one thing I do know for sure, is the importance of keeping yourself (the wife/mama) sane. You may laugh at that, but I am totally serious.

You have a whole lot on your plate right now. If you have kids, you probably compare yourself to being a  single mother most of the time. But the difference is that you know you have a husband who, no matter how much he wants to help you and be at home with you, cannot because of his work.

So you are left with what feels like all of the responsibility. You are taking care of the house, the cars, the kids, carrying the burden of the finances, keeping in touch with family, and trying to take care of yourself… but most of the time you are the one that suffers.

You may feel like you are treading water most days, barely keeping your head above the surface. Once in a while a floaty ring, or whatever those things are called, is thrown to you and you get to stop flailing and breath for a while, but know that sooner than later, you’ll be back in the water treading once again.

One of the things I hated hearing most was when other women, friends, anyone really would say, “You need to take time for yourself. You need to make yourself a priority.”

And what I would always want to say in response was “Really? REALLY? You think so? And exactly how am I going to do that? Hire a sitter with the no money we have? Go away on a girls weekend with no one to watch my kids cause my husband is working most every weekend?”

And don’t give me the whole you don’t need to spend any money to take care of yourself, just a nice hot bath or give yourself a pedicure at home. Yeah, right.

Taking care of me means giving me a freaking break…away from house…alone.

So what am I getting at with this ranting and raving? I do have a point…stay with me…

I said that the most important thing to do is keeping yourself sane. It’s not staying out of debt, it’s not bringing in extra income, it’s not finding odd jobs to “help out.”

When your husband comes home from the hospital, he is fried. He probably is sleeping most of the time.

You need to make sure that you are functioning as the best version of you… so that you can be the best mom for your kids and best wife for your husband.

Do not interpret that as meaning you are supposed to be superwoman…volunteering for your kids preschool, watching 5 extra kids, and making dinner for him every night.

That will make you go crazy. I guarantee it.

It simply means that you need to eliminate as many outside stresses as possible. You need to watch your “yeses” and know your limits.

This opinion of mine may not be a popular one…I really have no idea. I can only speak from our experience. I was fortunate that my husband was on board with this. He is actually the one that enforced it in our home.

I had a friend who was a teacher when her husband first started medical school. During his second or third year, she stopped teaching so she could stay home. And no, they didn’t have any children.

Some probably would say that is a crazy, irresponsible thing to do, but they felt it was best for their marriage. She wanted to be able to be home when he was home and not have any other responsibilities consuming her time.

So, this is a decision that you and your husband must make together. If extra jobs are making you crazy or watching other children is taking away from being the best mom to your own kids, then maybe you need to rethink and discuss other choices. If staying home with your kids is making you crazy, then maybe you should go look for work outside the home.

You may not be able to afford a babysitter or a gym membership to give you your “you” time, but you do need to try and pace yourself so you can stay healthy and available to your family.

I just discovered the blog of a doctor’s wife who was a stay-at-home-mom during her husband’s training years and it looks as though they were able to remain debt free (I think). Her name is Amy and she is the owner/writer over at Frugal Mama. It’s got great tips and resources for saving money and even for moving!!! I wish I would have found this years ago!!

So…do you agree? disagree? What worked for you? What didn’t work?

I would love to hear your financial opinions and experiences during your time in medical school, residency, fellowship, and beyond.

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9 Responses to Medical Monday: The most important thing to do as a resident’s wife

  1. Ngoni says:

    I found you through Mindee. I’m Canadian who has been lniivg in the US for 11 years now (and will probably never leave because my husband is from here). I find myself missing Canada, especially when it comes to health care. But actually I kinda wish I could get the best of both worlds, because free shipping is amazing in the US

  2. Erin says:

    I appreciate your perspective! My husband is finishing up his prereqs for med school so we’re in the middle of his full-time (and then some) job, school (almost full-time) every night, and weekends filled with studying. We have 2 children, 5 & 7.

    Though not in med school yet, we’ve had to take a serious look at our schedule and finances. We too opted for me not to work. Our rule is that when he is not in class, we all need to be home together – or somewhere together. Our family time is very precious and we want to make sure that we’re still happily married when it’s all said and done.

    Thanks for a great blog – found you through PreMedLife.
    Erin recently posted..Mrs. MedMan: Premed Date NightMy Profile

    • Amber says:

      Keeping family is a priority during these years, but be ready and able to be flexible. When he is not in class, he will probably have to study (a lot). But he is fortunate to have support from you and your kiddos! It’s always nice for a study break :)

  3. Erin says:

    My husband is now in his 8th year of training not counting med school and we have two more after that. I have thoroughly enjoy Amber’s posts and completely relate to everything she says. I thought I would give a view of the other side. I have always worked full time with exception of grad school where I did 3 part time jobs and of course maternity leave. We sat down crunched the numbers and found out that we couldn’t afford for me to stay home with our two children. Now I’m constantly on the run when I’m not at work I’m getting ready for work. We are still going into debt with cutting corners but we are finally at peace with it and that makes all the difference. Life happens and we sacrifice so much as wives or husbands of doctors. I’m going to enjoy our new city and keep on running.

    • Amber says:

      I think you said it perfectly…being “at peace” with whatever your decision is, is HUGE! and not always easy to do…especially if it means going into debt. Thanks for sharing Erin!

  4. Mayfly says:

    We survived med school with ZERO debt other than the school loan we had. We didn’t even have a car payment! It took A LOT of budgeting, learning of priorities, etc. It also took a lot of discipline in shopping and holidays. But, we did it. And, we thrived. But, now we are in residency! I felt so broke the first month. We were literally living paycheck to paycheck. So, we sat down and came up with some options (blog for money, sew for money, tutor, part-time job, etc). But, we have 3 children and we’re in our first year of residency. So, we decided to keep me at home.

    I have taken on babysitting 2 children in my home. I have alternated nap times between my kids and the babysitting kids so that I still have alone time with my babies. I also only took on 2 because I wanted to be able to fit all 4 in the car to go the museums, zoos, library, etc. But, by bringing on these 2 daycare children, I am bringing in an extra $800/month. I charge $100/week per child. We still have our old clunker cars (actually I like my minivan, but my husband’s old car is a junker) with no car payments. We also use coupons, shop around for deals, etc. I never buy anything over $40 without seriously considering it. We use cash to pay for everything (try not to use credit cards) and we save up anything extra that we have at the end of every month for expenses such as boards, interviews in 3rd year, car mishaps, etc.

    But, what works for us will NOT work for everyone. So, I just think sitting down with your spouse, going over a budget, finding ways to be thrifty and sticking to it is what works. Everyone will do it differently, but best of luck to all!

  5. emc says:

    What works for us has changed along the way. When we were in residency we both worked until his last year, where I stayed at home with our new baby. God gave us the wisdom and discipline to save everything I earned those three years and not depend on both of our salaries. Additionally, when I became a SAHM, my husband did moonlighting once a month to earn additional income. It was a win-win for us all based on the unique scenario we had. We are on our 2nd year with a “real job,” and while the grass may be greener on the other side; it isn’t without it’s challenges in the many facets of being a doctor’s wife and SAHM. One little thing I do to help me welcome him home and provide peace and sanity to my whole household is try and take a nap every day when the kiddos do. Even if it is only 20 minutes it makes the world of a difference for everyone. I could go on and on, but I will leave my 2 cents at that.

    • Amber says:

      It’s smart to remember that during this journey, we need to be flexible and what works for one year or one season, may not for the next one. And we should never under estimate the power of the NAP! I took your advice and napped a bit yesterday :)

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