Thoughts after two months away from the clinic

1. People are determined to name what I'm doing. Retirement seems to be the favoured term, but that's absolutely a misnomer. Not until 75, remember? Someone called it a home and garden leave - like a maternity leave, but you tend to your patio furniture instead of a newborn. I don't mind that. Call it a sabbatical, Pete tells me. That comes closest. I'm resting. Productively. 

2. I expected that within a month of leaving the clinic, six weeks at most, it would become clear to me what to do next. It hasn't. I have no shortage of ideas, but the frontrunner isn't ahead by enough for me to feel certain it's the winner.  

3. I feel much more guilt about not seeing patients than I ever have about being a working mother. Taking a break from clinical work makes me feel like a bit of a farce, professionally. I'm keenly aware of the current shortage of family physicians. Then there's the investment of years of medical training that feels like it shouldn't sit idle, not even for just a few months. 

4. It's remarkable how much easier life with four kids and a traveling husband is when I have no clinical commitments. There's no scrambling to sort out school pick up. I cook most nights: fish on Mondays, pasta Tuesdays, meatless Wednesdays. Not only is laundry caught up, the whites are hung to dry in the sun. Someone's coming by to install a new hot water tank? No problem, I'm around. 

5. I think a lot about boredom. Last week I read this in Saul Bellow's novel Humboldt's Gift: "Suppose then that you began with the proposition that boredom was a kind of pain caused by unused powers, the pain of wasted possibilities or talents, and was accompanied by expectations of the optimum utilization of capacities" (p 201).  Yes. This explains why I find stay-at-home motherhood difficult. Feeling bored at home doesn't mean I find my kids uninteresting or caring for them unimportant. 

6. It took six weeks, but I miss seeing patients. It's a relief to say that. It's a bit of an identity crisis to be a primary care physician who's not sure she ever wants to see patients again. Public health and pathology were looking very attractive. When I got an email recently asking me to cover a few shifts at the refugee clinic later in the month, it went in my calendar in all caps, with an exclamation point.

7. I hadn't realized how far I'd fallen behind on general life things. My first weeks off were booked with dentist appointments, haircuts all around, doctor visits and a mammogram. I still have boxes of maternity clothes in storage; Ilia is four. There's a stack of five years' worth of kids' report cards and school projects on my study floor. We'd been managing the daily basics, but there was no time for extras. Except those things shouldn't be extras. 

8. Never a big spender, I find myself curtailing my shopping even more now that I'm not bringing in income. It's not to do with affordability. I feel that by not earning money, I haven't earned the right to spend it, either. I like Pete and I to be co-earners and co-spenders. I don't like being the beneficiary. (Although I do enjoy texting Pete mid-day to remind him that he's the primary breadwinner, and to urge him to work harder.)

9. Leif mentioned a track and field meet a few weeks ago, and when I said - "When is it? I'll come watch!" he couldn't believe it. These are the kids that took a taxi home from their school end-of-year ceremony last year, awards in hand, and made themselves lunch. In the stands at Swangard stadium, I watched as my ten-year-old ran the last one hundred metres of his first race with his head constantly swiveling to the right, searching for his mom in the crowd. 

10. I love having time to reflect. I opened the fridge door the other day at lunch time, and mid-swing, had a sudden realization about the type of work I like to do. I stood there gazing at a shelf of leftovers while things sorted themselves out. I find it takes slowness, puttering, to make these kinds of connections. 

Reading this list over, I see a number of contradictions and competing ideas. Looks like I've captured my current state well, then.