The judgement never ends….

8 Jan

Its been a little while since I posted what with the holidays and then getting back into the groove at work. I wish I was posting on a more cheery subject but I feel like this topic is one that I will face for the rest of my working life, as long as I have kids at home.

So first the background to the story. My 16 month old son who is usually a great sleeper had a few night of restless sleep the week before Christmas when we were leaving for a family trip to Mexico. He did not seem to have cold, no runny nose, no cough, but was drooling quite a bit. He looked like he had a few teeth coming in so my husband and I just figured he was going through the seemingly endless and painful process of teething. Poor baby!

Friday December 21st at 4pm our nanny called me. She said that Leo had been doing great all day, but had just woken up form his nap screaming inconsolable and with a fever. I knew right away that what we had mistaken as teething must have been the beginnings of an ear infection. Both my kids have gotten them throughout their baby years, and this would be Leo’s 5th one. I called the pediatrician right away, as we were scheduled to leave at 5:40 am the next morning for Mexico. Our pediatrician practices in a very small practice with only 2 other Doctors. We chose them because they were small and seemed to pitch more of an “old school” care for kids. Really hands on, with real time devoted at each appointment to the child and their parents. Their hours, as posted on their web site are Monday through Friday 8:30am-6:00pm. They do not have any after hours care.

At 4:05 when I talked the receptionists and let her know what was going on, I fully expected her to just say, OK rush him in here so that we can see him before we close. But no. She told me a nurse would call back. At 4:25 I got a call back from the nurse. She basically said the only Dr. that was there was on his way out. I begged her and told her we were leaving to Mexico very early the next morning, and that I was pretty sure it was an ear infection and that he would need antibiotic. She put me on hold and talked to the Dr. A few minutes later she came back on the line and said that the Dr. was on his way out and that he said I should go to urgent care. I rushed my 16 month old to Urgent care, hoping that if I got there before 5 it would be a shorter wait. I got there at 4:40 and was at urgent care until almost 10:00 pm. My son got the antibiotic he needed and was cleared by the urgent care Dr. to fly the next morning.

When I got back from my holiday on a Sunday, I wrote an email to the Dr. expressing my disappointed in the care (or lack thereof) that I had been given. I thought that pediatricians understood that you can not predict children, and that when they get sick is beyond your control. I was polite, but I wanted the office to know that I did no think they had handled the situation well. I heard nothing from them for 5 days. On Friday I took my 16 month old in to check that his ears were clear as he was pulling them and having some restless nights again. Thank goodness this time it was teething. But more interesting this is what the Dr. (a woman) had to say about my email:

Dr: “We got your email. In the future it would be better if you could call earlier”

Me: “I completely understand, but it was not clear he was sick until 4pm when he got up screaming and feverish from his nap”

Dr.: “You and your husband both work right?” I nodded yes. ” Well maybe our practice is not for you”

She was basically telling me that because I worked I was not able to care for my children in a manner that she approved of. that somehow if I had been home with my child I would have been able to call the office earlier. She herself, a working mom, was judging me as a working parent, and insulting my choice to work. My jaw was on the ground that she had judged me for working. I never expected a very highly educated woman to try and make me feel inferior for choosing to work. Needless to say we will not be going back to that practice. We are on the hunt for a good paediatrician that can support our family choices. All of them — from our choice to co-sleep with our babies, to my choice to nurse them pas a year of age, to our choice to work and run our own business.

I just did a little searching online to see if I could find any related articles or blog posts about  another working mom having the same experience and no surprise I found one within minutes of starting the search.

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3 Responses to “The judgement never ends….”

  1. Kate Little January 8, 2008 at 4:58 pm #

    I can’t believe that the doctor was so judgemental! I work from home and have done so since my son was 6 months old. I have been able to limit the number of days I work to 3 days a week, which is common practice in the UK (Scotland) for working moms. What really bothers me, as an American expat is that that women in the US are expected to either go back to work full time or quit their jobs if they don’t want to return to work after only 6 weeks maternity leave. We have minimum 9 months paid maternity leave here and then most employers offer the choice of going back full time or part time after this period is over.

    I work for myself and find that I have an excellent situation here where I can make money, have a fulfilling career, and have time to spend with my 3 year old boy. It is appalling that women in the US do not have flexibility or much of a choice when it comes to working and family – making it very difficult in fact to have a work/ life balance.

    Sorry. Enough ranting. I am glad you found a good doctor that is supportive of your choices.

    Kind regards, Kate

  2. Tamara Paton January 30, 2008 at 7:26 pm #

    I love your blog and look forward to your posts. This one, however, didn’t fill me with a “right on, sister friend” reaction.

    I can completely understand why having a more accommodating physician would have made your life easier on the day your child took ill. And it must have been difficult to hear another mother suggest that your choice to work might not be compatible with her medical practice.

    As the wife of a family physician, I see things from another angle. Your MD was clear about office hours and the lack of after hours care. Although you called the doctor’s office 2 hours before closing, that doesn’t give the doctor much time to help you address your child’s condition.

    In order to squeeze your child in before closing, the doctor would have had to (a) short change another patient’s visit or (b) worked past her posted hours. I’m not sure why you would expect her to do either of those things when she had not made such a promise to you.

    It sounds like you would have had your physician miss dinner with her own children that night so your vacation preparations would not be disrupted.

    When your doctor suggested that her practice may not be right for you, she was right. Two career families often need more flexibility than those with a stay-at-home parent. You have expectations that your previous physician cannot meet. I am glad to hear that you are looking for another source of more convenient care.

    I plan to continue working after the first of my first child this spring, but I don’t expect the whole world to bend over backwards to make my choices easier. I don’t believe society at large and the medical community in particular are out to make life difficult for us. They just aren’t giving a standing ovation for every trying-to-do-it-all mother who doesn’t built buffers into her jammed packed schedule.

    Hopefully you recovered from this disappointment over your vacation. I must admit that it’s hard to feel too sorry for you when I picture your overworked self laying on a beach in Mexico.
    _________________
    Tamara- thanks for your comment. My issue with the Dr. was that they did not keep to their posted office hours. They closed at 4:30 the day I needed my son seen. The problem was not my jam packed schedule – it was that the office should have honored its own office hours, especially when they provide no after hours care. I have 2 children and have never not gone to the Dr., or put off an appointment, because of my schedule. I am fortunate enough to be the CEO of my company and live in a small town. I can drop everything and run with my children to the Dr at any time. I have gone to the Dr. at all hours of the day and have never missed an appointment with my children for any reason. ANY mother, working or not, would have faced the same situation I faced. When you have your first child you will see that children are the ones who are not flexible. My son got a fever and exhibited signs of his ear infection at 4pm. It would have been better for all of us if he had been a little more flexible and had gotten sicker earlier in the day – but thats not the way things work with kids.

    I completely agree with you that no one should bend over backwards just because I am a mom – whether I am a busy mom or not. My disappointment with the Dr. was surrounding the fact that I had a legitimate complaint – they closed their office early – and unexpectedly, yet refused to address my complaint. I expected them to be open until 6pm as that is what their hours are. When I expressed my complaint, and let them know that I felt they did not serve my child as they themselves promised they would, the Dr. tried to blame the fact that I worked as the reason this happened. Being a mother is hard – you will see that. Whether you work or you do not does not change the fact that motherhood is the hardest job. You want to know that your care providers support you and help you – not that they judge you and want to make you feel inadequate.
    -Sabrina

  3. Tamara Paton January 31, 2008 at 1:15 pm #

    Thanks for clarifying. In your original post, I missed the fact that the doctor had left early for the day.

    I see this as a situation with 2 issues:
    1. The question of whether the doctor failed to honour her office hours
    2. The appropriateness of how she treated you when you expressed a complaint

    On issue #1, it really comes down to what promises have been made around posted office hours. If “open until 6″ means that you can call for urgent care and expect to be seen until 6 pm, then your doctor did not live up to her promises. Some physicians leave holes in their schedules to permit walk-ins throughout the day, especially on Friday afternoons. (Why do children always get sick on the Friday afternoon before a long weekend?)

    In my husband’s practice, his posted hours refer to the times in which one can book an appointment in advance. Last minute calls for help are not necessarily accommodated. For example, he might decide to leave at 4 pm on a Friday if his regularly scheduled patients don’t fill his calendar right until closing. (In reality, however, he would probably not dismiss a toddler’s ear infection. Treating that condition would take him 10 minutes and save families hours of heartbreaking wailing.)

    On issue #2, it sounds like your specific situation had nothing to do with your career choices. I’m guessing that the physician either:
    (a) Had a bad day and spoke inappropriately
    (b) Lost her patience with high-maintenance Silicon Valley families (if that’s the case, she should really move)
    (c) Based her reaction on other patients’ indignant rants or past experiences she has had with you.

    Only you know which of the above applies. It’s possible that she is a horrible example for working women (and her own children). It’s also possible that she had been looking for a reason to “fire” you as a high-maintenance patient and seized this opportunity, albeit on potentially unreasonable grounds (depending on the truth behind issue #1).

    It sounds like neither of you will miss one another and that you are better off with your new physician. Hopefully you’ll find satisfying care with another practice (and ideally see an end to ear infections).

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