Podcast #52 Show Notes: An Interview with Lara McElderry from Married to Doctors
In this episode I interview Lara McElderry from the Married to Doctors podcast. Some might find that being married to a doctor isn’t as glamorous as society assumes. Having a physician spouse and having a strong relationship can be difficult. It is common to feel resentment, friction, and stress in your relationship despite how much you love each other. Lara's mission statement is simple, “Making Successful Homes Happier.” We talk about how to do that in this episode. Listen to the podcast here or it is available via the traditional podcast outlets, ITunes, Overcast, Acast, Stitcher, Google Play. Enjoy!
Podcast # 52 Sponsor
[00:00:19] This episode is sponsored by Adam Grossman of Mayport Wealth Management. Adam is a Boston-based advisor and works with physicians across the country. Unlike most other advisors, Adam offers straightforward flat fees for both standalone financial planning and investment management. Whatever stage you’re at in your career, Adam can help you get organized with a personalized financial plan and can help you implement it with a low-cost index fund portfolio. Adam is a Chartered Financial Analyst and received his MBA from MIT, but more importantly, you’ll benefit from Adam’s own personal experience with many of the same financial obstacles and opportunities that face physicians. To learn more, visit Adam’s website to download a free e-book especially for physicians.
Quote of the Day
[00:02:52] “Smart women figure out what, exactly, makes them happiest. They spend generously on those things but cut out the rest.” -Laura Vanderkam
[00:04:17] Now Lara is married to a physician not a physician herself. And so that offers a very unique perspective that I cannot give and neither can many of my listeners or readers. But I think this will be very useful both for the doctor as well as their spouse to listen to.
[00:04:42] Lara tells a us little bit about herself, her upbringing, her education, career, and family before Jim gets into the questions.
[00:06:14] How do you think growing up relatively lower class has affected your outlook on money?
[00:08:11] Tell us how you got into doing a podcast and a little bit about the podcast.
[00:10:09] Now your podcast focuses on medical spouses. Why is this group unique? Why do they need their own podcast?
[00:11:36] The seven of you are living on a fellow salary. What advice do you have to people who are struggling to live like a resident?
[00:12:49] What advice do you have for stay at home moms married to doctors?
[00:14:58] How about for stay at home dads?
[00:16:41] Now particularly for stay at home dads I think a lot of them struggle with society looking down on them a little bit. What advice do you have for a stay at home dad struggling with that?
[00:17:52] What about those who are not stay at home parents? They are married but they're married to a doctor and they're working, maybe making as much as a physician, maybe not. What advice do you have for them about being married to a doctor when they have their own career?
[00:18:55] I think it happens that much more often it seems that female physicians are married to male physicians and male physicians are often married to people who are not physicians at all. Do you think that's true and if so why do you think that is?
[00:20:52] There have been fewer men applying to medical school. Do you have any speculation as to why that might be?
[00:21:21] Do you think men are more focused on the bottom line when they choose a career.? Do you think that is what makes it so that fewer men are looking at medicine now versus women?
[00:21:44] What are the issues that medical spouses wrestle with most commonly.
[00:22:25] What do you think medical spouses frequently resent and what can the spouses and the physicians do to reduce that?
[00:24:20] What financial issues do you think are common for medical spouses to wrestle with?
[00:25:16] What's your most popular episode and why?
[00:25:56] What's your worst episode. The one that if you could go back and do it again you wouldn't even do it or you do it completely differently?
[00:26:30] There is also a blog post at Married to Doctors about which is worse military or medical. What do you see as the similarities and differences between those two spousal related challenges and what advice do you have for those who have both of those challenges that are married to military docs?
[00:30:21] Now there is a little bit in medicine and I think especially among spouses of physicians of looking at this light at the end of the tunnel, this concept of when you come out of training, what advice do you have for people as they approach the light at the end of the tunnel? What have you guys done to try to prepare for that?
[00:32:25] You have a unique experience that not very many physician families have of going back to training after a couple of years out as an attending. What was that like? Tell us about that decision and what you worried about and whether those worries actually came true during this fellowship year.
[00:35:01] Now I think most of my listeners are probably the professionals themselves rather than the spouses of physicians. What advice can you give to them? What can they do to minimize the resentment that their spouses may have to struggle with due to their careers?
[00:36:35] What do you think about side hobbies? For example a physician has another interest, they want to play a sport or coach a team or they want to start a side business. What issues are they going to run into already having a fairly consuming career but now asking to take more time away from the family?
[00:38:53] Is there other advice that you think both spouses and married physicians ought to be aware of that they are not? If you could say there is one problem out there that you run into over and over again that people are making, what would that problem be?
[00:45:28] Be sure to check out Lara's podcast. And register for the WCI free monthly newsletter to get the financial boot camp e-mail series that comes along with that. You'll get one email each week for 12 weeks when you sign up for the newsletter that will help get you caught up to speed with the rest of the white coat investor community.
Introduction: [00:00:00] This is the White Coat Investor podcast where we help those who wear the white coat get a fair shake on Wall Street. We've been helping doctors and other high income professionals stop doing dumb things with their money since 2011. Here's your host Dr. Jim Dahle.
WCI: [00:00:19] Welcome to Episode 52 an interview with Lara McElderry from the Married to Doctors podcast. This episode is sponsored by Adam Grossman of Mayport Wealth Management. Adam is a Boston-based advisor and works with physicians across the country. Unlike most other advisors, Adam offers straightforward flat fees for both standalone financial planning and investment management. Whatever stage you’re at in your career, Adam can help you get organized with a personalized financial plan and can help you implement it with a low-cost index fund portfolio. Adam is a Chartered Financial Analyst and received his MBA from MIT, but more importantly, you’ll benefit from Adam’s own personal experience with many of the same financial obstacles and opportunities that face physicians. To learn more, visit Adam’s website to download a free e-book especially for physicians.
WCI: [00:01:07] Thank you so much for what you do. I had an interesting patient yesterday with bacterial meningitis and it was one of those patients that you walk into the room and you know she's sick. And her neck is as stiff as can be. And so you know right what to do from beginning.
WCI: [00:01:21] But what a wonderful opportunity to really make a difference in somebody's life, to use those skills that you spent years of education and training acquiring in order to make a difference, to get those antibiotics in as quickly as you can, to get a spinal tap done with the expertise you have and to be able to really make a difference in in this case what was a very young mother who had a great deal of life ahead of her if we could just cure her of this disease that was likely fatal without our treatment. And so what you're doing in everyday matters and you may have a rough day to day you may be on your way into work or you may be on your way home and have already had a rough day. But you know what? Every now and then you're going to make a difference and remember that as you go through the difficult times.
WCI: [00:02:09] Now if you missed out on the opportunity to attend the white coat investor conference in Park City last March we've got a wonderful chance for you to actually share in that experience. We've taken both the slides and the audio and video from the presentations at the conference and we have compiled them into an online course that is available at teachable the same place as the fire your financial adviser course you can find that a white coat investor teachable dot com so be sure to check that out if you're interested and learn some more from the experts we had at the White Coat investor conference including William Bernstein, Jonathan Clements, Mike Piper and even the Physician on Fire.
WCI: [00:02:52] Our quote of the day today comes from Laura Vanderkam who said smart women figure out what exactly makes them happiest. They spend generously on those things but cut out the rest.
WCI: [00:03:01] And that sure is the truth. We've got a great podcast today. We'll get into the interview here momentarily. But this is a podcaster I've been super impressed with. Her name is Laura McElderry and she podcasts on a podcast called Married to Doctors and really does a very slick job of it. It's a high quality podcast and despite the fact that she only relatively recently began I feel like I could get lessons on podcasting from her because she does such a nice job but the subject matter is great both for the physician as well as well as for the physician spouse
WCI: [00:03:38] All right. Today on the podcast we have very special guest Laura McElderry who has a podcast called Married to Doctors that can be found married to doctors dot com or really anywhere you get your podcasts. In the same place you get my podcast you can get her podcast but I brought her on today for a few reasons one I think she has some fantastically interesting subject matter. And number two she does a fantastic podcast which I'm in awe has she just started and hers is way better than mine. But I wanted to bring her on and let you guys get to know her a little bit better and to talk about some of the subjects that she spends her time talking about.
WCI: [00:04:17] Now she is married to a physician not a physician herself. And so that offers a very unique perspective that I can't give and neither can many of my listeners. But I think this will be very useful both for you as well as to have this episode listened to by your spouse. And so welcome to the podcast Lara.
Lara: [00:04:38] Well thank you so much. I'm very excited to talk to you and I appreciate the opportunity.
WCI: [00:04:42] Well let's talk a little bit about you to start with. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself your upbringing your education your career and your family.
Lara: [00:04:52] mSure so I grew up with loving parents but they were not wealthy at all. I spent from second to sixth grade and then again from 10th to 12th grade living in mobile home parks which by US standards are certainly not very high on the hog. I can remember the first time I had 20 dollars of my own. I was later in junior high so certainly didn't grow up with a lot of money. I am the first grandchild on either side of my family to get a college degree. And so I'm very proud of that I have a master's degree in teaching and then it's just been on a lot of fun. I've taught classes it's actually a family and science degree so I have taught things like sex education to high school something that takes a little bit of guts and has been a lot of fun as well as family dynamics communications things like that. And then my husband was going to be a math teacher when I met him and I thought we would have this nice comfortable life with summers off. But soon he decided to take the mcat and we've been married almost 17 years now and he is a surgical critical care fellow. And then in addition to all of that we have five children all boys and they range from ages 5 to 14.
WCI: [00:06:09] Sounds like a very busy life.
Lara: [00:06:11] Yeah busy good life. Yeah it's wonderful.
WCI: [00:06:14] You know it's interesting you mention growing up relatively not so well to do. And I am not sure I remember the first 20 dollars I had. But I remember the first five dollar bill I lost. I had been riding my bike to the store to buy something and lost five dollar bill and I was crushed. And you know it's amazing looking back on the things you remember about money from your childhood and how they affect you later. How do you think growing up relatively lower class has affected your outlook on money.
Lara: [00:06:47] Well from the doctor's wife perspective. One thing that was very difficult for me on a personal level was just admitting that I was the doctor's wife that made me very uncomfortable and because I hadn't grown up in those circles I always felt a little bit intimidated or a little bit less then. And so really learning to find my voice as a doctor's wife and to realize that you know I'm a human they are human. And the more experience I have around physicians the more comfortable I am with that. Certainly when we started out in med school and an attending you know I would meet an attending I would just like clam up and get really shy and nervous and not be able to be myself. But I don't do that so much anymore I'm pretty comfortable around any physician and happy to chat with them and of course being married to one all these years I know very well that they're all human.
WCI: [00:07:35] That's interesting. You know I figure if you can talk about sex with high schoolers you can talk to anybody about anything.
Lara: [00:07:41] That's so true.
WCI: [00:07:42] My wife was a teacher when I was an intern for middle school actually. And for some reason the teachers were assigned to do sex ed. And so for whatever it was two or three weeks toward the end of the year that was her assignment. She taught sex ed which I always thought was pretty funny. But she she thought it was no big deal. But she was kind of surprised by the specificity of some of the questions she was asked by the middle schoolers.
Lara: [00:08:07] Yes they do tend to come to you with questions.
WCI: [00:08:11] Well tell us how you got into doing a podcast a little bit about the podcast.
Lara: [00:08:15] So the podcast came about because I wanted a job and we were here in Albuquerque we're here just for a one year fellowship and my youngest was starting school and I was like OK it's time to do something I hadn't been working previous to moving to Albuquerque. My mom has advanced Parkinsons. I was helping take care of her and then we had kids not in school yet so I was doing the stay at home mom thing. And once we moved here I was like you know what kids are going to be in school and basically going to have all day and I want a job and so I started thinking about what could I do. And I didn't feel good about taking a teaching job and then turning around and leaving it you know immediately almost. And so I was like well what do I know and what am I good at and what can I possibly do. And I thought well I love listening to podcasts.
Lara: [00:09:03] And so then I just kind of started studying. Well what does it take to make one. You know listening to podcasts on how to podcast and all that stuff and I thought you know I'm just going to go for it. It's kind of an off year for us and it's something that I can bring with me when we leave Albuquerque and we'll just see if no one listens to it then I guess it won't be that embarrassing because no one will have known about it and if it grows then we'll see what happens. And it's been it's been a real blast and a pleasure to put together.
WCI: [00:09:30] Well that's a lot of a lot of fun. I'm really impressed with your your willingness to jump out there and just be an entrepreneur. It sounds like you meant for this to be a business from the beginning.
Lara: [00:09:39] A little bit business slash passion project. I'm not intending to make any money the first year by any stretch. I just really want to do it for the fun of it. Really it's stimulating it's interesting to me I love the subject matter. I love meeting people and I'm just enjoying it On a personal level we'll see in the future if I can come up with some ideas to make money. I've got a couple of books up my sleeve and stuff like that. So we'll see what the future holds.
WCI: [00:10:09] That's exciting you know it's interesting podcast like a blog as I often tell people is not a business. You know the blog isn't the business the podcast isn't the business. And the sooner you figure out what the business is the sooner you start making money. And sometimes it's just selling ads is what the business says about a lot of people think that you know a blog is a business or it really isn't a blog is just sharing your thoughts typing them into the Internet and podcast is speaking them out into space, you know the same sort of thing. But a lot of times they obviously can be monetized to monetize very effectively. So that's great. Now your podcast focuses on medical spouses. Why is this group unique. Why do they need their own podcast.
Lara: [00:10:50] Well I think Doctor spouses need a safe space to discuss these things just as I was saying earlier you know I felt intimidated to talk to doctors. I find that you know I have a lot of great girlfriends but if I say something about josh's work schedule it's often met with some type of comment along the lines of well at least he's paid well and you just have to take that with a grain of salt knowing we have six figure debt.
WCI: [00:11:16] And especially when he's a fellow.
Lara: [00:11:18] Yeah exactly right. But you know people don't get it. I didn't use to get it. People don't get it but other people that are in the medical world they do understand these things and so having a podcast is just another place for us to gather and to be understood and to speak a little bit more openly about some of the challenges we face.
WCI: [00:11:36] That's really fantastic. It's interesting. I mean he's a fellow right now you're mostly living on his salary it sounds like with five kids. I have all kinds of listeners who think it is difficult to live like a resident after they finish their training. And here you are living the seven of you on a fellow salary. What advice do you have to people who are struggling to live like a resident.
Lara: [00:12:04] That's a good question. I think my best advice is I just don't go to the store and I don't shop online. So I just don't spend money. If I live it how many times a week I go to the store which is usually once a week and I don't get online to shop. You know that much money doesn't come out of the bank account. And so that's always my best advice to people there like how do you save money. How do you live on your on your budget. I'm like I just don't shop . I would challenge someone you know go a whole day without spending even a dollar and see what happens. You know try to go two days in a row without spending money. You know it's an interesting idea for some people. And again you know I might have a bit of advantage because I didn't come from money. It might be a little bit easier for me to be content with less. I know. I don't know.
WCI: [00:12:49] You know I think that I think that's part of it habits and your personality. I think that all plays into it for sure. I ran into a problem with my phone this last week and so I had to go into the Apple Store which was in the mall and I realized that I haven't been in the mall for literally years. It's been years since I was in the mall. And as I sat there waiting for my appointment to meet with some apple technician to get my phone replaced I realized why I'm wealthy and it's mostly because I don't like buying stuff I just don't buy stuff very often you know. And I think that sort of a habit can really carry through no matter what your income is. So I think that's good advice you're given. Now a couple of questions specifically to gender. What advice do you have for stay at home moms married to doctors. And I'm going to ask the same question in a minute for stay at home dads.
Lara: [00:13:44] All right. So for stay at home moms. My advice would be don't be a stay at home mom unless you want to be because you're going to be miserable. I think if you feel like you're stuck like well my husband's schedule is so demanding and we have these young kids and it just doesn't make sense to do anything else. If those are your thoughts the chances of you enjoying that experience are very low and you know you're likely to face a little bit of blues if not even depression. And so I really think you need to own your choice and rather than thinking about well I'm stuck in this is just the best the only the only way to work. You know you need to consider you know you choose to be married to a physician. You know we can all leave a marriage at any point. We choose to have children together. Those are choices we make and then we choose how we're going to raise them. And for me really learning to own the choice of being a stay at home mom has made a huge difference in my outlook on it. So I think my advice would be only be a stay at home mom if you want to be and then enjoy that phase you know own that decision and don't worry about what other people are saying about your choices. You know just own the decision and be content with it.
WCI: [00:14:58] That's great advice. I like the intentionality. Ok how about for stay at home dads?
Lara: [00:15:03] Ah. This is interesting so recently I was talking to a stay at home dad and he made the comment to me. He said you know my wife and he's married to a spine surgeon. He said you know my wife is a little girl. She grew up being encouraged to dream you know dream of being a doctor he said but as a as a young boy you know no one ever encouraged me to dream of being a stay at home dad. It was never the dream and so he said it's been really interesting as they've had to make that decision as a family. And for him to be a stay at home dad he's struggled a little bit with his identity and he's like you know I just don't know. You know and so they do feel like it's right for their family. But my advice is actually pretty similar. I think you know just owning that decision and being content with that decision and also for men or women that are home I think it's important to have some kind of passion project something you're doing something that stimulates you intellectually keeps your mind going or physically you know for some people it's training for a marathon for other people it's learning how to quilt. You know whatever it is find something that that you enjoy and that maybe you can see the result of because picking up the toys it's like you know it's like shoveling in a snow storm you know. It's not very rewarding. And so I think having something that you can see completed at least for me that always made me feel good. So if I had a quilt and I was like look this is a finished completed project that always felt good. A blog post. Well look that's completed that's published that feels good to me. So having those projects that you can see to completion.
WCI: [00:16:41] Now particularly for stay at home dads I think a lot of them struggle with society looking down on them a little bit. I mean it wasn't that long ago I think it was just the 1980s that the movie Mr. Mom came out which shows this you know inept dad struggling to you know fight the dryer is the scene I remember most from the movie. But I think that is still an issue for a lot of dads because what do men do when they meet each other The first question they ask is oh what do you do for a living? And so what advice do you have for a stay at home dad struggling with that?
Lara: [00:17:14] Yeah that is tough because it is a big part of their identity. And I think they they again just owning it. And I also feel like this is interesting because it's almost trendy to be a stay at home dad so where You know I definitely understand your point. I also think that a lot of times stay at home dads are considered more progressive more hip you know more interesting and it's like oh he's really supportive. You know he must really value women's rights. Wow what a great man to stay home. Whereas in reverse a female staying home it's like well maybe she just you know had no ambition at all.
WCI: [00:17:52] You know interesting I don't know that I've ever thought of it that way. That's you know that may very well be the case in today's day and age. Another question for you. What about those who are not stay at home parents. They're married but they're married to a doctor and they're working maybe making as much as a physician. Maybe not. What advice do you have for them about being married to a doctor when they have their own career.
Lara: [00:18:22] I think a lot of the advice is the same. You know the things that are going to make a marriage work are similar. No matter who's working and who's not working. Good communication, healthy romance and sex, Spending time together. Yeah not letting little things become big things. You know frequent conversations about money not putting them off for days, weeks, years. I think I think the same ingredients are needed regardless of the working dynamics.
WCI: [00:18:55] Very nice. Now I think it happens and this be my last gender related question I think but I think it happens that much more often it seems that female physicians are married to male physicians and male physicians are often married to people who are not physicians at all. Do you think that's true and if so why do you think that is?
Lara: [00:19:15] Well I'm not sure about the why that is but it is true I have read that in some studies that female physicians tend to marry male physicians more often than male physicians many female physicians.
WCI: [00:19:29] It seems bizarre because you think it be one to one right. Right.
Lara: [00:19:33] Well I mean I guess. Yeah. And I don't know. It could be because there's just an uptick in female physicians and so it's becoming more and more common for female physicians to be married to a male physician as well. And I don't know. You know I guess we could get into stereotypes all day long but I think it may just have to do with the number of female physicians I think in 2017 it tipped to where now there's more female physicians than male physicians entering medical school.
WCI: [00:20:03] Yeah I saw that. I think it's now fifty point three percent of medical students are female which my class was approaching 50 percent 15 years ago but now it's actually hitting not only hit 50 percent but crossed over that line for the first time which I think is pretty fascinating but not terribly surprising to me to be honest. I mean as many gender problems as there are in medicine I think there are far less than many fields if you've ever been to a like a financial adviser conference and you look out over the crowd. It's like 85 90 percent male. I mean it makes orthopedics look diverse compared to that. And so I thought it was pretty interesting to see that medicine's really really maybe the first profession that's become 50 percent female.
Lara: [00:20:52] And I think one interesting thing to explore there is there's also been fewer men applying and I find that interesting and it's like well why are fewer men applying. So there's a lot at play there for sure.
WCI: [00:21:05] That is a good question Do you have any speculation as to why that might be?
Lara: [00:21:10] Probably has something to do with the amount of debt we end up with and the demanding schedule I think. I think a lot of people think they can make more money in different fields now.
WCI: [00:21:21] Interesting. Interesting that men would look at that differently. Do you think men are more focused on the bottom line when they choose a career. Do you think that's what makes it so that fewer men are looking at medicine now versus women?
Lara: [00:21:34] Yeah it's it's hard to say you know because for every man that's interested in money you'll find a woman that's every bit as interested in money and vice versa. But yeah I think that may have something to do with it.
WCI: [00:21:44] Interesting. What are the issues that medical spouses wrestle with most commonly.
Lara: [00:21:49] So I think resentment is a big one. Moving to places maybe where you didn't intend to ever live due to the match or just a job in general can be difficult for many medical spouses feeling like medicine is the other partner in the relationship and that medicine always has a say so in how things go. The demanding hours are very difficult. Yeah finances come into play. And communication can be hard. There's a lot of things that can come up.
WCI: [00:22:25] Let's talk about resentment. What do you think medical spouses frequently resent and what can the spouses and the physicians do to reduce that?
Lara: [00:22:34] I think if we're not careful it is easy to resent the fact that you know in my case my husband you know if I can be resentful that he's not home putting the kids to bed that he's not at the birthday party or the ballgame. You can feel a little put upon that you're being more of a single parent than you ever set out to be. You know when we had our first three kiddos Josh had not chosen surgery yet. And so in my mind I was like oh he's going to choose something really family friendly because he wanted these kiddos. And then as he chose surgery and the consequences of that decision came into play. I did struggle a little bit with his career choice and I was like This is not the kind of family work life balance that I wanted. You know I don't want to raise these kids alone. I don't want to be the only one taking them hither and thither you know to these different activities. I want you around more and so we can get resentful of their jobs and it's a very difficult position to be in because while I may have felt resentful I also had this great pride. Right. Like I love my husband and I'm proud of him.
Lara: [00:23:46] And I want him to be successful and I want him to you know use his talents by all means and so it can be kind of a tight spot because you feel like gee if I if I don't voice this then I'm kind of stirring with this bitterness but if I do voice it then you know I'm kind of a jerk because I have this wonderful life married to this person who has the talents and abilities to be a surgeon.
WCI: [00:24:11] And presumably eventually the income that goes along with those talent.
Lara: [00:24:15] Yeah we're hoping for that, we shall see.
WCI: [00:24:20] Interesting. So you bring up some other issues you mentioned financial issues. What financial issues do you think are common for medical spouses to wrestle with.
Lara: [00:24:30] Well again this varies differently among different relationships it's obviously very different if both people are working both partners are working through school and beyond that. A lot of my audience you know have we have children. And so when you bring children into the world then a lot of times your careers kind of change paths or there does need to be a stay at home parent for a while and so does the financial financial stresses. I think student loans is pretty universal even if even if you do have a spouse working all the way through most of the time you end up with six figure debt coming out of medical school and that just feels like a burden you know for a lot of us. We just kind of like our shoulders get a little bit tight thinking about the fact that we we owe that money.
WCI: [00:25:16] Let's talk about the episodes you've done. What's your most popular episode and why?
Lara: [00:25:21] So a bit to my surprise my most popular episode was one where I didn't do an interview, it's an interview based podcast but I did one where I just kind of talked about my own life and my own struggles with becoming a doctor's wife and my own background and that that surprisingly has been my most popular.
Lara: [00:25:39] My second most popular doesn't surprise me as much. It's called communicating about sex in your medical marriage. And I always laugh with the sexologists that came on that episode that we just laugh to ourselves we were like well I guess sex sells. One of my most popular.
WCI: [00:25:56] It's interesting. What's what's your worst episode. The one that if you could go back and do it again you wouldn't even do it or you do it completely differently?
Lara: [00:26:06] That's tough because I'm only like 16 episodes in and I've had amazing guest so don't really have one that I feel like just totally flop. I cover such a variety of topics that you know they're not all similar enough to really compare. Like oh this was better than this one. It was just different.
WCI: [00:26:25] Might be just more related to the topic than anything else.
Lara: [00:26:28] Sure. Sure.
WCI: [00:26:30] OK. Now you have a guest post up on your new blog. There's also a blog here at Mary to doctors dot com about which is worse military or medical. And what do you see as the similarities and differences between those two spouse related challenges and what advice do you have for those who have both of those challenges that are married to military docs?
Lara: [00:26:51] Yeah that's really interesting. So you know I'm not in the military my husband's not in the military but this was a great blog post and I think some of the similarities are that idea of you know medicine is part of our marriage and it owns us in it to some extent dictates you know where our spouse is going to be how much they're going to be gone where we're going to live how much money we're going to make. And the same is true for the military right. Once you make that commitment then you feel like you've kind of like they own you type of feeling and so I think that's a big similarity across the two spectrums. As far as advice goes gosh I don't know what to advise military spouses other than some of the same things I guess I would say to those married to medicine which is you know have a great support system. Definitely be willing to get to know people even if you're only going to be somewhere temporarily. I think there's great value in getting to know your neighbors names. Finding a community through a playgroup or a sports group, a church organization somehow get plugged into your community so that you have a support network. If there's any kind of health issues or anything should come up that you you have someone to put down is your emergency contact. I think that's really important. And again those basics come back all the time. Good communication with your spouse and managing expectations.
Lara: [00:28:21] And I'd have to say once again owning that decision if you choose to join the military you know and then you choose to be bitter about it forever that's not going to serve you very well just like if you choose a career in medicine that you're ticked off about it it's not going to do anybody any good. So own the decision. Be proud of serving your country be proud to work in medicine and enjoy the beauty that comes with that work as well as the hardship.
WCI: [00:28:50] I loved that phrase own the decision that really does encapsulate a lot and really indicate just how much you need to not only consider the decision before you rush into it but also afterward to be committed to it. You know it's interesting my wife has been both a military spouse and a medical spouse you know at one point I disappeared completely for five months basically went to the other side of the planet. And I think the skills that she learned as a you know the wife of a medical student and the wife of a resident of being independent and she's basically taken this approach that sometimes you're going to be there sometimes you're not. So we'll always have a plan B and took that and basically applied it to her entire life. Once I was gone for months at a time and I think it had a lot of success that way and she did much better during the separation than I did. It was far harder on me I think to be across the planet than it was on her even though she was there with her two little girls raising them herself just because she had developed those skills and those attributes during medical school and residency.
Lara: [00:29:57] Yeah I'm sure then I think independence is super important and being willing to just try and do things on your own. And I always tell you know medical spouses don't get hung up in your house you know get out explore the community. I've taken my kids to the Grand Canyon by myself because I wanted to go and I knew Josh couldn't make it. You know just go and do the things that you want to do.
WCI: [00:30:21] That's great advice. Now there's a little bit in medicine and I think especially among spouses of physicians of looking at this light at the end of the tunnel you know this concept of when you come out of training what advice do you have for people as they approach the light at the end of the tunnel and coming out of training and their spouse becoming an attending physician and hopefully hopefully maybe working a little bit less and certainly making more money. What advice do you have for them as they approach that time period and what have you guys done to try to prepare for that?
Lara: [00:30:56] Well I think it's interesting. So my husband actually wasn't attending for two years before this fellowship and so there's that caveat. And so we did the attending live for two years. And in our case you know the job wasn't the dream job and that's why we're in the fellowship. And so I guess my advice would be. Hold on tight. Save some money. You know we put a lot of money towards student debt and in hindsight I'm like well it might be nice if I had a little bit more of a slush fund right now during this fellowship year. So there's there's always going to be challenges.
Lara: [00:31:30] And I don't think you're going to magically you know fall in love with your spouse all over again. When they reach that attending salary level I think you need to do the things that nurture your marriage all along the way to keep your marriage strong and happy. Yeah because the problems are just going to be different. Right. Your your expenses are gonna raise to the level of your income every time. So finances are still going to be something that needs to be discussed you know discussed in different ways because the numbers are different but the conversations are basically the same. How much do we spend. Where do we spend it. Where do we invest. You know what do we do. What are our goals. What are our dreams. What do we want things to look like.
WCI: [00:32:15] It's interesting that you have a unique experience in that you get to have the light at the end of the tunnel experience twice.
Lara: [00:32:21] While we're hoping the second time around it sticks a little better hopefully.
WCI: [00:32:25] Now you also have a unique experience that not very many physicians have not very many physician families I should say have of going back to training after a couple of years out as an attending. What was that like. Tell us about that decision and what you worried about and whether those worries actually came true during this year Fellowship.
Lara: [00:32:47] Yeah. So I think the disappointing thing was just realizing that that job wasn't the job we always wanted. You know because our kids were a little bit older we were like Yeah let's settle down let's get the kids through high school.
Lara: [00:32:59] As I mentioned previously my mom has some health issues and so we kind of. And she's a widow. So we have her and like a sibling rotation and so she had been with me for six months and I felt like you know we just needed to be there and we needed to be settled down and we needed to you know be those mature adults. And then when the job didn't work out you know we had a lot of choices we could have stayed and made that job work it might not have been ideal but we could have just kind of you know gritted our teeth and stuck it out or my husband could have taken a different surgery job in that area. But he kind of wanted to do the fellowship. And again this is one of those times. As a medical wife where you're like What?! Like OK first of all you are going to be a teacher and you became a doctor. And then I thought you'd be like a pediatrician and you became a surgeon. And now you're say you don't just want to be a surgeon you want to be a trauma surgeon. Right. So it feels like you know whatever my husband has a choice always to use the the harder path. And one thing I've learned is that he he's happier when he's doing where you know where he feels he fits in and where he feels like his talents are used and where he does feel challenged and having a happy spouse helps your marriage to be happy. And so I kind of looked at things and I thought Well golly gee this isn't exactly you know what I want it.
Lara: [00:34:24] I'm like this job really isn't that bad. Let's suck it up I don't want to go back to training. But in the end I decided that of course you know I want to support and love my husband and so I made the choice to again stick with him and join him in this wonderful journey. And Albuquerque has been a blast we've never lived in the western part of the country so as I mentioned I took the kids to the Grand Canyon. You know we're going to different national parks in Utah and different places that we've never explored. And I love it. It's really fun to just enjoy it. We're kind of looking at it as a vacation year I made a huge bucket list of all these things I wanted to do and were making the best of it.
WCI: [00:35:01] Now I think most of my listeners are probably the professionals themselves physicians attorneys et cetera rather than the spouses of physicians. What advice can you give to them? What can they do to minimize the resentment that their spouses may have to struggle with due to their careers?
Lara: [00:35:21] I think patience is always appreciated and also the benefit of the doubt. So if you come home and your wife or your husband is a little bit moody because they've been dealing with the kids all day and you know of course you come home and you're tired too.
Lara: [00:35:38] You just have to recognize that you're both tired in different ways and never try to one up each other so if it's like well I've been at the hospital for 12 hours a blah blah blah blah I've been dealing with you know two kids in diapers and one of them sick or whatever. The comparison games aren't going to get you anywhere. So giving each other the benefit of the doubt that yeah you both want a good marriage and you want to make it work. And one piece of advice I heard that I thought was really good was always try to do a little bit more than your spouse is doing for the marriage. So just always try to find small and simple ways to serve. And something else that I think is really small but so important is greeting your spouse like saying hello how are you. How was your day. Giving them a little hug or kiss. I feel like just that initial contact when you're coming and going can do so much for your relationship.
WCI: [00:36:35] What do you think about side hobbies. For example this physician has another interest. You know they want to play a sport or they want to coach a team or they want to you know start a side business. What should they. What issues are they going to run into already having a fairly consuming career but Now kind of asking to take more time away from the family and that sort of thing for one of their own You know for lack of a better term selfish pursuit?
Lara: [00:37:09] Sure so my husband loves to rock climb and I don't. I love to be outdoors and I love to camp and I love to hike but I don't care to be strung up on a rope on the side of a rock face and and so you know he often wants to go out with the guys and go climbing and this has been difficult at times. I'm not going to lie because I'm like look you only have two days off this month. You know as a surgery resident and you want to spend one of them rock climbing that's like 50 percent of our time. Right. And so that's difficult. And so there have been times when my husband has just said you know I'm not going to go rock climbing it's not right. Right now I need to be home with you and the kids. And there's been other times where he said I am going to go rock climbing because I need to. And in all fairness again this comes to giving the benefit of that he probably did need to. You know he needed that outlet and he needed to go enjoy that part of his who he is. And so again it's a choice you know how do I want to feel about that do I want to give him the benefit of the doubt that he's doing what's best for him and in turn what's best for the family. Or do I just want to get ticked off that he's gone for another day.
WCI: [00:38:24] That's really fascinating advice. I appreciate you sharing that. Now for those who are just tuning in this is Lara McElderry who does the married to doctors Podcast also blog that was recently started, Married to doctors com where she talks about issues specific to spouses and partners of physicians. And I think most of those can be applied to the spouses and partners of other high income professionals attorneys dentists veterinarians you name it.
WCI: [00:38:53] But she's been given us some great advice here about how spouses can deal with the challenges unique to a you know sometimes all consuming career. Now tell us is there other advice that you think that both spouses and married physicians ought to be aware of that they're not. What are they what are they missing. If you if you saw if you could say there's one problem out there that you run into over and over again the same mistake people are making what would that problem are those problems be?
Lara: [00:39:26] I think it's not being honest. And what I mean by being honest is if you are that stay at home mom or stay at home dad. And it's not working for you. But again if you're feeling stuck and you're not really being honest. So when your spouse is how you do it and you say oh I'm doing fine. That's you know that's not really the truth. And what can your spouse possibly do about it if you're not being honest. You know so not making yourself out to be a martyr is really important. Having those Frank and honest conversations even if they're difficult even if you don't have the answer and even if the answer is well right now you're probably going to stay this day at home parent for a while. I just feel like honesty can get you so far and that's that's true for anything. You know when you're balancing the budget where the money go you need to be honest. Honesty and everything you know your sex life you know being honest having those conversations I want more I want less. I like this. I like that. I mean it's just really important to be honest in all of your dealings with your with your partner.
WCI: [00:40:39] That's great advice. I think that will go a long way not only and it's not just a matter of not telling lies. It's a matter of bringing things up that are bothering you I think and bringing them out on the table where you can both look at it and figure out the best solution to it. Sometimes however there isn't a good solution. And particularly with a long medical training pipeline the ability to really make drastic changes can be pretty limited. It might be years before a significant change can be made. What advice do you have for someone who has found themselves in a situation where they thought they were going to want to do something for example being a stay at home mom and realize this isn't really what I want. But you know my partner's only PGY2 in a five year program and it really we don't have a great option for a change for a few years. What what options do they have and what advice do you have for that type of person.
Lara: [00:41:37] That's when you say suck it up buttercup I'm just kidding. No. Of course you need to. I think we always have choices. And the minute we say we don't have a choice is the minute that we're going to be really really frustrated. So in marriage advice a lot of times people say divorce is never an option for us. Divorce is never an option. And I disagree with that.
Lara: [00:42:02] I think divorce should always be an option because that means that you recognize that that person is choosing to be with you and you're choosing to be with them. And so I love the idea of of having your own choices and same thing. You know if you're choosing to be a stay at home mom and that makes sense for you. Back to divorce. You know people often say divorce isn't an option for us we would never consider it. Never consider it. I think the minute you say that you you just gave up your entire ability to choose. You know and that's when you feel stuck in a marriage. So choosing to love your spouse everyday choosing to be married to that person everyday. And in this day at home situation if it makes sense for you to be home for the next you know three to five years. Really recognizing that you are making that choice it's a difficult choice but it's still your choice. You know if you really really wanted to do something else you could, you know you could leave and go back to your parents house with those kiddos, you could take some type of job, you could get online and start a blog. You know everyone has choices and so I feel like it's important to always recognize that those are choices and to embrace the decisions that you've made.
WCI: [00:43:19] And it's true and we've chosen to do something We're much happier doing it. It might be the same thing somebody else is being forced to do. But just the fact that we make the choice beforehand to do it does does make it more enjoyable I think and easier to do.
Lara: [00:43:34] Oh absolutely and controlling your thoughts around it. So if you say well I'm stuck I'm stuck in this you know in this relationship I'm stuck being a stay at home mom during residency or whatever versus changing your thought to you know this makes sense for our family right now and this is what I want to be doing. And these are the reasons why I'm choosing it. I think it takes some of the drama out of the equation it makes you feel better about it.
WCI: [00:43:58] That's great. We are coming up short on time a little bit here at the end do you have any parting words for our listeners and anything else that they ought to be paying attention to?
Lara: [00:44:10] Just I think marriage and relationships and partnerships are beautiful wonderful things and I want to encourage people to nurture their relationships. I think life is gonna be hard for all of us in some way shape or form. And having a partner or someone that you love to share a life with is one of the sweetest experiences that we can have. And so I would encourage everyone to nurture their relationship and show some love to their significant other.
WCI: [00:44:39] Beautiful words and great advice thank you so much Lara McElderry from the married to doctors podcast and married to doctors Com, a new blog there. Be sure to check those out and thank you very much for being on the podcast today well.
Lara: [00:44:51] Thank you so much. This has been a fun conversation.
WCI: [00:44:55] This episode is sponsored by Adam Grossman of Mayport Wealth Management. Adam is a Boston-based advisor and works with physicians across the country. Unlike most other advisors, Adam offers straightforward flat fees for both standalone financial planning and investment management. Whatever stage you’re at in your career, Adam can help you get organized with a personalized financial plan and can help you implement it with a low-cost index fund portfolio. Adam is a Chartered Financial Analyst and received his MBA from MIT, but more importantly, you’ll benefit from Adam’s own personal experience with many of the same financial obstacles and opportunities that face physicians. To learn more, visit Adam’s website to download a free e-book especially for physicians.
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