Goals life Parenting

C is 6! (Also: a controversial link)

February 21, 2020

OMG you guys! I LOVED all of the suggestions and back-and-forth conversation in the comments of Wednesday’s post. I have taken many of them to heart and hopefully will be able to report on more streamlined mornings soon. Those of you who read this blog are an amazing community and I am very lucky to have you!

I am planning on saving that as a ‘Best of’ post (working on a minor site redesign — stay tuned) so thank you all so much for sharing your own experiences, advice, and tips.

It is Friday, and since I last wrote, I:

  • got sick and mostly better (whew)
  • prepped and recorded 3.5 podcast episodes
  • now have a 6 year old!!!!


I feel like he still looks like this:

at 10 months!!

He is active and smart and while he sometimes lives in a dream zone (CAMERON HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU TO GET DRESSED OMG), he always seems to get the job done. Happy birthday C.

We now have a 2 year old, 6 year old, and an almost 8 year old. Come early April, we’ll have all even numbers! (I always feel like December until April, it’s awkward saying the kids’ ages as someone is ‘almost XYZ’!).

I am excited for the weekend and very happy not to be sick, because we have a date night, C’s bday party, and more.

I will leave you with this post, which left kind of a gross taste in my mouth, but is perhaps fodder for discussion: this guy’s wife quit her fellowship with one year left, and he seems really proud of it.

I don’t know. Part of me is fully “to each one’s own!” and “you only get one life!”. But I also feel like this isn’t necessarily a narrative to brag about and be celebrated. ONE more year and she could have held onto a career that she could make flexible. Or — if she didn’t like her fellowship, she could have stuck with gen peds and found an interesting part time solution.

Finally, it annoys me that he “assumed” her lost salary would be $150K when according to doximity’s annual report, the average pedi gastro earns $268K. Was he trying to minimize his losses even while coming up with a high total #? Or minimize the value of her training (4 yrs med school + 3 residency + 2 fellowship)?

He writes:

“She’s involved in their lives in so many great ways! She volunteers at their school and finds great community activities for them. She teaches them reading, arts/crafts, sports, social interactions, and so much more.

Her approach to being a stay-at-home mother is the same as her approach to medicine was: total focus on being the best.

Of course, I think she’s succeeding. She’s amazing.I’m incredibly lucky to be married to such a wonderful wife and mother.

He also mentions moonlighting on “some weekend mornings” and having to delay financial independence. I also wonder about their ability to save for college (that #($&*# is $$$$$$).

I mean . . . I’m glad she is enjoying staying home. But I think one can also be a wonderful wife and mother AND a pediatric subspecialist. I hope I am one example of that. And at least the majority of research does not suggest my children will end up compromised in some fashion due to my choices.

Am I defensive? Yep, maybe a little.

But then I remember that

a) I enjoy my job (for the most part!)

b) I feel it is meaningful on many levels (and have made great strides in reducing the less meaningful parts)

c) I enjoy the act of contributing financially to our family AND we enjoy the things my salary brings (ability to afford more household help, to travel, eventually fatter 529s)

d) my kids are happy and healthy and it’s fairly likely they’re going to be okay either way

So yeah. Happy Friday!!


  • Reply Shar February 21, 2020 at 6:02 am

    I don’t understand why “She could stay and basically be a single mom for a year. Alternatively, she could stop a year short of finishing her fellowship” were the only options. He could have taken the kids for a year since he was done while she wrapped up fellowship. Doesn’t life get less crazy once you’re done with fellowship?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 21, 2020 at 6:44 am

      Or hired lots of help for one year.

  • Reply omdg February 21, 2020 at 6:55 am

    I think he’s doing some mental gymnastics in order to justify ramrodding his wife into giving up her career. Perhaps that’s a bit of hyperbole, but there are a lot of people who find hiring and paying for childcare unbearably anxiety provoking (my husband is one of them), but it is entirely possible that they got stuck in the “we have no help” “we can’t afford this” mindset. Also, I remember when my daughter was a baby I was totally overwhelmed and was unable to see that it would get better in the not so distant future. They were probably both trying to imagine her life as a single mom doctor with a bunch of kids (he’s eventually going to get deployed, so this is probably not be the only time this will happen), and freaked out. I know some anesthesia moms who do this and it is HARD. Anyway, my 2 cents.

    Now I’m going to ponder the $200,000 I just blew on my anesthesia research fellowship thankyouverymuch.

    • Reply Jennifer February 21, 2020 at 9:00 am

      My main response was that there was definitely some conflation of short-term and long-term choices. And so much not covered – is he planning on making his career in military medicine or just long enough to fulfill scholarship obligations? (Though the latter would clearly overlap with the young child years in their case.) More importantly, was his wife regretting her career choice some anyway, and was happy for a justifiable off-ramp? I have a really hard time mentally reconciling quitting altogether at that point in training instead of figuring out a short-term solution unless the person had really figured out that this was a poor career choice. And this is probably unfair of me but anytime a SAHM is described as bringing motherhood the same focus on being the best as they brought to their previous career, I can’t help but think they really need a different outlet for that drive and a little more space for their children. I hope it’s just that the husband wasn’t putting a lot of effort into those aspects of the story and all involved are happy but the way it’s presented feels a little ick.

      • Reply Ashley G February 21, 2020 at 3:35 pm

        “anytime a SAHM is described as bringing motherhood the same focus on being the best as they brought to their previous career, I can’t help but think they really need a different outlet for that drive and a little more space for their children.” <—-YES.

        I was a SAHM for less than two years. I definitely needed a different outlet and my children needed more space. I won't be making that mistake again. That part was definitely high on my ick radar as well.

  • Reply RL February 21, 2020 at 6:57 am

    The post says that the salary was assumed based on a plan to work part and not full time. And I can understand (saying this as a working mother who travels internationally frequently, and wasn’t around as much as many working moms are during my kids’ infancies) not wanting to have your baby be mostly cared for by a nanny/daycare, regardless of if baby was with mom or dad. It sounds like a tough situation, especially since Dad seems to be in some kind of military role, which I assume (wrongly?) has less flexibility.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 21, 2020 at 7:17 am

      unclear – he wrote “Imagine a pediatric gastroenterologist’s salary of $150,000.That might be a little conservative, but most of them work at academic facilities, not private practice. I’m also taking into account time off, part-time work, etc.” So yes I guess in part he is thinking part time, but I think he is also suggesting that in academics her salary could be a lot lower. Maybe he’s right but that # seemed quite low to me.

    • Reply omdg February 21, 2020 at 10:23 am

      Yes totally. I hear SO OFTEN from men at work that their wives quit because it was a good financial decision (when it wasn’t, it was just more convenient), and that this is what SHE really wants (when it’s not, she’s ambivalent about her current job and stressed out about having to hold down a full time job and do all the kid stuff because he doesn’t help). I always always always suspect there is more going on than meets the eye, and whether or not he really gave her the opportunity to have a real voice/choice in the decision making. This post rang similarly to me, and I again was left thinking, “Me thinks thou dost protest too much.”

      • Reply omdg February 21, 2020 at 10:24 am

        And apologies, this was meant as a response to jennifer, but I think I clicked the wrong reply link.

      • Reply Lesley February 21, 2020 at 11:08 am

        I really agree with your comment 100%. I think people confuse “good financial decision” to just “more convenient right now.” Also to your point that it is about what the woman wants-I think I’m in this situation. I don’t necessarily want to be a SAHM, but I’m also somewhat ambivalent about my job so I sometimes catch myself in the trap of saying “ugh, I’d love to stay home!” But when I take a deeper look at myself, that’s not the answer for me. A more fulfilling job is the answer. And I think it is for a lot of other people too.

  • Reply Laura February 21, 2020 at 7:05 am

    I found the article so grating too. I mean, a lot of us volunteer at schools, find meaningful community activities, teach the kids great things…and take on the adult responsibility of earning money to support our children too. These things are not either/or.

    • Reply Connie C February 21, 2020 at 1:03 pm

      What she said!

      Well put Laura!

  • Reply Sarah February 21, 2020 at 7:23 am

    I agree that is was his tone and assumptions versus the actual decision. Why was the only option for her to be a single mom? Did he not have the ability to be a single dad, especially since he was done with training . Perhaps being in the military was going to necessitate moving frequently and that would make her career more difficult?
    In todays world, it seems like there had to be more options than just quit.

    Also, intrigued by the math of having paid off two sets of med school loans on one resident salary….

  • Reply Physician on FIRE February 21, 2020 at 8:51 am

    Happy Birthday, C!

    And I’m glad to hear you’re getting over your illness. I’m nursing a bum foot (probably a stress fracture) after a run last weekend, but getting a little better each day. But I’ve been laid up much of the week, as well.

    I’ll apologize for the tone of the guest post getting on your nerves. You clearly were not alone. The author did respond to a number of the criticisms in the comments last night, and I hope that brings some clarity to the issue.

    I’m hoping to have an opportunity to share a followup showcasing her perspective. Based on what he has said, leaving was her choice that he fully supported.


    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 21, 2020 at 9:04 am

      Thank you, and yes I saw the comment section of your post as well! I think it was a tone issue. The story could have been told less self righteously. After all, if he made the obvious RIGHT choice, does it mean I made the wrong one? And at the expense of my children’s well being?? Ouch.

      I think you should feature me as a guest post in counterpoint on why I have chosen to stay in the workforce despite having a partner who could, if we chose, support our family well. 🙂

  • Reply K February 21, 2020 at 8:57 am

    Also have to note just from the first few lines of the article: the ONLY two choices were the woman “being a single mom” or giving up her career. Not a second’s consideration given that maybe he would give up his military career for something more stable that would allow her to keep her career, too, apparently!

    • Reply K February 21, 2020 at 9:03 am

      More thoughts now that I’ve actually RTFA:

      Whew. Did anyone else see this article (linked on TheSHUbox?): https://www.physicianonfire.com/financial-mistake/

      There’s a lot to dislike in the article, from the very first premise that the MAN giving up his career was never a consideration, nor was it possible that he would solo parent their son or that they would switch off long distance. No, the only two choices were: live separately for a year with her solo parenting, or she gives up her career. Not great, Dan.

      Also, the analysis of estimating her take-home pay and what they would have yielded had then invested 100% of it over time is obviously severely flawed. Working has its costs, which would have come out, not to mention lifestyle inflation is a thing. It’s a lot easier to think you would save 100% of your income if you don’t actually have it at your disposal. I get that it’s a thought exercise, but still.

      Also, this guy is a trip. Rather than take on childcare responsibilities so his wife can work and have a career: “I do a lot of moonlighting, partly to maintain procedural skills but partly to supplement my income. That takes me away from family some weekend mornings.” So, on one hand, he waxes on about how their cheap lifestyle allows his wife to afford to stay home. On the other hand, oops, he has to be away from home on weekend mornings so he can make more money for the family! Man earning more money = positive for family; woman giving up earning money = positive for family. Got it.

  • Reply Elizabeth February 21, 2020 at 9:43 am

    Hi! I did not have such a visceral reaction to this article. This may be partially influenced because I am a stay at home mom with an MBA, so in some ways my family made a similar choice (although, I do intend to go back and work in some capacity that uses my training, and I’m thinking that is not an option for the woman in the piece, having not finished her training?) I think so much of our interpretation of each other’s choices and situations are filtered through our own choices and situations, when those may not apply to someone else.

    Given how many questions we all having after reading this article, we seem to agree that the husband may not be a reliable narrator. I’d love to hear from the woman about how she felt at the time (a 7 month baby flags the potential for post-partum depression or anxiety, for example! BUT equally could flag a woman who didn’t know until she had her first child that she wanted to be home full time) and how she feels now. When making this decision, had she realized she no longer even wanted the career she’d spend so much time and money investing in? Was she feeling trapped by “having” to become a doctor despite realizing it wasn’t where her heart was anymore? Or was she seeing a year alone with a baby and not seeing many options? Today, does she think back wistfully about what might have been? Or does she look around and think “thank goodness for the choices I made?”

    Lastly, many have questioned the either/or choice of her being a single mother for a year/why didn’t the father offer to take the child to FL. If she was breastfeeding still (7 month old baby), and if he had military assignment in Florida (I assume those aren’t flexible on start date!)…it seems likely that yes, these were the options.

    • Reply Danielle February 21, 2020 at 10:17 am

      The many questions you have pertaining to the woman points exactly to what made me feel awkward about the article. I predict that if SHE wrote the article we’d have a much better understanding as to why she made that choice, the difficulties involved, and that it was the best decision for her. But, written by him….. We’re left wondering how she actually feels about all this.

      I know he used “we” and “us” a lot but, there was this awkward tone that made it sound like he had some ownership over what was likely the biggest decision of her life so far. Since I truly think there must have been some solutions, I really hope that she made her decision because she genuinely wanted to be a SAHM not because she felt pressured to make that choice.

      I’m also a military spouse and have a sister with kids who is one as well, so being apart for a year isn’t the end of the world. And they would’ve been able to visit each other and interact electronically whenever they liked. So, this just probably would’ve made a lot more sense coming from her.

  • Reply Cate February 21, 2020 at 11:59 am

    Wow that post was pretty gross- I can’t imagine giving up all of the time and energy that went into my medical training based on a living situation for a year… since we’ve had our kids (2 and 6 weeks old) I’ve definite thought about staying home since we could live on my husbands salary- but I can’t imagine just giving up medicine after all the training, plus I like what I do! I would have loved to read the post from her perspective.!

  • Reply Chelsea February 21, 2020 at 12:25 pm

    One thing that comes through to me – rightly or wrongly – is that the author may be struggling with his transition to parenthood. Particularly the whole thing about how he goes on and on about the importance of family time but then is gone all the time moonlighting. $250k (or even $150k) of salary makes up for A LOT of moonlighting, and he would be able to spend more time with the kid. I feel like he’s uncomfortable with his new role as a father and wants his wife (because women just magically know how to be parents…) to be home, which will make it all okay so he doesn’t have to feel bad about wanting a demanding career that may may take him away (deployment). And then he’ll show back up after he “early retires”.

    I agree with everyone else who said there must be more going on. I’d imagine that, as a rule, people don’t make it to the last year of a specialty fellowship by making bad, rash decisions.

    Also, Sarah, I think it’s awesome that you want to be profiled as a counterpoint!

  • Reply Natalie February 21, 2020 at 1:45 pm

    I’m a military spouse (husband is in the Army), mom to two kids, and an epidemiologist working full time. The article grated on me as well, it just struck me as very “holier-than-thou” and presented a very extreme reaction to one year of inconvenience/hardship. To throw away years of training, earning potential, job security, and the ability to engage in meaningful work because of the possibility of living apart for ONE year is so foreign to me. It especially seems strange for a military family, who has to understand that eventually they will need to be separated for a deployment. There is something else going on behind the scenes that the author chose not to share: whether it was dissatisfaction with her career choice, PPD, martial stress, etc.

    The reason why I love this blog and Laura’s is that they present the reality that it is possible to be a wonderful, engaged, and thoughtful mother and wife while also working and contributing to society. So thank you both for putting your thoughts out there and encouraging the rest of us!!

    • Reply Laura February 21, 2020 at 5:19 pm

      Thank you Natalie!

  • Reply Jenny February 21, 2020 at 2:08 pm

    That article left a very sour taste in my mouth. I’m not a physician, but am married to one, and know tons of dual-MD couples who have made a variety of arrangements between fellowships and jobs work out without one person quitting their profession. As many of the other posters have commented, there are lots of other solutions to a very short term problem.

    My other issue is that there is a lot that goes into training a physician, in particular the extent to which medical education and graduate medical education are subsidized by the government. Funds for GME salaries are paid for through Medicare and the loans med students get are Title IV. I know they paid back their loans (although if he is military, they probably paid most of them and his posting is likely his service to repay that) but there is a tremendous investment in developing a physician at a time when we are currently facing a drastic shortage of all physicians, especially primary care. Everyone has choices and can decide what they want to do, but becoming a physician is hopefully more than “just” a job that you can quit before you even start to practice.

  • Reply Mckenzie February 21, 2020 at 2:27 pm

    I thought the whole post was very discouraging. I especially hated all the junk on being a “successful mom.” Why does motherhood have to be something you succeed at, instead of being about cultivating a relationship with your kids? Blargh.

  • Reply Brooke February 21, 2020 at 2:33 pm

    Am I the only one left wondering why they choose to have a kid when they did or why she choose to pursue a fellowship vs general peds, given that they knew he’d have military orders and she had schooling left to finish? This was a very foreseeable choice they’d have to make. Honestly, to each their own – I think the point of the article was that the financial decisions they made earlier in their life allowed them the freedom to make this one. Military life is hard for everyone involved. Even if she’d finished school, it may have been difficult to have the family/work life balance she desired when factoring in deployments. To them I simply say – Thank you for your service to our country!

  • Reply Ann February 21, 2020 at 3:19 pm

    I read that post yesterday and felt similarly icky. At the very least, it should have been told from the woman’s point of view. There’s too much missing for any of us to get a real sense of the actual situation. But no matter how many times the writer says it was her decision, I can’t stop myself from thinking “yeah, right”.

    I’m not a doctor but also a female high earner in a different profession and over the past year, I’ve delved more into the personal finance world (I found POF via your site several months ago). Most voices are male so I love that you are willing to give your perspective!

  • Reply Katie February 21, 2020 at 8:04 pm

    He does say in the comments of the article about 55 times that it was “primarily” her decision, although to others points, the tone of the article gives off such a 1950’s kind of vibe, it’s hard not to shudder. I can’t imagine stopping 2 years into fellowship, or even now as an attending to stay home, but ultimately if it worked for them and it truly was her decision, that’s great. Being a SAHM is definitely a harder job than being a physician!

  • Reply Mandy February 21, 2020 at 9:21 pm

    I don’t really take issue with his comment about volunteering and being involved in schools, I think it’s understood that sahms are generally more involved in kids schools and day to day minutia because they have the time and generally can’t afford the nanny / babysitter help.

    I think kids that grow up with loving parents, sahm or working, turn out equally fine but as a parent, the question should be is my career satisfying enough or the money / whatever else that it provides satisfying enough that the time away from the kids is worth it. There’s no doubt that sahm parents have more quanity of time with kids. I know we preach quality over quanity but if you only have one hour with kids in morning and one hour in evening, it’s hard to force the quality when you’re rushing through the get out door in am routine or dinner / bath / bed routine. I think more quanity sometimes makes it easier to have quality time as well.

    If working makes one happy that’s great, if sahm makes one happy, that’s great too but just like sahms sacrifice their earning ability etc. working moms have less time with their kids. I think we just need to accept and be okay with that. The more kids you have, the more this is pronounced. There’s limited time to begin with and you’re spreading it between your kids.

    I’m sure I’m going to get eaten alive with this comment, but I just hate so much how being a sahm doesn’t feel like a valuable choice and we say working moms do everything sahms do. For the record, I work full time but just clearly know what I’m getting and giving up with my choice.

    • Reply Elizabeth February 22, 2020 at 12:17 pm

      I appreciate your comment very much, Mandy! And I agree: every decision in life comes with tradeoffs. The point is for each person, couple, and family to make the best decisions FOR THEM. Their choices don’t mean that someone else who has made a different choice has therefore chosen wrong. To judge someone else’s choice based on what I, as a unique individual, would have done in that position is to presume that everyone shares my opinion, values, desires, goals, dreams, etc. (Part of) the point of feminism was to allow women the opportunity to choose to work if they wanted—or choose to stay home with their children, if they wanted (and if as a unit their family could afford to go to one income).

      To assume that a woman who stays home full time either has been forced by her husband/partner to quit work or has made a short-sighted decision is just as paternalistic as it is to assume that a woman cannot both work and be a great mom. I don’t believe the latter, and hope most agree. It would be great if people didn’t believe the former as well.

    • Reply Kathryn K. February 23, 2020 at 10:29 am

      Thank you for your comment, Mandy. As someone who has chosen to dial their career down, albeit with keeping a toehold in, I find the lack of honest acknowledgement of the trade-offs that working moms make not helpful in these discussions. For example, every time Sarah calls where G goes in the morning “school” – no, a <2 year old child isn't going to school, they're going to daycare and that's fine.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 23, 2020 at 12:03 pm

        We have a full time nanny, and though we have shifted her hours slightly, I do not need day care for G. I do think of her Montessori toddler experience (whether it’s school or just a structured social experience) beneficial to her development. Many of the parents at her school are SAH. We did debate whether to wait until next year but ultimately chose to send her for the stimulation and social experience. She turned 2 in Dec. and she does seem to love her school!

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 23, 2020 at 12:15 pm

        That said, I do agree there are trade offs, mostly within the mother’s experience. I don’t think I would have enjoyed being home full time when the kids were babies but I know there are many women that do want that experience and feel sad being at work.

  • Reply Jess February 22, 2020 at 12:03 am

    I haven’t read the article, but I think having a military spouse on BOBW would be helpful. My husband is an army reservist and deployed 3 times before our oldest turned 10. I don’t know if the article told the whole story, but IME, the military doesn’t actually care what family obligations you have. I would love to see how a working spouse made the many moves, deployments, and honestly, the complete lack of work/family balance the military has work for their family.

    For me, I worked until our third child was born, then stayed home until our 4th went to school. I don’t regret the decision at all, but I will say I didn’t feel like our life circumstances would have allowed a different choice. Maybe a guest would have some ideas for others in the same situation.

    • Reply Krista February 22, 2020 at 10:23 pm

      Yes! The military spouse experience is very different. Even which branch of the military you are affiliated with can make a difference in terms of how one weighs the costs/benefits of both spouses working. For example, my husband is Army but we live in a primarily Navy town. I know Navy couples who have done their entire careers in one location. That makes it a lot easier to establish a career and build up the support network necessary to keep it going when the servicemember is not available.

      A lot has changed for the better for spouses hoping to maintain a career in the 11 years since I decided to leave my legal career and stay home, but is is a lot different than in the regular civilian world, especially if your profession requires state licensure.

      Deployments, training, a culture of “if we wanted you to have a family you’d have been isssued one” that can be a factor all make the military experience unique.

  • Reply C February 22, 2020 at 5:43 am

    I wish she had considered part-time work after her fellowship. I’m currently dialed down to 55%, and it is allowing me so much time with my kids while still keeping my paycheck and my resume up-to-date. The plan is that I will dial back up in a couple of years once our kids are in preschool more days. (Kids are currently 4, 2, and almost 1, and I just wanted more days to savor the long weekends, lazy mornings, and endless magnatiles with them, so dialed down after my most recent baby; I’m sure such an extreme dial down would give Laura pause, but I’m loving it!)

    These kid-intensive years are so short in the grand scheme of things. It makes me sad to think she’s throwing away a career for such a short pain period.

  • Reply Canuck February 22, 2020 at 10:26 am

    One of the author’s comments from that article: “For us, we determine a long time ago that, no matter what, we would just never get divorced.”
    Aside from all the smart things said above as to why this article was so grating, that one sticks out – the hubris you have to have to think you can predict 30+ years in the future!

  • Reply Victoria B. February 23, 2020 at 1:58 pm

    For whatever reason, articles by FIRE evangelists seem to really be polarizing in just about all communities.

    Unsurprisingly, the pitchforks really came out here.

    I suppose it’s because the Shubox has a greater proportion of working mothers as readers, who will absolutely take umbrage with this man’s position and rationale for his physician wife to leave the workforce to be a stay at home mom.

    The bigger question here is why someone else’s choices about their family makes one feel the need to dig in and defend their own contrary position? If you’re truly happy with the decisions you’ve made for your life and family, you wouldn’t need to tear someone else’s decision to shreds to show how great your doing.

    The quote “Me thinks thou dost protest too much.”definitely applies here, but not necessarily to the article author.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger February 23, 2020 at 3:31 pm

      I can see what you are saying. But not every article about choosing to stay home hit me the way the FIRE one did. I did craft a response which will hopefully be published and maybe that will express my thoughts better.

      More power to anyone who chooses to stay home if that is the experience they want in life. We actually even considered this as a temporary arrangement (at one point a few years ago considering a temporary move abroad). But it was a choice based on job availability and what I wanted to do (take a break and try to write) and not what was “best”, which was how I felt this article was written … as if it was so much better for the children and family to have a mother home that it was worth $13M.

  • Reply Brent February 23, 2020 at 7:01 pm

    Thank you all for taking the time to post your thoughts about the article I wrote that got published on Physician on Fire. I can see it has generated quite a bit of controversy, and I can understand how the nature of the conversation regarding working vs. choosing not to work can touch everyone deeply. It was certainly that way for us when my wife decided she wanted to quit working.

    Frankly, it was a surprise to me that she wanted to quit working, as she had worked hard to get where she was, but it was definitely her decision, with no bullying, guilting, or shaming from me. I’ve asked many times since then if she wanted to go back to work and I have been prepared to support that, but she continues to choose the stay-at-home path.

    As I mentioned in the article several times, it’s not for me to make that decision for anyone else, and everyone needs to make the decision for themselves and their own families. I didn’t even make the decision for my wife. She made the decision, and I supported her. It was very important to me that she be the one to make the decision and that her decision be free of guilt, burden, or shame.

    It’s also important to me that no one else feel guilt or shame for the choice they make in terms of working vs staying home. As I said, everyone needs to decide for themselves. I have many friends who have two spouses who work. I have many friends who have one spouse who stays at home. In some cases, it’s the husband who stays at home and in some cases it’s the wife. In either case, I would never presume to suggest that either pathway is wrong or bad. If you know that you’ll be happier with two spouses working and that’s the right choice for your family, who are any of us to judge you? More power to you, I say! Same goes for families with a stay-at-home spouse. For that matter, same goes for families that have achieved FIRE and both spouses are now no longer working full-time. There are lots of ways for a family to function, and it’s not up to any of us to judge or criticize you for your choices.

    The main point of the article was to highlight the fact that being debt-free at the time of the decision gave her the freedom to be able to choose to stay home, knowing that we could afford to take the financial hit of losing her income stream. I wasn’t so much intending to highlight the differences between working and staying at home as I was hoping to point out that being debt-free gives you choices. I hoped it would inspire people who feel trapped by debt and need some encouragement that there’s hope. I certainly didn’t want anyone to feel they were somehow inferior for deciding differently from us. Like I said, no one should tell you how to run your family! You’ve got to do what’s best for you, and I support that!

    Due to the comments that have been generated, my wife has offered to write a follow up post from her perspective. I hope that will help clarify some of the questions that have been raised in the comments here and at the Physician on Fire site. I’ll be happy to pass the link on to Dr. Hart-Unger when it’s live. Also, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me directly at editor@TheScopeOfPractice.com or read more at http://www.TheScopeOfPractice.com. I enjoy friendly, frank, and productive dialogue.

    All the best!


    • Reply Teresa February 24, 2020 at 6:59 pm

      The confusion with the article is with the way the choices for the mother were articulated as well as the calculation for the salary that was given up. One could hope that is not how the discussion went prior to the decision being made and the $13M is only a piece of the financial calculation.

      • Reply Brent February 24, 2020 at 8:11 pm

        Great questions! The financial consideration was a small part of the decision. Essentially, knowing that we were debt-free and could live on one income stream gave us the comfort of knowing my wife could make either decision and still have us maintain financial security. Ultimately, she decided that a full-time career just wasn’t what she wanted, and I was supportive, just as I had been supportive of her career to that point and will remain supportive should she choose to go back to work in the future.

  • Reply Angie February 23, 2020 at 9:24 pm

    Interesting article. My cousin is an orthopedic surgeon and his wife is an ER doctor. She went through the military to get her medical degree and she got called to go to Germany while they had a 1 year old and he was finishing up his rotation. Neither quit their positions. Her parents helped out big time, keeping her often since he had to be at the hospital very early to prep for surgery and my aunt came whenever she could on weekends. I know it was tough time for them but they did it. It’s been 7 years since they went through that she is now staying home since their 4th child is in the way. She was part time for a bit and then finally quit with the upcoming birth of their 4th child. I can’t imagine quitting after all the work and stuff of being a doctor but that’s between them!

  • Reply Jennifer February 24, 2020 at 10:53 am

    The linked post definitely pushed some buttons for me as well. I’ve been following the FIRE movement more and more of late and decided yesterday that I need to cut back on that. It was making me feel very inadequate – that I was “foolish” enough to pursue a career (in the arts) that required me to be present to be compensated and therefore that I needed to work to earn money and help support my family. Why wasn’t I focused on passive income that would allow me to quickly pay off debt and become a millionaire who didn’t have to work like all of these other folks? Silly me! Then I read Ada Calhoun’s Why We Can’t Sleep and it made me feel I am not alone (the book isn’t about the FIRE movement, but about the challenges of being a Gen X woman hitting midlife). The FIRE movement is interesting and has benefited many people, but is not for me – and that is ok. I think I will always have some guilt/reservations about being a working mother (in an inflexible job) but I also think I would have some guilt/reservations no matter what path I chose in life. That is the nature of life and living your path. SHU – thanks for always being so open about your own path and choices and struggles. Love the podcast and blog!

    • Reply Brent February 24, 2020 at 11:23 am

      I definitely understand where you’re coming from. I think there are a lot of flaws with the FIRE movement, especially when taken to extremes. We chose to cut back our lifestyle aggressively in residency and fellowship to get rid of our debts, then we loosened up a bit once we became debt-free. There are a lot of ways to approach finances. I always say, personal finance is personal. Each person has to decide for themselves how to approach it. It sounds like you have found a passion to pursue that ‘s very fulfilling. Good for you! I think it’s great! All the best!

  • Reply Elisabeth February 24, 2020 at 3:14 pm

    Wow! Juggling parenthood and work continues to polarize.

    I agree with others that I think the tone of the article was off-putting, and it will be interesting to read the follow-up post from the mothers perspective. But I agree with the few others that have cautioned against automatically assuming that a woman giving up her education to become a SAHM is a bad decision; I think someone even mentioned about missing out on “contribution to society.” For millennia women primarily made their contributions to society from a position at home.

    I fall somewhere in the middle of these two camps. I have an advanced degree in Biology and could have pursued high-paid and significant academic/research positions. I’ve elected to put my broader skill-sets to work in a number of side-hustle gigs (environmental consultant, part-time university positions) while my husband works a high-paying job in international business. My children have been in part-time daycare/preschool, but I am effectively a SAHM and contribute far less financially than he does…

    That said, I wasn’t passionate about my career as a biologist, so walking away from that wasn’t a huge loss to me. BUT it was a lot of money and years invested that one could consider a waste.

    • Reply Brent February 24, 2020 at 8:14 pm

      Thank you for the balanced perspective! Yes, I agree that there are a lot of different ways for families to pursue the choice of whether to have one or both spouses working, and how to divide family responsibilities. Great discussion!

  • Reply Michelle February 24, 2020 at 4:17 pm

    I think the point the husband is missing here, is that he is not truly supportive because he didn’t consider who would take of the kids when he chose a career in the military. He just assumed his wife would figure out what to do with the kids. He never considered having to balance taking care of the kids into his career, whereas women always always are thinking about this. You can be supportive all you want when it is not your career that is affected.

    • Reply Elizabeth February 24, 2020 at 4:35 pm

      The problem with this comment is that it makes a huge assumption: “he didn’t consider who would take of the kids when he chose a career in the military.” You cannot possibly know if he did or did not consider this, unless you are his wife or close personal friend. From the article alone, we don’t even know the timing of his joining the military. It could have been as a teenager or in college; it could have been before he met his now wife, or sometime during their courtship. It could have been after he and his wife married. It could have been at her encouragement or urging, even. And at any point, he may have wrestled deeply with what that would mean for future children.

  • Reply Elizabeth February 24, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    I’ve made a few comments on this post, so it’s time for me to step back. But I’ve kept reading because I’m truly baffled as to why so many commenters here have had such a strong negative reaction to this couple’s choices. If you are unhappy with your own decisions, that is not this author’s fault; and if you are happy with your own decisions, that is great! But it doesn’t mean that everyone who has chosen differently must have chosen wrong.

    We each get one life to live. We are each doing our best to do what is best FOR US and our families at this moment with that one life. It will look different for many of us, and that’s okay! As fellow moms and women, we should be cheering each other on and lifting each other up from our varying vantage points.

    I’m looking forward to reading Sarah’s follow up post as well as the author’s wife’s post.

    • Reply Brent February 24, 2020 at 8:08 pm

      Thanks so much for assuming the best of intentions on our part and for cheering on everyone for whatever their decision is. As I mentioned several times in the article, our choice was the right one for us, but it definitely isn’t the right choice for everyone. None of us should judge each other for the choices we make for our own families. I certainly wouldn’t want to shame any of the readers of this blog for choosing either to work or to stay home. It’s up to each family to decide for themselves. My only hope with the article was to encourage people that achieving debt-freedom offers more flexibility when it comes to making choices like that. All the best!
      P.S. I’ll let Sarah know when the link to my wife’s follow-up post is live. In the meantime, please feel free to email me at brent@thescopeofpractice.com. I’d love to say thank you directly!

  • Reply cnmcpem1 March 5, 2020 at 7:52 pm

    While a little late to the party, I would like to share my thoughts. My family was in almost the identical position last year: 2 physician parent household, I in my last year of pediatric subspecialty training. My military physician husband, a year ahead of me in training, was given orders sending him across the country. I chose to stay and complete my final year of training. This left me alone with our 4 month old daughter to complete my final year of fellowship (and yes, my husband could have taken her with him but breastfeeding (by choice) and unwilling to give that up). This choice is something my husband and I question daily (hourly on the tough days). It $*%&* sucks. In every way. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer in this situation. For us (and many – I am guessing the author as well), the choice was much bigger than money (and it is a shame the article focused on that perspective) – it is about keeping your family and your support system together. Especially during the trying years of medical training and raising a family.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger March 6, 2020 at 3:22 pm

      thank you for sharing.

    • Reply Brent Lacey March 8, 2020 at 10:30 pm

      Thanks for sharing! It sounds like you guys were faced with a similarly tough situation. Like I said in the article, everyone should be able to make that choice for themselves, and I applaud you guys for making a tough call. None of us should guilt or shame someone for making a career choice that’s best for them. As for the focus of the article being on money, it did have a major focus on money but that’s because it was submitted originally to a blog that focuses on finance. It was much more than a financial decision for us, but being debt-free gave us flexibility in making the choice that we did. Be on the lookout for the follow up post (from my wife’s perspective) coming soon. All the best!

  • Reply Lori C March 7, 2020 at 9:49 pm

    My controversial comment- what does she do all day? I’m a focused driven woman who loves a challenge, and I would presume she is too given her one time interest in medicine. I can’t imagine what I would do at home. Volunteering at school is great but how much time can you really do that?

    And I don’t know, something about this guys tone rubs me the wrong way. I tried reversing the genders in my mind and imaging a woman gushing about her husband dropping out to stay home and it strikes me as almost patronizing. Maybe I’m misunderstanding his tone…

    • Reply Brent Lacey March 8, 2020 at 10:25 pm

      Thanks for reading! My wife will be posting a follow up post on Physician on Fire soon that will explain things from her perspective. Volunteering at school was just one example of things she does. She teaches Bible Study at our church, volunteers at school, sings in the choir at our church, plays in the community orchestra, and many other activities.
      Gushing about my wife is a way that I show her my love and support. I love praising her, building her up, and supporting her in her endeavors. She’s amazing and I love to talk about her in glowing terms. She sees it as loving, not patronizing.
      Be on the lookout for her follow up post. I think you’ll enjoy it. All the best!

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