Reading Travel Work

Call #1/6 & Other Sundry Things

July 6, 2022

One call last night @ 10 pm. Not a bad night!

I am trying to work on neutralizing my reaction to the tone of my paging app. There’s always a first nearly involuntary feeling of: “#(%*#$&!” because it feels like a forced interruption, either from sleep or from whatever else I’m doing. A loss of control over my time.

(Incidentally, I have the same reaction when I hear a kid up earlier than they are ‘supposed’ to be up, like G at 5:50 am yesterday!)

However, a reframe is that when I am on call, answering these texts/rings are my primary job. Instead of seeing them as interruptions, I should be grateful that I have the ability to do other things while on call (read, sleep, work out, time with family, etc). I can also be grateful that most of the time, I am not on call!

I also have to avoid letting my tendencies to #uphold (and tighten my upholding in times of stress – which is a thing) add false pressure to my call days.

As in: while it’s great to generally stick to habits that serve me, deviating from them in when I have other work to focus on is completely okay (and sometimes beneficial).

In other news, our flight home was super easy! I plowed through most of American Royals II: Majesty and have decided that all non-royal fiction reading will need to be put on hold until I am done with this series (there are 3 in the series plus a prequel).

Book 2

G played on her iPad and ate about 20 snacks. We really have reached the promise land of easier travel! I feel like I’ve been waiting for this for ~10 years. And I guess in a way I have been! Excited about future trips on the horizon.

$$$ Note: We did our ritual quarterly net worth calculation and we are down for the second quarter in a row — more this time than last time. Thanks, economy! We are not really planning on changing investment strategy, but I have wrapped my head around the idea that perhaps the market might never recover and we might have to work for a really long time. Honestly, I’m pretty okay with that. We could always eventually go part time. With no kids at home, working 20-30 hours/week would actually be a pretty cushy lifestyle.

I recognize that most people think that the market will eventually come back, but I do think it’s best to do thought experiments of what one might do if it doesn’t. While it’s slightly tempting to move to more stable investments I think the anguish of missing out if the market DOES recover would be worse than just staying the course.

Either way I guess I’m glad that I have a skill set that would remain at least somewhat valuable even in a #%*# economy. Also I’m REALLY glad we bought our house.


  • Reply Ellie July 6, 2022 at 6:40 am

    Do you have a financial advisor who helps you with retirement scenario mapping? I’ve found that really helpful. We revisit it once or twice a year and update based on real life scenarios!

  • Reply Erin July 6, 2022 at 10:19 am

    I just finished Rivals (the 3rd in American Royals), and liked it a lot more than Majesty! I’m annoyed the 4th book isn’t out yet, because there are a lot of unfinished storylines in there.

    If you are into modern day royal books, I also enjoyed The Royal We – a 2 book series (not gonna break any literary ground with these, obviously, but they were fun), AND I really liked Alyssa Cole’s “Reluctant Royals” series (those are straight romance FYI).

  • Reply Justine July 6, 2022 at 10:39 am

    The market is on sale now and I’m here for it! This could be a 2 year thing though…Do not sell your investments (unless you’re in something like unstable like crypto, single stocks, or something useless like gold). The past doesn’t predict the future but it’s always gone up eventually over the past 100 years. That’s why things like the 4% rule work even in downturns.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 6, 2022 at 11:17 am

      No single stocks, good, crypto in our portfolio – i knew I couldn’t handle that kind of potential for volatility. Whew!
      And yes – plan to just hold. And try to ignore. And continue to put money in to take advantage of the “sale” …

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns July 6, 2022 at 11:29 am

    I agree with Ellie about working with a financial advisor for forecasts for retiring. We met with one in the summer of 2020 to get an idea of how long we both need to work. Neither of us necessarily WANTS to stop working but it’s highly likely that one or both of us will lose our jobs since we work in a volatile industry. It was helpful to see the monte carlo analysis which looks at countless different scenarios and tells you the likelihood that you will outlive your earnings based on different assumptions about market returns, retirement age, etc. I wrote about it here ( My husband and I are both CFA charterholders so don’t really need help on how to invest – we met w/ the FA entirely for scenario analysis. And it gave us a lot of comfort. It was free for me since we have an advisory area at my company, but I would have paid for the analysis. He also took tax issues into account and told us to start investing more in brokerage since most of our assets are in tax-advantaged accounts like 401k/IRA/etc.

    The market is down considerably, but I am excited to be able to invest at a way more attractive entry point. So we have done some investing in certain areas of fixed income and added money to the kids 529 plans. We have such a long horizon for our investments, so I am not terribly upset by the YTD decline since we won’t tap into our retirement accounts for a long time!

    Anyways, I went off on a tangent there, but it’s what I do for a living. 🙂 Your description of call reminds me of what sleep has been like for us for the last 3-4 months. One or both kids were up at 5:30 or earlier for the last several months. Usually it’s the toddler and then he wakes the 4yo. It’s unpredictable and out of my control and we would go to bed with a bit of a sense of dread over how early we’d have to start our day. It’s been better the last 2 days as we took our ped’s advice to leave the toddler in his crib until 6. But he would still wake the 4yo up. Hopefully better sleep is ahead for us. But at least I’m not answering questions about someone’s health when I’m woken up at odd times or too early.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 6, 2022 at 7:08 pm

      love these ideas!
      Annabel’s 529 only has 8 years to recover – isn’t that a scary thought!?!?!?

  • Reply A. July 6, 2022 at 11:48 am

    I think bloggers like to know what their readers think about the content and I would like to share things that make me uncomfortable. And even if I appreciate some conversations and I read here since forever, being uncomfortable too often doesn’t make a relevent reading. 1. all those words on the calls and how you dread them : people around the world would kill for a job like yours, the ability to be able to study and succeed in such studies and the salary omg 100% justified being called in the middle of the night, so it is a bit weird to hear complains all the time about it. 2. Talking about more trips/travels in the future with a climate crisis and a pandemic scientifically linked to this climate crisis… from a doctor, that is a lot to swallow. I will not read your blog anymore for these 2 reasons. Too much privileges and not enough recognition of them, and towards the readers who have less of them or none. Hope I kept it polite and constructive.

    • Reply S July 6, 2022 at 12:08 pm

      I enjoy the majority of the content on the blog but I have to agree with one of the points the above made above. There is just so much complaining. Sometimes it comes across as very whiny. I understand that it is my decision whether to continue to read the blog and like I said I enjoy most of the content. But the constant complaining definitely detracts from an otherwise very informative, interesting blog.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 6, 2022 at 12:58 pm

        I guess I don’t see what in this post is complaining? I fully acknowledge that I struggle with this aspect of my job (and I acknowledge it’s just part of the job!) and am positively reframing it and working to improve. Our net worth fell and I was like “oh well, can always work longer”. I just got back from a fun trip and honestly have been very happy lately aside from current events being sad.

        You totally have the right to feel this way but I guess I’m curious what in this post (or recently in general) came off as a complaint? Just so I can better understand the feedback.

      • Reply AP July 6, 2022 at 1:53 pm

        I enjoy the honesty and find it relatable!! I’m a lawyer – overnight deals are (understandably, I think) not the best part of my job, especially now that I’m older and have a family. I would definitely talk about this if I had a blog and like reading about how other people handle similar things with their jobs.

        Anyway, Sarah, I for one have opposite feelings about this post (including the travel part) than these two commenters.

    • Reply Alyce July 6, 2022 at 2:03 pm

      I think this is such an odd complaint, as if this is a revenue generating professional blog where the content is being created expressly for readers’ consumption rather than a personal blog where Sarah blogs simply about what’s going on in her life. Everyone I know has something about their jobs they could complain about. It’s unreasonable to think Sarah can’t complaint about her job just because she’s a doctor who makes a lot of money. It’s likewise not reasonable to think that her personal decisions regarding travel have to line up with yours. What is reasonable, of course, is for you to decide you don’t like her personal blog for whatever reason and decide you want to stop reading it.

      • Reply Lori C July 7, 2022 at 8:47 am

        well said.

    • Reply V July 6, 2022 at 2:52 pm

      This is not to diminish A.’s general feelings and thoughts relating to SHU’s blog, as she communicated them in a fairly respectful manner, and that is sadly lacking in today’s society.

      However, I want to express appreciation for SHU sharing the details, hopes and frustrations of her family and work life. Her readers undoubtedly come from different socio-economic backgrounds and education levels. But there is great value in reading about how she structures and builds systems to support family and work life. I have yet to encounter someone who has never had work struggles or travel struggles or family struggles.

      I have never commented on her blog (or any other blog) before, even though I’ve been a reader for years. But the readers who do enjoy her blog would be worse off if she felt inhibited and disinclined to share the good and the bad circumstances in her life. Personally I find it very beneficial to see how she addresses ALL the circumstances in her life, regardless of whether they are directly relatable to me or any other reader. I learn an incredible amount from you Sarah, and appreciate the time and energy it takes to maintain your blog and share your life.

      • Reply Sarah July 7, 2022 at 7:18 pm

        I completely agree. Sarah, I feel like you do an excellent job acknowledge your privilege and and being honest about how tough your job is.

    • Reply KS MD July 7, 2022 at 8:57 pm

      I can’t imagine that anyone who has actually had to take call or work overnight (and then wake up and work all day too) would criticize a less-than-enthusiastic attitude about call…. it is really hard, even if the rest of the job/life is pretty great. Appreciate you keeping it real here, Sarah! You’ve always been very honest, open, and acknowledging of your “privilege”. I am a physician and a mom, and will keep reading! Thanks for keeping it real.

  • Reply Amy July 6, 2022 at 12:18 pm

    It sounds like your stoicism reading is paying off! Think of call weeks like one long stoic challenge. You have sounded a lot more centered and balanced over the last few calls that you’ve had than you used to.

  • Reply Grateful Kae July 6, 2022 at 12:40 pm

    I really like your re-frame idea. That makes total sense, and you’re right- call IS part of your job, like it or not! So when you’re on call, you are “working”. Any downtime is a bonus.

    I can see how you might get in the habit of viewing call as “extra” work, or the calls as interruptions, but really it’s just work that comes with the territory of your role. Someone’s got to do it! 😉 And, you are getting paid for it…. So maybe just expecting that you will get called could help, too. When a call comes in, maybe just thinking, “yep, I’m the one on call today, so, yep, they’re gonna call me when a patient needs something!” Speaking as a nurse, also remember the nurse is wishing he or she didn’t need to call you, either! And they also probably kinda wish they were not working in the hospital at midnight….lol… Remembering all of that could really help take the annoyance factor out of it. I think everyone has some parts of their job that they don’t like as much as others. I hope the rest of your call week is equally light and easy!

    And yay for easier travel!!! It really does get better quickly…the worst years are really just like, 0-4. Not so many, in the grand scheme of things…well, I guess we only have 2 kids, so that helps. I suppose the more kids one has, the longer the difficult stage(s) last. Ha!

  • Reply omdg July 6, 2022 at 1:59 pm

    I just had a stretch of really difficult overnight calls in a row, with zero sleep during two of them, and reduced / bad sleep during another, and it was hard! I also had a baaaaddd case of the pre-call scaries this last one. But, this is my life. What has helped:

    1) Acknowledging to my family that I am in a really bad mood because of call-dread, and trying to find some activity that effectively distracts me from it.
    2) Delegating as much as possible to my husband post-call.
    3) Lowering expectations for… everything. Research productivity, exercise, “being present,” in the call and post-call periods.
    4) Understanding that I WILL need time to rest and recover, and permitting myself to sleep “late” (til 7ish) for a couple of days post-call.
    5) Reminding myself that call is when I get to really know the residents and fellows, get to run the board myself-ish, and get to handle emergencies in collaboration with surgeons, which I largely enjoy. I especially enjoy when I can make a time-sensitive case happen for a patient, which can help them get an expedient diagnosis, the correct treatment, etc.
    6) I have always liked working in the hospital during off-hours.

    Maybe some of those things can help you too? I still don’t like staying up all night, but it does come with the territory of my job, and will for the forseeable.

  • Reply coco July 6, 2022 at 4:43 pm

    my husband keeps telling me the US is heading to a recession, hinting we should stop putting money to the market (passive retirement account). he’s an economist just as I am, so I totally ignore him and roll my eyes. I’m an economist and I am almost sure the market will recover because they always do. I am not even tiny bit of worried… if anything, I’d put more into it once I feel like we will recover soon or we’ve bottomed.
    great re-framing of the attitude. really? it’s a privilege to help others.

  • Reply Amanda July 6, 2022 at 6:56 pm

    Appreciate your comments about call. I have less call than you do & agree it’s all about the mindset. I think I learned that from you in a previous post. It is tough and I admire you for staying positive.

  • Reply Katie July 6, 2022 at 7:45 pm

    Just wanted to say I have the exact same reaction every time I get paged on call!! Definitely hasn’t gotten better over the years. Solidarity sister 🙂

  • Reply Kathleen July 6, 2022 at 11:52 pm

    Now I am curious-is it standard to have 7 days on call? What would be the downside of splitting the week between 2 people on a 4 day/3 day split so each would have weekend and weekday calls.

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 7, 2022 at 5:38 am

      Many services do this but my colleagues prefer less frequent/longer call. The benefit is fewer handoffs and longer stretches not on call. Which is admittedly nice!

  • Reply Tamara July 7, 2022 at 6:35 am

    Just here to chime in and share that just because something is your job doesn’t mean that you won’t have complaints and it is totally normal to feel the way you feel. I own a bakery/ restaurant and on the days when I have a billion things to get done so I can get home after being on my feet for 8+ hours, when a customer walks through the door (to buy things during our normal opening hours), my reaction sometimes (inside) is this visceral angry “can’t you see that I obviously want to go home?!?!” and like they are invading my “space”. When I am not in that moment, I know that is ridiculous, but in the moment it feels very real. I imagine you feel similarly when calls come in and you are doing something else. I LOVE my job and my business and wouldn’t change it for anything, but I get it.

  • Reply Kelsey July 7, 2022 at 8:03 am

    I really appreciate your honest about your job, and also like your reframing perspective for your call weeks!

    I can’t remember now, and since you said you’d need to keep working for a long time, do you and Josh hope to retire early and if so what age are/were you thinking? Or maybe you meant that you don’t think the market will recover in the next 15-20 years. It does feel like we are heading for recession and that feels worrisome although I remain optimistic that the market will roar back well before then, as it has done historically. But the uncertainty is unsettling and combined with world events…I can understand the pessimism.

    Yay to easier family travel! After two good flights with Maeve recently I am hopeful for longer flights in the next few years. What’s funny is that while the boys are easy to fly with (i.e. screens) it’s their attitudes and not wanting to do things once we get places that is now making them more challenging to travel with. In some ways the toddler is easier right now – go figure!

  • Reply AW July 7, 2022 at 9:50 am

    I don’t typically comment, but wanted to second (third? eighth?) that I love how honest SHU is. I think it would be way more boring to have someone talk about sunshine and rainbows all the time. I have no interest in being a doctor, but even if I envy the income, it’s helpful to understand the downsides too. Plus, what person who has had a baby CAN’T relate to the dread of knowing that child could wake up at any minute, and therefore you’re back on duty? It’s not exactly the same, but it’s relatable. Being a human is relatable.

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