By: Thomas W. Brickey, MD, and Marycate Brickey, MS, MBA. Dr. Brickey is a hospitalist at Colorado Permanente Medical Group, and Mrs. Brickey’s career has been in communications and marketing, most recently in upper administration at a university. They have been married for a year and a half and live in a suburb of Denver with their young son.
The themes that emerged from the study by Lypson and her colleagues resonate with our experience.
Tom is a hospitalist, and Marycate is a stay-at-home mom. Prior to the birth of our child, Marycate worked fulltime. Both of us had the opportunity to focus on our careers for many years before we met and married, which permitted us to achieve much professionally and put us in a stable position to start a family. That achievement, however, hasn’t removed the stress of a physician’s work or schedule. Increasing patient loads, sporadic schedules, and shifts among three hospitals is taxing.
Every relationship needs to have mutual support to survive and thrive. In our case, mutual support is very present and important to nurturing our relationship. We also recognize the importance of our different roles in our family. Tom works hard to provide for us. He’s also providing for his patients and ensuring their wellbeing. His days are very busy and intense. Sometimes he works overnight; sometimes he works a ten-hour shift seven days in a row. In addition to each week being different from the previous week, he has to work during the holidays and his access to vacation time is becoming more difficult due to volume and other demands from an overtaxed health care system. We do, however, enjoy time together when he has several unscheduled days off in a row without tapping into vacation time.
For Marycate, the shift from career to stay-at-home parent has been an adjustment. However, we each acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of the other, what it requires of us, and how it adds to the life we want and are creating together. We share our daily experiences with one another and support each other.
Our shared values enable our relationship to be successful. We both wanted a family, and our family is a priority. Tom is a hands-on dad when he is home and enjoys spending time with our son. We also have a great sense of gratitude for the life that we have. We have worked hard, but we realize we have been fortunate to have had such opportunities.
Marycate appreciates Tom’s medical expertise, especially now that we have a family. Because of his profession, we are financially secure, we have great health benefits, and we live a comfortable life. We’re saving for retirement and our children’s college educations. We travel and enjoy many leisure activities.
Tom is good about seeking balance on his days off, and Marycate supports his need to decompress from a hectic day and schedule. He, too, recognizes Marycate’s effort in maintaining our home life. We give each other a “day out” to hike, ski, get a massage, or go out with friends on our own, as well as take time to be together.
We recognize the perks that come with his profession, but like anything, there are also challenges. We approach everything as a partnership and remember that taking care of each other as we make our life together is what is most important.