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The Truth About Being a Doctor's Wife

Hi there. I'm a doctor's wife. but guess what? It ain't what you think it is. I'm not complaining, but I repeat: It ain't what you think it is.

When I was a student at UCLA, my mom would always tease me and say, "Go hang out at the medical building and see if there are any cute doctors to date (and later marry)." My creative, musical theater, Communications major personality would promptly fire back: "Doctors are boring. I don't want to marry a doctor." And then we'd both laugh.

About 10 years later, I ended up meeting a cute surgeon. Keep in mind, the thing that got my attention was not that he was at the top of the medical profession, but rather that he was once a behind-the-scenes consultant for ABC's hit show "Grey's Anatomy." Now that was interesting to me. Hey! This guy's fun and exciting and loves TV and entertainment just like me! So we got married a few years later.

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Now, when I meet people and tell them that my husband is a plastic surgeon, I see the mixed looks of fascination, curiosity and instant sizing-up of me in their eyes. They covertly look me up and down (maybe a little disappointed when they glimpse my less than $80 shoes). They glance at my wedding ring. They ask me how often I get free Botox (let's just say I've tried it less than the amount of fingers you can count on one hand). Because doctor's wives have the cushiest, easiest, most carefree life.

Allow me to set things straight about being married to a doctor:

1. No, we're not rich

I suppose some doctors are rich, but we are not at this house. (We are comfortable, but nowhere near the financial fantasy of what you may imagine in your head.) Just like everyone else, we worry about maintaining mortgages, rising costs and taxes of all kinds, how the hell we're going to pay for our back-to-back babies to go to college (at pretty much the exact same time), retirement plans and on and on. Oh yes, and there's also that thing about doctors' expenses when it comes to overhead costs, insurance, those medical school loans that I don't ever think will disappear and I don't even know what else. And don't forget about the mess of health insurance that our country deals with. Anyone in medicine is lucky if he/she gets paid in any kind of timely matter when billing insurance is involved. Sometimes, you might not get paid at all. My husband is successful, and I am so proud of him, but ain't nobody rollin' in dough at this house.

2. Most everything is on me

A doctor's schedule, physical and mental health and the ability to prepare before a big surgery the next day all tally as more important than everything else.

Kids' activities, housework (cooking, cleaning, picking up shoes, putting kids to bed ... you know all the never-ending details, so I don't need to elaborate) and just doing life is on me. Sure, I have a housekeeper that comes once every other week and a sitter that comes once a week for eight hours a day (so I can work part-time and write pieces like this), but a doctor's schedule, physical and mental health and the ability to prepare before a big surgery the next day all tally as more important than everything else.

If I ask my doctor husband for extra backup involving the kids or my schedule, he always responds and steps up (thanks, babe), but the reality is that he often needs more support than I do. By default, he is the priority. Doctors' wives pick up the slack. Doctors' wives keep things running. Doctors' responsibilities come first (no matter what commitment I might have happening in my professional life or friendships), mostly because their job truly sometimes is a matter of life and death. So then why don't we hire more household help, you ask? Because it gets expensive!

3. Fun family time comes few and far between

If I had a dollar for the number of times we've had to decline an invitation, cancel on a friend's party last minute or just plain refrain from making plans at all due to my husband's schedule for being on-call, tending to a patient that might be having trouble recovering from a major operation or simply needing to stay home and lay on the couch because he's exhausted ... I'd be rich! (Back again to my first point, I guess.)

Taking vacations are not a priority at our house, since a doctor in private practice these days must pound the pavement and be present (in person, online and in the operating room) whenever and wherever the patients dictate. Our last vacation as a family was one night at Disneyland's Grand Californian Hotel last summer, and our last vacation as a couple was my cousin's wedding for two days in August. But we take advantage of family time as we're able, no matter how much or how little is available to us.

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All this said, I'm thankful and happy every single day for meeting and marrying the accomplished guy I did. As for being a doctor's wife, it really isn't quite as glamorous as you might think it to be. But then again, nothing in life ever is.

Photograph by: Jill Simonian

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