Quitting Work to Homeschool

wpid-IMAG1859-1-1.jpgLet me just say, if I did not have children, I would not have stopped working as a physician.  I loved working as a medical doctor.  The challenge of acquiring mass loads of information.  Applying the information to patients.  Recognizing patients as individuals and trying to get through to them in a way they could understand.  And accept.  Looking at a chart with loads of data and sorting it into a problem list.  Figuring out how to address each problem to correct it.  Realizing fixing one problem may not be the answer–but make things worse.

On top of this, throw in phones and pagers that make you aware of codes (crashing patients).  Lets the emergency department call you for admissions.  Lets nurses call you about lab values or new changes in your patients.  Lets pharmacists call you about drug interactions or non-formulary drug choices.  Lets other doctors call you to discuss admitting or consulting on their patients.  Throw in new-computer charting that must be learned and navigated.  Occasional meetings.  New governmental regulations.  And it’s just one of the most challenging and fulfilling jobs around.

But I chose to have kids.  Three in fact.  Four if you count a miscarriage.  First kid–kept working full-time.  Second kid–cut back to three days per week.  Third kid–two days per week or less.  I had the perfect job and coworkers.  Loved the work.  Loved the flexible schedule.  Was still able to squeeze homeschooling in, although barely.  My loving in-laws traveled from Charleston, SC to Sumter, SC to watch the girls for us when I worked.  But it got tougher and tougher to manage the household, marriage, kids, homeschooling, and life in general.  Life was getting hectic.  Not so much fun.

I knew I had to make a choice.  For me, there really is no choice but my family.  I chose them.  I created them.  Without me, they would not exist.  My parents gave up everything for me.  Made me know I was numero uno.  That’s what I want for my girls.  A healthy life.  Healthy emotions.  Healthy spirits.  Healthy psychology.  I intend to do everything in my power to build them into strong, healthy women who are discerning towards themselves and others.  With strong ethics and principles.  That doesn’t come from an absent mother and father.  A mother and father driven to perfect their careers, their giving to others–but not giving to their own dearest families.  I may fail in my endeavors, but I could never, ever live with myself if I didn’t give of my best to them.  If I didn’t go down trying to give them what I think they need to achieve inner peace, love, and happiness.

Luckily for us, my husband is an orthopedic surgeon.  Our bills get paid.  Would I make the same decision to stay home and homeschool my kids if finances were an issue?  My emergency medicine doctor friend asks me this repeatedly.  Her husband is a chemist and work isn’t so easy to find for him.  The salary not so great.  She has moved from part-time to full-time.  Moved from homeschooling her children to moving them to private schools.  Listening to her life makes me cower in a corner, sweating.  The juggling act of her life, well, I’m sorry, but it sucks.  I want nothing to do with it.

But giving up years of study, work, and diligence, though, is daunting.  No longer belonging to the ranks of white coats and stethoscopes.  No longer discussing critical lab values and issues with your medical peers.  No longer talking with families, breaking hard news to them.  My orders no longer followed and respected.  Not healing patients.  Not being the “fixer.”  Not being known for doing a good, thorough job.  Not touching the lives of numerous people daily.

Being relegated from Dr. Fites to Dr. Fites’s wife, well, a lot too humbling.  Yeah.  Doctor’s wife.  Fingers on a chalkboard.  A lot too humbling.

Being at a total loss to decide what to do, I pined for a sign to know whether to quit or not.  I wrote up a letter of resignation and as I turned it in, the manager told me something like:  “I don’t want to see it.  We’re raising your salary.  You may work fewer hours if you need to.”  I wanted to stop working, and they were willing to make it easier for me to keep working.  I had wanted a sign.  Surely this was it.  It must not be time to stop.  Right?  I went with it.  I continued my slow work pace until we moved to South Dakota for my husband’s job.  Then, I just never made the initiative to look for a job here:  1) I wasn’t going to find a job like I had.  2)  No decision is a decision.  Unable to decide if I wanted to work, I chose not to work by choosing to not job search.

I have not worked for about 20 months now.  It took about a year to be okay with it.  And what I had to get over was my pride.  My desire for society’s approval of me as a worthy individual because of what I did professionally.   “Do you stay at home?”  “Well, yes…” It seems groping to add on, “…but I’m really a medical doctor.”  As far as being with my children daily and teaching them, I absolutely love it.  It is just as challenging as medicine, just in a different way.  It is what I want for them, and to provide that, I need to be around daily.  Our house usually runs smoothly, or as smoothly as it can with kids underfoot all day.  I miss taking care of patients, but I am finding lots, lots more time to read up on areas of medicine I’ve never approached before.  And that is exciting.  Perhaps my medical path will bud in a different way in the future.

But how did I know it was time to move on and move out [of medicine]?

1.  Persistent edginess and irritation at my family.  After a 12-13 hour shift, I would walk in the door to excited screams, yells, and hugs.  A loving, adoring family.  I was supposed to be happy about this, right?  Right.  But I wasn’t.  I’d try to quietly sneak in the back door and tiptoe straight upstairs to shower and change my clothes, hoping nobody would hear me and come up with greetings.  De-germed–now I was ready to hang out with the family, right?  Nope.  My fast lunch had been metabolized, and I was starving and wanted to eat in peace and quiet.  Now?  No.  I wanted to open the mail without interruptions.  I wanted the kitchen and family room cleaned up before bedtime.  I just wanted to be left alone.  All day the pager/phone attached to my hip had gone off interrupting nearly everything I did–patient admissions, patient rounds, checking labs, writing notes.  I was tired and tired of my own thoughts being interrupted.  Can’t they just leave me alone tonight?  Can’t you just get them into bed without me?  Well, not really.  You are the mom.  Hmph.  If I was off the next day, things were no better.  I was playing catch-up and needed to get things done:  answer business-related calls that inevitably came in while I worked, pay bills and respond to paperwork that somehow only arrived when I worked, run errands, and clean the house up from by absence.  There was no warm-fuzzy time with the kids.  There was too much TV time.  Why couldn’t everybody just leave me alone so I could get my “work” done?

2.  Feelings of guilt.  My heart would always sink when I saw Katie’s (my coworker) number on my ringing phone.  Work was so good about not pestering me to work much more than my part-time schedule.  But, occasionally, they needed coverage and they were down to me.  Katie was also a physician–a mother of three.  Full-time.  PTA president.  Staunch, active worker/member of the Junior League.  And she was asking me to work.  I almost always said “no”, feeling exceptional guilt.  Katie did it.  Katie would pick up a shift.  Or two shifts.  Or an overnight call.  Will would pick up a shift.  Bee would pick up a shift.  Surely I could pick up a shift to help my partners out.  They all work so hard.  Here I am cherry-picking my shifts.  What gives me the right.  I need to “man up” and be a real doctor.  I felt guilty to say “no” to more work.

But I also felt extreme guilt to say “yes.”  The angel on my other shoulder was shouting, “You’ll be grouchy.  You won’t be patient with your kids.  Heck, you won’t even see your kids.  You’ll be irritated with your husband.  You won’t get the homeschool lessons covered.  Say no.  Say no.  Don’t do it.  You’ve got a stack of paperwork piling up on the kitchen counter.  You said you’d have a playdate with Adam and Jo this week.  Your kids need you.  Your husband needs you.  You need some peace and quiet.  Just because Katie does it, doesn’t make it right for your family.”

3.  Inability to let entropy reign in housework.  Entropy is a scientific law.  All things will fall to a state of disorder.  I always justify my constant housework by saying it keeps me at my ideal body weight.  I call it “defying entropy”, and I laughingly say it’s healthy.  But I won’t sit down until the house is in order.  And if you’ve been gone for a few days for 12-13 hour shifts, the house has succumbed to entropy.  I don’t like it, and it takes a day to get it back into my definition of working order.  I do wonder if I would find working easier if I was one of those people who could live with clutter and chaos around them.  Maybe I could work short morning shifts and homeschool in the afternoon.  And if the house fell apart, the cleaners in the top of the closet were falling out on my head when I opened the door, and the laundry 8 loads behind–well, no big deal.  It’ll keep.  And I know it will keep.  But I am not wired to let it go.  And I was neglecting my kids after working to try to get the house back into shape, meanwhile internally berating my in-laws inability to keep things up the way I did.

4.  There’s no Mary Poppins.  Many a working mom can sing the sob-story of not finding good, reliable child-care.  When family lives close enough–in our situation they’d drive 2 hours and spend a night or two–at least you know the kids are being watched by people who love them dearly.  However, that puts grandparents in the situation of babysitter rather than grandparent.  Many aren’t very good at that.  “No” doesn’t roll as often as it should.  And they’re getting older.  Once you start having two, three kids, you see the grandparents’ stamina plummet.  It’s hard for them to get down on the floor and get up off the floor.  Multi-tasking less easy.  Afternoon naps more vital–okay if all the kids take a nap, not so much when the older ones drop their nap.  Somehow computer keys get completely removed from a laptop keyboard, great-grandma’s china gets rearranged in the dining room cabinets (unbeknownst to grandma or grandpa), boxed up wedding veils get removed from their boxes after 10 years of dormancy.  And, oh, the mess–in the kitchen, the bedrooms, the living room.

But ignore the mess.  Ignore the too much TV.  Focus on reliability and responsibility.  For real…What happens when you’re supposed to be at work at 6:30 in the morning and the sitter calls at 6:10 to say she’s puking and can’t make it?  What then?  You’re husband is already in the OR.  Or another one calls from the hospital because she’s having chest pain and ends up with coronary stents.  What then?  What do you think when you host an end-of-the-year preschool pool party and a working friend has sent her child with a younger nanny/sitter of good repute–and the sitter is sitting under the umbrella with her back turned talking on her cell phone WHILE THE CHILD IS IN THE POOL?  What do you think?  I’ve watched smaller-sized daycare owners bring kids to the park.  As I’m pushing my daughters on the swing, the woman has plunked down on a bench to read a book and the kids scatter to play.  One of her wards comes up to her, “Will you push me on the swing?”  I can’t hear the answer, but she keeps reading her book, and the child runs off to play elsewhere.

5.  Homeschooling began taking up lots more time.  I chose to homeschool before the kids were even born.  Didn’t really think about the implications of that on my career.  Wouldn’t change it anyway.  Getting the kids home to Indiana to the farm and knowing grandparents took precedent over anything else.  Didn’t believe in pulling my kids out of class for a “vacation”, either.  I’m just not too thrilled with the example that sets for them.  So when the time came for kindergarten, we homeschooled.  That was a fun, easy year.  Then first grade and second grade came along and my student could actually do some math and write.  I needed to read a bit to figure out how to present reading and writing to her.  Needed to plan ahead.  Needed to sit with her and read the worksheets to her.  Needed to be doing read-alouds with her.  Work began cutting into our homeschool schedule.  We weren’t getting it done.  I tried giving worksheets to the grandparents, but they didn’t get done.  In their behalf, we also had another nanny for a bit, and she didn’t even give the worksheets to my daughter.  Didn’t even give them to her!  I had asked her to just hand them to Mary for Mary to work on her own.  Didn’t happen.  So if homeschooling was going to happen, I had to be there.

6.  Concern about my kids’ second guessing my priorities.  What are my priorities?  Taking care of other people or taking care of my kids?  Time with my kids and family or stuff for my kids and family?  As a doctor, and I’m sure in other fields, as well,  it’s easy to take care of other people–pick up another shift, pick up another call, answer pages off-work hours, run in to see a patient you’ve grown attached to, discuss health problems outside the office at a birthday party, go to a meeting about the new charting system, leave the Valentine’s Day party early to help your partners finish rounds on an exceptionally busy day.  And the question of my ER friend rings in my ears, “What if your husband only brought in X amount of dollars…would you give up medicine then?”  Would I?  I don’t know.  We try to keep it pretty simple here.  No boats.  No video games.  No Coach purses (are those still around?).  My mini-van from fellowship is 7-years strong with a few more years to go!  Our 2 flat screen TVs are smaller than the average-joe’s.  But we have them.  And we love to travel.  And grass-fed beef and free-range chickens aren’t cheap.  So I don’t know.  But, in our given situation, my kids would have clearly seen that I was working to nurture other people and not them.  And unfortunately for them, my parents never had enough for a trip to Disney World, Pasta sweaters, and video games.  But we had enough.  And I love my childhood and wouldn’t trade it for anybody else’s!  So you won’t see me going to work for a boat or a back-patio remodel.

7.  Work days were never convenient.  No matter when they came around, work days always interfered with something.  Homeschool co-op day.  Preschool parties.  Doctor appointments.  Birthdays.  And they always seemed to get sick on my work days.  Croup.  Fevers.  Gastroenteritises.  Work just seemed to interfere!

8.  Things flow more smoothly when one of us stays home.  When a kid gets sick, I am home.  When a tax paper has to be run in, I can do it.  A dentist appointment–check.  Kids in need of a bit more discipline–I’ve got the energy.  Bills are paid on time.  Paperwork pile gone through once weekly.  House picked up.  Usually have food in the house and on the table.  Underwear aplenty in the drawers.  Kids to practices on time.  Get some quiet time with my husband every now and then.  Have time to read about health-related matters helping our family.  For us, it made more sense for me to stay home with the kids.  I have more patience.  I made less money.  I had less technical skills to lose.  We have the utmost respect for both roles in our house.  I know I could not stay home if my husband didn’t treat me as an equal.  I could not do it if he ever expressed that my role was inferior to his.  My complaints about cooking, laundry, and school, he treats as openly and importantly as if it was his work.

Well, I’m rambling on too long.  Kids are awake and all over the place like monkeys.  So I’d better tend to them.  I love what I do, and staying home was the right decision for us.  Probably not for everyone.  If you have any questions about giving up your job for your kids or homeschooling, ask away!  Although the decision to stay home wasn’t tough, the mental process of giving up work to stay home for me was.  When I was trying to decide whether to stop working or not, I Googled and Googled looking for insight.  Here, on the other side, is my insight!  Best wishes to you!

12 thoughts on “Quitting Work to Homeschool

  1. Leanne

    I know this is an older post, but I resonated with everything you typed (other than being married to a doctor). I am in a strange position: I went back to work full time so that my husband could complete a technical program…so he is a stay-at-home dad, also in school full time, and grandma babysits once or twice a week.
    Life is HECTIC! Sometimes I feel like I’m driving myself into the ground. Waking up extra early to go into work and stay on top of things. Coming home physically and mentally exhausted after being on my feet all day, working at breakneck speed to meet deadlines, constant “interruptions” from clients (they are the reason for my job in the first place, but when I have a long to-do list before me, I lose my pace after stopping and starting throughout the day…. and then upon arrival, I see the cluttered mess in the house, toys, clothes, food, used kleenex and wrappers and markers and dirty socks. Dying plants. Dishes on the counter. What’s for dinner? I don’t know until 20 minutes before it’s on the table. Then after the kids are in bed (we have two, toddler age), I fix my own meal, try to muster the energy to finish chores and shower, and then fall in bed in order to hopefully get more than 6 hours of sleep for the next day.
    BUT….I did struggle with post partum depression (twice, though the first time was the worst), complicated by circumstances (husband getting laid off, going back to school, very little money coming in, government assistance for a time)…I learned I couldn’t plan out the perfect life for myself. Going back to work began with a willingness to sacrifice my position at home full time in order for my husband to reach his goal (completing his degree, then securing a job that can sustain us). THEN, I found that despite the aforementioned stress of work, I really LOVE what I do. I am using my God-given talents every day. If I glance at the clock, it is because time is going too fast. I look forward to getting ready and going there in the morning. My husband is an excellent father and friend to the kids…sometimes I wonder if he is more creative than I am with children. I am kind of jealous of his involvement, but overly grateful. Sometimes we wonder if we will be able to switch back (to him working and me staying home), or if it’s better off with me working (great benefits, potentially higher pay etc).
    On the other hand…I REALLY want to homeschool. Sometimes the thought terrifies me, but deep down there are many reasons for this desire. I know I can’t combine work and homeschool. No way. Husband doesn’t think he could homeschool…I am ultimately better at home management, cooking, and organizing than he. So I am in a very similar spot as you were. I would definitely miss my job, my boss, my co-workers, and the pride that comes from being told how talented and wonderful I am (sounds conceited, but just when I try to steer myself away from the idea of advancing, I get a comment about my outstanding performance or importance to the company…just like your “sign,” lol). What to do?? Thanks for your posts. It helps to see somebody else with the same type of dilemma.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thank you for commenting! Your description brought flashbacks! Staying home isn’t for everybody, but whew, am I glad that’s all behind me! Makes me shiver. Not that I don’t miss contributing to the world that way, because I sure do, but for my mentality, the “hecticness” just isn’t worth it. For some it is. There are creative ways to work all this in together. Once your husband is finished with training, you WILL find it! My husband and I trained for a lot of years, and it is always one of the hardest times, I think. Kind of a limbo land–not knowing what/where/if jobs will come. We planned one way, but jobs took us another way. I wish you the best! Never give up on what you want for your family and how you want it to function–you never get to go back and do it again! You guys will make something work! As long as the fit feels right for you all and there is peace (well, relatively), you’re on the right track!

  2. Kathy

    Glad I found your site. I am a physician and have extreme guilt about working while homeschooling. I also have (less) guilt about not working as much as my partners. My husband just started his own business and I can’t leave right now. I don’t know if I will ever be able to leave. It worked better 4 years ago when they were younger. As they age I feel like they need the emotional support more. Glad you were able to make it work.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Thanks, Kathy! Luckily, it does work for us. I think the abrupt move across the country for my husband’s job forced my hand. Otherwise, I kept feeling too guilty, as I watched my partners (well, I can’t really call them partners, can I, as I was only part-time) literally slave away. A few months ago, I had thought about looking for a job with minimal hours because it was “getting easier” to homeschool. I’m glad you commented on the emotional support needed–reminded me that this comfort time is just a nice phase. (Plus, then, I got pregnant. Geesh, how did that happen–LOL!) Thanks for commenting, and I am wishing the best for you and your family.

  3. Dr. Mom

    I’m so glad I found this. I could have written it, myself. I have four children and went through the same path…FT to PT to 2d/wk to prn and locums to sahm. Now I review charts for an insurance company, but honestly, the nature of our field and our personalities is that we are hard workers, and fixers. So we can start to work part-time, but when there’s more work to be done, it is very difficult to say no. I am getting ready to stop working again. I’m exhausted, and my family needs me.

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Yep. You said it well. Workers and fixers (and “perfectionist-ers” 🙂 ). Saying no is so hard to admit to. To yourself and others. That maybe you are not strong enough. Tough enough. You know you “could” do it. But then you know–at what expense!? Glad you “stopped by” and left a comment! Good luck, Dr. Mom! Sending good thoughts your way.

  4. binteislam8

    Hi there. It was an awesome article. Loved reading it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and helping out those who are at crossroads of choosing to decide between medicine or becoming a sahm. 🙂

  5. Blake

    Ironically, I found your site desperately searching for insight into how to handle this chapter in our lives (wife & 2 boys 4 and 4months). I’m a realtor, my wife’s an oncology nurse. I’m a veteran and very analytical/structured, my wife (God love her) well, isn’t structured, lol. I’m extremely passionate about homeschooling and she supports the decision. I specifically chose this career path after the Air Force for it’s flexibility in putting family first. Perhaps we were naïve to think between her 3 or 4 12 hours shifts a week and my flexibility we could pull it off. We’re realizing this is not easy!!! We’re both constantly exhausted and when I come home from being away working the house literally looks like WW III took place. At least once a day when I have the boys and she’s working I’ll tell myself, “that’s it, I’m just going to throw in the towel and become Mr. Mom.” but that’s problematic. My wife’s salary alone is not significant (40K). Although I wasn’t raised this way, somehow I ended up a traditionalist and feel a very strong sense of obligation to provide for my family. We could make it work financially, as we’re debt free and not materialistic people, but we’d face financial challenges in the future I’m sure. But isn’t that why parents are here… to give everything of themselves for their children, to raise well-rounded, critical thinking, independent and responsible human beings??? So how can I justify sacrificing that for more $$$$? That’s not a compromise worth making in my opinion. So much of what you said completely resonates with me. I’ve recently realized that I’m placing enormous pressure on my wife when it comes to household management. Only in that I constantly ask her to pick up after herself… until I get tired of it and just say I’ll be the one to keep and manage the household. Splitting days is so inconsistent for the kids… too much t.v. still in pj’s after lunch etc. I’m at a loss. I love my wife dearly, and am eternally grateful that I’m the man she elected to spend her life with. I just don’t know how to resolve this. I’m willing to send her back to school so we can increase her salary, but I don’t know if my own pride, as a male, will lay dormant while I take the Mr. Mom title. I’m really at a loss. You seem like a very well balanced and intelligent human being… I’d love your take or any insight you might be able to provide. Thank you very much for writing your story!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Blake and I corresponded by e-mail, along with a male friend of mine who homeschooled. We discussed role reversal. Income issues. Parenting goal issues and how we as parents play into the realization of those goals for our kids (and we aren’t talking about money here or high-ranked jobs as far as goals). One top idea we mentioned revolved around the respect that our spouses have for us. Without that, I personally could not and would not homeschool; I don’t think. I’m not that strong; I don’t think. My friend also highly valued his wife’s respect and devotion for his “job” and person. So mutual respect for roles, even if they’re not aligned with society, seems huge. Upon talking with my husband after corresponding with Blake, I learned that my husband would try to homeschool–and conquer his lack of patience and his temper–if for some reason he had to stay home and I had to go to work (and would want to do this even if for some reason, my salary was slashed much below “normal”). Homeschooling, as another commenter noted elsewhere, becomes a lifestyle you just aren’t willing to give up when you experience it well. Watching the fascination with learning. Being allowed to follow learning leads of a child. Being allowed to learn new things at younger ages. Being able to impact sibling rivalry on a day to day basis. Being able to spend time together when a parent gets home early. Watching older children become leaders and teachers of younger children. Recognizing weaknesses and laughing over them and learning to overcome them together. It’s simply amazing.

  6. Pathdrmom

    Hi I’m glad that I found your site! I REALLY want to homeschool and am a physician also. I actually changed careers and finished residency at 39!!! So I need to pay off my student loans! And now I see the need to cutback and spend time with my 3 boys but I make 3x more than my husband and he doesn’t want to cut back on his job or stay at home. The boys are stressed out and I’m not sure exactly what to do. I think that homeschooling is the best option for us but we would need a tutor. I can pay about the same for a tutor that I am paying for public school and may got hat route but still the urge to spend more time with my boys is strong. I wish that I had thought this out more…
    Thanks for sharing your life with us!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Hi Path Dr. Mom:

      I think if you’ve the mindset to finish residency at our stage of life, you’ll have no problems fitting homeschooling into your system! Even if you work! Really! E-mail me if you can! I have had good doctor friends who work and homeschool. So, even though I don’t work anymore, I can pull on their insight (and what I remember)as far as that goes. My husband (an ortho guy) and I agree that homeschooling helps our family tremendously, and our kids breadth of knowledge (sewing, crocheting, Spanish, great math skills, science, music, grammar, poetry, and so on—once they know how to read, they take off on all kinds of avenues!) is amazing and inspiring to us! I think you could make this work for sure! I’d love it if you e-mailed me with specific hurdles, and I’ll do my best to share what we have experienced! ~Terri


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