"I'm Too Scared to Go Back to Work"
"My life's a mess," said Jan, 44, who's been married for 18 years and has three children, ages 13, 12, and 10. "Last year my husband had a heart attack at 44. Yes, Scott has borderline high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but he was in good health otherwise and wasn't taking medication. Now I live in fear that he's going to drop dead. Some days it's all I can think about! I'll imagine him dying and burst into tears. Or I'll have a nightmare about it and wake in a cold sweat. I don't want to upset him, so I just remind him to take his meds, watch his diet, and go easy at the gym. He's worried, too, and keeps telling me I need to go back to work in case something happens to him. But it's not that easy.
"Eight years ago I gave up my career as an endocrinologist to stay home with my kids, who were all in preschool. We'd had a bad experience with a nanny and I didn't want to leave them with someone I didn't completely trust. And I felt I couldn't be both a great mother and a great doctor. Scott supported my decision, but now he's hounding me to go back to medicine.
"The thing is, to reenter my medical profession I would need to be recertified and relicensed, which would mean taking courses and passing tests. The thought terrifies me. I used to be so confident, but now I feel as though the only thing I can do well is take care of my family.
"It would help if Scott would stop nagging and acknowledge all that I do. Would it kill him to call from work to see how my day's going? Is it too much to ask that he leave the office early once in a while for a parent-teacher conference? I hate being taken for granted.
"I should discuss all this with Scott, but I don't want him to get upset -- it's bad for his heart. So I keep everything inside until I can't take it anymore and then I explode. At night we go our separate ways. I watch TV in our bedroom while he reads in the den. We almost never have sex, and I can't remember the last time we went out alone. I won't use babysitters, and it's too hard to arrange sleepovers for all three kids.
"I met Scott when I was still in med school. He was already an investment banker. We clicked immediately. We both came from strict Catholic families, were serious skiers, and loved reading thrillers. We dated for three years and got married after I completed my internship. Around our fifth anniversary I got pregnant with Kate, and then, just six months after she was born, with Lily.
"Scott and I loved our jobs and worked crazy hours, so we hired an au pair to look after the girls. She was terrific but after a year she went back home to Spain. Our second one had a horrible temper and I fired her for screaming at Kate for dropping a sippy cup. We put the girls in daycare but when I got pregnant with Mark we went back to live-in help. When that au pair stole from us I said to Scott, 'That's it -- I have to quit my job. I don't want anyone else to care for our kids.'
"It was the right decision, but I miss practicing medicine. I miss other doctors. I even miss getting dressed up and putting on makeup in the morning. When I look in the mirror I barely recognize the pony-tailed woman in the baggy sweats staring back at me. My days are spent running errands, driving the kids to lessons, and cooking dinner. By 8 p.m. I'm wiped out.
"I hate the way I feel -- so tired and blah and anxious about Scott's health. I want to get my groove back but I don't know how."