Progress Notes

Wifehood, motherhood, doctorhood, womanhood

Chaya Murali
Chaya Murali

By Chaya Murali, MS4

Last week I met two bright, female high school teachers who love science. They were closer to my mother’s age than to mine. Both told me that when they were in college, they wanted to be doctors. But both of them decided to forego that career path and chose teaching instead.

Both said they made that decision because, as one of them put it, “I realized I couldn’t be the wife and mother and doctor I wanted to be all at the same time.” They don’t regret their decision one bit, both of them said. They don’t make a lot of money, but they’re happy and love what they do.

Now, normally my English major mentality would leap forth at a moment like that and scream “Methinks she doth protest too much!” But I really don’t think those women meant anything negative by what they said. I really do think they’re happy, and they love what they do, and they don’t regret their decisions at all.

I reassured the AP biology teacher that as a medical geneticist, I won’t be making a fortune either. And then I stopped to think.

For most of my early childhood, my mother was a stay-at-home mom. She and my father largely demonstrate very traditional gender roles. Given this background, it surprises me a little that I didn’t give motherhood even a moment’s thought when I decided to become a physician.

Believe me when I say I wasn’t one of those kids who dreamed of being a doctor all her life. I resisted the idea of going to medical school for quite some time, but by the time I was in college, I knew it was a field in which I would excel, and a career that would give me deep satisfaction. And that’s where my thought process more or less stopped. Sure, I wondered if I’d ever have time for anything outside of medicine, but my focus was more on a vague sense of a personal life, and not caring for a family the way my mother always did.

I suspect that more than a little of the hesitation of the women I mentioned earlier, and my lack thereof, has to do with the fact that those women likely had men with whom they were planning a future while they were considering medical school, and I simply didn’t have that pull then. Because I don’t have one person to mentally Photoshop into my imagined scenes of domestic bliss, I’m not very attached to that vision of the future.

Here’s what I know: I’m going to make a good physician, and my career will make me happy. Maybe someday I’ll find myself in a domestic situation that causes me to change my tune and become a stay-at-home mother and wife. Maybe that won’t happen. Whatever the situation, I’m glad I decided to go to medical school, gender roles be darned.

I think I can find a way to make doctorhood live in harmony with motherhood, wifehood, and womanhood, or whatever -hood life throws at me.

2 thoughts on “Wifehood, motherhood, doctorhood, womanhood

  • Medicine in general and medical genetics are female dominated. There is clearly no pressure for women to stay away from medicine in our society at least not at this time. There are still many decisions about family and roles to take or not. But at this point men are clearly the minority and are likely to remain that way for at least a generation or 2. You don’t have to go far back to find a different status so the age of the teachers woudl make a big difference. Teaching is also a profession that is dominated by women. This is neither good nor bad just a fact. How we deal with these facts and the changing face of society is however very important.

  • I agree with you at the right time everything will fall into place. Never give-up your dreams because of fear of the future. most of the time what we fear most doesn’t even happen. I’m an aspiring doctor too and at times my friends make me feel worried about how i will handle my family and my career but one thing that i know for sure is that everything is doable. So live your life happily and work towards what you want to be.


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