October and June tend to be my peak speaking months. So I was on the road again this week, going to Seattle and Tampa.
Seattle was rainy, but in full fall glory. I went for a walk on Tuesday morning around the campus of the University of Washington and wow. The bright yellows and reds against the more traditional northwest pine trees were just stunning. Unfortunately I didn’t sleep well in Seattle, or at home, or in Florida. I did get a lot of work done on planes and in those long mornings that a jet-lagged traveler from the east coast encounters in the Pacific time zone. A work out, a leisurely breakfast, clearing much of the to-do list, an autumnal walk…
I normally sleep quite well, so I blame the baby, who is active and making his presence known. I do not enjoy pregnancy. I find myself very aware of the days. While on some level I appreciate that this makes time seem to move slower, it’s not necessarily slower in a good way. One thing that’s been oddly motivational this last month is reminding myself how “productive” these weeks of gestation are. I have always gone full-term (or more…) with my babies so I haven’t worried about prematurity, but I did look up the stats the other day. At 23 weeks, very few babies can survive. At 29 weeks, the vast majority (more than 80 percent) do with modern medical care. That means over a period of 42 days, the baby’s odds of survival in the outside world are going up by about two percentage points per day. That’s quite a bit in thinking about any given 24 hours. Certainly more than I accomplish most days!
Now for a less happy medical story: I read a write up at the American Council of Science and Health website of a study in JAMA looking at board certification pass rates for surgeons. In the data set, while 90 percent of single female surgeon candidates passed the face to face examination part on the first try, only 75 percent of married women did, and only 55 percent of women who were married with children. The pass rates for men were unaffected by parenthood. I can’t find any evidence that mothers make worse surgeons. So, what’s going on? Perhaps some folks on the examining panels of surgeons harbor biases about who can be a good surgeon, and it’s reflected in their judgements. Theoretically no one’s asking about marital status or children, which is why the write-up downplays this factor, but I’m pretty sure it could be deduced. It’s also possible that mothers have less time and mental space to prepare for the exams because they take on more domestic responsibilities than male prospective surgeons do (though why pass rates should be lower for married women who don’t have kids I’m not sure). The former problem, medical organizations could — and should — do something about. The latter is tricky to deal with in terms of broader cultural narratives, but both potential explanations are pretty depressing.
Speaking of who covers what…Winter is coming, at least for the northern hemisphere. Consider this the annual public service announcement: What’s your plan for covering sick days for young kids who can’t go to school or daycare? In this week’s Tranquility By Tuesday post, I mention the family’s sick day plan of each parent covering half the day. While there are some inefficiencies on this (both parties need to commute, and both parties spend time getting ready) there are upsides too. Neither party is out for a whole day. If you have some flexibility, and if you know ahead of time that the sick day is coming (the kid has a fever the night before) the party that works in the morning could start early enough to log most of a day. One person working 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., and the other switching off for 12:30 p.m. to the evening means that nobody falls too far behind. Other families might choose to do individual days. If one party always covers Monday and Tuesday, and the other always covers Wednesday and Thursday, then each party can triage the schedule not to put anything absolutely unmissable on their coverage days.
Of course, this requires that both parties believe that childcare — and figuring out back-up plans — is a joint responsibility. I think this is a conversation that a lot of expectant parents don’t know to have, partly because people who’ve barely ever taken a sick day have no concept of how often young kids can get sick, especially when they are cared for in group settings. We certainly didn’t know this when we put our eldest child on the list for a local daycare five months before he was born. To me at the time, that meant the problem was solved. The daycare was great! We love the friends we made there! However, he was out for about five weeks that first winter, which is one reason we wound up hiring a nanny by the time kid #2 was born.
This weekend will feature a Halloween party and more travel. My 12-year-old plans to be Pennywise, and has a terrifying costume. The 8-year-old will be recycling her Elsa costume from the Disney cruise. It wasn’t cheap to buy the first time but at least we’re getting a second wear out of it! The 4-year-old wants to wear his glow-in-the-dark skeleton pajamas, which I think is great. It will ease the transition into bed after trick-or-treating next Thursday night.
Are you planning to dress up this year? I usually don’t — I just escort the kids.
In other news: My TED talk crossed 9 million views. I gave it three years ago this next week. Very exciting!