When I was just a young girl, I remember my parents getting ready to go to the church to make posters about the ERA. I was happy to go along, knowing I would have many friends there to play with and knowing I would get to “color” or do something else to help. I innocently asked my dad, “What is the ERA?” He answered that it was proposed legislation ensuring women would get the same pay as a man for equal work. “Awesome!”, I thought, and was so excited to participate in this project. I also remember the devastation I felt when I realized that all of the churchgoers that day were making posters AGAINST the ERA. I was heartbroken, and completely perplexed as to the reasons why my parents would not support something that seemed so completely rational to me.
The rest of my childhood went along very predictably. I was taught in Primary and Young Women that my goal was to be married in the temple and support my husband in his priesthood duties. I think every time I heard the same rhetoric, I had a “yes, but…” thought go through my head. I could listen to it, I could take it all in, but I didn’t feel like it all had to apply to ME.
I was blessed with an incredibly stubborn personality and a bright and inquisitive mind. School was easy for me, and I was encouraged by all of my teachers along the way to continue to reach further in all that I did. My father, ERA experience notwithstanding, was also very encouraging to me. I knew that I had a desire to learn about the human body and to help other people, and a goal of becoming a physician quickly solidified in my mind. My dad had hopes of me going to the Air Force Academy or becoming an engineer, following in his footsteps.
I ended up at Brigham Young University, where what should have been a liberating time of my life and a time to “find myself” turned into a time when I experienced guilt and shame for some of my goals. My boyfriend, with whom I was sure I was going to marry and have children someday, asked me the night before he went to the MTC for his mission if I was really serious about this “doctor thing.” When I told him it really was what I wanted to do with my life, he told me he would have a very hard time with a wife that might make more money than he did someday. Something died inside me. Suddenly, I realized that despite my own stubbornness, I might not be “acceptable” being myself.
My life took an important turn that day. In addition to all the other negative feedback, I was repeatedly told by the faculty in the pre-med department that women should not be supported in medicine….as they tended not to work in medicine and took a spot that would otherwise be filled by a man! I ended up preparing for a secondary goal of going to graduate school in a profession that would allow me more “flexibility” and “control” over my life. I married and followed my husband out of state to the place where he had plans to go to graduate school. I went to grad school as well and started working in my profession. But I knew in my heart that I was NOT where I needed to be. I was not doing what I knew I needed to do.
It took me a long time to admit to myself that I had given up my dreams for someone else’s. I had to dismiss all the voices in my head of YW leaders, BYU bishops, and pre-med advisors and find myself again. I headed back to school. This time it was medical school. And due to the delay I had incurred, it was back to school with one child at home and one more born in my second year of school. But I was doing what I wanted to do. I was doing what I felt I was meant to do. I loved it.
It hasn’t been easy. My kids have always been in daycare, after school programs, or have come home to an empty house. My husband and I would sit down every week with our schedules to figure out who would do drop off and pick up and who would make dinner. “It takes a village” has certainly been the case for me. I am so grateful for loving daycare providers, grandparents who step in any time that they can, flexible children, and helpful friends who have bailed me out when needed.
I work full-time. I always have. I remember my mother-in-law saying when I was applying for medical school, “I think it is great that you are trying to go to medical school. You will always have something good to fall back on if something happens.” WHAT? I did not do this to have something to fall back on. I did not do this to pay for vacations and boats with my salary. No, I did this because I felt a huge draw to become a physician. I love going to work everyday. I love the children in my pediatric practice. I bet I get more hugs every day at my job than most anyone else. I am challenged every day to do better, be better, and serve better. My partners in my practice are not only my co-workers, but also my mentors and some of my best friends.
Have my children paid a little price for all of this? Maybe. But they have also benefitted in many ways. They know the value of working hard. They know it is important to follow your dreams. They also know there are a bunch of kids out there that depend on me for some of their health and well being. I have seen them beam from ear-to-ear when we meet up in public with a child or parent from my practice that tells them how their mom has impacted their life in some way. There is no substitute for that.
-Submitted by Stephanie