I am ashamed to admit that there used to be a time when, if a colleague told me he/she wanted to be a GP, my first thought would be "you're only doing it because you want to have a family." I was harsher on my female colleagues because I somehow felt that the only proper execution of modern-day feminism was to work hard. I would feel a little sense of masochistic pride that my own ambitions were a little more time-consuming. Now I look back and think how foolish, patronising and downright idiotic those thoughts were.
The concept that medicine, to many others of my colleagues, was simply an interesting and satisfying way to make a profitable living was alien to me. The concept of medicine being a way to pay the bills hadn't even featured on my radar. I guess, somewhat naively, I had looked upon medicine as a calling. I hoped, and still hope, to contribute in a big way to our knowledge about disease and treatment. In the specialty I hope to pursue, I have found a real passion. To me, medicine will never just be a job.
But the whole point is we live in a free society in which we can choose our mode of happiness. No-one should be criticised for wanting to spend more time with family or even for wanting to give up a career to raise one. Least of all, women should not criticise other women for that choice.
The specialty I wish to pursue is not what anyone would call family-friendly. It's a long, hard slog. It's a competitive arena. Because of this, people seem to respect this decision. However, those people wanting to do family-friendly specialties, even if their decision is motivated by genuine interest, may come across derision from people who see it as ‘slacking off' or a ‘cop-out'. I can't help but wonder if this sort of attitude is borne of the need to justify their own sacrifices; they have sacrificed their own family lives for their career and, in moments of self-doubt over whether these sacrifices were worth it, their frustration manifests in ridicule of others.
I confess to being a little bit daunted by how much I may potentially have to sacrifice of my personal and family life in order to be successful in my chosen specialty. Nevertheless, I have my heart set on it, I genuinely believe it will make me happy. And that choice, the choice of what will make you happy, is what is worth celebrating, irrespective of why you chose it. ‘Ambition' is not a dirty word. And neither is ‘family'.