I’m not sick today. In the 5+ years I’ve been working full time as a veterinarian I have taken exactly 3 sick days for myself. I love my job, I love showing up everyday and seeing what types of problems I can help people and their pets with and I love seeing my clients and their pets. I think in a lot of ways that outlook and love for my job keeps me from giving in to feeling crummy and I’ve been fortunate to not have to deal with any serious illnesses as well. Now that we have children however, I take about one every few months to stay home with one of my daughters while they get over an illness. Today I get to stay home with all 3.
My wife and I have the week split up into days we have to drop the girls off and pick them up from daycare/pre-school. If one of the girls needs to stay home on your day to pick them up and drop them off, congratulations you just got a day off work. This week, I got two days off.
I love being a veterinarian, I can not actually imagine having any other career or life. But being home with my children during the middle of the week has to be one of the nicest breaks I can imagine. Being that my wife and I both work every other Saturday and if I work Saturday that means I am on call for the entire weekend, we try to force as much family time into our weekends off as possible. Part of that might also be the guilt we feel for keeping our kids in daycare for 50+ hours a week. Another part is that my wife and I love to do stuff and expose our children to as many experiences as possible.
But during the week, the girls are only home if they are sick. Sick kids are so easy. Today we had a relatively bland breakfast of cereal with almond milk, a piece of french toast and half a banana each. Watched a movie. Ate half a grilled ham and cheese with two pickles each. Painted some pretty sweet finger paintings. Took a bath (flooded the bathroom). Finally got dressed. The four year old is in her bathing suit for reasons no one can explain. Watched the same movie again. Now we’re sort of napping/occasionally calling for juice, baby dolls, stuffed animals or blankets. It’s also a perfect day to be stuck at home, dreary, raining and super muddy out as all the snow from this winter melts away.
Days like today are the perfect day to take the time to understand your children as well. Our three and four year old daughter, Emily and Rachel, could not be more different. Rachel 3, is independent to the point of being stubborn but she’s also pretty easy going and generally expects that things are going to go the way she likes. She throws small fits when they don’t, she is three after all, but she gets over it quickly. Emily 4, on the other hand, seeks constant approval and comes to you expecting you to say no to whatever request she has. This has led to a sort of constant whine from her, everything she asks for she’s just on the verge of tears before the question even escapes her mouth. Her mother and I have been worried that we’re raising a whiner. Today I realized it’s worse than I thought. She’s already played out the entire scenario in her head and has been shot down by her father and won’t be getting another refill of fruit juice. All before she even asks a question. My daughter is learning to be a pessimist. Pessimists and optimists tend to get exactly what they expect in life. We live in the reality we create. Think that’s silly? Chances are you are a pessimist who doesn’t want to accept responsibility for the reality you’ve created. I don’t mean that through some metaphysical means we manipulate the world with our mind, I mean that our experiences are taken in and understood by our brain and our attitude has a huge role in how information is interpreted. It also has a huge role in how people respond to us, we all have at least one miserable person in our lives that we would love to not have to deal with. In my professional life, attitude and outlook play such a huge role that we have to account for “caretaker placebo effect” when evaluating the efficacy of a treatment plan. That’s right, you can be so positive and optimistic about things that it will make your dog or cat feel better. Here are two stories illustrating the effect. One. Two. My final argument for making yourself have an optimistic outlook in life is that the U.S. Navy Seal Guide to the Elements of Survival, the text that is used to train the minds of the most elite fighting force on the planet lists three elements necessary to produce the resilience needed to survive some of the situations a SEAL might find himself in. In order listed those elements are: talent, desire/motivation and optimism. If optimism is that important to people who might one day find themselves outnumbered and outgunned by people who want to kill them, it should be important to a 34 year old veterinarian trying to find work/life balance and to a 4 year old girl learning how to act in this world. It should be important to you too.
I’m glad I had to take the day off, slow down a little bit and realize that my daughter isn’t a whiner, it’s far worse, she’s becoming a pessimist. By the time she reaches an age where the relationship building skills start to become interpersonal and cooperation skills, she will have developed a more optimistic world view. This is important because it turns out that optimism, leadership and success are fairly inter-related. And what father wouldn’t want his little girls to be successful?
Thanks for reading.