I made a promise that has led to a fruitful adventurous journey. Before I married, I promised my soon-to-be-kiwi (read nomadic) husband that we would live abroad once during our married lives. This was a dream of his and I wanted to share in it. Little did I know that this small promise would be upheld so quickly in our marriage and would induce utter panic before our move abroad.
In 2004, when our son was born, we had already relocated from our beloved Seattle to Chicago for my husband’s job. We asked ourselves: “What are we doing here?” Although we loved all that Chicago had to offer: music, restaurants, and museums, we had little time to enjoy any of the city’s delights. You know the routine: work all day, have a couple hours as a family at night then start all over the next day. I was busy acclimating to a newborn that was severely irritable from reflux. I was trying to enjoy being a mother and juggling a full time practice. When our son was just about 6 months old, my husband received an offer to work abroad, in Qatar. “Qatar?” I said. I knew where Qatar was only because my husband had worked there from 1991-1994. “It is a nice lifestyle, being an expat.” my husband assured me. He told me that expats were friendly and social. Social, now that was a new concept. In our two years in Chicago, we had made very few friends despite being very social people. After several months and lots of online research, we were off to Qatar. That was in 2005. We had agreed to come for 2 possibly 3 years. Fast forward 5 years and we are still here, minus a short break when we attempted to move back to Seattle in 2009. But I’m getting ahead of my story.
For the first 2 years, I practiced medicine in Qatar. I worked first at Hamad Medical Center’s (the government hospital) primary care centers and then later at Qatar Petroleum’s clinics. While I enjoyed my colleagues and support staff, I felt that I could not provide the quality of care that I wanted to. Seeing 50-70 patients in a day left little time to diagnose a patient let alone form a relationship or educate them about the current disease or on prevention. I also wanted to take time off to be with our son who was 3 at the time. It was a magical year. Just after the end of my first year off, I delivered our daughter in 2008. Thankfully, she did not have severe reflux. And after another year off, we moved back to Seattle. No sooner had we arrived than my husband’s job fell through. With the down turn in economy, no one was building high rises. However, I had signed a contract (with a two month resignation clause) to work in a private clinic. This along with being given hope that things would turn around by summer led to my husband’s return to Doha. We spent 7 months living apart. I went from spoiled expat mom to “pseudo-single” working mom. Hard work but I grew closer than ever to my children. The single mom status put a whole new perspective on life. It makes me want to go to all single moms’ homes: cook a dinner, do a couple loads of laundry, and watch their children so they can put their feet up. In February of 2010, we were all reunited back in Doha. And now, I am reinventing myself.
A word on my family before I get too far: my husband and I met in Seattle playing flag football. It was the accent that had me hooked. I used to call him just to hear his voice. We enjoyed skiing together. Whistler is where we first fell in love and later where he proposed. He is a structural engineer. I have been by his side as he has risen from senior level engineer to his current Director level position. It has been awe inspiring watching the transformation. I never really knew what he did on a day to day basis until I watched a documentary about how a high rise building was built. It was really fascinating watching the building going up. I can see why he likes it so much. We have been married for almost 10 years. We say this frequently “It (our marriage) gets better and better every day.”
My son is 6 years old now. He is in first grade and has lived most of his life abroad. When you ask him where he is from, he says: “Everywhere”. He is our little negotiator. He is sweet and sensitive and has this innate empathy. This is the same empathy that makes a good doctor which worries me. It is not that I wouldn’t want him to go into the medical profession; I just wouldn’t be pushing him into it. However, he makes some amazing structures out of his legos so perhaps this side of him will prevail.
My daughter is just over 2 years old now. She is feisty and sweet. And so very determined to do it by herself: “I do it!” she shouts. The two of my children are like “chalk and cheese” as the Brits say. It has been a wonderful experience to observe their differences. Both of my children teach me every day: how to be a better parent, the answer to questions about everything in this world etc.
Now onto how I got to where I am. Being back in medical practice in Seattle made me realize many things:
1) I simply could not reach “the many” and was limited to 25 to 30 patients per day.
2) How much I really missed the sense of community I once had with my patients. I call it the “Cup of” phenomenon. You get so comfortable with your patients that it doesn’t feel like work. It is like visiting with friends over a “cup of” coffee.
3) Many of my former patients hadn’t found another doctor in my absence that they could connect with. Wow, this made me sad as the doctor patient relationship is crucial to good care.
4) I missed all the time I had with the children prior to moving back.
5) I was questioning our lifestyle. There had to be a better way to do what I loved doing best—no matter the location—and a better way to balance work and life.
Being an expat made me realize a few things as well:
1) You lose certain senses of community and gain others. I wish all my longtime friends had been closer when Liv was born. This is with all due respect to the masses that were around when Liv was born.
2) The utter helplessness you feel when you encounter a medical problem and cannot get your needs met or perceive you cannot get your needs met. This happened to me, my son, my daughter and many friends here in Qatar
Through this website, I hope to reach more than just 25 patients per day. I want to be able to do what I do best from anywhere in the world as well has have better work/life balance. I also want to provide a sense of community for parents, expats, and anyone anywhere interested in their healthcare and wellness. I will offer a bit of fun through my travel, fashion and beauty pages. For more information on my journey into recreating myself see MyProjects along with My Journey within My Projects
Come into my website, put your feet up, and have a cup of coffee.