Re: Does working part-time mean I’ve failed as a feminist?

I’m certain Dr Caitlin Dunne’s editorial in the October 2023 issue of the BCMJ [2023;65:277] resonates with many. I’d like to point out that this is not only the experience of women in the MD profession, but also of some men.

My life partner and I married in 1969, the year I entered medical school. In her subsequent application to the same program the following year, she encountered significant sexism from the (all-male) application review board during her interview: “Are you planning on a family?” “How does this square with a demanding profession as medicine?” Etc. Bottom line, she shifted career plans and became a sought-after consultant as a speech-language pathologist in school programs, focusing on children with learning difficulties. It also gave her better flexibility over time commitments. That, however, is only half the story.

Twenty years and three children ages 10 and under into our marriage, we had serious discussions about what needed to change if we weren’t going to divorce. I was (as was typical) overly committed to my practice, and she had the family burden, to the detriment of her professional development and satisfaction. I consequently agreed that we would equally share the family-raising burden, which entailed me giving up my family practice and working part-time for the next 10 years. This also meant a financial hit in pooled income.

The benefit, however, was such that I couldn’t agree more with Dr Dunne’s statement that “[t]ime is a nonrenewable resource and . . . 90% of the time you have with your kids is before they turn 18.” I found myself volunteering in kindergarten, preparing suppers different from my wife’s, and generally engaging in more significant ways in our children’s formative years during their learning and sports events.

Looking back, it benefited me in many ways beyond parenthood. My identity was not as glued to the public aura of a medical doctor. I volunteered for nonmedical organizations. As a former engineer, I published a number of review articles on a topic interfacing with physiology. I formed a company focused on interactive multimedia in exercise and ran a pilot study in cardiac rehab using this technology. I worked in various aspects of medicine—hospital ambulatory care and extended care for neuromuscular and traumatic spinal cord injuries, which included ventilators, I was a hospitalist for a time, and in the remaining 5 years of a 42-year career, I focused solely on rural and remote medicine. Looking back, working part-time for a significant time when it counted for my family was the best move I ever made. It saved my marriage, and we remain close as a family—to which I say, hooray for assertive feminism.
—Rainer Borkenhagen, MD (retired)

This letter was submitted in response to “Does working part-time mean I’ve failed as a feminist?”


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Rainer Borkenhagen, MD. Re: Does working part-time mean I’ve failed as a feminist?. BCMJ, Vol. 66, No. 1, January, February, 2024, Page(s) 8 - Letters.

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