Advice Columnist Says Single Parents Can't Become Doctors

Your whole life may change when you become a parent, but according to an advice columnist peddling herself as “The Career Doctor” (trademarked name, apparently, but I can’t do the TM), single parents should just stop dreaming. Immediately!

Says Jacqueline Hornor Plumez, Ph.D., if you’re a single parent, don’t bother applying to medical school. You can’t hack it.

Wait, what? A psychologist with a psychotherapy and career counseling practice just told a single parent that she should just suck it up and shelve her dreams so she “can be a good parent?”

Plumez pens an advice column for the Larchmont Gazette, and it was an answer to a single mom of three that spurred her to drop what she called “the ugly truth.”

Says Plumez, “I don’t think that a single parent, father or mother with three children can be both an adequate parent and an adequate medical student.”

She goes on to explain that the grueling hours of medical school will prove too much for a single parent, and suggests she become a nurse, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant instead because, “You will get many of the same benefits but still have the time and energy to be a good parent.”

First let me break some ugly truths to Ms. Plumez: my mother was a nurse when I was a child. It took plenty of grueling hours, trying to make shifts fit in with the ability to get a babysitter, and the paycheck at the end of the day just plain sucked. She wasn’t a single parent, but she also couldn’t make ends meet. . . and she wasn’t very satisfied with her job. It’s why she went back to school and earned her degrees and certification to become a nurse practitioner – a lengthy process in and of itself, with long hours. So your easy route, Ms. Plumez, ain’t so easy.

Moving on to the logistics: a twenty-four-year-old mother of three has a 3.5 GPA and is intent on finishing college, giving a great example to her kids and getting a job that would carry with it both stability and a sizeable paycheck. That sounds like “good parenting” to me.

I’m well aware of the dedication – especially of time – that it takes to attend medical school. But I’m also aware of the incredible balancing act that most of the single parents I know have perfected. They have time management skills that put mine to shame because of their very situation. With no fall-back person to depend on, the bulk of single parents I know are also less likely to fall into the “am I doing this right” trap every second of the day. They don’t have time to constantly take track the way so many of us in two-parent households indulge ourselves.

And that includes understanding that sometimes good parenting is about sacrifice. It’s about not doing things the way everyone else does them, because the end result will be that much greater. Is it fair to give this mom a heads-up that she needs a good support network for this path of her studies? Absolutely. Considering her experiences thus far, I doubt it is even news, but it’s not inappropriate to bring up the cold hard facts.

But stick to the facts, folks. Nowhere in the annals of history have I read where it said that a few years of pushing yourself for your kids’ sakes makes you a bad parent. Nowhere is there a law that says you can’t at least try to have your cake and eat it too. And if you’re a single parent, making things work despite the odds, you deserve a big whopping piece of black forest with a cherry on top.

Ms. Plumez, maybe you need some continuing medical education for that doctor’s title.

Image: CDC

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