To My Daughter,
You broke my heart today. You didn't realise. We were playing together, sat on the floor with your little sister, you holding one of your Elsa dolls. You turned to me and said "Mummy, when I grow up I want to be a doctor". I asked you why, and you said "So I could go to work with you Mummy, then I would see you more". That was the moment.
Being a parent is the hardest thing I have ever done, and it's the best thing I have ever done. Your daddy and I both work hard so we can try and give you and your sister everything. I love you both beyond anything else in this world, and part of being a mummy is to be there for you no matter what. But my darling girl, please don't be a doctor.
You say this as you play, and imagine yourself making your Elsa doll better from some imagined illness. You forget that you cried when I left for work last week. You forget that Mummy couldn't pick you up after school for two weeks in a row because I didn't finish work on time. You forget that I missed bedtime every night this week, and that I left the house before you woke up this morning. I didn't even steal in to give you a goodbye kiss, or to watch you sleeping. I worried I would wake you, and part of being a mummy is trying to do what is right, not what I want all the time.
When I have a day off, I watch you playing with your daddy and my heart fills you love for you both. But part of me is sad. All those missed bedtimes and school runs, you and Daddy got to spend time together, and I can see how that has made you adore him even more than you did before. That is what I want. I want you to have that relationship with him. But I can't help the ache in my heart that when you fell over, you ran to him, not me.
I spend my days trying to help people at work. I try to make them better, and that is a wonderful job to have. But when Mummy is late again because she is helping poorly people, it means I'm not there to help you. Part of being a doctor is putting other people first, but sometimes Mummy gets that wrong. It's very hard to say no when you can help someone, but that means Mummy missed your assembly again. It means I don't get to take you to your friends birthday parties at the weekend. It means sometimes Mummy feels tired and sometimes I get grumpy with you. That isn't fair.
You asked why Daddy was cross last week - he was cross with Mummy. He was cross because he loves me, and once again Mummy hadn't had time to eat anything or have a drink that day. Work was too busy - too many poorly people. When Mummy comes home at the end of a busy day like that, I feel poorly and tired. Then I don't feel like playing with you and that makes me sad.
I'm so sorry my darling girl, but Mummy isn't sure she can be a doctor anymore. Now the people in charge want Mummy to work harder and longer than I do already. I don't know how I can do that and still be there for you. I don't want to miss you grow up, and I don't wish for you the heartache and choices that I have had to make. Being a doctor used to be the best job in the world. And I knew when I went to work, I was making a big difference to all the poorly people. That made me feel that although I was missing you, it was worth it and I was really lucky. I never needed to worry I might not have a job like some mummies do. Being a doctor means I never needed to worry we couldn't buy the clothes and food you need, like some other mummies do.
But now, it's not the best job anymore. It's really hard and sometimes it makes Mummy cry. Now I go to work and all I do is wish I wasn't there. When I have you and your sister to miss, when the news on the radio says Mummy isn't working hard enough, when the poorly person I see says I earn too much, when they shout and swear at me, then suddenly it doesn't seem worth being away from you for that.
Someday, a long time from now, you might be a Mummy too. When you are, you will understand better. But for now, let's say you'll think about being a doctor, and maybe we can find another job that means you won't have to feel the way I do right now.
All my love,
This is a letter for the NHS - written by me, as a Doctor, to my daughter. I have written this thinking of all the Junior Doctors facing huge uncertainty at the moment. There are parents, children, patients, doctors, nurses, and many other staff who are all a part of the NHS. If you want to share your experience, please write a Letter for the NHS. Share on "Letters for the NHS" on Facebook, or @Letters4NHS and #Letters4NHS on twitter. Behind the politics and the policies, are people. Sometimes that gets forgotten.