Bragging about my wife

Blogs are great for spreading some sunshine onto others, and sharing good news.

After being out of the workforce for more than a decade doing family caregiving, my wife Veronica went back to school at Loyola to become a medical social worker. (She did not come to the University of Chicago because she wanted to do her independent thing, as I’m sure many woman readers can appreciate.)

She has earned A’s or better in every class. She has spent the last academic year doing the neoliberal sellout thing by working with hard-to-place foster youth in the Chicago south-land. It’s not easy work. She bears witness to a lot of heartache and the human costs of child maltreatment. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the NBA, and strong opinions about the Bulls’ choices at the point guard position, proved key assets to bond with young women and their foster parents. Plus a fifty-year-old mom sometimes has an easier time than a 25-year-old being taken seriously in that realm.

Veronica’s return to the workforce is a little bittersweet, too. She’s paid a heavy price carrying water for a long time for many people. Her career was knocked off-kilter when her mom died suddenly in 2004, leaving us to care for Veronica’s brother Vincent, who lives with an intellectual disability known as fragile X syndrome. He’s had a number of medical challenges, too. Just this past month, he had two apparent seizures with attendant hospital visits, home heart monitors, and the like.

She bears the brunt of that. That’s just the reality. Had her mom lived a few more years or had we never disrupted our life at precisely the wrong moment to leave Ann Arbor, Michigan, Veronica would probably now be a full professor of pediatric nursing. She would be living a different life.

We had the usual pragmatic reasons over the years to gender-specialize in our household. This allowed me professional advancement she was not able to enjoy herself. At any given moment, these decisions made sense, but the cumulative impact was to nudge us into a groove that I would not have freely chosen and would not want for the young women I know.

Although Veronica doesn’t vocalize it, it’s been a little scary, too. If anything happened to my health, my job, or our marriage, she would have been in a very difficult situation. Rolling back the tape twenty years, I wonder what professional sacrifices I would have been willing to make to do things differently. That’s a hard question to honestly answer.

There are no comebacks in life. But resilient people sometimes find ways to find new opportunities and adventures.

We just found out that Veronica won a competitive internship at Northwestern’s Lurie Children’s Hospital. She will be doing community care coordination for medically complex children. It’s important work. I hope you can pardon me for bragging about it.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect, tnr.com, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

4 thoughts on “Bragging about my wife”

  1. Thank you for sharing. Seems to me you guys done a tremendous job with what you were dealt. And are continuing to parlay your personal experiences into professions that will greatly benefit from your empathy and wisdom.

  2. Thank you for this. It's a much-needed reminder of the importance of resilience–and of resilient people. I have admired Veronica since I first learned of her activities via this blog, and I'm delighted that her hard work and hard-won experience is being rewarded. And, as someone related to a medically complex child, I'm grateful for her and people like her who focus for any portion of their careers on their care. And to Veronica, congratulations! My hat is off to you, ma'am!

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