Parents, Your Pediatrician Is Judging You

shutterstock_59788060__1393266855_142.196.167.223Deciding when to take a sick kid to the doctor is one of the biggest problems I have with parenting. I can never tell if the doctor thinks I’m a total hypochondriac or a miserable failure. I always thought this paranoia about judgy doctors was in my head – but thanks to this totally condescending post written by a pediatrician regarding dads – I realize my paranoia is justified.

The story is titled, Doctors to Dads: You’re Doing it Wrong. Great. I’m not a dad, but I’m totally doing it wrong, too:

As you can imagine, there is little that I find more professionally frustrating than when patients are brought to appointments by people who have no idea what’s going on with them. I’m sorry to say that by far the most consistent culprits are dads.

Whatever, guy. If I knew what was wrong with my kid, I’d probably be whipping up a home remedy to cure what ails him, as I hate taking him to the doctor. But I, unlike yourself, am not a pediatrician. This is where your knowledge comes in.

In addition to totally validating my idea that my kid’s pediatrician thinks I’m an idiot – this post is also pretty infuriating and condescending to fathers in general. He makes stereotypical claims of clueless fathers being “dragooned” into taking their children to the doctor by frantic, worried mothers. He implies that we all know that keeping up with the health of children is woman’s work – but makes sure to add that some moms are clueless, too:

“I’m not sure. My wife usually handles those details” is a response I get far more often than I should. To be fair, I’ve certainly encountered my fair share of mothers who have lost track of some aspect of their children’s healthcare or another, and it bears repeating that most dads are on top of things. But insofar as the task of shepherding the children through the medical system has been assumed by only one parent, the clear majority of the time it is the mother.

There’s nothing more stressful than dealing with a sick child. I can’t be bothered with worrying about whether my pediatrician thinks I’m competent. I really can’t. I also don’t think that perpetuating the myth that fathers don’t know what’s going on with the health of their kids is doing anyone any favors.

I’ll do my part and really try to explain as best I can what is going on with my kid. But as a doctor, you have to do your part and realize that your over a decade worth of schooling makes you a superior choice in diagnosing my child, right? Are there really parents who go to the pediatrician, dump their kids in their lap and say, I dunno or I have no answers? I find that hard to believe.

(photo: Rido/ Shutterstock)

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You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • shel

    While I can agree with this doc on some points, the way he phrased things is totally inappropriate and I wouldnt say it’s a judgement of the parents being bad parents…
    But sadly, there are is a ridiculously high number of patients where you can’t get a very detailed history, which makes diagnosis more difficulty. How long have they been coughing? I don’t know…He was at his mom’s this weekend.
    Any fevers? I didn’t take a temperature. She might have felt warm.
    Any trouble breathing? I don’t know, I’ve been at work.
    etc. But i don’t think it’s specific to moms or dads… and sometimes it will be a ‘family friend’ that brings the kid in and then they really don’t know anything about the child, like history of wheezing or asthma etc. That can make it very difficult to properly diagnose and treat a child, and is very frustrating. But sometimes it can’t be helped and the only person availble to bring someone in is that person who doesn’t know the whole story.
    I don’t expect parents to walk in with a diagnosis, but we need to know why you are bringing your kid to the doctor. “Mom was worried and said I needed to bring him, I don’t know why” (which I have heard more than once, for real) Makes for a really difficult office visit on the part of everyone.

    • Elizabeth

      Oh dear, this sounds like me when I bring MYSELF to the doctor. Last time I went, the nurse asked me if I had a fever and I was just like, I don’t know, sir, aren’t you the one holding a thermometer?

    • Alex

      I used help family and friends fix computers and cars, and while I didn’t expect everyone to tell me precisely what was wrong with it (that’s why I was called, after all), I did expect a bit more background than “it won’t work”. It just adds to the frustration (and time, obviously) because now I don’t know where to even start looking for the problem.

      It’s not that I thought they were all incompetent (well, some of them I did), but it’s that they had a wildly unrealistic concept of what is possible. We’re technicians/doctors, not goddamn wizards.

    • shel

      I wish I were a goddamn wizard! That sounds way better than a doctor!

  • Bethany Ramos

    I am not ashamed to say that I have pediatrician hopped several times within the same practice because I felt judged. I don’t know if it was me or them, but I figured why not switch doctors if I could freely do so? Righteous indignation.

    • shel

      It’s very appropriate to switch doctors to find one you are comfortable with. Like all interactions in life, sometimes there will just be people you don’t click with.
      And if you don’t trust your pediatrician or like them, the chances of actually following their recomendations/ believe them when they give you a diagnosis or going to see them when your child really needs to are less.
      So if you have the options available, great, find one that you like and who agrees with your parenting style (or is at least open to other ways of parenting).

    • Bethany Ramos

      Thanks! I am ashamed to say we settled on a trendy doc because she wore pink jeans. (I call her Dr. PinkJeans.) ;)

    • Guest

      My Drs office recommended my gyno (based on hours and that “she is young”). I kept after she started off an appt with “hey there little lady…” If you can’t be funny, you can’t be my gyno.

    • Bethany Ramos


    • Kay_Sue

      I hit the jackpot with our pediatrician. She was great. She actually visited both of them in the nursery at the hospital, so she’s been with us since day one… *wipes away a tear*

  • Sarah

    I once called the doctors office to make a sick appointment for my youngest and was so discombobulated when they asked for her birthdate I responded, “I have no idea, what is it?” Thank you, mother-of-the -year here.

    • AugustW

      More often than not I’ll,give them my birthdate when asked for my daughters.

    • TheGiantPeach

      And more often than not, I put my own name down when I’m filling out paperwork for my son.

  • Crusty Socks

    If you feel your pediatrician is too Judgy™, call up the head of his practice group and you can return the favor.

  • Alexandra

    Actually I totally agree with this doctor, just not the way he phrases it. I think it’s a kind of situation where, ok they threw up once, versus they’ve been throwing up for 3 days and may need IV fluids type situation. The doctor needs more information than you’d have on your cat. (“IDK he seems sick or something”). Come to think of it, my mom could probably give a pretty detailed medical history of our cat also….. :)

    • Crusty Socks

      Every profession can (and probably does) have these same uppity attitudes. But it’s stupid. You’re the professional, that’s why people come to you for help. Doctors shouldn’t look at their patients and expect to have the same knowledge and skill. A mistiming on your engine is more obvious to a mechanic than it is to a physician.

    • Paul White

      But a professional can’t help you if you can’t give them information to go on.
      Being able to say what’s normal for your kid is kind of important if you’re saying something’s not right.

    • Crusty Socks

      Kay does nothing but point out reason and facts.

    • shel

      I don’t expect patient’s to have any medical knowledge, really… but I do expect them to know something about their child and what is different that they thought said child needed to be seen by a doctor.
      Have they been crying more? Okay, what time of day or is it just all day?
      Having vomiting or diarrhea? Funny colored stool? fevers off and on for 5 days?
      You need something to go on to help solve whatever the problem is. If the person brining in the child doesn’t even know what the complaint is, it doesn’t make it very easy to fix the patient. And by complaint I don’t expect “little johnny has pneumonia” but “he’s been coughing” or “he’s having fevers” would be nice.

    • Crusty Socks
    • Guest

      I like the cat analogy. I don’t think Drs need a written history of the past 72 hours but they do need more than “my wife/husband said he is sick”.

  • AlbinoWino

    Heh, I had to stop my dad from calling 911 during one of my little sister’s horrific nose bleeds. To be fair, he is mortally afraid of blood. They threatened to kick him out of the delivery room when I was born because he was turning green.

  • Heather

    The quotes by the doctor make it sound like he’s bitching about people who come into his practice with a sick kid and can’t/won’t/don’t answer the questions he has to ask to diagnose the kid. He mentions that most of the time, the parents who are doing this are dads. That’s not condescending, it’s observational. And it’s true. If you can’t answer the questions about why you brought your kid to the doctor, then WHY did you bring them? You don’t just look at your kid one day and say “ehhhh… you don’t look the same. Let’s go sit in the waiting room of a doctor’s office until you pick up some bacteria or virus and make the doctor stare at you until he gives us medicine.” Obviously something prompts a parent/guardian to bring a kid in. Tell the damn doctor why you brought your kid in.

    • Guest

      I get up at 5am and am home at 6pm. My husband leaves for work at 10am and is home around 9pm. We don’t have the type of work schedules that allow us to always have an equal handle on health issues that crop up with our toddler–sometimes he develops issues at night and only I will know about them; other times, he’ll have issues that appear in the morning and only my husband will know about them. There have been a number of times I’ve brought my kid in at the behest of the daycare teachers who note various issues and to be honest, my answers half the time are, “I’m not sure. They brought it up today in daycare. I didn’t notice it last night.” My husband has also been “that dad” that the Doctor is complaining about and it’s because our work schedules mean that while I may be the one who has a better handle on the problem (because I might be the one to pick the kid up from daycare, hear about the problem, and see it when I bathe him and put him to bed–alone, because mine and my husband’s hours are different), my husband might have to be the one to stay home and take the kid to the doctor’s office because he has more sick/personal days available to do that.

      I don’t think that people are being intentionally withholding when they go to the doctor. Some parents work a lot and rely on other caretakers; some have a lot of kids; some are divorced and don’t see their kids every day.

      I mean, I get what the doctor is saying but the aggression irritates me because it’s unfair to how a lot of families need to live these days. We’re not idiots. We’re not neglectful either. We’re just trying to make do with how we have to live.

    • Heather

      My argument is that it is irresponsible to just tell your husband “Kid has an appointment, take him to it.” You need to communicate what you saw, you need to ask what the care providers noticed, when they noticed it, how often, severity, etc.

      That information isn’t just for funsies, it helps the doctor know what your kid is sick with. Without information like that, they can’t accurately diagnose your kid. I get that you may not know every detail, but if your child is sick enough to need to see a doctor (pretty freaking sick, IMO) then make some notes because you’re busy, tired parents who have to balance work and parenting and you can’t do it all without having an efficient system to communicate information about your kids with each other. Things like how long he’s had the cough, when did the puking start, the last time he kept something down, etc. Any random little things that make you think “he doesn’t normally do that” put together with certain symptoms may help make sure your child gets the treatment they need, not just some generic prescription of antibiotics and come back if it doesn’t work.

  • Alex

    Pshaw. A REAL mom is a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, AND ambulance driver.

    In fact, the hospital should pay YOU for the trouble of doing their jobs for them.

    • Emily A.

      Don’t forget: Olympian!

  • Michelle

    This reminds me of the Everybody Loves Raymond episode when Ray brings the wrong twin to the ped appointment. I’m the one who deals with all things medical in our home since I am a health care professional. In a pinch my husband could take over a doctor apt but I would prob send him with a list of pertinent information.

  • jsterling93

    I just read his ENTIRE essay and sorry but he is actually very reasonable. He can’t do his job if you can’t tell him basic facts like when the last time your child ate was or if his poop looks different. Anybody can sound like an ass if you cherry pick quotes without providing full context.

  • lpag

    In general, I am against the Clueless Father trope, and this doctor definitely has a nasty attitude coming through. But there is definitely a thing with men and medical professionals- to be blunt, it is very common for men to do poorly with discussing medical issues. My husband has this issue, and he is NOT the only one. And not just with the kids, I mean with his own doctor visits too. He once had to be seen for a digestive issue and neglected to mention that he has a significant family history of colon cancer. Facepalm moment! He has also done this sort of thing with the kids, as well as failed to ask ANY questions (when I could think of five off the top of my head). Now, when he goes to the doctor- whether for himself or for the kids- I send him with a list of things to cover, what to ask, etc. It feels so silly, and I HATE being the “mommy knows best” figure because I SOOO don’t believe in that shiz, but when it comes to anything medical, I just can’t leave it to him, he WILL screw up.

    • Alexandra

      Yep my father was EXACTLY like this – my mother would call his doctors and say “has he told you that he also has “x” symptom?” because once he got in there, he’d be all “oh I feel great!” SMH

  • Ro

    I felt like you cut and paste the portions applicable to your argument and ignored everything else. I read the article, and the doctor says more than once that most fathers are on top of things, but that anytime there is a parent who can not give him the additional information he needs to make his diagnosis it is a father.

    Also, your implication that it is entirely up to the doctor to figure out what is wrong with your child without any background info is a bit silly. Obviously it’s in everyone’s best interest if you can tell the doctor things like how long the child has had a fever, been throwing up, if they’ve been eating and drinking, etc.

    • ja’mie

      i was literally just about to say all of the same things. i read this article first and didnt was expecting to read this really controversial, condescending article from the pediatrician, which was the EXACT opposite. especially the paragraph where the dr. sarcastically said shucks i’m just the dad! moms are apparently supposed to be taking care of the kids! and this author fully took the sarcasm out of his comment giving it completely different meaning out of context.

  • pixie

    I get really irritated with the “clueless father” trope. Maybe it’s because I had a fantastic dad, but I’d have thought that in this day and age, with a push for co-parenting (at least from rational people), the trope would have slowly trickled out. I still see it on commercials and in shows and it annoys me. Sure, some men and fathers aren’t 100% with explaining things when they go to the doctor, but some women and mothers aren’t either. I’m really bad at explaining things to doctors, but I sometimes have difficulty explaining things in general. My dad is better at telling the doctor things or explaining them than I am and knows more about family medical history, but I can remember when I had more severe illnesses or reactions and when my dad had operations than he can. It’s just who we are as people, not really anything to do with our genders.

  • AugustW

    I think in general, moms are more on top of kids medical stuff because women are more likely to work somewhere that allows them to take time off to go to appointments. This is obviously a giant generalization, but as I look at family members, I can see my sister in law more likely to be able to call in late or take off early for a sick kid, than her husband.

  • Katherine Handcock

    Yeah, I think you’re a bit harsh on this doctor. Here is the very first paragraph: “Dads: you’re doing it wrong. At least some of you, and at least when you come into the doctor’s office.”

    He also says “the vast majority of fathers who accompany their children to my office
    are perfectly informed about the concerns that led to the visit in the
    first place. But if I’m faced with a parent who hasn’t a clue about why
    they’re there, it is almost invariably a dad.”

    He makes this point with well-child visits as well as sick visits, so I think his overall point is about the fact that both parents should be emotionally involved in their child’s life. I know a lot of dads who couldn’t tell you how potty-training is progressing with a toddler, whether the kid colours with crayons, what’s the kid’s favourite food? They’re not bad dads, they’re just dads who seem to feel that the knowledge of their overall child falls into mom’s job. But this doctor is a dad himself, and he clearly feels that both parents should be involved in their children’s lives, not just in the big stuff, but in the little every day stuff. I think that’s a very valuable point.

  • Telepanda

    Sigh, I am not particularly offended by this article because it could totally be about my husband, much as I hate to admit that. He’d be the sheepish dad. I’ve actually at times avoided sending him to take Kid to the doctor for the exact reason that he can’t generally answer the kinds of questions the article is talking about. He loves our kids, and he’s reasonably involved with them, he just….. doesn’t store this type of information in his head. It drives me nuts and I’ve asked him to pay more attention, but it just doesn’t stick.

  • Warren Pacholzuk

    Never dealt with a pediatrician. From the day they were born, they went to our family doctor only. Stop taking your kids to specialists with ordinary life crap, and you won’t run into a judging doctor.
    Secondly develope and use instincts. The number of things that do not need professional medical treatment or visits far out number the reasons to go to a doctor.
    Too many overprotective parents run to doctors and hospitals for absolute nonsense.