Thursday, June 26, 2008

How do you do it all?

I must admit, I get this question a lot from my patients, friends, and family. Most of the time I try to smile blithely, shrug, and mutter something about "doing my best" or some other such BS response. I often feel that this question must be a rhetorical one, because I highly doubt that anyone really wants to know *how* I manage to live my life. The simple answer, of course, is that I *have* to! Responsibility is seldom pushed upon us in a hurry, like a ton of bricks, it is loaded slowly, ounce by ounce, pound, by pound, until, before you know it, the weight is almost unbearable.

Back in ancient times, when I first started pursuing my medical degree, I was naive to the demands of the profession. It wasn't until I was nearly finished with 3rd year until I realized the gravity of the each patient weighed upon your mind, even after you had left the hospital physically. Unfortunately, I happened to fall in love with a physically and mentally demanding specialty; one with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I could not convince myself to turn toward the 9-5 "lifestyle" specialties, and I often feel that the specialty chose me.

Long about the same time, I also happened to fall in love in a different way. This time with a person who was a very good friend, long before romance came into the picture. The solid foundation of friendship is the rock for our marriage, and has gotten us through the rigors of medical training, practice, and parenthood relatively unscathed. But with great love comes great responsibility, and too often I find I need to take more than I can give in the relationship to maintain an overall balance.

Then, the greatest loves and greatest responsibilities of my life came in the form of a beautiful little girl, and a precious little boy. My perspective changed yet again, as I worked harder than ever to support their physical and emotional well being. Working a little later, became exponentially harder, and far less rewarding than it was in the days before my children were in the world.

So I find myself today, bearing the great love and great responsibilities of my profession (and with that, my many patients), my husband, and my children. I find that I am just able to bear the weight of these things, and do a passable job, but I am certainly not doing it all. My health and weight are not especially great, but pushed far to the back burner in favor of "more important" things. The love of all things that I was before I became a physician, wife, and mother, like music and writing and *sleep,* has been shoved further back still.

Something has got to give, and for now, it is looking like I am going to have to unload a few of these bricks so I can breathe and find out what it is like to be me again. I am starting the process of finding a less demanding position, which is temporarily adding more to the load, but hopefully, in time will afford me the ability to enjoy my family and myself once again. I have begun the interviewing process, and I feel a hope that I have not had in a very long time.

So, how do *you* do it all? (I really do want to know!)


  1. I look up to other people who do more than me and then I go...GOSH! they can handle THAT much. Makes me feel lousy for complaining and then I get back at it to whatever I am doing :)

  2. Even though I'm a resident, I feel like in some ways, I don't do that much more than a stay at home mom with two kids. I mean, if I were home all day, I'd be chasing after the kids, right? At least this way I get a break. At work I can at least go to the bathroom pretty much whenever I want. Of course, I'm not a surgery or ob/gyn resident.

    So I guess my response is: how does any mom do it? We're all amazing :)

  3. I agree, I don't know how a "stay at home" (misnomer) mother does it all, either. If I were to stay at home with 2 children all day, you'd likely find me babbling in the corner at the end of the day, whilst the children systematically destroyed the house. I have a good friend who is the busiest, most organized "stay at home" (ha, they are never at home) mother that I know. I admire her immensely.

    For me, it's not that I don't want to quit my job altogether. I certainly love what I do. It is more akin to finding that ever-elusive work/life balance. The first step for me is walking away from being on call 26/30 days.

  4. Having partners who are also moms has been awesome. No boys allowed at our office. We all work as little or as much as we want. (we take equal call/ pay equal overhead) We cover for each other in emergencies (that involved no show babysitters :)

    I don't have as big a house as some of the other doctors in town, but I have a lot more peaceful life.

    OB in BNA

    Good luck with your Caselist!

  5. I don't think anyone knows how they "do it all". I agree with above that all working or stay at home moms are swamped. It is just the nature of our work.

    I was a single mom through college, med school, residency. Now with a husband who co-parents our son, I must say it is A LOT EASIER. I look back and cannot answer the question of "how did I do it." Probably badly.

  6. Dr Whoo,

    I came to this post from the Work Life balance post and it felt like I was reading something I had written, it is so nice to know that a couple of years down the track you have reached a better place.

    I too was naive to the demands of medicine, I fell in love in med school, I was 39 weeks pregnant with my precious baby girl at graduation and welcomed my gorgeous son this year. I also get the "how do you do it" "You must be superwoman" comments and I never know how to reply because I'm just one disaster away from rocking in the corner. And as you said, I do it because I have to. Anyway, thanks for the light at the end of the tunnel


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