I've been asked about how being a doctor affects the way I'm a parent; in review, I'd have to say there are probably some things I have done differently because of my background: I probably worried less about a runny nose and productive cough when my kids were younger. I'm more annoyed than concerned about the occasional bloody nose that Youngest gets, especially after he's admitted he hasn't been taking his allergy medication. My kids have known anatomical terms for their most private parts since before they could talk, and the "toy" medical kit they used to use contained the stethoscope I received when I was a medical student. And dinner table conversations are as likely to include a discourse on why cocaine can lead to a stroke (even in first time users) as they are to include a review of the school day.
More important, I think, is the question about how being a mom has affected the way I practice medicine. I see a great deal of "carry-over" as I interact with my patients. See the way that lady with Alzheimer's disease grabs my hand and won't let go? In residency we learn about "frontal releasing signs" as an indication of deterioration of the brain; as I speak with families I can describe how this is similar to the grasp that an infant has, because I've experienced that same grasp when my babies were born. Similar to the way I don't shy away from explaining the concept of "you get benefits out of something proportional to the effort you put into it" to my kids, I'm not afraid to tell a patient who has refused to participate in the home program component of physical therapy that I'm not surprised that he hasn't seen any lasting benefits. And (I know that this is not at all politically correct) if one of my patients has shared with me fears or concerns about the future, especially as it relates to the illness I treat her for, I'm not hesitant to give her a hug at the end of the visit any more than I would hesitate to hug one of my children after they've shared their most recent fear or worry.
I'd like to believe that being a doctor has made me a better parent in many way; at the same time, I'd like to believe that being a parent has made me a better doctor.
Have any of you experienced similar experiences with your patients?