A classmate of mine introduced me to a friend of hers who is a mother of three, is starting her pre reqs to apply to medical school, and is interested in ob/gyn. She connected us via a social networking site, and I wrote down came to mind as far as advice:
I haven’t found the mom thing to be a big obstacle for me in medical school. I learned how to juggle and prioritize my time when I became a mother.
Of course, I only have two kids, and I heard the transition from 2 to 3 can be a little rough. How old are they? Mine are 5 and 10, so they are both potty trained (whew!) and can both understand when mommy needs to study. Not that they won’t interrupt me, but still.
I was a little nervous about doing my post bacc pre reqs as an older student and a mother. I felt a little lonely in those classes, but I was pleasantly surprised when I got to medical school. There were other mothers and other older students there – one of my closest friends is a grandmother, and she found time to work 40 hours a week while in med school (I don’t recommend it, but she did. And she still does on her rotations).
I obviously don’t have the time nor the inclination to party as hard as many of my classmates. Nor do I get my nails done or go to the gym. But, I managed to be incredibly active in extracurricular activities in medical school. I found time to be involved in things that interested me (I was president of the ob/gyn club, for example, and helped run the Vagina Monologues and ran the HIV testing clinic) because I wouldn’t enjoy medical school otherwise. And, I could always give them up if I wasn’t happy with my grades, which I was.
What helped me:
1. Juggle and balance. I would go to school, try to make and eat dinner with my family, and then study in the later evenings when the kids were in bed and on weekends after spending breakfast with the family. That schedule worked for me.
2. During my pre med, I only took part time classes, but I was also working full time. Looking back, I wish I took out loans and did the school thing full time. My life course might have been different, since I got into ob/gyn late in my premed, but still, it was a longer journey than it had to be.
3. Find friends who know what’s going on and use them. (Not use them use them, but you know what I mean.) I am not the best person when it comes to knowing what paperwork is due when, etc. So, I find an organized, friendly classmate who is good at staying on top of this stuff, and remember to ask them for help when I need it. It’s also good to have a phone number or two in case a family issue comes up and you miss something.
I did not do this enough in my pre med, and entered the application process woefully underprepared. Do your research, ask for help if you aren’t informed. I didn’t have time to do all the pre med extra curricular stuff since I was working full time and my kids were younger. I blew it my first application round, because of stupid stuff (I didn’t wear a suit to my first interview. I wore professional clothes, like I would to a business interview. Wrong. Stood out like a sore sore thumb).
4. Don’t overestimate or underestimate the understanding of your classmates, professors or administrators when it comes to your kids. Some people who you think will be understanding won’t, and may treat it like a weakness. Some people who you wouldn’t expect to be an ally at all will surprise you. Don’t be afraid to bring up the kids, but don’t act like you automatically deserve a break or special treatment. If you try as hard as you can to be as good (or even better) than the childless students, you will hopefully get the support you need when you do need an accommodation.
5. Don’t put your education last in your house. I sometimes find myself having standards for myself as a parent that may be too high. For example, I love making home made valentines with my kids, and despise the commercial ones with the cartoon characters on them. Well, this year I had a major research presentation due this past Friday, and was working on it Thursday night when I realized that my younger son had to do the Valentine’s Day exchange Friday since the holiday occurred over the weekend. My husband bought some Batman valentines, I gritted my teeth and got over it.
6. Quality time is OK sometimes, as opposed to quantity time. I ave myself permission to leave the house to study if I had to, when shutting myself in a bedroom wasn’t working. I didn’t do it too much, but one day a week or so, more during board review, with strategic kid bonding time scheduled in, worked for me.
7. Remember, it could be worse. You could be looking for a husband and trying to plan kids during your residency.
8. As for ob/gyn, I wouldn’t obsess about a specialty now, but I am a huge fan of ob/gyn. Any specialty can be challenging, time wise. Neurosurgeries take 6 hours or more a piece. I talked to an ophthalmologist who loves her practice as a mom now, but she had a grueling residency, with three babies at home (she had twins during her residency!)
Hope that was helpful. Please feel free to contact me whenever you need to.
Please feel free to add advice!
Mom TFH is one of the oldest people at her medical school. The other students learn from her various valuable life experieces: as a pizza delivery driver, a Denny's waitress, an art major, a health food store manager, a purple haired punk, a natural supplement researcher, a midwifery student, and a mother. She has two boys and a public elementary school PE coach. Going to med school just didn't keep her away from them enough, so she is doing a dual degree (D.O./M.P.H.), is the president of the ob/gyn interest club, and is now doing a preclinical research fellowship before starting rotations in July.