Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Balancing Act

I come from the generation of women who were raised from a very young age to believe that they can be and do it all. College, career, friends, marriage, kids, and a perfect family life, unhindered by a stellar career, and of course, a kicking body. As most of us in medicine, I have a strong tendency toward demanding perfection, of myself, of my relationships, and especially of my work. Anything worth doing was worth doing perfectly, down to the last detail, or I just wouldn't do it. Ha. Ha. Ha. And then I got smacked, hard, with reality. As others have so astutely stated, the enemy of good is perfect. Many of my posts on MIM have been pertinent to work/life balance, or, more specifically, lack thereof.

At first, I did a really good job balancing self care, school, and friendships. In med school I made a concentrated effort to work out several times a week, studied most of the rest of my time, and while my older friendships got put more or less on hold, I had good friends in medical school with whom to blow off steam after examinations. Then came love, followed shortly by marriage, best decision I have ever made unto this day, and I don't regret it a bit, but the gym was the first to be phased out in favor of nurturing the relationship. And, to quote the Barenaked Ladies "When we are happy we both get fat and still, it's never enough..."

In residency, he was working, and I was working, and we cherished the time we had together. We hired a cleaning lady who also did laundry, and were able to spend most of our free time together nurturing our relationship and our relationship with our family and friends. Life became infinitely more complicated with one child, and we were nearly pushed to our breaking point when, in the throes of an incredibly demanding work schedule, we had our second child. We lived 14 hours away from much of our friends and family. Mr. Whoo was working 10 hour days, I was working 12 hour days (if I was lucky), and our children were in day care 10 hours a day, despite having a twice a month cleaning lady, any spare time was spent digging out from underneath mountains of laundry, and our life together was coming apart at the seams.

There was no more robbing Peter to pay Paul, and we finally had to make some very difficult decisions. The first of which was Mr. Whoo quitting his job to hold down the home front (i.e. find it under Mount Laundry and the River of Dust) and be available for our children and family. The second of which was my decision to break my contract (which cost us a bit financially) and find a more reasonable call schedule in a location closer to our family and friends. In addition to seeing more friends in person, facebook helped so much in sharing my life with my family and far away friends. I'll be the first to admit, my life is far from perfect, but compared to a year and a half ago, my life is a spa vacation. My children are still fairly young at 3 and 6, and they still have very few extra curricular activities. I know more juggling will be in order once they start, but so far we've handled Daisy Scouts and dance class fairly well. The last thing I have yet to get totally back on track is taking care of my own health. I've lost almost 30 pounds since moving here, and plan to find a way to continue to get back into good health. My *final* frontier, but a kicking body? Likely not.

So, in short, we *can* have it all, with a little help from our husbands, family, friends, and by standing up for ourselves and finding a position that allows us to fulfill our calling as a physician and still tuck the kids into bed most nights of the week. Every woman on this board has achieved so much, each of us in our own way. We've done it all, and so can you.


  1. Where I live (the Netherlands), it's still pretty unheard of that the man quits his job to hold down the fort at home. They still reason in terms of 'sure, my wife can have a part time career if she really wants to'.

    I resolved never to marry a Dutchman if that's what it's going to be like.

  2. I think it is awesome that you realized things were harder than than they needed to be and rearranged life to make it workable again. That is a tough thing to do, but it is important to recognize our own limits and stay within them. Sure, there are times we have to push ourselves beyond that, but there are also times when we are pushing and pushing just to make ourselves more unhappy, that's when it is time to reevaluate.

  3. Doctor Blondie~ It takes a special guy to be married to a a physician. I am so happy that I chose wisely. Currently Mr. Whoo is "working from home" for a small business he has, but now that my schedule is considerably more manageable, he may be looking to find a more active work role. If/when that happens, don't doubt for a minute we'll be hiring on extra help for the household duties...maybe even cooking! hmmmm...

    Kyla~ Thank you for your kind words! At the time it was really a pretty gut wrenching decision, now that Mr. Whoo is thinking about going back to a "day job," I find myself sort of wishing that he wouldn't! I can't tell you how much of a breaking point my last position really pushed me towards, it was unhealthy, and I never want to wait that long again or suffer so much to choose the right path for our family.

  4. This is a wonderful success story. Congratulations on being malleable enough to make the changes (big ones!) necessary to keep your family and sanity intact. And congrats on your weight loss - that takes a lot of work and effort! I'll bet that kickin' body is right around the corner (with good health, of course)!

  5. Glad you are doing well. See "awesome husband" in previous post. Bless 'em all.

  6. Dr. Whoo...THANK YOU so much! I just finished my OB/Gyn residency at a crazy academic program that almost killed me, and had me wondering if I would never have a life again. I am in a 1 year minimally invasive surgery fellowship that I love, currently applying for private practice jobs...any more advice on how to keep the balance once I am back to seeing OB patients/taking call?? I'm am married and trying for baby #1.

  7. Hi YoungOB~ Sorry for just answering now, I've been MIA for a while in the blog world. The best advice that I can give is that if you are going to do both OB and GYN, do call no less than 1 in 4, preferably 1 in 5. Any more and you will never get home on your call days, and any less and you will find it hard to recover from them. If you are looking for GYN only, go for *office procedures* and lots of them. Essures, Novasures, and office hysteroscopy, if possible. Nice, easy procedures, good reimbursement, and in high patient demand. Your minimally invasive surgery skills can only be a plus in this area. I wish you the best as you look for a job and try for baby #1!


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