Before I decided to go back to school full force, pursuing a career in medicine, I talked to several physician/mothers that I respect a great deal. Balance was always a central theme in these discussions. What I learned in talking to them is that it is definitely possible to be both a good physician and a good mother, balance is possible, but it is not always an easy thing to find that balance and balance rarely means the same thing to two people. It is more complicated than usual for our family, because KayTar has special medical needs and my husband works full time and is a full time student, too. For us, these things have been key.
1. Determine YOUR priorities, re-evaluate as necessary. My highest priorities this semester included: Never miss organic chemistry. Go to all of KayTar's medical appointments/hospital visits. Be present and active in the kids' school life. Spend time in clinic. We had several rough spots in the semester, but I never missed organic or one of KayTar's appointments, and I made sure to volunteer in the kids' library as often as possible. I also spent several days shadowing. Your priorities are probably totally different than mine, but just recognizing what they are makes it easier to stick to it.
2. Compromise where you can. I did stick to all of my priority items, but I had to compromise in other areas to do so. I missed history and music on more than one occasion to go to one of KayTar's appointments. I missed several of my son's baseball games because I was in the hospital with KayTar.We skipped KayTar's dance class at least once, because I needed to study. Last night when I was working through 228 pages of organic chemistry and KayTar kept bouncing back into my bedroom like a ping pong ball, I finally scooped her into my lap and said, "I know you reeeeeally want to play with me right now, but I'm studying for my very last test right now and it is very important. After tomorrow, I'm all your for a month!" She understood and went on her way. You can't always do it all, but you can make time for a little bit of everything.
3. Our family is a TEAM. The only way any of this works is that we are all committed to it. Laundry is usually falls under my purview and dishes belong to Josh, but if I'm drowning in orgo, he'll put on a couple of loads for me....if he's writing papers and the sink is overflowing, I'll load the dishwasher for him. I usually pick up the kids, but if I'm in clinic, Josh handles pick-up. Josh cooks dinner, but if he's busy cramming for an exam, I'll
4. Take time for yourself/family/friends. I've found that I get a lot more accomplished if I take periodic breaks and do something relaxing, than if I try to power through and do more, ignoring myself altogether. If I'm having an especially intense study session, I'll give myself 30 minutes of free time as a reward every time I finish a section. The kids understand that mom and dad have homework just like they do and for the most part, they let us work and study when we need to. When I'm drowning in coursework and need a break, I'll ask BubTar to play Wii with me or I go have a tea party with KayTar. Sometimes a little time together is all we need. We don't have a lot of time for dates or social events with friends, but when the stars align, we jump at the chance! Everything seems easier after a great date night or evening spent with good friends.
I'm sure there are other important factors, but for us, these are the biggies. As an undergrad, I know that this is probably the easiest my life will ever be...medical school, residency, and practice will take more time and effort than school currently does. Sometimes I think I must be clinically insane to be pursuing this, but I love medicine and I'm committed to making this work. I hope that as time passes and we enter into the next stages of this process, we will continue to find a way to make it all work.