I have to be honest: I'm a little burned out on writing about what PM&R is and why it's so awesome. I've covered it before both on Mothers in Medicine and on my own blog. People email me questions about it frequently, which I'm happy to answer, but... it's just hard to motivate myself to write yet another post about it.
So with the permission of our lovely moderator KC, I'd like to address the topic week a little more generally, and say some things that have been weighing on me lately. Namely:
Medicine is not a great career for a mother.
There, I said it.
Since we were asked to address which aspects are not family friendly, allow me to do so:
When you're dealing with sick people, you can't predict your schedule, whether you're doing inpatient or outpatient. You might think you're going to be done at 5PM, and then your last patient will say, "Oh by the way, I'm having 10 out of 10 chest pain." Imagine it's 6PM, your patient says that, and you know your daycare will close in 15 minutes. It can (and will) happen.
2) Unforgiving of illness
Have I written about this one enough? I think I have. When you've got two children who pass colds back and forth (and then to you), you realize how difficult it is to be in a job where you basically can't call in sick.
3) Must work part time to work "only" full time.
An attending I talked to at a VA (not exactly a rigorous working environment) said that she had to cut back to working 75% time in order to only work 40 hours per week. Between on call time, documentation, phone calls, etc, the hours on your contract don't in any way resemble the hours you work.
4) Will mess with your sleep/wake cycle
It's bad enough worrying that a baby will wake you up. Worrying that a baby OR a pager will wake you up is enough to drive you crazy. I like my sleep, so this is a big one for me. How many times have I wished to be in a job where I could sleep through the night every night... ah, heaven.
5) Residency is killer
Dare I say that no residency is actually friendly to mothers? Yes, I'll say it. I'm sure some of you will come up with exceptions, but I think it's pretty overwhelmingly true.
6) You can't take a break
In a lot of careers, you could probably take a year or two off after your child is born. In medicine, it's much harder. You forget stuff and are rusty when you get back... not a great thing when you're dealing with people's lives. Taking long breaks is also a bit of a dink on your "permanent record." I once tried to apply for hospital privileges through a computer system and the program would not let me submit because I couldn't "account for" the 1.5 months between med school graduation and the start of internship. If I had taken a year off, the computer probably would have exploded.
7) The consequences of a mistake are so horrible
When you're a doctor, you can't mess up. People's lives and livelihood are at stake. You can't be careless for the sake of getting out a little earlier.
Truthfully, I sometimes feel like the entire school system is lagging behind the idea that two parents might be working. I mean, the school day ends at 3PM, which is extremely inconvenient for working parents. Kids get random weeks off from school during the year and the whole summer. And if they get sick, they're supposed to stay home. What on earth are we supposed to do with them if both parents work?
OK, but here's the good news:
I work as a consultant, which allows me to have a lot more flexibility. While I can't just not show up, it's not as big a deal to shift my hours. And the base salary for most physicians is enough that we can work part time (i.e. normal people's full time) and still bring home a good paycheck. (If you want to read more about what makes PM&R a good specialty for mothers, you can click on the link I mentioned above.) And if you enjoy the work you're doing, presumably you're happier in general and therefore a better parent (maybe).
But it's hard not to get a nagging feeling that when you're trying to juggle both motherhood and medicine, you're failing a little at both.