How could I have almost passed up the opportunity to post on topic week about a family friendly career? Perhaps because this week I baked for the kids’ school pot luck and bought gifts for their amazing after school counselors and am working on a grand rounds and revising and resubmitting a paper and tweaking the students’ syllabus and conducting meetings with…
All that, and yet pediatrics, the career, is kids and their families. And as such it could not be more supportive of pediatricians raising theirs. Lots of opportunities for part time work, though I have remained full time with enough of “protected” time for non-clinical but otherwise scholarly work, where much of the flexibility is built in.
I aim to be a serious academic and medical educator (albeit still with appropriate levity with my pediatric patients) but at my own pace. After a few “wins” (first grant, first publication, first leadership role) you can pace yourself, pick and choose things (still say yes to almost everything but learn to say an occasional no) in academia. And grow to be a mentor to others.
And all the while my pediatric colleagues have to understand things like pumping, breastfeeding, being called to get your son from daycare, fevers, falls, school performances, and sports events because this is the stuff of outpatient pediatrics. It happens in our lives as mothers (and fathers) in medicine as it happens in the lives of our patients. When I returned from parental leave after 16 weeks the second time around, squeezing in pumping and speeding to daycare pickups, I reassured my boss that that was the last baby for me, and he told me to have as many as I wanted. That was a breath of fresh air (and the legal thing to say), and it was sincere. I continue to have all my patients as “my kids” plus the two of my own, and that is the right number for me in my very full time pediatric parenting career/life.
I think a side benefit of pediatrics as family friendly is it helps in child rearing. You learn the tips, the things we parents struggle with, you read the latest on development, and you can even draw upon your job when you minimize your kids’ screen time, ensure they brush their teeth, buckle up, among other less obvious things. I have nearly said to my children, “If your parents weren’t pediatricians then maybe you could eat that hotdog while playing with matches and then take a ride in the front seat, but….” Furthermore, my children hear me take call by phone some evenings or weekends for our outpatient community-based academic pediatric practice and have nearly become mini-pediatricians themselves. Even though they’ll probably be a rock star (say, Elvis) and an artist (she who draws mostly mermaids).
I didn’t choose pediatrics because I thought it would be family friendly, but much to my joy and satisfaction, in most cases it can be and has been.