Monday, April 14, 2014

Guest post: Tales of a hybrid doctor/stay at home Mum-- Part II

April, 2014.

That day five years ago, was the lowest point. (see Part I) Today I work “full time” (whatever that means!) in what is probably my dream job: a perfect mix of innovative clinical care, cutting edge research, medical education and being a leader in my chosen specialty. I am on faculty at one of the most prestigious medical schools in the world and get to work with the brightest and the best, in an environment that is intellectually rewarding and super collegial. …and I feel this is just the beginning!

My husband (who got a raw deal in part I—sorry babe) and I have never been closer and more happier in our marriage—we are both fulfilled in our careers, but most importantly, feel like we are reaping the rewards of our hybrid parenting model now: family life is fun, filled with endless bliss and joy.

Our kids (now 10 and 6) are doing fantastic: healthy, happy and thriving at school and play.

Don’t get me wrong-- it’s a juggling act, for sure, but we are juggling joy and I have never felt more balanced in my life.

Still, the reason I wrote part I is that I never wanted to minimize (or forget) the complicated journey (and decisions) I endured to get me to where I am today.

I only wish my 2014 self could have whispered in the ear of my 2009 self and told her the following:

#1. It will get easier as the kids get older; there will be new parenting challenges and hurdles but the physical dependency will be less and that will give you more freedom. Be patient.

#2.You (as Mum and Dad) have to do what feels right to you (as parents).  This is unique for every single family in the world.You have to decide how best to work to your strengths as a team.Never compromise on your childcare beliefs and preferences.  Do what you think is the right thing to do and everything else will fall into place with time. Your husband is your biggest supporter of your talent and career.  This is, in part, because he is equally passionate, ambitious and talented in his own career.  It’s hard to have two parents be ambitious at the same time when there are two young kids at home.  Right now, you have both agreed it makes sense that it should be his turn, one day it will be yours.  Be patient.

#3. Whatever you do, don’t “opt out”.  You will get deskilled and limit your future career options.  Keep up the hybrid model—it will work to your favor in the end.

#4.  Think of work as a career not as a job.  Keep investing in yourself. When the kids nap/sleep engage in scholarly activities that will keep your CV looking attractive.  You feel like a tortoise right now (and I know you hate that, because you are not a tortoise type of gal) but slow and steady will win the race (one day).

#5.  Stay connected to the reasons you became a physician in the first place.  Don’t’ let anyone distract you from that—these are crucial reasons that are core to your identity as a human being.

#6. Your ARE privileged. Your job entails you coming up with creative solutions to some of the world’s most difficult problems—you impact humanity every time you work.  You also get paid better than most, have societal respect and a “voice” AND have the option to work “part time”.  Many working mothers do not have that type of job. Be GRATEFUL

#7. Don’t become a hovering parent—you have seen them, overeducated parents with time on their hands creating projects in the school so that they can get called to implement them!  Be a good citizen in the school but better you put your skills to use in a zip code that needs your specialized skill set, not the zip code where your kids are lucky enough to live and go to school.

#8. Always DELEGATE non- essential tasks (it will be money well spent) and use that time for love, laughter and being in the moment.  Take care of those who take care of you.

#9. Learn to let go (a little)—it will all be okay.

#10. Don’t pay too much attention to labels, “working mum”; “stay at home mom”; “part time physician”.  Don’t be defined by these terms, they undermine the complexity and power of who you are as an individual. You are unique, you will find a way to make it all work.

Above all remember:

Becoming a mother has made you a better physician and remaining a practicing physician has made you a better mother.

Dr. S is a married physician and mother of two.


  1. I love this. As a married med student with a toddler I find it so refreshing. My husband and I are both very invested in our careers right now and life is full but fun and exciting

  2. Love the attitude, and the refreshing take on a busy hectic life. Its also extremely reassuring to hear that it does get better as the kids get older…I'm sick of the "bigger kids, bigger problems" narrative.

  3. Fantastic double post - thanks for sharing. I empathize, as a happy, fulfilled, single mom and full time pathologist, with your past lows and your current highs. I'm glad you recognize in retrospect the temporary of bad - we all have them in our careers and home lives and they are temporary! As a mom of an 11 and 8 year old and a full time pathologist in a great group I am so happy to be just where I am. I love your bullet points of wisdom - very eloquently put, Dr. S.

  4. I love this!! I feel like I could have written every. Single. Word. Thanks :) I've recently converted to a full time PhD (from Part time). I work one day a week as a clinician (GP). I am also a mother. The "juggle" is more like a joyous ride. I do feel so very grateful, most of the time. Thanks for sharing.

  5. This is really great. My husband and I are about to start residency with an 18 month old and I feel like I will need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I especially love #6--really easy to forget sometimes.

  6. Thank you for sharing your insight and experience. I am currently in your "part 1" phase of life. Your practical advice really hit home at precisely the time when I felt close to "opting out" -- your message had a huge impact on me to stay. Thanks!!


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