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.
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).
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
#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.