Thursday, April 2, 2015

MiM Mail: How are your kids that grew up with a Mother in Medicine?

Hi MiM,

I am an M1 with a 7 month old baby. I was so excited to start but phew, it has kicked my butt. I have great childcare and a very supportive partner but I struggle with constantly feeling behind - behind on house work, on study, time with friends. And of course, my sweet daughter. I worry a lot - is she going to be ok? Will she still be strongly attached? Will I miss being home with her more when these "little years" have passed? I would love to hear your thoughts on these. Not so much "mom guilt" but for those whose children have grown up while they have had a career in medicine - how is your relationship with them ? How are they? Do you regret being gone? Any tips as to how to treasure the time you do have without being bogged down in the never-ending "to-do" list? I spend my days off with her trying to do laundry and purée baby food while longing to just play. Balance is hard and I'm feeling the tension.



  1. My mother was an investment banker and worked more than most doctors when I was little, and I grew up to be a physician scientist.... so, I mean *I* think I turned out pretty well. She is an amazing person and I have always felt incredibly proud of her achievements.

    My advice reading your letter is... 1) Stop worrying about your clean house. Hire a cleaner. Period. No wait. Make your HUSBAND hire the cleaner and pick up before the cleaner arrives. 2) Your husband is not stupid, correct? Then he can operate the laundry machine. If he is too stupid to learn to use a washing machine, you can pay a service to do laundry for you. You might also consider trading him in for a husband that isn't so stupid. 3) Oh and pureeing the baby food? I don't get this... unless you actively enjoy it there is no reason to waste your time on this and other similarly foolish supermom activities.

    1. Yes! Yes! Yes!
      Just say no to foolish supermom activities. Best thing I read today.

      My moms a physician and I grew up to be a relatively well adjusted physician scientist. It'll be ok if you listen to OMDG

  2. Ditto to OMDG and my mother was a tenure-track professor. You will be giving your daughter the gift of not having unnecessary mommy guilt about working. She won't even think to ask this kind of a question.

    Also, you don't need to buy jars OR puree the baby food. Just make sure the pieces aren't chokable. And no, you don't need a food mill either unless you want to use one. (Though if you want homemade organic purees, you don't need to be the one making them unless you want to.)

  3. Thank you for posting this, OP! I'm not a doctor yet but just wanted to make a suggestion regarding the baby food. I highly recommend "baby led weaning". You can read about the concept online. We did this for our two kids and they are great eaters that have been eating the same food we adults eat since they were 6 months of age. No pureeing required. Will save you a lot of time. All the best!!

    1. Our second kid started solids via baby-led weaning at 4 mo! Just make sure there's no choking hazards and you are 100% good to go.

      The book Our Babies Ourselves is a really great look at how child-rearing differs around the world and across time-- there's a lot of stuff that Western society forces on us that has no science behind it and, while it isn't harmful to the kids, it isn't *necessary* either. Evolution has done an amazing job of ensuring kids flourish in all sorts of situations.

  4. I had my first child during the fourth year of med school. She was not walking yet when I started residency. My mother in law took care of her and when my daughter had boo boos', she would come running to my mother in law rather than me. That made me so sad and when I poured my heart out to a fellow resident, she told me, "Your daughter will always know who her Mom is." Fast forward 12 years later, my daughter told me the other day I was her best friend. This despite her spending her third to fifth years of life in daycare from 6:30 AM - 6:30 PM. All her life, she's witnessed love and sacrifice--from her parents, from her grandma, from this village that was set up to support her. I make sure she understand that my time away was for the stability of the family and her future. So, no regrets from me. It's the quality of parenting time not quantity that makes a difference so I strive to be present/interactive as much as possible with my children. My eldest is growing up to be such a kind, empathetic, and secure person with a tight bond to her parents. Indeed, she does know who her mother is. My two other children are very little so we will see but I have no worries about my relationship with them. My children will turn out just fine. And so will yours.

  5. I'm trying to find an old post on here from the daughter of a physician (her father) who wrote in spontaneously to say how much respect, pride and love she had for him, despite his busy hours. It was so beautiful, but can't seem to find it right now. We have accumulated a lot of posts on this blog!

    I did find this post from a fellow med student mom:

    I agree that it may help to delegate more tasks if possible, but please do not feel badly if you want to do certain things that are important to you that others judge to be a waste of time. If you want to puree baby food, go for it: don't think twice about it. Just know you are no less of a mom if you don't.

  6. Speaking as a daughter of a MiM, my mom had my older sibling and I while in residency. In the early 80s, she could be in the hospital for 36 or more hours straight every 3-4 days. My dad was a young lawyer just establishing his practice. You can imagine the hours they put in at work, but they got help from some family members living nearby. A village yes.
    I don't know how both parents worked around their schedule. But being born into this, it was our "normal" and we never felt deprived nor sacrificed. In the few hours they had with us, they were always affectionate and supportive, but also firm with discipline, and they made sure we had times to go to the beach or go to the church.
    Sometimes bonding meant napping with Mom after she came home from work and sometimes, then she would be called on emergencies and I would wake up without her and cry. I must say, both parents made us understand that they were doing meaningful work that was helping others, that they loved doing it, but they loved us more and never showed that they sacrificed either parts (although I'm quite sure they sacrificed a lot, but seldom complained). Sometimes, they brought us to work and the drive there was part of the bonding, and yes I remember going on rounds or hanging out with the nurses while waiting for MiM to finish her rounds.
    End result: MiM and Dad achieved much in their own careers and their children adored them, and even their children's friends. Dad died a few years ago, much loved. Mom is retiring as chief of medicine this year, still works full time, runs a charitable organization, "adopts" medical and nursing students, goes on medical missions and Skypes regularly with us kids.

    We her kids are pursuing our own careers, stumbling a lot along the way, but we always know we are loved, no matter how many mistakes we make. I am an EM resident, and I honestly don't know how my MiM and Dad balanced a family and careers, except they did things they loved and found meaning it, and they made sure we understood that.

  7. I have to echo the above comments. I'm the daughter of a cardiac surgeon and I rarely saw my father growing up. But he is the reason I went into medicine. I observed how much joy caring for sick patients gave him, as well as the respect and appreciation from his patients. I wanted a profession that I could love as much as my father loved his work. I am now an anesthesiologist married to a radiologist and we have a three-year old. While my hours are not nearly as long as my father's, I feel the mommy guilt from working a 50-60 hour week. However, the time I spend with my son is much more special and worthwhile. It really is about quality, not quantity. I also hope that my son can see how much my work means to me and be as inspired as I was from my father (even if he doesn't go into medicine).

  8. I, too, am a daughter of a MiM. My mom is an internist and had me and my sister in the med school/residency years. I definitely have memories of late pick-ups from school activities because of unstable patients, etc. But far more vivid are the memories of my amazing mom and the fantastic care she gives to her patients. I always admired her intelligence. She could help me with the hardest of science problems, calculus... anything, really! She inspired me to go into medicine. She inspires me to succeed. She inspired me to start a family, too, even though I'm in residency. I think I turned out ok! My mom and I have a wonderful relationship. I definitely learned from her the importance of picking a supportive spouse, which has made my life as a MiM so much better.

    In terms of concrete advice as a MiM currently in residency, I have had to give up some of the ideals that I had previously seen myself doing: baking regularly, making baby food, having painted nails, fun outings with my little one. Instead, when I'm exhausted we go to the park around the corner. We go get a milkshake instead of starting on a big baking project. I bought her baby food if I needed a break. My focus has been on quality time with my daughter, and I hope it pays off!

    Good luck!


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