Thursday, October 20, 2016

How Do You Do It All? (i.e. The Art of Being Imperfectly Perfect)

Genmedmom here. 

Let’s face it: working moms have alot on their plate. A patient recently complained to me how guilty she felt because she couldn’t be a perfect mother, wife, accountant, and friend, all at the same time. If she felt really good and strong in one area, she was slipping in another. “No matter how much I try, I’m a failure!” she declared. 

Okay, look, despite the expectations on us, no one can achieve perfection 100% of the time. No one is going to excel in all of the areas of their life always. But we can manage. We can do our myriad jobs well enough. And we can be happy

On a weekly basis, I usually manage: four clinic sessions a week (approximately twenty hours seeing patients), one morning precepting in the firstyear medical students’ interviewing and communications course, co-parenting our two school-aged kids (with lots of family help), regular blogging on three separate blogs, kids’ dinner/ bathtime/ bedtime virtually every night, about three good workouts per week, church and big family dinner on Sundays. 

Is it all done perfectly? Hell, no. I wish I could get to all the patient phone calls, emails and lab results every week. It would be great if I could do the reading before the medical school course. Our kids are late with homework probably at least once per week. We never seem to know what's going on at school until the last minute. My blog posts often have typos, and could have used a little more editing. My workouts are sometimes really short. We don't get to church or have family dinner every Sunday.

But I can say this: We fit in what we need to fit in. We do what we feel needs to be done. It's not perfect, but, for us, it is. Imperfectly perfect. We, as a family, are happy.

I am often asked “Geez, how do you do it all?” 

Well, if what you're aiming for is happiness rather than perfection, then I’ve thought about this. It will be different for everyone, but generally, I suggest: 

Identify your time-wasters and eliminate them. What time-consuming things in your life do not help you to achieve your goals, and do not serve a healthy purpose? For me, that’s television. I do not watch television unless there is a really good reason. I’ll watch a Disney movie with the kids once in awhile, all snuggled on the couch. And, of course, once a week our whole family watches my husband’s football team play. Other than that? No sitcoms, no news, no movies. Social media can also easily become a time-sucker, so I limit that to my train commute.

Hire cleaners, if you can. Yes, we all know that we are capable of cleaning. But how much is your time worth? You are an M.D., and if you were paid by the hour, you would earn $100, at minimum. Multiply that by a thousand- no, a million- and that’s how much your hour is worth to your kids. Though we couldn’t afford it when we just started out, as soon as we could, we hired a cleaning service. They are worth every penny.

Order anything online that can be ordered online. We have groceries, pet supplies, clothes, shoes, furniture, books, et cetera delivered right to our front door. 

Stay local. Need to run an errand? If possible, avoid driving time, and support local businesses to boot. 

Schedule carefully. There are so many options for kids’ activities around us. It would be very easy to slip into driving-everyone-all-over-the-place-for-this-or-that-thing. We were forced to hold back quite a bit, as our son with autism doesn’t handle a busy schedule very well, and doesn’t do drop-off events at all. So, we have a music teacher who meets them in my mom’s home after school one day. And we choose family activities like hikes, trips to the farmer’s market, and scouting (Boy Scouts), rather than kids-only classes like dance and tae kwon do. We’ve realized that this quieter, easier, more familiar approach results in less hustle and bustle, and doubles as “family time”. 

Identify toxic relationships and avoid them. Okay, I'm wandering into therapeutic territory here, but the truth is, people who make us feel bad are a real drain on our precious time and energy. Conflict and negativity are distracting. We can't be our best selves now if we're re-living an argument or re-thinking that weird conversation from yesterday. If there's a person around who consistently brings conflict and negativity into my day, I avoid them as much as possible. Likewise, if there are good, psychologically solid people who support me and boost my mood, then hey, I want to spend more time with them.

Keep reasonable goals. I’m not striving for crazy achievements in any area. I’d like to take good care of my patients, be a solid teacher for my students, raise emotionally well-adjusted kids, keep on writing until it goes somewhere, stay as healthy as possible, and be actively engaged in our community. Like I said, it's not perfect, but, for us, it is. Imperfectly perfect. We, as a family, are happy.

What about other mom-docs? How do you "do it all?" What do you do to save time? How do you keep you and your families happy?


  1. Wonderful post! Thank you for the pep talk! We also hire help for activities that drain time and do not produce happiness, and I cannot stand the television, which brings so much time to my life. Keep on writing, we love to read it!

    1. Hey, thanks so much! Appreciated. Yeah, T.V. is pretty useless.

  2. This is a great post. I hire help for after school and activities so I can get home and cook instead of running around in the car. Since my ex got in a stable relationship and they want the kids as much as possible to be with them and their new daughter (well, almost 3), I get a lot of breathing room. I can certainly spin that to the negative because I miss them a bunch but when they are gone half the time there is time for yoga, reading, dinners with friends, watching Black Mirror/Narcos/Stranger Things/American Horror Story. And I was like you when my kids were younger - never watched TV. Now I have to declare reading nights so I don't get too addicted. Echo you big time on house cleaners and not over scheduling!! Gotta have some family dinner time not just running around every evening to sports events after you've already worked hard all day.

    1. I dream of getting back to yoga! You lucky duck!

  3. When I had a clinical job, I did no housework except dishes and tidying up. My husband does the shopping and cooking and we have weekly cleaners. Now that I'm working from home, I also do the laundry, because I can throw a load in and switch it over when I'm taking a stretch break. For years I only watched TV while I was folding laundry, walking on the treadmill or tidying the bedroom. I never sat down and just watched TV. I always had more child care than I had work hours - when I worked 30 hours a week, we paid for full-time child care. We hired a college student to drive the kid around in the afternoons until she got her license.

    We were lucky that Eve did not like being very busy - she had activities every day one year and HATED it. She rarely needs help with homework and we don't police it. Plus she goes to bed early. She went to bed by 8:00 PM until she was in 6th grade, when we gave her control over her bedtime; as a HS junior she is asleep by 9:30.

    1. Very good to have the equal division of labor there. And yes, I agree, we are also very lucky that our son can't handle alot of group activities, because it keeps us out of them. We've accidentally discovered that family activities are both better for him and better for all of us.

  4. Great tips! Agree, ordering online (with speedy delivery) is the way to go. Another thing, don't sweat the small stuff. How's that for easier said than done, but important nonetheless.
    And know when to and when NOT to multitask.
    And even when beyond the infant/toddler years, it's still so important and oft-forgotten to get some (more) SLEEP.

  5. Great post! "Perfectly imperfect" has been my mantra too. So far we've limited activities (kids are just 2 and 4) and hope to keep it that way. I try to be conscious of what I am prioritizing - i.e. Feel good about getting the workout in, rather than focusing on what didn't get done.


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