Showing posts with label happy mom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label happy mom. Show all posts

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?

Friday, July 29, 2016

Summer Book Recommendations

Ah, summer. There's nothing like the joy of sitting with an iced tea and a book on the deck... or waiting in the dentist's waiting room reading tiny print from a reading app on your phone.

1. Vaccinated by Paul Offit. It was completely fascinating to learn about the early days of immunization. Even if you've learned the science before, reading about the social context is so interesting.

2. Overdiagnosed by H. Gilbert Welch. This book changed the way I look at my practice, every day. Welch is an epidemiologist and explains the principles in a very accessible way.

3. Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, by Ethan Watters. A must-read, especially if you work in mental health. I see a lot of refugee and newcomer patients, and do some element of cross-cultural mental health most every day. It's challenging because our entire mental health assessment is rooted in the culture in which it was created, and the very definitions of mental illness vary so widely in different contexts.

4. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. I know you are hearing about it everywhere. It is beautifully written and helped me reflect on medicine in a different way. "But if I did not know what I wanted, I had learned something, something not found in Hippocrates, Maimonides, or Osler: the physician's duty is not to stave off death or to return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence."

I was on a female memoir kick last year, and thoroughly enjoyed the following:

5. Julia Child's My Life in France. Transport yourself to France and witness the early days of her love affair with French cuisine.

6. Nora Ephron's books of essays, I Feel Bad About My Neck and I Remember Nothing were, of course, hilarious.

7. Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz. Zarqa Nawaz is the creator of the TV show Little Mosque on the Prairie. She diverted from her parents' expectation for her of a career in medicine and found her way to journalism and the arts instead. As a fellow Canadian Muslim woman, I loved hearing her always-funny perspective on issues she faced along the way.

8. I Was a Really Good Mom Before I Had Kids by Trisha Ashworth and Amy Nobile. A down-to-earth book about the real issues we face every day as mothers, I found it totally affirming to read.


9. On Beauty by Zadie Smith. "And so it happened again, the daily miracle whereby interiority opens out and brings to bloom the million-petalled flower of being here, in the world, with other people. Neither as hard as she had thought it might be nor as easy as it appeared". Filled with breathtaking passages but also dry humour and wit, On Beauty was captivating.

10. Everybody Has Everything by Katrina Onstad. Following years of infertility, a young professional couple takes guardianship of a young child when their friends suffer a terrible accident. The struggles of being thrust into parenthood of a unique sort; with the same truth that we all live with - the uncertain future.

What books would you recommend?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

MIM Intro: Doctor Professor Mom

Hello, I am Doctor Professor Mom.  No, that’s not my real name but it’s a name that makes me really proud.  My oldest son coined it a few months ago when he learned that I am not only a doctor but I am also a professor and I am also a mom.  He seemed genuinely proud when he coined the name and, of course, I was equally proud both at his creativity and at some of my accomplishments.

Even as a Doctor Professor Mom, it’s hard to feel accomplished.  Maybe it’s something about academic medicine where I feel pulled in a million different directions. I teach; I do research; I see patients – it’s easy to feel like a jack of all trades and master of none.  Add on a busy family life and mastery is not in my cards.  But academic medicine has given me incredible flexibility, variety, and satisfaction.  Plus, I get to proudly say I am a doctor and a professor.

Of course my proudest accomplishment is not that I am a doctor or a professor but that I am a mom to three boisterous, energetic, and absolutely wonderful sons.  They are ten, eight, and six (gasp - how did they get so old).  After ten years of motherhood I have a lot to reflect on in managing a household with two equally ambitious working parents and ever changing challenges of parenting. 

I became interested in writing about my experience as a doctor and mother after my first son was born.  I spent 18 months crying every day when I went to work and decided (with the incredible support of my husband) to leave my job and stay home.  Then I struggled trying to find my identity as a stay-at-home mom (I wrote about this experience in an essay called Dr. Mom).  I returned to work and decided to focus on research and a career in academic medicine.  For me, it was an excellent choice.  That being said, the struggles of being a working mom, finding meaning and satisfaction in your work, and all the other challenges of life never go away even when you feel like you’ve found the perfect job.

When I wrote Dr. Mom in 2007, so many women contacted me and thanked me for sharing my story.  I promised myself I would write more, but, not surprisingly, life got busy.  I’m thrilled to have a place to write, to be a part of a community of women in medicine and hope that something I write will resonate with someone else. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Answer to lingering questions...

I know you always wondered how preceptors graded you on the rotations. And you always wondered why your grade was less than what you thought it should be for the work and energy and time that you put in. Now as an attending I understand - those that clearly like the rotation, get jazzed about it, do the work in a way that you can trust them and not have to repeat the work, or just do it themselves to get it done right - those are the med students that do well during rotations. BUT SO WHAT!! you did everything you needed to do, studied the way you needed to to pass, slugged out a horrible internship year which made you question going into medicine at all. Then you saw the anesthesia light at the end of the tunnel and you're life only continues to get better from there. You chose the ABSOLUTE right profession. Yes, if someone said I could not continue to practice unless I go through med school again - I NEVER would do it. But now being at the other end, I'd NEVER give it up! My advice? If you've started - get through it and enjoy as much as you can without killing yourself... the results are worth it. If you haven't started DON'T unless you're ABSOLUTELY SURE!! And of all the people in my med school class, those that came with kids, those that had them during med school, residency etc, and those that went straight through - we are ALL satisfied about where we ended up!!

Friday, November 7, 2008


Okay, I'll just come right out and say it: I was T-boned by a bus on Tuesday and have a type III odontoid fracture. I am now in a neck brace for 6 months but lucky to be alive and not paralyzed. I cannot even begin to explain all the thoughts and emotions that one goes through - from the coldly rational (wow, this is what it's like on a backboard, in a collar, in MRI) to the wildly emotional (DAMN DAMN DAMN, there goes the concert I was going to give, there goes the clinical study that was going to make JAMA, there goes the dressage show I'm ready for, and there goes vacation with the kids in the Carribean). But the one thing that is the MOST heartbreaking: not being able to scoop my kids up into a big bear hug.

Trying to be the optimist I'm struggling with what to do with months of non-physicality. Go ahead I think, perfect that Spanish, read all the library books, type up my diaries, catch up on all the movies - but somehow it pales in comparison to the dreams I was already embarking upon and achieving. And although I'll be home (always), I'll see the kids less because I won't be taking them to piano and swim and school and birthday parties like I usually do. But it's early yet - perhaps as a result, the kids and I will have more bonding time with the hubbie and our nuclear and extended family as well as friends may become closer still.

The weirdest thing is (harkening back to psych) that my schema of myself is slow to change. I keep having to remind myself that IF I move my neck the wrong way, or trip and fall, it could be disastrous. But it still doesn't seem real until in moments of sobbing I realize it is. Now excuse me while I go cry.

Monday, October 27, 2008


Okay, I think I finally figured it out. Last year I remember talking to a colleague who told me he exercised at 4 in the morning before work. I looked at him like he was crazy. Turns out he wasn't so crazy after all. I discovered if it's something you love to do (dressage horseback riding) AND you don't want to take time away from the kids and the husband, it's a PERFECT time to do it. Not only that but you get there quicker since there's no traffic - and no one is there so you get the whole place to yourself!! It has completely eliminated the guilt I felt when I rode post call because I was either missing picking the kids up from school, or missing eating lunch with my hubbie. Not only that, the post call days weren't even that predictable and progress with riding was haphazard. This way it's 4 days a week guaranteed (Thursday is staff conference at 6:20). PLUS there's the extra added benefit that I come to work completely happy and relaxed, so no matter how bad the day goes I just remember my ride in the morning and I automatically get that meditative wash of "yah, but I got to RIDE this morning!"

Thursday, August 7, 2008

kid bodies

I think one of the most amazing things in medicine is having the privilege of seeing ALL of kids' bodies - all of it - inside and outside. I'm always amazed at their little tiny livers, kidneys, wormy moving intestines, beating hearts, and my favorite - those always expanding lungs. So when I go home and I watch my kids play, or snuggle with them I often just look at them in awe and imagine their insides too and how it all incredibly fits together, continues to grow and works! When they're tired or snugly and not running around like madmen, I hold their rib cages in my hands and feel their breathing and beating hearts, and I trace out their internal organs with my fingers for them (of course they like to concentrate on the food in and poop out part). If I think too long on it I almost always feel like squeezing them, crying and thanking the universe that they are healthy and whole and ALIVE.

Monday, June 9, 2008


Okay, you guys are all so FUNNY!! I am not. I'm a very serious but very very very happy momdoc. I just wish I could split myself in 7. One for each of two kids, one for hubby, one for violin, one for dressage horseback riding, one for work, and one for friends. Well, and maybe one for fun. Then I could be doc oc!! Instead I intensely devote each waking moment to dividing up what little time there is in a day. The trick I found is being in the moment. When at work enjoy work and forget about home and kids. When with family, forget about work and revel in the family. And the violin and riding - well you have to concentrate only on that to do it - it's my meditation, release, and my source of renewable energy and happiness. The problem I have is how to shift the time - and how to deal with that overriding sense of guilt that the others are not getting enough. So, I tell myself (and it's true), that if I gave up any one of these things I wouldn't be so happy and able to deal with the every day frustrations and problems. But there are ever looming questions: do I take more time to write papers and go for the promotion? Do I forget the promotion and watch everyone else get it but know that I have more time for the other 7 things? Do I do less riding (my only exercise) and spend more time with family but be a lot grumpier? Do I play less violin to have more hubby time and cut myself off from my only social network? I feel like I'm very happy where I'm at right now, but need to decide from here to continue as is, or shift time one way or the 7 others...