Paging Dr. Mom

I’ve been doing some freelance writing for a publication whose staff I used to be on some years ago. It’s a medical publication, and physicians are the primary audience. I’ve been pitching this publication for some time, and the first article green lighted is on a topic on which I certainly can relate — working parenthood. As part of my research, I’m interviewing working mom docs and working mom med students about how they balance these two roles.

In the interviews I’ve conducted, it has become abundantly clear that no matter the profession, perspective changes when you have a baby.

These women have a more demanding work schedule than many. Some take call every third or fourth night. Some work weekends. Some work 14 hour days. Some are up all night with their infant and then rounding first thing in the morning. And all of them miss their little, and in some cases not so little, ones while at work or school.

In speaking with these women, I’ve noticed a common thread. All always wanted to be a doctor. All  always wanted to be moms. And they’re not letting anyone (even resentful residents or attendings, less than understanding professors or overly concerned family members and friends) tell them they can’t do both. Because, quite frankly, they already are.

But that’s not to say they’re not struggling with that oft-referenced thing we in the media like to call “work-life balance,” because they very much are. And so I have particular respect for the women who’ve taken the bull by the horns and said, “I’m going to do this my way.” Case in point, one family medicine physician from the Chicago area who is launching her own micro practice, where she can set her own hours so she can also spend more time with her infant daughter. Case in point, one pediatrician from metro Detroit who is working a part-time schedule and raising four kids (including newborn twins). Case in point, one family medicine physician who pursued a career in academics so she could spend more time with her kids and less time working nights in the hospital.

And for each of these women, there are just as many others who work even more demanding schedules while also raising a family. And kudos to them as well. They’re doing what’s right for them, which is ultimately what it all boils down to.

I was particularly struck by what one second year medical student shared with me as we discussed the challenges and triumphs of parenting while working, or in her case, going to medical school. She said, “I sometimes tell myself during particularly hectic times that even if I were to flunk out of school (which I won’t), I’ll always have my husband and daughter.” She’s got her priorities straight. And I may just be scheduling an appointment with her come 2012.

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