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Balancing Physician Obligations and Holiday Events


It’s humbling that I actually do not have God-like powers over life, death, or my time.

So, last night I missed my daughter’s holiday concert. I was at a work meeting. It was a really good, really important meeting, but I still missed the never-to-be-repeated concert. It makes me wonder if I am a terrible mother (probably not) and whether watching the video of the concert redeems me in any way.

I also missed the third night of Hanukkah with my family.  Unfortunately, it happened to be the night that my husband gave out Star Wars light sabers and had obtained a moderately-sized quantity of dry ice so that the light saber battle would be more realistic. Is it bad that I read about it on his Facebook page because he was asleep when I got home and asleep when I left for work this morning?

These are the types of questions that plague me. I figured by this point in my life, I’d be brimming over with confidence in my medical decisions and parenting skills. Instead, I feel like I’m humbled far more often than I’d like and am filled with doubts I thought I’d have solved by now.  I am glad for some humbling experiences because it’s important, particularly in medicine, to be reminded that I actually don’t know everything and do not have God-like powers over life and death. As a parent, it’s good for my kids to see me humbled at points so that they learn that you can be a grown-up and still need to say “my mistake” or “I’m sorry”. 

That said, these situations remain painful. I was so proud of myself yesterday afternoon because I was able to make nine latke (potato pancake) costumes for the upcoming Hanukkah play at our temple and had my toddler help me do it. This surge of parental success was quickly dampened when my daughter asked if I could promise to be at next year’s holiday concert and I had to sadly say that I would do my best but couldn’t promise. 

Work is the same: Just when I think I’m doing pretty well curing disease and alleviating suffering, I am blindsided by a pregnancy loss or metastatic cancer. So humbling.

I fear that the doubt and questioning will never completely go away. I care about work, my patients, and my family. Therefore, when I disappoint them or fail to do my best for them or even just experience an unpredictable tragedy, it hurts. It makes me doubt myself and my abilities. 

This definitely affects work-life balance because self-doubt is the enemy of maintaining balance. When you feel “not-enough” at work or at home, it’s tempting to do more, be more, or go to extraordinary lengths to try to make up for perceived lacks. However, this usually just further robs you of your peace. So, I’ll try to get more comfortable with questions and doubts and focus on my successes.

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