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Doing What's Reasonable as a Physician and a Mother


Parent guilt just like doctor doubt is a serious force to be reckoned with, but you have to strike a balance between what is best and what is necessary.

A new school year starts next week for us. In addition to labeling crayons and cleaning out backpacks of summer items to make room for folders and new pencils, my husband and I need to organize all the extras. You know - the swimming and piano lessons, transportation to and from school, and which days we need a mother’s helper.

Recently, our family attended a dance/baton twirling show in a neighboring town. Our daughters were enthralled, declaring that they must start baton lessons the next week. My husband told them immediately, “no way.” He didn’t want to drive them 20 minutes away at dinner time for lessons. I took a more diplomatic approach, telling them that if they still wanted to do lessons in another month, to let us know and we’d think about it. I figured that the shine would wear off and it would be forgotten.

Not so. Every week since then, my oldest daughter has reminded me that she still wants to take baton lessons. I personally think baton twirling lessons are a potential waste of time, money, and energy. But I could be wrong and my daughter could be the next baton twirling champion. Now that trampolining is an Olympic sport, you never know where that skill could take her.

Planning our kids’ extracurricular activities is like practicing defensive medicine. You do the things you know are reasonable. This would be piano lessons and swabbing a throat for strep. You hem and haw about the less reasonable but potentially important ones. This would be baton twirling and getting a CBC on a kid with a fever that probably just has a viral infection. You don’t want to miss something.
Just like I don’t want to miss a potential zebra diagnosis thundering toward me, I don’t want to destroy my children’s chance to be an astronaut/ballerina/cellist/golf pro. I mean, how would I know whether or not my son has any aptitude for the electric guitar if I never put one in his hands? Parent guilt just like doctor doubt is a serious force to be reckoned with.

So, just like I did about a dozen times today in clinic, my husband and I carefully weighed all of the options. Hip-hop dancing is out - it interferes with an important activity that the kids would rather do. Piano lessons and swimming lessons are non-negotiable. Both are important skills my husband and I are convinced they should learn. Our son has the opportunity to attend a magnet school, so we’ll juggle transportation to get him there. Book club at the library wins out over soccer. Our kids love to read and, let’s just say, don’t hold a place on the 2024 U.S. Olympic soccer team for any of them. In a sheer stroke of luck, if we commit to spend an uncomfortable length of time at the YMCA, we can actually get my daughter into a baton twirling class.

So, like the start of most school years, we are already overscheduled and school hasn’t started yet. But, just like I do every day in my medical practice, I tried to strike the right balance - not allowing any potential opportunity to pass by but trying to keep what I’ve scheduled and what I do to and for my patients to a reasonable level.

Find out more about Jennifer Frank and our other Practice Notes bloggers.

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