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Physician Work-Life Balance Improves When You Let Go of Commitments


Now that I have let go of obligations, my day off is actually a day off.

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that 2013 has been a big year for me. It is the year of getting rid of many of my commitments. I resigned as an associate medical editor for a medical publication, quit the writer’s group that I led for the previous two years, stopped playing soccer while my ACLs were still intact, and within the next few weeks will deliver my last OB patient.

I didn’t do this because I didn’t enjoy medical editing, my writer’s group, playing soccer, or delivering babies. I did it to reclaim some semblance of balance. When I was home I had more meetings to attend.  I missed our town’s Sunday night kids’ runs so that I could play soccer. I would be called away any time night or day to attend a delivery. It was too much. So I quit. The things I haven’t quit, I have plans to exit in the next few years. 

Honestly, I pictured myself bored to tears. I enjoy working. I like to have many balls in the air. But, it was taking too much of a toll on me and my family. I wanted to try it. The thing about commitments is that there will always be another one around the corner. If I was bored instead of relaxed, lazy instead of busy, or moping instead of having fun, I reassured myself that I could find other things to do to fill my time and stroke my interests.            

Six months into it, I am happy to say that it was a great choice. I actually attended a CME course that I wanted to attend, not one that I had to attend in order to make a presentation. My day off is actually a day off. I realized today while I was at a museum with my husband and son touring the museum at a four-year-old’s pace that I’ve achieved a semblance of calm and sanity that I was looking for.

It’s ironic, though. As I am typing this in my home office, my husband tells me that he longs for a simpler life. He looks at friends with fewer commitments and envies their pace. So, apparently, my family and I still have some work to do.

I think the part of work-life balance that gets increasing attention nowadays is the idea that you can’t have it all. There is recognition that professionals who daily sacrifice family on the altar of their profession have no family left to celebrate their success - reaching the top rung of whatever ladder they are climbing. I think we need to take that idea one step further. We should move beyond trying to hold as many things in our hands as possible and start putting things down. You’ll feel it, like I have. The burden lessens. Your shoulders relax. Your breathing slows. You look up at the clouds. You find balance and with it more peace. 


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