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Striving for Balance as a Working Mom and Physician


Being a working parent means that, unfortunately, my kids and I both have to miss things that would enrich us both. How do others do it?

There have been many articles about work-life balance on this website and several others. We need to balance the time and energy that we spend between the hospital, the office and home, and the time and devotion we dedicate to our patients, our friends, and our families. But not only do our offices demand so much from us, but society almost discriminates against the working parent.

I am in a particular mood right now because I just got the e-mail from our school that soccer tryouts are in two weeks, on a Tuesday and Thursday morning from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Are my husband and I really the only two-income family at our school?

And it's not just this instance. I have never been able to attend the "Mothers' Day Tea" because it is always on a weekday morning. I have to reschedule patients to get to parent-teacher conferences because they, too, are on a weekday morning.

And it's not just school. My kids and I have never gone to the local library's story time because - you guessed it - weekday morning.

I had to take my daughter out of competitive trampoline because her coaches decided one year to have mandatory camp from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aren't traditional office hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? How does any parent get their kids to this mandatory camp then? Does every other family have the luxury of having a stay-at-home parent?

We had been bringing our children to a math enrichment center, but those 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. slots were few and far between, so we had to give that up, too.

I have had to ask for numerous favors from my son's teammates' moms - taking him to practice or to games, which also often involved feeding him on the way. I would usually make it there in time to see at least part of the game, but I would never be able to pick him up from school and drive him to the field on time.

Yes, I am self-employed, and I suppose I could manipulate my schedule to allow for such middle-of-the-day activities. But I have an 8-week to 12-week wait for patients as it is. When would I see patients? Of course, my family is important but I also have an obligation to my patients. And what do other working parents do?

I posed this question on social media to some fellow physicians. Many have nannies, but many have unfortunately just accepted that both they and their kids will have to miss things. We all believe in student enrichment and hope that our children will be well-rounded individuals: well-educated with some sports skills and some artistic skills. We want them to learn self-confidence and teamwork and good sportsmanship. That's part of the reason we work so hard - so we can afford to provide them these things.

It is so sad that in this day and age when I am certain most families have two working parents, children's activities are not scheduled at a more reasonable time.

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