What Makes Coming Back to my Medical Practice Worth It

June 26, 2012

It always feels good to be back home, whether that’s back in the country, back at my house, or back in my clinic.

I recently returned from a 10-day trip overseas. The trip was a mix of business and pleasure.  While it was personally and professionally a great experience, it was also exhausting and fraught with minor and major inconveniences, including the return flight being cancelled. As I left customs at the Chicago airport, the agent offered me a sincere “welcome home.” It always feels good to be back home, whether that’s back in the country, back at my house, or back in my clinic. The idea of home - which goes beyond a physical place - is both comforting and nurturing.

On my desk is a sculpture of a mother and child with the words “succeed at home first” inscribed on the base. This was a gift from my old boss when I left my previous job in pursuit of better work-life balance. I had told her that one of my reasons for leaving was that this admonition to “succeed at home first” was important to me and the demands of my job were in contrast to this notion. The words are a good reminder of my priorities, especially on days when so many different things call for my attention.

Sometimes you need to be away from home to recognize how very wonderful it is. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the piles of laundry, smudges on the window, and stacks of junk mail and feel the need to go on vacation or have a “Calgon, take me away” moment.  But once you’ve been away for a while, it’s easier to remember why home is home in the first place.  

So when I think of work-life balance, what I really mean is work-home balance. Both work and home are part of my life and both are important to me. Part of balance at home is creating that very home both as a physical respite from the world but also a spiritual and emotional haven. 

Similarly, we are responsible for creating a healthy environment at work - not to compete with the sense of home but to establish an environment that is comfortable for us because it is the right mix of responsibilities and opportunities. In a perfect world, both work and home are places we are happy to come to, to stay in, and which help us to thrive and grow.  

Part of the discomfort that can arise both being at work and being at home comes when we are not balanced.  It can manifest as guilt about being away from home too often that makes you weary to open the front door to a perturbed spouse at the end of a long day.  It also can be the sense that your colleagues have completely different priorities and expectations - that you just don’t fit in. In either case, being home or being at work doesn’t give you warm fuzzies.

As I return home from an exciting, fun, and productive trip, I welcome the fit of my somewhat well balanced home and work life.

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