A little bit of background about me:
I am a paediatrician, who has been a physician for eight years. I trained in paediatrics for four years and have been a Paediatrician for one year. I have gone from Paediatrician, to mother, to Paediatrician mother within one year. It’s been a wonderful journey with many challenges and curve balls along the way. It certainly makes for a much more interesting experience in life.
I am passionate about child and adolescent health and well-being and my special areas of interest include child development and adolescent development.
I am also involved in medical education, and believe that for similar reasons, I love to be part of a very important process – the formation of a solid foundation on which our future generations can build. I find many parallels between teaching and being a physician, and now a parent. It’s all one big intertwined, exciting journey!
Our baby is 6 months old and is the light of our lives. My husband is also a physician – he’s called an internist – which is a specialist for adults. He is currently doing further training in infectious diseases.
We decided to split our parental leave such that I do 6 months and he does 6 months. This way, we felt, we could both remain in touch with our fields of practice, and also ensure we each spent some good bonding time with our baby.
Here are the lessons I learnt:
- Efficiency: I have not always been the most efficient in my work – primarily because I like to be thorough and like to take time with my patients. I always put myself in the shoes of my patients and I personally love to feel heard by my doctor. That being said, I have areas I can improve on, and having a baby at home who depends on me definitely makes it easier. Before her, I could stay at work for as long as I needed to finish paperwork, for example! Now, I have worked out efficient ways to complete my paperwork so I can get home to her while she is still awake. I have also adjusted my schedule to work part time and some half days. We try to be efficient at home also – one of the most important things is to ensure we are eating healthy, and so we order a food service that sends us fresh ingredients and three meals a week. The surprising benefit has been that we have started enjoying bonding over preparing these meals together and it has inspired me to start cooking dinners on the other nights. We use Google Calendar which we have a synchronized schedule on, to enter our engagements so we minimize any clashes and ensure communication. We use a joint Wunderlist for grocery and baby items. I also have my own personal Wunderlist for To Do items.
- Empathy: I always thought I could not get more empathetic, but I have learnt it is true that you can truly understand the depth and breadth of something once you go through it. Having a child changed my outlook and priorities, as I was aware it would, but in ways unexpected. It also changed me as a physician. I could put myself in the parents’ shoes all I wanted, but without living it day in and day out, there would always be a piece of the puzzle that was missing. I find myself feeling even more for the parents of my children. Reassurance coming from a doctor who is also a parent adds an additional layer of comfort. I found this to be the case in my personal experience as a patient’s parent and took this lesson forward with me into my practice.
- Confidence: There are some areas of paediatrics that overlap with parenting advice. These are areas we generally don’t learn from textbooks. Having lived through these experiences and having the same questions myself, I have been able to answer these questions reliably and with the best evidence. When my baby was unwell, I took her to see the paediatricians in the emergency room, and it took almost everything I had in me to remove my “paediatrician hat”. I felt several fears I could imagine my patients’ parents feeling should they be in this situation. Having a baby who you adore and feel entirely responsible for enables parents to resonate with one another.
- Mom Guilt: I was worried about the guilt I would feel being away from my baby after 6 months of building a deep and special bond. However, as humans, we do have the ability to “compartmentalize”. I worked very hard to build my career, and I find it very rewarding. This in turn makes me happy and fulfilled in another area of my life that is important to me, outside of my family, and only makes me a better team member (at home and work), and mother. I believe in the mantra, “do what is consistent with the way you see yourself”. I learnt that going to work did not mean I left my baby, it just means I am looking after my well-being, so I can show up as fulfilled a mother as possible. To each of us, the definition of this would be different.
- It’s not “All or Nothing”: We all have different priorities and up-bringing. Therefore, I would like to preface this section by saying, working mothers, stay at home mothers, and every combination in between are all doing hard work. In fact, I agree with the popular belief that motherhood is the hardest job. Hard work is in my blood. I watched my parents work hard to build a better life for their children when they moved to Canada with almost no money, and having left their stable careers behind. I watched my mother function highly as a working mother. I watched my grandfather worked until 92 years of age – most of these years, post-retirement. To me, working is important. Giving back is important. I have been privileged to have achieved my dream job, and I find it very rewarding each and every day. We are lucky we live in a time where we can split parental leave with our partners, and even work part time. My husband is off on paternity leave for 6 months and I am working part time.
- Support System: As with all areas of our lives – having a support system is absolutely necessary. Whether it is one friend, colleagues, family members, community members, or even your doctor. I have been lucky to have a supportive husband and supportive family who also live nearby. This has been absolutely key along our journey into new parenthood and even more important as I have transitioned to the world of the working mom.
- Trust and Delegation: Learning to trust and delegate tasks related to my patients draws a parallel to learning to trust and delegate tasks related to caring for my baby. As I have gone from Paediatrician to Paediatrician mom, I have had to work on becoming more efficient and this is one major way I have been able to manage. This helps to focus on the tasks that I am trained for as a paediatrician, and the tasks that require me as a mother.
What are some lessons you have learnt as a working mother? I would love to hear your insights!