Being a doctor mom is a beautiful paradox of feeling like a badass one moment and a frazzled I-don’t-know-what-the-heck-I-am-doing mess of a person. Being a female physician, the majority of us feel there is a societal and cultural pressure to be perfect all the time in every sphere of our life: as a professional, parent, and person.
Speaking with my friends who are also doctor moms, there are some common themes and challenges.
1. Work often comes first and may not end when you leave the office
Unlike other careers, our work as physicians don’t doesn’t end when you leave the office. We are on call, have to finish notes, call patients, check and respond to emails, and then we worry about patients or the potential what-ifs. Often times, the patient isn’t worrying about themselves as much as we are worrying on their behalf! However, we must be aware that this work excess can lead to physician burnout.
2. Staying in the present moment is hard
As mentioned above, we have a hard time getting out of work mode. Also, we are really great at multitasking. If we forget to turn off that skill, we can miss out on what is happening right in front of us. With smartphones and email at our fingertips, work has access to us too. I find that it really helps to make a conscious effort to stay focused in the moment and not let your mind wander. You are exactly where you need to be. Enjoy it.
3. Learning to make time for self care
Years of medical training has trained us to put ourselves last. The patient always comes first, then paperwork, other life responsibilities, then us. In residency, there wasn’t time for us to eat, use the restroom, or sleep. For some reason, that paradigm is still stuck in our minds as ‘normal’ life.
However, you are no longer in residency. Your life is yours again. Take care of yourself. Make the time for self care. Remember, you are more than just your career. Not only are you a wife, friend, sister, daughter, you are a person. You are a multifaceted and complex woman. Don’t forget yourself.
4. You feel guilty for things that you know you shouldn’t
I’m talking about taking maternity leave, asking for pumping breaks at work, taking time off for vacations, etc. But these things are our right and we need to be our own advocate. So please stop feeling guilty. It is ok to stand up for yourself.
The guilt can extend to mom guilt.
Am I spending enough time with my child? Do I have to choose between my career and my child?Am I working too much?
Doctor mom, you are doing a great job.
You are enough.
Many of us are type A personalities which makes us really great at being physicians. The flip side of this intense focus can lead them to analyze, overanalyze, and then reanalyze again just for good measure. Too much of anything can lead to imbalance, in this case, analysis paralysis, self doubt, feelings of imposter syndrome, neuroses.
If possible, channel your inner Queen Elsa and just let go of trying to be perfect.
6. Not asking for help as much as we should
We don’t want to ask for help because duh, we can do it all.
Seriously though, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you need to or should do it all. In fact, delegating responsibilities makes you a good leader and improves teamwork. This applies to both the professional and personal spheres.
7. Trying to do it all
This isn’t limited to doctor moms only, it can be applied to any person. However, I find that doctor moms have a harder time saying no to extra responsibilities. Whether it be taking an extra shift or agreeing to extra social commitments, we want to do it all.
I wonder if this stems from feeling that there is not enough time to do things or that we want to make up for lost time.
However, overscheduling perpetuates more stress and the feeling of less time. Instead, add joy and meaning to events and experiences by prioritizing what is important to you.
8. Being our own harshest critic
This is self explanatory. Instead of being so critical, be your own friend. Give yourself some grace and space for self compassion. Remember, you are human.
9. Finding and Giving support to each other
As a general group, doctor moms are pretty good at supporting each other. We recognize trying to balance intense experiences while having some semblance of work life balance.
However, please be aware that some doctor moms may be silently struggling (see #1-8). If you notice a colleague or friend losing her sparkle, reach out, be a support and friend. We are all in this together.
10. Feeling blessed to do what we do
It really is an honor and a privilege to do what we do. We take care of people during the best and worst times of their lives. From helping parents with their newborns, to diagnosing and properly treating illness, to alleviating their suffering be it an ear infection, a thyroid mass, or spinal surgery, we make a difference.
On a broader level, we advocate for those who cannot. We have a voice as #womeninmedicine. It is awesome.
From one doctor mom to another, I want you to remember that you are a strong, resilient woman. Thank you for being a positive role model to those around you.
Thank you for being you.