There is never a perfect time to have a baby. This statement rings especially true for female physicians-in-training who are in medical school or a residency program during their prime childbearing years. Women who decide to have a child during their residency training can take comfort in the fact that they are not the first to do so. However, simultaneously surviving the demands of residency and motherhood is no small feat, and it certainly helps to plan ahead.
Aiming for a family-friendly residency program will make your life before, during, and after childbirth a little bit easier. Here are a few key questions to ask when seeking out a residency program that will allow you to enjoy the best of your career and family life:
1) Does the program have a well-defined parental leave policy? The average time for parental leave is six weeks, but this time will vary from program to program. If your program of interest has a parental leave policy, find out the specifics: is leave paid or unpaid? Will you be required to use vacation and/or sick time? How does parental leave affect your training cycle? Not every program has a parental leave policy, in which case, individual situations are likely worked out with the program director.
2) What is the general attitude of the medical community towards family issues? Dealing with the stress of having and raising a newborn will be much easier if you're surrounded by supportive colleagues and superiors. Seek out programs that pride themselves on accommodating young families, and who have trained successful childbearing residents. Ask the faculty and staff about their views on family time during residency training.
3) Will you have the support of family and friends nearby? Once your baby is born, your shift will never end and you'll be needing all the help you can get. Having a supportive significant other, close relatives, and/or generous friends nearby will make a big difference in helping you achieve a more reasonable work-life balance.
4) Will you be comfortable raising your child(ren) in this city/town? Residency programs run between three and seven years, which means your child will at least be spending the early part of his or her life wherever your training is located.
More on motherhood and medicine
Choosing a Family-Friendly Medical School
Having, Raising Kids During Medical School, Part 1
Having, Raising Kids During Medical School, Part 2
Having a Baby During Residency
Raising Children During Medical Residency