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Parenting isn’t easy, and neither is medicine. But as your children grow, you’ll find the two can coexist peacefully.

Fam Pract Manag. 2005;12(4):90

Raising children while managing a career is a formidable challenge for any working parent, but young doctors understand the rigors of that lifestyle especially well. Between the demands of my job and the demands of parenthood, there was a long period early in my career when I was happy just to show up for work.

Those were the days of coping with morning sickness while seeing patients; being on call at night for my children and my patients; storing breast milk over lunch; rushing to pick up kids from daycare; getting in the door from work hungry and tired and finding three kids clamoring for attention; dragging children through the grocery store as I tried to combine errands with “quality” time; and waking up at 2 a.m. in one of my children’s beds with the light on and a book in my lap and discovering that my child had crawled comfortably into my bed.

Somehow I made it through those years, and I now marvel at the energy and stamina of my younger colleagues who are balancing young children and a demanding profession. My message to them is that, yes, it does get easier.

Learning to adjust

My life is much different now that my children are older. I can’t remember the last time my children woke up in the middle of the night. In fact, they often tuck me in. They have had so much experience grocery shopping that I can send them in to the store with a list and let them do the rest. They can get home from school without anyone there to meet them, and they can put the casserole in the oven so that dinner is ready when I get home.

Though I sometimes miss the rush to the door and cries of “Mommy’s home!” I do like sitting calmly down to dinner every night while the girls talk about their days. Most important, I don’t feel guilty when I’m at work because I might be missing first steps, first words or time at home with a sick child. In fact, my children are in school most of the day when I’m at work, and they don’t really care what I’m doing when they’re not around.

Showing appreciation

Having been there ourselves, we need to let our younger colleagues know that we appreciate the competing demands on their time and energy. We need to be flexible with scheduling and understand that not taking on extra work does not mean they aren’t committed to their jobs or family medicine.

Most of us are in this profession for the long haul. There is plenty of time in the decades after residency to accomplish our professional goals. All of our varied experiences, at work and at home, will only serve to make us better and more well-rounded family doctors. We really can have it all – a loving family and a successful career. It just takes a little time, and a lot of patience, to get the hang of it.

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