The school year is underway and can present many challenges to working parents. Coordinating sports practices, appointments, and after-school care can cause a lot of stress for working mothers and fathers and perhaps even more so for doctors with demanding schedules. So, how can you remain both a successful physician and an attentive parent? Read on to discover a few quick tips for balancing your time in the medical world and your home.
- Reframe your time away
Try not to feel guilty. You’re adding value to your family dynamic. As a working parent, you’re being a positive role model for your children, showing them that they don’t have to choose between a happy family and a successful career. You’re teaching them independence and you’re making it financially possible for them to receive care and participate in activities they might not have access to otherwise. Consider explaining to your younger children that the work you do is helping save other people’s lives—kind of like a superhero! You may not see yourself in this light, and it may feel weird to say this, but it can help make your departures feel more positive, even exciting. Try to think about it that way yourself, too. Instead of thinking, “I’m leaving them,” reframe it to say, “I get to go save lives and set a positive example for my kids.”
- Keep a detailed calendar
Maintain an up-to-date family calendar so you can visualize each family member’s schedule. Color code your time off and that of your children’s other parent. Also, pick a color for each child’s respective activities and find ways to differentiate each person’s activities! In addition to scheduling ease, younger children may appreciate this color coding to easily see when you’ll be home.
Most importantly, make sure to review the calendar weekly to ensure there are no surprises. It might be a good idea to use Google Calendar and sync it with all family members’ calendars, including the calendars of older children. This way, no matter where you are, you can coordinate to make sure someone is available for games or performances. Even if you can’t attend a notable event, you can still offer support.
- Create a special night or tradition
You may always head to a relative’s home for Thanksgiving, but what about creating traditions during the rest of the year? Movie night on Fridays? Taco Tuesdays? It doesn’t matter if a special night is weekly or bi-weekly but try to be consistent. Establishing traditions creates structure and allows your family to look forward to shared time with one another. These plans also help break up your time in the hospital. Your family will grow to cherish these fun occasions, so if you also honor them, it makes your time at home special and something to which you can look forward. Additionally, this instills positive priorities in your family. You’re demonstrating that not only is your job as a physician important, but your job as a member of the family is just as significant.
- Me time
Don’t forget to be selfish here and there. Although a lot of your time is spent helping others, be sure to schedule a bit for yourself. Self-care is important, especially when you’re constantly caring for patients and for your family. Take time to decompress and focus on a personal hobby or passion or you will quickly burn out, which will not help either your career or your household. Although it might seem extreme, consider using a special color on your calendar to differentiate your personal time. Remember, you must balance your own mental and physical health to keep simultaneously providing exceptional healthcare and A+ parenting!