Originally published in ASCO Connection.
“When is the best time to have children?”
The question, arising from an eager medical student at a forum where I was a panelist on work-life balance, was not unexpected.
As men and women are now equally represented in medical schools, the physician mom is no longer rare. Many of us carry this title. None of us is perfect at balancing the demands of motherhood and medicine.
I asked the same question while I was in medical school. I understand the dilemma. Most of us in medicine are planners. From the age of 8, I planned to be a doctor. I had a vision of myself, smartly dressed, in a lab coat, saying lots of smart medical things, saving lives, working long hours. I also planned to be a mom, smartly dressed, in mom jeans (I planned this before Lululemon existed), saying lots of smart maternal things, making cookies from scratch, picking kids up from school. I never imagined the two pathways intersecting.
The reality of being a mom and a physician contrasts to the description above, as depicted in the image to the right. This is me, when my boys were 0.5, 3, and 4 years old. My university employer offers onsite daycare (kudos to the University of Florida). As faculty at the time my third child was born, home-based help was financially an option. Our older two were already in daycare, and the desperate run to get there before closing (sometimes a full-on sprint) helped to ensure that at least my husband or I, and hopefully the children, arrived home at a “reasonable” hour. We chose to keep all three at the same center. I managed to wrangle the menagerie into a sit-and-stand stroller for the pickup and drop-off ritual.
Occasionally, one of the ambulatory boys would not want to ride. My usual approach, after an attempt at negotiation, was to place the rebelling child on my shoulder, often kicking and screaming, and proceed as scheduled. This was usually when I passed stately professors who had taught me in medical school, who either failed to recognize me or stared at a suddenly important mole on their left hand, thereby avoiding the train wreck that was passing them on the crosswalk.
To read the entire article in ASCO Connection, click here.