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I like to think that there are a lot of things that differentiate me from other medical students, but among them is the fact that I am a mom. I have a beautiful toddler whom I love very much, and while I wish I could spend all day with her like friends who are stay at home moms, I also love my job. I love going in to the hospital every day even though it pains me to walk away from her sleeping face in the morning. And when it’s 2am, I’ve been at work since yesterday, and I miss my daughter, it hurts to open Facebook and see posts from well-meaning nanny and SAHM (stay-at-home mom) friends.
Recently, a college friend who doesn’t know what I do for a living wrote to me about how “I don’t understand why people who work 80 hours a week even have kids.” That comment stung more than I would like to admit. I work 80 hours a week many weeks, when you add up time at the hospital and time working from home. Am I a bad mom because I work long hours? Are all doctors automatically bad mothers because of the demands of our jobs?
My husband stays home with our daughter so it’s not as if she spends 80 hours a week in a daycare center. And when I’m not working, I try to spend as much quality time with my family as possible. Still, it amazes me that people feel comfortable passing judgment like that. Do you want to have a female gynecologist to do your Pap smear? Do you want a female obstetrician deliver your baby? A female nurse to help you to the bathroom, or help you learn to breastfeed? Do you want a woman to come to your aid at 2am when your newborn won’t latch at the breast and you don’t know what to do? (Can you tell from these examples that I am going into OB/GYN?) Then stop telling these women, who are sacrificing time that they would love to spend with their families to take care of you and yours, that they are bad mothers for doing it. Being a health care provider and being a mother aren’t, and shouldn’t be, mutually exclusive.
I think the question that we should be asking isn’t whether working long hours makes you a bad mother, it’s how to make good use of the time that you do have with your kids. I have seen moms who work like crazy but then come home and play with their kids, take the, to the zoo on the weekends, and put them to bed at night. I have also seen stay at home parents who spend their days on Facebook or watching daytime TV and ignoring their kids. Who is really a better parent? I don’t mean that as an attack on parents who stay home – there are a lot of really wonderful stay at home parents, too, but it’s time to stop looking at the quantity of time that people spend with their kids and start looking at the quality. As a medical student, I can’t choose to spend less time at work and I can’t make more hours in the day. What I can do is make sure that when I do get a few hours to spend with my kids, I unplug from work and Facebook and make it count.
Working moms, what do you do to squeeze in that precious family time?