Being a doctor and a mother
Wondering if you can be a doctor and have a family? Or how you can manage to be a mother and a doctor?
In this article, we will answer some commonly asked questions about being a doctor and a mother using advice from Sarah Arachchi.
Can you be a doctor and a mother?
Yes, of course, you can be a doctor and a mother! Many doctors are also mothers. Having a family and wanting to stay home doesn't mean the end of your medical career. There are many ways you can make your career as a doctor work whilst also spending time with family, these include things like locum work, part-time work, or telehealth opportunities. However, if you want a permanent medical role you may need to enlist the help of a babysitter or a stay-at-home dad!
“Working full time and having a child is hard, really hard,” Dr Sarah Arachchi told Medworld.
“It's that whole sense of balance. Now I have two kids so I've chosen for the moment to work part-time. Kids grow up so quickly and I don’t want to miss out on such a special time. One day they'll be going to school five days a week and hanging out with their friends and you won't get to see them and you can’t get that time back.”
What is it like to be a doctor and a mother?
Juggling motherhood and a full-time career in medicine can be really hard. You will most certainly have points when you are exhausted, and you may feel torn between the job that you love and spending time with your children (who you love even more!), but medical mums make it work and some even excel.
As a mother to two young boys herself, Dr Sarah is grateful she works in paediatrics which she says is very understanding towards mums.
“Medical parents need to remind themselves that it’s not a race. I work with some consultants and mentors who have achieved so many amazing things and they show me pictures of their 20-something-year-old kids and I think, ‘Wow, how did you do all that and still raise kids?’ But if you speak to any of them, they'll say that there was a period of time when their children were babies, where they spent time at home or took some time off.”
Working as a doctor (with or without kids) can be inherently stressful, and for medical mums, it can be hard to choose between staying full-time or spending time with family when they try to do both it can lead to burnout.
Dr Charlotte Chambers contends that there is still gender bias in medicine and that this effects medical mums.
In a media release by ASMS, Dr Chambers said it was time “to get rid of inherent inequities for women in medicine” by moving away from old ideas around gender roles.
“It’s time to adapt to a realistic model of a doctor who is increasingly a woman, or a parent with a working partner and shared domestic responsibilities.”
“A paediatrician told me recently that I shouldn't feel bad about staying at home with my kids because raising children is such an important job. ‘Your kids will contribute to society one day,’ they told me, ‘so what you're doing at home is just as important as what you do at the hospital," explained Dr Sarah Arachchi
Tips for doctor mothers
1. Find your tribe Sarah says "I’m involved with a Facebook group called Melbourne Medical Mums and Mums to Be (And Dads and Dads to Be) I feel like I can relate really well to other medical moms and parents. We go through similar struggles trying to balance our work and career choice with looking after the kids.”
2. Don't be afraid to ask for help Sarah says "Doctors are typically Type A personalities who feel they need to do everything and do it perfectly. Reach out, get the support you need and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I don’t necessarily follow my own advice all the time, but like every other parent I’m learning as I go."
3. Let go of the guilt and leave work at work Sarah says “Don’t feel guilty about asking for help because taking care of yourself is just as important or if not more important, because if you’re in a good place then you’re able to take better care of your children and other people around you. It’s like that famous quote says: ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’”
4. Stay positive Sarah says "sometimes your house is going to be a bit messier than you might like and you can’t beat yourself up about that. It's hard because we hold ourselves to a certain set of ideals and when we don't meet our high standards we can become disheartened.