Doctor and momma?

Looking for some advice from mothers who are physicians…

I am a college student (junior) and am on the track to go to medical school. My boyfriend and I will be married the summer before we both head to med school. As we are both going to med school, I am wondering how having a family works into that. We will be using NFP and hope to have our first child after M3. As mothers and doctors, could you please give some advice or comment on your experience? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Hi, being a working mom is HARD! Being a working Doctor Mom is close to being impossible.

My best friend is a pediatrician and she has 4 kids. She was going to stop at 2 kids, but got pregnant at 39 with twin daughters (and she was using contraception - not NFP!) She is on call every other weekend and every other holiday. Her days off are Wed and Sunday, and she works every other Saturday til 1pm. She works late nights 2-3 times per week visiting patients in the hospital. That means she misses special times with her kids that she really regrets. She can’t do homework with them, or hear how their days went in school. She misses half of the baseball or soccer games. She works through spring break, summer and Christmas vacations. She can’t take her kids to their friends b-day parties. She has a stay at home husband who does all the cooking, and the laundry, and drives the kids everywhere. She has a live in nanny too. Her husband has learned to dress girls, make braids, and put in bows. Her kids are “rougher” around the edges than she would choose, but that is because her husband is the primary care giver not her. For instance, they don’t have very good table manners, always push to be first in line, and are generally routy. One of her twin daughters was born with developmental delays and has to go to PT every week. She spends a lot of her “free” time with that daughter.

My sister is an MD and a psychiatrist with 3 kids. Her husband is a lawyer. She never had a nanny, although my mom and her MIL helped a lot when the kids were little. The kids grew up in Day Care until 6 or 7 pm everyday. They had to go to school when they were sick, or hang out at their dad’s lawyer’s office on the couch. Summers are full and hectic with summer camps. On school holidays she started leaving the kids alone in the house when the oldest was 12 and the youngest was 8. The kids also have very little manners. They know every video game and every TV show by heart, but I’m not too sure about their prayers??? She often travels giving speaches at pharmacuetical conferences, which is very good money, but she is not home for 10 or 12 weeks a year.

In both families, the couple has no time for each other, and are often fighting, or exhausted.

On the upside, both these families make good livings. They have big houses, nice cars. The kids go to the best Catholic Schools. They have fun vacations, the kids have soooo many toys and video games.

I am sorry to be a downer. But I think it is unfair to let you go through so much studying without knowing the consequences of your decisions.

It is not possible to “have it all”. Every decision you make has consequences.

If you haven’t determined a specialty, might I suggest opthalmologist? At least they keep banker’s hours, work in a “shop” where kids could hang out and do homework, don’t often have patients in the hospital, and don’t have to be “on call”.

You might also try radiology - lowest work hours of any speciality. Please don’t ask for a source, I saw it once, I just can’t remember where.

my kids’ ped growing up worked for an HMO, by design, and was a Catholic mom of 6. She married toward the end of med school and did plan her family around academic demands, but I assume the natural way since she was a strong pro-life advocate (in the years before and after R-v-W) and NFP proponent and educator (although it was not called the in my early married years). She wrote and spoke widely in her professional circle about the dangers of prescribing ABS and other contraceptives to teens and also about the long-term dangers of abortion for teens and young women. Because she worked for the HMO she could schedule regular hours and be available for her children as needed, although she had a good nanny and household help of course. Her husband was also a doctor.

I know a pediatrician (who is a mom of three) that chooses to only work one day a week at a pediatrics clinic, with around four other full-time pediatricians. She’s a great doctor and the town I’m in is pretty desperate for more doctors so their willing to have a part time one.

I second the radiologist recommendation.

My friend is a radiologist and he is able to work from home a lot. He gets the x-rays and CAT scans emailed to him, and he reviews them on his computer.

I am an engineering manager, and have been able to work from home a lot also. The computer and the cell phone are my best friends, allowing me to have conference calls from the park while my kids were playing, or laying down next to my daughter when she is sick.

Regarding working for an HMO, I’m not sure what year the poster was talking about, but working for an HMO now is terrible. Doctors get a quota of patients to see, often 6 or more per hour. My brother also an MD works for an HMO and he can not choose his hours, his on call dates, or the number of patients he is assigned, that is for sure.

Although, I agree with another poster who said that depending upon the city in which you live, if there is a shortage of doctors, you may be able to be more choosy. My MD family and friends live in South Florida, and there are so many doctors, and the cost of living and mal practice is so high, that they are really having a hard time of it…both the men as well as the women.

I am a fourth year and as you see from the ticker, I am about to graduate from medical school. Yeah!!! My husband is also about to graduate from med school. I want to be a pediatrician and my hubby will either do Radiology or Internal Medicine (we find out tomorrow, yikes)

The truth is that there are plenty of mothers who are also doctors. I know pediatricians who work part time or practice share. It used to be that almost all physicians were men and so such things as maternaty leave or working part time was unheard of. Today, the field of medicine is turning and half of med school classes are female. As this occurs, employers become more mother/women friendly.

I would suggest chosing a specialty that will have regular hours. I am doing pediatrics with a fellowship in endocrinology (6 years altogether). The hours are regular. I might have some kiddos in the hospital that I will have to consult on, but from what I have seen, I will have plenty of time with my children if I make that a priority.

My suggestion, chose something that interest you and has a good lifestyle. No Surgery!!! Unless you are doing something like ENT or Urology… their hours are better.

Also, if your husband will be a physician than it will be easier for you to do half days, because he will be able to support you and the kiddos. So make him do something high paying (Dermatology or Radiology, perhaps:p ). Just kidding.

So if you truly feel this is your calling (I do) then do it. However, it is a long and hard road so be prepared.

I am specifically looking for advice from women who are either doctors or in the process of becoming one (thanks Eliza E!). I have already heard the good and bad of the lifestyle. I know that being a physician is part of my vocation and that God will give me the grace necessary to do it well. My plan is to work part time in family practice/pediatrics and to possibly speak about NFP and contraception. In posting, I was particularly looking for advice on ways to get through med school and residency while being married and possibly a mother.

ElizaE- Congrats on almost being done with med school! Yeah! I am looking into family practice/pediatrics and my husband-to-be is looking into radiology (weird coincidence? haha). Could you give more advice on how the two of you made time for one another through med school? …and/or any other advice you found helpful?

I know several doctors who are also moms. Two of them decided to be SAHMs but have kept up with continuing ed and will work again once their youngest kids are in HS. One has 5 kids and the other 4.

I’m just an attorney who has lots of doctor friends, but I have a little something to share.

I have an old friend whose father is an OB/GYN and her mother was a CPA. Her mother told me that to make it through the residency years they had to ship my friend (the oldest child) off to live with her grandmother in another state for 2 years. They did not want her left with non-relatives for long hours while both of them had schedules with such long hours. It was also a struggle to make ends meet in NYC with a small child in daycare with one in residency and the other a young CPA. I believe that having both parents in residency would be even more difficult than their situation.

My reason for posting this is to suggest speaking in advance with relatives (like the future grandparents) who might be called upon to lend a hand just in case the babies start coming before the residency has ended. You will need some viable contingency plans in case the unthinkable happens. For example, there is the possibility that the husband and wife won’t “match” for residency in the same city or even state. . . what happens to any children then?

I’m premed as well (though I’ve only nearly finished my first year of school). I’ve talked to doctors who raise families and there are ways to work around it. One doctor I know is an ER and he said it’s actually one of the most family friendly options (you only do shiftwork and don’t have patients of your own). He also raised an infant daughter by himself. Another doctor is a pediatrician and also the mother of three children. After having three children, she decided to work part time (two days a week) in order to spend time with her kids.

My intended field, however is obstetrics. I know, the hours are crazy (working in the office, on-call, then any unpredictable hour when a woman goes into labor) and I kind of hope that I marry a guy who stays at home with the kids. Who knows? Maybe God will ask something different of me when I actually go into medical school. Or maybe I’ll do something else in the health professions (like become a midwife) or do something else not related to health.

However, I’ve been feeling that my calling is to deliver babies and have felt that since I was ten (nearly nine years ago). Medicine is something I’m passionate about and very willing to commit the time to. If you can work it out and, after much prayer and discernment, find that this is the Lord’s calling for you and it makes you feel fulfilled, then go for it.

I think the point that is being made here is that sure, you can get pregnant and have the babies, but depending upon specialty and work arrangements, you may not actually be doing much mothering. Is being a mother just biologically giving birth, or is it spending time with children, raising them, teaching them your values and faith, guiding them in their growth? If you can’t do that, what’s the point?

You can still be a doctor and be there to mother your children, but you may have to work in a specialty other than the one you planned, and you will have to be willing to “mommy-track” your career for a while, working fewer hours and getting less advancement. If you are not willing to change the career to meet the needs of your children, then I urge you not to have any. Yale University child development expert Edward Zigler calls daycare “psychological thalidomide” and I couldn’t agree with him more.

Med school is stressful but I think that both of us being in medical school at the same time was a good thing. We understood what the other was going through. I was actually a year ahead of my husband, so we decided that I would stick around an extra year to do a Masters in Public Health, so we could match into residency together. Making time for each other is easy because your schedules will be the same (especially the first two years). Whenever you don’t have a test, do something together. Maybe decide that during dinner you take that half hour to talk to each other. Third year might be tougher because while you are on family with a regular schedule he is surgery and on call every fourth night, etc. But I think you will be ok.

Don’t worry about matching together. The Match system will couple your applications and if at least one of you doesn’t want to do something too competitive, you will be able to stay together. One of you might have to “settle” for a program that would not be ranked as high if you were on your own, but I believe that staying together is more important than having your “dream program”. After doing 15 or so residency interviews, I found out that they were all about the same, with small differences here or there.

I found out just this Monday that we both matched. Tomorrow we find out where. Nerve wrecking.

Try dermatology; you can set it up where there are no nights, weekends, and definately no call. Asthma & allergy specialists is a good fellowship after internal medicine where you can have the same set-up. Do your Peds residency then do a fellowship for working with children w/ learning/developmental disabilities; definately an 8-4p practice right there.

I am a pediatrician and mother of 2 boys, age 6 and 8.

My DH is an RN, and has been the stay-at-home Dad, now homeschooling dad for the past 8 years.

I work for an HMO and have regular hours, and am home every night to put my kids to bed, and also one morning per week to help with school.

I take call one weekend in five and spend a few hours rounding each of those days.

Some Mom doctors I know have DH’s who work around their schedule, using daycare part time.

Other Mom MD’s I know who are married to physicians have either worked part time with part time daycare, or taken several years off when their kids were little.

Read about Saint Gianna Molla, a pediatrician and mother of 5.


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