Returning From Maternity Leave to Academic Family Medicine

WomenInFMThis is second in a work/life balance series written by members of the STFM Group on Women in Family Medicine.

Two weeks before return to work:

Elizabeth J. Brown MD, MPH

Elizabeth Brown MD, MPH

The house is a mess, laundry from a week ago still isn’t put away, and I haven’t showered in 3 days. As I nurse my son while helping my daughter on the potty, I wonder how we will manage when I go back to work. Will laundry ever get done? Will we eat something other than waffles and eggs for supper?

As I plan my re-entry after child number two, I feel torn. I love being home with my kids, but I enjoy my job as well. Could I really be a full-time, stay at home mom? Some days I think yes, but then I know I would miss teaching medical students, caring for patients, and delivering babies, and I don’t think it would be right for me.

When I came back to work after my daughter was born, I went home and nursed her during lunch in the beginning, and I think it helped me readjust. This time I can’t do that. Our childcare is too far away. I hope my son will take a bottle and sleep.

I’m hesitant about our childcare situation. Will both children thrive? Feel loved? I know I can’t micromanage the small stuff, and our provider does things differently.

Two weeks post return to work:

Well, I am back.

All of us made it out of the house on time the first day. I didn’t leak through my breast pads. I didn’t call anyone honey and used appropriate words for bodily functions. I only went to work with spit up on me twice. Thanks to my husband, laundry has been done so we all have clean clothes. I’m tired. The house is messy. We ate lasagna that someone made us 4 out of 5 nights that first week after maternity leave. It was food.

Getting back into the routine is hard—making time to pump while I am at work and completing my notes at night. There is so much paraphernalia that needs to be ready to leave the house each day: lunches, breast pump, bottles, cooler, diapers, change of clothes, etc.

What has been hardest for me is my little guy isn’t taking a bottle well and cries a lot when he is at daycare. It breaks my heart to think of him only eating 5 ounces all day and being hungry. I left work one day to feed him because I knew I wouldn’t be able to concentrate at work knowing he was crying and hungry. Nights have been hard; he just wants to feed and feed. Our childcare situation isn’t working out well.

My patients have been gracious. They are anxious for pictures and stories, and mention how great it is to have me back. That helps. My husband has been partnering with me to get all of our tasks done that are necessary. He is amazing.

I watch other moms as they come back to work. We are all so different. I know I will not plan for a huge project or an additional fellowship program in the next year or so. I am content with my part-time practice. I enjoy teaching medical students and residents and try to model one example of a work-life balance. I took my son to a medical student event last night and talked to many female medical students about work-life balance. They were grateful to know it is possible to work part time, be in academic family medicine, and be a mom.

I wear many hats during the day: wife, mom, educator, doctor. There is guilt, there are tears, there is joy, and there is fatigue. There is no other job I would rather do.

3 responses to “Returning From Maternity Leave to Academic Family Medicine

  1. Gina M. Schueneman, DO

    Thank you for writing this. Today has been difficult for me. I have a sick two year old at home who was clutching onto me and crying, “don’t go mommy” this AM. I decided to stay home an extra hour to soothe her. The whole time I felt guilty that I was missing inpatient rounds and not able to give my talk on protienuria to the residents. I wanted to stay and take care of my daughter, but I also had a responsibility to my patients and residents. It is so comforting to know that I am not alone. I am excited to continue reading this blog…

  2. Katheryn Norris, D.O.

    Thank you for posting this. The juggle between work and family life is eternal, something that we all struggle with, and something to be mindful of when we mentor female medical students and residents. Your honesty is refreshing and so true.

  3. Pingback: So, what do you do now since you don’t have a job? | The grass is still green

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