This is the third in a work/life balance series written by members of the STFM Group on Women in Family Medicine.
Returning to work after the birth of a baby challenges all mothers, regardless of the age of the child. However, for breast-feeding mothers, there are special considerations.
Compared with 25 years ago, we’ve made substantial progress in returning to breast-feeding as the best method of infant nutrition. The World Health Organization Guidelines of exclusive breast-feeding for 6 months, followed by weaning foods and continued breast-feeding until 2 years, are widely promulgated by us in family medicine.
This 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 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. Continue reading
This is second in a work/life balance series written by members of the STFM Group on Women in Family Medicine. Jessica T. Servey, MD, Col(sel), USAF, MC is the author.
Despite the fact that in 2010 29.3% of active physicians in the United States were women, significant concerns regarding work-life balance among women still exist.1 The challenges faced by women physicians as a group are relatively unchanged for the last 4 decades despite the increased number. In fact, the concerns about work-life balance have been studied and written about since 1970. The main challenges include timing of having children and the guilt associated with maternity leave, lifestyle, and career choices and seeking this nirvana called “balance.”2 I continually am amazed how I have the same conversations with residents and students today as I did 12 years ago. More astounding to me is the persistent challenges for women in academic medicine.
There have been numerous studies, both quantitative and qualitative, completed in the past 20 years about how to reach this balance. It is agreed that organizational culture can play a role in not achieving any balance in life. Additionally, lack of effective mentoring and potentially lack of support from division leaders can be cited as reasons why women struggle in advancing careers in academic medicine. Many women make conscious decisions to reach this balance, which may include working fewer hours, declining a promotion, or limiting the number of children she has.3 It is disturbing to me that an article looking at reasons women left academic medicine completed just 2 years ago have respondent comments about “the old boys’ network.” The Association of American Medical Colleges has statistics with women associate professors still lagging behind men despite nearly 50% of medical school matriculates being female. I am not certain there is a clear answer for achieving this illusion called work-life balance. I do think there are a few tips for women to reflect on.
First, define your own priorities. This gives you control over your life. You can answer if you want that academic promotion, or if you want to do research over clinical care. You can decide whether you choose to get married or have children. Only when I made a list of my priorities in writing so I could look at them anytime, did I feel I had some semblance of control. I can choose what I will not miss. For me, I never miss the first day of school and taking that picture. This year will be number 16 for me.