Support at home is essential. So are the right workplace partnerships or teams who share responsibilities and support motherhood.
Positive outcomes are critical not just for moms in medicine, but for the nation at large. Amid a potential physician shortage, an increasing numbers of doctors — mostly women — are deciding to work part time or leave the profession.
Setting up a system that works can take some trial and error — and staying power.
“It’s a long road and at times during that road, you think ‘wow can I do this?’ It’s your passion that gets you through it,” Niazi explains.
Ana Russo, 33, says she can go from shuttling her child to school to keeping another child alive within the same hour. She’s a nurse who is on the frontline when a child with a traumatic injury arrives at Jackson Memorial Hospital Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.
As a mother of two boys, 6 and 2, she says it’s almost impossible to not to relate to the heartache parents endure when their child is critically injured riding a bicycle, swimming in a pool or crossing the street. It has made her a much more cautious mother, maybe even overly cautious. She insists her kids wear elbow and knee pads and a helmet when they ride their bikes. “It’s hard to not keep my kids in a bubble with everything I see at work.”
Russo says some days, she gets emotionally attached to saving a young patient, feeling a sense of responsibility. As a mother herself, “you care for that child like your own.” Her days can stretch into night without an opportunity to check in at home during her 12-hour shift. “That’s why you have to have a good support system at home.” She relies on her husband and aunt to be there for homework, afterschool activities and dinner.
Lynn Meister, 52, worked full days and many nights as a pediatric hematologist/oncologist while raising two children, now in their 20s. She says she relied heavily on her husband for help at home and never once felt the personal sacrifices outweighed the rewards.
For years Meister would get asked, “’As a mother, how can you do that kind of work? Doesn’t it make you afraid?’ But I wasn’t afraid. I always felt like I had so much to offer because I am a mother.”
She, too, experienced the medical nightmare as a parent, when her then 12-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor. That daughter now is an eight-year cancer survivor. Meister says the experience made the balancing act that much more important to her and led her to become an even better doctor.
Yet, Meister says her biggest battle was with imperfection, a common struggle among working mothers. “I felt like I never was doing quite as good a job as I could as a doctor or mother.” Today, she encourages other women to stick with medicine. “My son and daughter are fine adults, and if I can cure a child of cancer what can be better than that?”
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. Connect with her at email@example.com or visit worklifebalancingact.com.