Juggling Roles and Responsibilities without Dropping the Baby
If you’re a physician spouse or partner, you may have already experienced the obstacles that come with the medical profession arise in your day-to-day life. Attending events alone. Rescheduling birthday celebrations. Late nights at the hospital or office- to name a few. While it’s never fun to experience these job “hazards” when it’s just the two of you, they can have a much bigger impact when you have little ones in your life.
Because life is just ‘different’ when you’re married to medicine, we’re breaking down some unique hurdles and offering insights into having kids during residency and beyond. Hint: Communication is a big theme.
Navigating Parenthood During Training and Early Career:
For physician spouses and partners, the early stages of their partner’s medical career, such as residency or fellowship, can be particularly demanding. Balancing the demands of training with the desire to start a family requires strategic planning. Supportive communication and setting realistic expectations can help physician spouses/partners navigate the challenges of parenthood during these crucial career phases. This may involve exploring flexible childcare options, leaning on extended family support, and actively discussing career timelines to align with family planning goals.
Adapting to the Physician’s Schedule:
Physician spouses/partners are no strangers to the irregular and demanding schedules that come with the medical profession. Understanding and adapting to the physician’s work hours is essential when planning for parenthood. It requires flexibility and (again) communication to synchronize schedules for optimal family planning, ensuring both partners are actively involved in the process. Creating a shared calendar and strategic planning, including clarifying schedules and assigning responsibilities, can also help spouses navigate the challenges of time constraints.
Balancing Roles and Responsibilities:
Physician spouses/partners often find themselves in a delicate balance between supporting their partner’s demanding career and nurturing their own aspirations. Whether you’re thinking of having kids during residency or not, it’s crucial for partners not to get lost in the support role. Open communication about career goals, family aspirations, and the division of household duties is fundamental to maintaining a healthy partnership. Acknowledging the importance of mutual growth and supporting each other’s individual goals can strengthen the foundation of the relationship.
Coping with Stress and Emotional Well-being:
We know that burnout doesn’t just impact physicians; it undeniably affects their spouse or partner, too. Navigating the emotional and mental strain of a physician’s job, long hours, and potential life-or-death situations can take a toll on your relationship. Physician spouses need to prioritize their emotional well-being, seeking support from friends, family, or professional counselors to cope with the unique stressors they may face.
Acknowledging the importance of mental health is not only for your benefit. It’s also for the well-being of the entire family.
Fertility Challenges and Emotional Support:
Infertility can be a shared concern for physician couples, especially with the timing and demands of training. Navigating fertility treatments, consultations, and potential setbacks requires mutual support, understanding, and flexibility. Physician spouses and partners should feel empowered to seek emotional support, whether through support groups, counseling, or open communication with their partner. Understanding that fertility challenges are a shared journey can strengthen the emotional bond between spouses and pave the way for a more supportive and united approach.
Getting Lost in the Support Role:
With the unpredictability of physician schedules and high rates of mental exhaustion, it can be easy for physician spouses/partners to fall into being the default parent. It’s essential for physician spouses to actively engage in self-discovery and personal growth, avoiding getting lost solely in the support role for their family.
Encouraging open communication about personal aspirations, pursuing individual interests, and maintaining a sense of identity outside of the support role contributes to a healthier and more balanced partnership. Joining community groups like The MedCommons Circle, participating in hobbies, and setting aside dedicated “me-time” are valuable practices that will help spouses/partners maintain their individuality while navigating the challenges of parenthood in a medical family setting.
Utilizing Available Support Systems:
Building a strong support system is vital for physician spouses/partners. Connecting with other spouses facing similar challenges, both within and outside the medical community, can provide a sense of community and understanding. Shared experiences and advice from those who have walked a similar path can be invaluable in navigating the unique challenges of raising a family in medicine.
If you’re near family, talk to them about their willingness to provide help and support after you have kids. Talk to other residents or attending families to gauge their interest in participating in a babysitting swap program. Join The MedCommons Circle to find other physician families with kids in your area. Actively seeking connections with others in similar situations can provide a valuable support network for physician spouses.
Prioritizing Self-Care and Well-being:
Prioritizing personal well-being, maintaining hobbies, and seeking time for relaxation contribute not only to the spouse/partner’s happiness but also to their ability to support their partner and be actively engaged in the parenting journey. Recognizing that well-being is interconnected with the well-being of the family emphasizes the importance of self-care. Establishing a routine that includes self-care practices, such as regular exercise, mindfulness activities, and moments of solitude, can significantly contribute to a spouse’s overall well-being.
By fostering open communication, avoiding getting lost in the support role, building a strong support system, and prioritizing self-care, physician spouses/partners can successfully navigate the unique demands of family planning while navigating a life in medicine. The journey to parenthood is a collaborative effort (be sure to share this with your significant other), and with mutual understanding and support, physician spouses/partners can confidently embrace the joys and challenges that come with building a family in the medical world.