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Dr Rosalind Forward

Medical Parenting

Friday October 16, 2020

Dr Rosalind Forward , Committee Member, Doctors’ Health Advisory Service of WA (DHASWA)

During a recent consultation with a mother regarding her young child with an upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), I said to the mum: “Well done, you are doing a great job”. The mum was blown away by this, and was really appreciative of my support and reassurance. It reminded me of the vulnerability of parents, and how much we doubt ourselves.

Parenting is difficult at the best of times and it doesn’t matter what ages your children are. Whether it be the sleepless nights and three-hourly feeds of the newborn, the toddler tantrums, or the ‘adult’ children, the challenges do not stop.

As doctors, we have the added challenge and demands from work, with many people suffering from imposter syndrome at some stage during their career. It is well documented that doctors have a higher than average risk of depression and anxiety, which makes me wonder about the health of our medical parents.

Achieving work-life balance is hard enough without the additional demands associated with raising a family. As parents, we often put the needs of our families before our own, and we all know what happens when we get sick! We plough on as much as possible.

Furthermore, for fellow doctors in training (DiTs), the constant pressure to study and prepare for exams makes it even harder for doctor parents. Becoming a mother has made me a much better clinician. Medically, I understand more about children, development and breastfeeding, to name a few. It has helped me put things into perspective and I have had to learn how to enjoy the micro moments, rest, and non-productive time with the kids.

I still, however, suffer the guilt of “I should be studying” and the compunction of “I should be spending time with my family”. At the end of the day, something has to give – we just can’t do everything ourselves.

So what can you do to facilitate your wellbeing and that of your family?

As a start, outsource what you can and make sure there is time for yourself and time for your family. Try to get some exercise and eat healthily, but don’t beat yourself up if it’s not as much as it should be. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Don’t give yourself a hard time for not being the perfect parent; the fact that we worry about our kids’ nutritional intake and screen time is more than what many other kids have. As hard as it is to do, it is okay to have some time off and look after yourself.

Medical parenting needs us to work smarter and not harder. What works for one family may not work for another.

So, what are some of the hacks we could try to make family life a bit easier?

Meal kits, meal delivery services or batch cooking are some ways of negotiating meals. Online shopping with either delivery or click and collect to avoid spending hours trolling the aisles is another great option.

Employing a cleaner has been one lifesaver for my partner and I, freeing us up to spend more time doing meaningful activities with our kids. A nanny or an au pair could be another good option for some families. The old adage of “it takes a whole village to raise a child” is true, so we need to learn that we don’t have to do everything ourselves.

I think one of the most reassuring things is knowing you are not alone and that others feel the same – I always feel more at ease when I am able to catch up with a couple of other medical mums.

I also get lots of reassurance, support and ideas from the Medical Mums and Mums to Be Facebook group (which is open to all medical parents, not just mums).

There are also several things that can be done at a workplace level to make life easier for medical parents, which is a whole topic in itself and one DHASWA hopes to cover later this year.

So, to all the medical parents out there: well done, you are doing a great job! Thanks for the hard work you invest into nurturing your profession and your family – both very worthwhile and valuable endeavours.

 

Dr Rosalind Forward is a GP registrar and mother of two children (Quin aged three-and-a-half years and Lucy aged one).

DHASWA has a wide range of resources to support doctors and medical students in difficulty: www.dhaswa.com.au