Six Things to Remember While Parenting in Medical School

Does parenting during medical school have you suffering from chronic guilt? Medical students are by nature high-achievers, and for those of us who are parents, it is no different when it comes to evaluating our success at raising our children. So how do you cope with feeling like you are always fighting off the self-inflicted blame of leaving little ones behind? Looking back on my now almost-four-years of medical school, here are some things I have come to accept as I paired being a professional student with being the best mommy I could be.

1. Remember that it is about quality over quantity. This may sound a bit cliché but it is true. I had to appreciate that short periods of time doing something meaningful to my kid goes a lot further than if I could be with them all day sitting around watching TV. So stop focusing on the amount of time you do or don’t get with your children, and get more intentional about making the most of the time that you do have.
2. Communicate with your little one(s). Let your kids in on what mommy or daddy is doing every day when they leave the house – they understand more than we give them credit for. My son is well aware that “mommy goes to school to be a doctor.” He knows that I am helping people, and he is learning early that getting an education will help him achieve his dreams. When you can tell that your child is proud of you, it is worth more than you know. However, he has made it clear that he would like to be a superhero – not a doctor – when he grows up.
3. Be honest with yourself. I am the superlative queen. But in order to be fair to me, I had to let that go and be truthful. I ditched phrases like “I am always home late” and “I am never around”. Sometimes, I would feel like while I was committing the pediatric milestones to memory, I was missing those of my child. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and that type of toxic thinking will be detrimental to your mental well-being. Yes, medical school takes over our lives to an extent, but on that same token, it is one of the only times in life we will get weeks-to-months carved into our schedules to be totally invested in our lives at home. Most parents with a regular 9-5 job cannot get a whole month un-penalized (i.e. yearly vacations and/or electives) which allows for more time at home. During my entire 4 years of medical school, and even in the midst of clerkships, my holiday breaks were more generous in time off as compared to my engineer husband’s. See this experience for what its worth and enjoy it.
4. Allow others to help you. This is pretty self explanatory, but “it takes a village”, so get one. Whether it’s your partner, co-parent, grandparents, or friends, children thrive on love. Allow those who also love them to stand in the gap at those times when you feel pulled. For example, a high-stress, low-sleep exam week for me was often a memorable, fun-filled week at grandma’s house for our son – and he didn’t miss a beat.
5. Stop and smell the rosesThe time is going to pass anyway. Unless you have a hefty bank account, you will have to spend some time outside of the home working and away from your family, so whether you are working a 9-5 job or attending school, it might as well be spent doing something that you love. That being said, no matter what stage you are at in life, do not take watching your children grow older for granted.
6. Ignore the naysayers. After having my son and deciding to continue pursuing my dream of becoming a doctor, there were many people who questioned how I was going to pull it all off. The best thing I could have done was ignoring them. Even if you don’t have the most concrete of plans, ignore them. Nelson Mandela said it best: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Jasmine Johnson is a fourth year medical student at Indiana University School of Medicine pursuing residency training in obstetrics and gynecology. She is also a wife and mother of two. You can read more about her always-busy, never-boring life on her blog “The Mrs. The Mommy. The M.D.

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