June 9, 2021

Are You Ready To Return To Work?

This week I have felt especially inspired to discuss career progression in medicine, with motherhood in mind. This is something I have been pondering a lot lately, and I have seen various medical mothers reach out on different platforms for advice too. The thought of returning to work after maternity leave is daunting and the list of unknowns is limitless. Will I even remember how to be a doctor? How will I balance work and home life? Will I be okay with my baby being placed in childcare? When should I apply for specialty training? Is there a right time at all? Am I slipping behind, while some of my colleagues are full steam ahead?

When I was pregnant, I did not foresee the love I would feel for my daughter. The moment I saw her for the first time, the feeling was instantaneous. I have never felt anything like it. She filled my heart in ways I cannot describe. In the third trimester of pregnancy, I did envision what it would be like going back to work. I presumed I would have no problems, after all my daughter will be almost eight months old on my return. But I was so very mistaken. Now that I am living and breathing motherhood, and spending so much time with my little human who seems to do something unique and wondrous every single day… I have realized that I am just not ready to go back to work. Well, at least for now. At times I think to myself, "I want to stay at home with her forever. I can be a stay-at-home Mum". I'm sure this is just my overzealous, affectionate Mum brain talking but some days I cannot help feeling like this. I want to steep in all the precious moments that will pass by like a meteorite - bold and brilliant, illuminating everything in its path and then just like that, gone. It's the "don't blink" idea, right? Every parent who has ever shared their experiences with me talks about how fast their baby grows up. They say "Yeah you blink and they're 20". I'd like to think that my daughter is an anomaly and that time will pass by real slow, but I know that I'll be saying the same thing in a few years - "Where did my tiny baby go?"

So this is where the true internal dispute appears. The prominent questions are; do I return to work yet? If so, in what capacity? When I do return in November, my daughter will be seven months old. In an ideal world I would return part-time first, and then commence full time at a later date. This would allow me to ease back into the flow of regular workdays, while still spending as much time as I can with my daughter during the week. I do think that I will do this. It probably isn't the smartest financial decision for us, but it is the right one from an emotional viewpoint. A few people have asked me why I had a baby so early in my medical career. The truth is that medicine is a grand passion of mine, but the most exceptional thing I will ever do in life will be to mother my babies. I have forever wanted a family of my own, and have always known that I wanted this sooner rather than later. So to me, this was a no-brainer - I might only be PGY2, but I am more than happy to progress through my career at a more leisurely pace compared to some of my co-workers if it means I can raise my family. In the end, everyone is different. There are so many factors to deliberate. What is right for one mother and family, might not be for another - and that's fine. For anyone who is in a similar situation and are struggling to compartmentalize their thoughts, I would suggest the following:

  1. What do you want? Think about how quickly you'd like to get back into work. Try to put aside any external thoughts or influences, and just think about this one openly. Don't force yourself to go back just because it's what's expected or the "norm" for medical mothers. Do what makes you happiest.
  2. Consider your financial position. Is your family in a space that allows you to stay at home longer? It might be an idea to sit down with your partner and plan a financial forecast (like we do), which will help with budgeting while you are on maternity leave or part-time pay.
  3. What options do you have for childcare? Some families might live close to relatives, and have options available for childcare within the family. Other families might lives in states or countries away from their loved ones. Every situation is different. This might be a good time to place your child's name down at daycare too (as they can have extensive wait-lists)

Whatever you decide to do, know that you need to choose what's best for you and your family. I used to be worried about what my co-workers might say or think, but I am not living my life for them and neither are you. It's your life, so do what makes you happy. If that means going back to a surgical reg position and expressing between surgical cases, heading to an ED consultant position and sending your childcare five days a week, or hitting the GP clinic and sharing babysitting amongst your family members.. do what works for you!

Thanks again for dropping by, see you again soon! 

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