One of my great role models as a surgeon once told me that she heard women saying they felt like rubbish surgeons and rubbish Mum’s, but she felt that she was killing it at both! While I try to emulate her I fall solidly in the camp of feeling a failure in every area of my life and in this respect I know I am not alone!
At a women in Surgery conference I heard the advice. ‘Be the best surgeon you can be and a be a ‘good enough’ Mum.’ Initially I was shocked but I think there is some truth in this. My kids seem to love me to the moon and back rather than pick me up on my perceived failings!
Being a good surgeon is not about taking on every project or role suggested. Only do what is useful for you – I have always wanted to be a hand surgeon and therefore should have never wasted my time on a systematic review of acetabular fractures for example! Collaborate with others and maximise your studying efficiency.
My mum say’s that my sibilings and I turned out well despite our upbringing rather than because of it. I think that if your children get your attention when you are there then they will feel the love. They will hopefully grow up proud of your achievements once they are old enough to understand why mummy couldn’t always come to the park.
I find the best way to please my kids are the little things. Actually look, when they show me a picture/ model/ ninja move. Listening to their chat for 5 minutes at bedtime. Setting aside 15 minutes at the weekend when they get my undivided attention. We have a family disco night that the kids LOVE and I make sure that I strut my stuff hard enough so that it counts as cardio too!
I think we also need to realise that priorities vary day to day. We might refer to it as work-life balance but in reality it is a pendulum swinging this way and then then the other. At times work has to rightly take priority e.g. exam time, covering on call, the supracondylar you need to be signed off level 4 and unexpected sickies. Other times you must give more focus to your children e.g. when they are sick, starting school or first nativity etc. Another good analogy as that of all the balls that we juggle some are rubber and will bounce if dropped, but on any given day you have a few glass ones – give your priorities to catching these ones!
As a working mum you may as well accept from the beginning that you won’t make every performance, award giving or sports day, (you may need a large glass of water or gin to swallow this particular guilt pill) but your children are resilient, forgiving and most importantly forgetful! Think about it – how much you really remember of your childhood? Although I do live in fear my children will have Hyperthymesia (even then most of the handful of people diagnosed with it were more than 10 before they could remember everything)!
That pendulum also needs to swing to your partner, if you have one. Finding a babysitter was a total game changer for us, but we try and have once evening a week where sit and do something together even if it is only to watch a film sans phone! However, I also needed to learn to let my partner take some of the mental/ home care load. This involved me having to let go of some things (my control over every aspect of the home and kids and perfectionist ideals) and let my partner support me. Initially he needed help and understanding as he took on roles I had always assumed. The first time he did the online food shop we ended up with more beetroot than anyone could ever need, but only 5 main meals for the week! But I needed to remember to give him space to learn his own way (which was perfectly valid – even though it was not that way I would have done it) and the credit of being a fully functioning human adult!
Then last on the list (but definitely not least) is you – it is a cliché but you must refill your cup every so often so that you have something to give. It is important to find time to exercise even if it just walking in the fresh air (you will feel and sleep better), enjoy your hobbies or just relax. See my post about me time for my peculiar way to justify me time! Maybe I should be examining the need to justify it to myself – but I ‘ll stick that at the end of the to do list and carry on as it is working for me right now!
Mainly I think you must present wherever you are – be a Surgeon at work, a Mum at home and a Wife/Partner when the kids are in bed – be yourself in that magical mystical ‘spare’ time!