A few years ago, an article in the Medical Journal of Australia looked at the research about mothers in medicine, and what stood out to me was the similarities between the two.
Both require self-sacrifice to care for others, often putting your own needs last. Both involve significant multitasking and high mental loads – and neither allows for a lot of sleep!
While women have made great progress toward equality in medicine, they still bear most of the responsibility for raising a family and are more than likely the primary caregiver.
Add in the extra demands of being a mother in an inflexible, male-dominated career, and it’s no wonder that female doctors experience high rates of stress, anxiety and depression. In fact, female doctors have a suicide rate 140 times higher than the general population.
I went into general practice for several reasons: it had a better work-life balance than other medical specialities. In some ways this is true. However, the reality is that the work rarely stops when you come home: following up on results, writing reports, and worrying about patients.
Consults are often emotionally heavy and can be hard to distance yourself from. It’s a privileged position to support patients through medical and psychological challenges, but it takes a toll. Then there’s the lack of funding and support, the misunderstanding of what the job actually involves and the pressures to care for as many people as possible and still provide comprehensive medicine. The result is burnout.
These struggles eventually led me to follow my own path and pursue something I have a great passion for – medical technology. Candor is an online platform that links patients with doctors to help treat specific concerns with evidence-based medicine.
The opportunity to work from home and be with my family gives me great joy. However, I couldn’t have had worse timing when it came to launching Candor – I gave birth to my second son in the same week! Ultimately I’ve been nurturing two babies ever since, and there are some things I’ve learnt along the way.
How to be creative with my time
I write during nap time with a baby on my lap. I consult on the move. My eldest son gives me design tips and critiques for our social media posts. I dictate notes on my phone while we go for a walk.
Take mindful moments
It’s really easy to be so busy doing everything that you don’t ever feel like you’re doing any of it well. I find it helpful to focus on one thing at a time when I can.
Write the important article when the kids are asleep. Make phone calls when you have help. Really notice when your kids show you something they’re proud of or are learning a new skill. Take the time to engage with them and be present.
Ask for help and say yes
Being a people pleaser and a perfectionist, I’ve found it hard to ask for help, and I’m also less likely to agree to it when it is offered. But you can’t do it alone. If someone wants to hold the baby while you work, say yes. If you need to outsource an aspect of your business, do it.
Know what you personally need to accomplish and what you can give to someone else. If your colleagues are knowledgeable, hardworking and passionate, you’ll trust them to have your back. The same goes for babysitters.
Listen to your cheerleaders
The people who believe in you, encourage you and are excited to see you will remind you why you started this in the first place.
I started my business to support the flexibility I wanted as a mother, but the reverse is also true. My business benefits from the skills and perspective that I bring as a mother. And I am grateful that I can watch both my children and my business grow simultaneously.