Every last Thursday of April, people worldwide take time to expose their children to future job possibilities and the value of education. Take Our Daughters and Sons To Work Day is a national day intended to give children a glimpse of the working world with the assistance of their parents. It is designed to motivate and cultivate a solid educational foundation for young children.
It would have been great for my children to see how I have thrived and flourished as a doctor – or so I thought!
My girls, both young and naïve, have taught me to see the importance of the lifelong responsibility of motherhood over the matter of a thriving medical practice.
I once worked as a clinician and entrepreneur simultaneously, and believe me, it was never easy. After the birth of my second child, I found myself facing extreme pressure due to work stressors, responsibilities attached to running a full-time business, and even in terms of interpersonal relationships. But one day, everything took a 180-degree turn.
I have continued receiving clinic appointments and consultations even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was passionate about people – to help them use my medical expertise and specialization and give them a better quality of life. Yet one day, I received a call from Public Health, carefully detailing possible COVID-19 exposure in my clinic way back in 2020. However, despite my requests (I was practically begging and no longer requesting) to confirm if I had seen the patient at the clinic, they were firm in their refusal to tell me that simple small fragment of truth that I wanted to hear. I do not know the motive behind their rejection, but I was furious at the act of withholding this kind of information from a health provider.
The incident pushed me to realize that nothing is more important than family. I looked at my two little girls and suddenly felt panic with the possibility of exposing them to the COVID-19 virus.
My patients can replace me with another doctor, but I am irreplaceable as their mothers for my girls.
For my patients, I am dispensable. For my girls, there will never be another mom.
Acting on the sudden panic that I felt that time, I decided not to work for a week and subjected the clinic to thorough disinfection.
I got the entire family swabbed, and thankfully they were all negative.
And I found myself in a whirlwind of thoughts like, what if they turned out positive? What if we all suddenly got sick, including me?
Add to that, the frustration towards a health care system that ignored my pleas for simple clarification if I was indeed exposed to a Covid-positive case, pushed me towards a room of realizations I knew I did not have before.
My career can wait, but my family should not.
And all of a sudden, I felt overwhelmed with all the love I felt towards the girls, and how unbearable it must have been if I had lost them to a virus I potentially could have brought home myself. Their health and safety are (and should be) my number one priority, and if that safe zone is threatened, “mamma bear” should always be there.
The incident made me stop and look at myself from another perspective as well. I was physically and emotionally burnt out. I was too obsessed with my career.
My children reminded me that there is a time for everything, and that to everything there is a season.
I decided to walk away from clinical practice. My girls made me realize that I was being too hard on myself, wearing myself out with my career, spending too much time worrying about other people’s problems over my own. My girls made me realize I was not spending time wisely, as I should have been.
Looking back, if I could give the younger me a tiny fragment of wisdom, I would say, “Take time to honor your life, and feed your soul.
Take time to relax, recharge and rejuvenate.”
More than exposing your children to the harsh realities of work and career, always remember to give them the bits of wisdom you have learned along the way – carefully chiseled through the good, the bad, and the ugly experiences that you have had. Keep your eyes focused on what is important, and your experiences along the way will shape you to become the person you are intended to become – strong, deep, and resilient. In my case, whether this act of walking away from medical practice is temporary or permanent, I always remind myself to remember to set my priorities first, and act on it. And leave a lasting legacy for my children to follow. After all, motherhood is more than a career, more than a choice. It is a calling.