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Working Professional Mothers and Harsh Realities

Gone are the days when most women were stay-at-home mothers—where it was the cultural

norm and couples lived on one income. Frankly, I don't want to go back to those times because the person who gets to go to their 9 am to 5 pm job probably had it a lot easier. Being a stay-at- home mother who keeps her home organized, plans and prepares healthy meals, and tends to her children's physical and emotional needs is a full-time and mentally exhausting job, especially if done primarily by oneself. The fact is that not all mothers have a partner to help

with those things or a loving, available mother or family members to assist.

I've raised my children primarily by myself and had the extra joy of raising a 2-year-old and a

newborn during the challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic. I love my children more than life

and have pushed myself to extreme measures to keep them safe and taken care of, but it took a

tremendous toll on my mental and physical health. The early ages are tough—nursing a baby

who wakes you up every few hours plus a toddler who just a few months previously spent most

of her waking hours either running away from you in public places or begging to be lifted up and

cuddled in your arms—let's just say it's tough. Did your kids think it's fun to dash around in the

mall, trying to exert their highly premature independence? Mine sure did. I am, however,

thankful for the many kind strangers I met who smiled sympathetically as they helped be a

human wall preventing my little people from darting off while sharing their own anecdotes of

raising their children. Anyhow, I digress.

Mothering while working full-time is hard. Arguably, working full-time with a highly demanding

professional job might be even harder, as the stakes are higher. From my experience working

full-time as a working mom, not only as a physician but also owning a busy multidisciplinary

medical practice, it was even harder.

I'm going to give a little bit of advice to those of you who are starting off in your career, or

perhaps you already have years under your belt:

1. Pick a partner wisely. Make sure they fit the definition of a partner—someone who is

equally invested in the relationship and makes it their priority for the relationship to

thrive. Your partner can be your biggest source of happiness or your biggest source of

pain, and anything in between—choose wisely. Also note that life doesn’t always go as

planned, and sometimes due to work obligations, health reasons, and others, you might

end up raising a child primarily by yourself.

2. It takes a village: Raising children is an amazing responsibility. If you don't have much

family or friends you can rely on for support, there is no shame in finding after-hours

childcare programs or hiring a babysitter or a nanny. Remember, you can still be actively

involved in raising your child, even with help. The best part with help is that you get to

present your best self on a daily basis—because you are given time to relax.

3. If your program or workplace isn't very child-friendly or flexible for working parents,

rethink carefully. I was fortunate when I had children; I was able to bring my kids to work,

and I was able to pump and nurse as needed when they were babies. I extended this

same flexibility to my staff that had kids and who sometimes had to leave earlier or bring

their kids to the office. Of course, there are practices where this isn't feasible due to

space constraints and the nature of the practice. I remember working in a practice where

you were not allowed to bring your kids to work, even if they were older and well-

behaved. They would rather shut their doors and have no doctor work. For that, and

other reasons, I left a few months later.

4. Get help with housework: Unless you have an exceptional living situation where money

isn't an issue and you have a partner that loves to clean in their spare time—get a

housekeeper. Even if it's just once or twice a month for a deep clean, your sanity and

your pocketbook would thank you. I don't think it's okay to do a part-time job equivalent

to housekeeping chores, work an extremely demanding job, and still have consistent

time to make your health and wellbeing a priority. Between folding clothes, mopping,

vacuuming—I made the decision that it wasn't a good use of my time.

5. Make time in your schedule for self-care. Mothering is hard, and the world is unfair. You

will likely at some point in your career face unfair criticism and sometimes even

emotional abuse for the fact that you have children. You might receive unfair scrutiny,

unfair evaluations, and other things just because you chose to raise a family. I remember

hearing and reading abusive comments even from patients because, "God forbid I was

only available 24 hours a week as I had a newborn at home." It is essential to keep your

life tank full. Self-care—whether it's regular walks, deep tissue massage, pampering, or

reading a book, making time for your partner or significant other, or a million other

things—make time for it. Truth be told, most people don't really care about you—so

make sure you matter to the people who love you the most.

6. Acknowledge the emotional toll: The emotional toll of dealing with patient care combined

with the emotional demands of motherhood, can be overwhelming. Witnessing

challenging cases at work may intensify the emotional challenges faced at home,

especially if continuously seeing challenging health outcomes in pediatric patients or

when adult patients pass and leave behind young children. Personally, I've experienced

the weight of this emotional burden, where the struggles of the day in the hospital

followed me home, making it difficult to switch off from the demands of my professional

life and fully engage with my role as a mother. It's a delicate balance, trying to

compartmentalize the emotions from work while still being present and emotionally

available for my children. But amidst these challenges, there's a call to action—an

imperative to prioritize our mental and emotional well-being. We owe it to ourselves and

our families to seek support, to practice self-compassion, and to create spaces where

we can openly address the emotional burdens we carry. Whether it's through therapy,

peer support groups, or simply taking moments of solitude to reflect and recharge, let's

acknowledge the emotional toll parenting and professional life can take and commit to

nurturing our own emotional resilience.

As working professional mothers, we stand at the intersection of two demanding worlds, each

requiring our attention, dedication, and love. It's through open dialogue, mutual support, and a commitment to self-care that we can navigate these challenges with grace and resilience. To all

those embarking on this journey or already traversing its path, remember that your well-being

matters. As a working professional mother, you are a testament to strength, resilience, and the

ability to adapt. In navigating these challenges, embrace the support available, cherish the

moments of joy amid the chaos, and above all, recognize that you are not alone. While the

journey may be arduous at times, the rewards of watching our children grow and thrive

alongside the fulfillment of our professional endeavors make every sacrifice worthwhile.

Together, let us continue to uplift and empower one another as we navigate the complexities of

modern motherhood and professional life.

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