As soon as you start residency, you probably had in mind to want to start a family. However, the demands of juggling work and family life (or even getting romantically involved) may pose some challenges. With roughly more women graduating from medical school than men, the shared responsibility between partners could work with commitment and thoughtful planning.
The long hour shifts in residency come with the challenge of parenting as well. Below are three of the most common challenges residents could face when starting a family.
Planning to have children during your residency will have its rewards—and challenges. Medical residents are often concerned about how raising children or starting a family could have an impact on their training, schedules, skills, and work ethic.
A study done among Canadian female family medical residents showed factors that make motherhood and residency training difficult. Long shifts, work demands, guilt (frequent absences from work could prompt more work for their colleagues), and high expectations are some of the causes of this stress. It’s also likely that residents may feel less supported by colleagues and supervisors upon returning to work from maternity leave.
Considering the scenarios presented, some doctors delay having children because of the strenuous demands of residency training.
As mentioned prior, raising a family during training could add to your workload. Your colleagues may feel that your pregnancy increases their work. Pregnant resident doctors may feel they have fewer research opportunities and clinical experience compared to colleagues who didn’t get pregnant during the training. There’s a high tendency to feel ostracized and be treated differently than other female residents who are not pregnant. On the other hand, male residents who became fathers during this time may feel guilt when going on paternity leave.
Academic pursuits during this time may not be hindered as much as clinical experience. However, most of the burden lies in a lack of self-care and the ability to spend leisure time as you try to maintain a work-life balance.
Women are more likely to adjust to childcare responsibilities than men. As pointed by a study done among radiation oncology doctors, male residents have non-employed partners to take care of their child’s needs while there are no non-employed partners for female residents.
After much consideration, preparation is still the best way to go if you plan to start a family soon. Here are some ways to effectively get a rewarding experience from parenthood with ongoing training.
Communicate your plans with your partner about having a baby soon. You and your partner may experience a huge shift in priorities once your little bundle of joy arrives. However, if you feel that you’re both not ready for this responsibility, use contraception until such time that you’re prepared to start a family life. Consider that some pregnancies tend to come as a ‘surprise’, so be open to this possibility as well. The goal is to create a plan for both scenarios.
After you’ve decided, inform your school advisor then the residency coordinator. It’s best to keep them on the loop when there are developments to having a child soon so the logistics and transition can come easier.
You have many hats to wear by being a mother (or father), resident doctor, and wife (or husband) among many others. Running a hectic schedule could also mean little to no discrepancy for errors.
Start by compartmentalizing your work and family life. Be wholly present when you’re at home and work. But compartmentalizing is not all there is to it. Organize your schedules according to routines to help create a ‘flow’ and keep a tab of your responsibilities. When you stay organized, you will be running more efficiently, do more, and be more ‘present’ at work.
Aside from being organized, you need to set your priorities ahead of time. This would mean taking care of finances, insurances, savings, short-term debts, and FMLA paperwork should be the first items ticked off your checklist. Doing this could save you the headache if you run through major complications that come with pregnancy, especially the financial aspect.
Resident doctors will find great relief if they have a support group to help them when emergencies arise. It would be best to have a list of people who could care for your kids when you’re not able to come back home at a reasonable time. A strong support system allows you to free yourself from child care when it’s not permissible to get out of work.