Congratulations on both finishing your training and the new addition to your family!
Once you expand your family, life changes completely. You and your partner now orbit around a completely different sun, and it can be both spectacular and stressful at the same time. For some people, especially mothers who work outside the home, negotiating these changes can be difficult.
In my opinion, the term “work-life balance” is really a misnomer. There is rarely a 50-50 perfect balance between the two. More realistically, there is an ebb and flow of your time and priorities. Sometimes you’ll be on call and have to dedicate more time to work, and other times you will have more time to spend with your family. Check in often to ensure that where your energy is going is aligned with what your goals are.
Recognizing that time between work and home will never "balance" helps you set expectations and can mitigate feelings of guilt. As a new mom to twins, here are five tips that were passed to me from other mothers that may help with the transition, both at home and at work. They work for new dads, too!
- Let go of perfection.
As ophthalmologists, we tend to strive for excellence and feel like we should be able to do everything well, all the time. With a new baby, it’s just not realistic. Learn to say “no” to things that don’t inspire you and to be comfortable with producing work that is “good enough.” Your house may not be perfectly clean or your lecture slides may not be perfect — and that’s okay. Give yourself grace.
- Prepare before the baby arrives. First, recognize that babies do not get the memo about how you want things to go. Be sure that you leave flexibility in some of your plans, but do think about the changes ahead. At work, review your contract to determine how much maternity leave you are allowed and discuss the on-call policy for time you miss. Depending on how uncomfortable and or high risk the pregnancy is, you may want to consider lessening your clinic volume or even stop performing surgeries at a certain point.
Putting the health of you and your baby first is important, even early on, so don’t be afraid to tailor work to what you can handle. You may also want to consider what precedents there are for breastfeeding at work. Do you have designated time and space for it? Will you need to build time into your schedule to pump?
At home, talk with your significant other about the new structure of your home and your expectations for things (tasks, responsibilities) once the baby comes. New parents often don’t have the time or energy for housework and meal planning, and it’s much easier to start these conversations ahead of time instead of during the sleepless and, for women, the hormonal fluxes of the postpartum period.
- Unplug from work. As a new graduate, it’s easy to get lost in the demands of work even while at home, such as finishing notes, research, meetings and presentations. Always being "on" is detrimental even without the demands of parenthood, and there's fantastic evidence to support the health benefits of mindfulness and being present. If this is new to you, as it is to so many of us post-residency, then plan out how to set and maintain boundaries with your time. By setting boundaries on when work can make demands of you, you're able to protect your time with your family.
- Remember self-care. A transition to parenthood frequently comes with a feeling of loss around who you were pre-baby. It's important to have protected time to connect with yourself and all the things that make you, you. Making your well-being a priority ultimately benefits all the other aspects you're juggling, and so this shouldn't be an afterthought. It will give others a chance to be involved in caregiving and will allow you to manage stress better.
- Outsource help. The idea that you have the same number of hours in a day as Beyonce is BS. Beyonce has a team, and so should you. When friends and family want to help, direct them to what you need (not just holding a baby). Let them bring meals, do laundry and make runs to the store. Use apps to order food and anything else that's available. Hire a helper to take care of menial tasks, and consider a nanny or au pair to help organize children's needs. Delegation is the key to keeping things running without spreading yourself too thin.
Parenthood should be a joyful time in your life. You’ll never get that time with your new baby again, so enjoy it while it lasts.
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Jessica Randolph, MD,
is a vitreoretinal surgeon, assistant professor of ophthalmology and medical student educator at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va. She joined the YO Info
editorial board in 2021.