Paging Dr. Mom

Maneuvering motherhood and medicine: DOs share advice

Two DO moms share the rules they live by: Practices they say have made balancing motherhood and medicine less stressful.

Moms with non-adult children make up one-third of the female U.S. workforce, up nearly 50% in the last 40 years, but the U.S. Department of Labor says employers have been slow to adjust to the rise of working moms.

That’s hardly stopped women from raising children and pursuing their career goals, even in medicine where situations like taking off work to chaperone a field trip aren’t always feasible.

The DO spoke with two physician moms to learn how they effectively manage a demanding medical career and motherhood. Here’s what they do.

Prioritize stress reduction

As a mom and a practicing family physician, Dr. Tiffany Lowe-Payne knows what it’s like for a working mom to stretch herself thin.

“As female physicians, one thing we know is that in society, our mission is to help other people and help them get well,” says Dr. Lowe-Payne, “but sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can focus on helping others so much that we’re doing it at the expense of our own health.”

For Dr. Lowe-Payne, a mom of two boys ages 15 and 21, conquering the concept of burnout meant taking a step back and figuring out how to recalibrate and refuel.

The first thing she did was to recognize her stress levels and understand that she needed to care for herself and not just others. “I learned to practice the art of stillness and mindfulness, the art of breathing and mediation, and even just going outside and feeling the warm air on my skin.”

She also made lifestyle changes to improve her quality of sleep and started exercising regularly.

“Exercise was vital,” she says. “Not just for cardiovascular fitness but as an extreme stress reliever. I couldn’t say ‘I’m too busy to exercise.’ I had to understand that I couldn’t afford not to do it. The busier I was, the more important it was for me to exercise.”

Create your own ‘angel network.’

The first realization in having children and a demanding career is that you’re not going to do it all on your own, says Caroline Kabel-Kotler, DO, a pediatrician and mom of three teenagers. She learned quickly to triage her household duties and outsource what she could.

Caroline Kabel-Kotler, DO (middle right in pink), enjoys a vacation with her family. (Photo provided by Dr. Kabel-Kotler)

“You have to have an angel network,” she says. “It does take a village. You have to love and embrace all the help you can get.”

Master the art of saying ‘no’

It’s important to understand your limits and then be bold enough to say “no” to expectations that can’t be met without apologizing, says Dr. Lowe-Payne.

“As moms and doctors, we are nurturers by nature, and part of our happiness is knowing other people are flourishing,” she says, “but if we put too much on our plates, we become a jack-of-all-trades and not a master of anything.”

Make ‘me’ time

Getting lost in your family and your career is easy, but it is essential to make time for lunch with friends or just to be alone, Dr. Kabel-Kotler says.

“It’s very difficult to find time for yourself,” she says.

Caring for yourself is not selfish but necessary, Dr. Lowe-Payne says.

“I take regular trips to the park, and I sit on the bench and do nothing,” she says. “Doing this makes me better for everyone else—a better physician, better person, better wife and a better mom.”

    1 comment

    1. Thanks for the advice. I am a first year medical student with a 2 year old. Any tips for balancing family and school right now?

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