Strategic Juggling for the Professional Mom

“How do you do it all?” Short answer—I don’t do it all. Not by a long shot.

“How do you stay balanced?” The truth is, my life is not balanced. Not at all. And, I think that is OK. When I picture work-life balance, I picture the words “work” and “life” on two sides of a scale, both with equal weight so that the scale is perfectly in balance. It’s a beautiful concept in theory, but do I really want my work life to equally balance with my family life? The truth is, I want to always prioritize my family and my personal life, while realizing that the demands of my career will require that I sometimes am away from home and have to prioritize work.

I like to think of this as “strategic juggling”. Picture me, in my white coat, throwing several balls into the air. However, I am a terrible juggler, and there are too many balls. Rather than allowing all the balls to fall, I decide to place 2-3 of them down at a time so that I can better manage the others. Once I get a handle on those, I pick them back up, and put others down.

Because I believe that my career of being a pediatrician that serves the underserved is my calling, I am willing to strategically (and temporarily) place the family ball lower than my career on a given day to reach a specific career-related goal; but I always pick it back up.

As an example, I give many talks, workshops, and trainings on cultural competence, specifically, implicit bias. I have also done research in this area and published in journals. As a result, I was asked to be the first author of a textbook chapter that centers on cultural competence with some physicians from Harvard Medical School. What a huge honor! However, as the deadlines approached this past year, that required many long and sleepless nights as I wrote, edited, re-edited, re-edited AGAIN—a very long process. However, I have great joy in knowing that I am contributing positively to my profession, and that my work may help the next generation of physicians take care of patients from diverse backgrounds in a culturally competent manner. So, on those weeks, I missed family dinners. I came home one night at 3:00 a.m., and was out again by 7:00 a.m. It was ROUGH. I placed the family ball down TEMPORARILY so that I could meet a deadline that would position my career for growth.

There was another week that my baby girl, Selah, was ill. I was called to pick her up from school early, but they told me that I should come around 2:00 since she was already down for her nap. Forgoing my work plans, I left work right away (and I am grateful that I have that flexibility when I am not on service!). I made it home by 11, cleaned the house, cooked a meal, picked up Selah, took her to the doctor, picked up her medications, brought her home, cuddled with her, gave her a bath, picked up my son, Israel, fed them dinner, and got them ready for bed. I did NO work that day. I made the decision to place the work ball down so that I could care for my family.

It might sound like I am super confident and sure of myself when I place the home and family balls down temporarily. Nope. The mommy guilt is real, y’all!!! I constantly doubt myself. There are often tears, both from me and my kids. I often wonder if I am doing right by them. However, when my son tells his friends that his mommy is a doctor and is helping to write a book I realize that he is proud of his parents and the work we do. Because I prioritize my family, I also try to make sure that the ball is only down for a very short period of time.

Will the guilt ever get better? I don’t know. But, I’d like to think that my children are loved, healthy, well-rounded, and amazingly bright and beautiful little people. So, I am not completely ruining, I suppose!

You may be wondering how my kids get fed and dressed, and picked up from school when my “home” ball is down? Dr. Daddy, aka Adrian, aka The Best Dad Ever. He is the biggest supporter of me and my career, and I truly couldn’t do it without him. We do not have a nanny or any other childcare help, except for the occasional babysitter, so we are a two-person show, here. Thanks for all that you do, Adrian! ❤

Do you believe in work-life balance, or do you juggle? How do you deal with the ever-present mommy guilt? Leave a comment below. Let’s chat about it and support each other!

Peace and Love,