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Finding ways to connect with your children despite long work hours

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Currently on an all-too-brief maternity leave. Essentially went from working 80 hours a week (my schedule is not always that bad, but often is) to going into labor then being home on leave. It is wonderful to be able to spend time not only with our newborn but with my 3 yo daughter as well. The time I'm able to spend with my 3 yo now makes me even more cognicent of all I miss when I am away. I felt like it has taken us several weeks to reconnect and for her to be herself around me.


I'm thinking ahead to being back at  work and wanting to do a better job about staying in touch with my children, especially my 3 yo DD. It is so hard after working a long day to come home hungry and exhausted to a messy house, a hungry and tired husband, and a cranky toddler. I do the best I can and when I am not working I spend just about every minute with my daughter other than sleeping but often I am not truly present with her and I want to do better. So for those of you moms who work long hours, what are your tips for staying connected with your children despite being away?


Thanks for sharing!

post #2 of 11

Wow. That does sound hard! My hours are never that long any more. When they were, I can't imagine how I would have fit kids into it. I made a conscious effort to get to something saner (50 now most weeks) when I had kids, so my experience is not totally relevant but ...


hopefully with all those hours you're making good bucks and can afford to pay for help. That's the only solution I see. I try to outsource as much as I can so that our family can enjoy our time together to the max. We have a weekly housecleaner, but maybe you need one more frequently than that right now. I get my groceries delivered (thanks, Amazon!) I hardly ever do errands (it's amazing what you can cut out of your life and still survive! and when we had a nanny, we had her do some of that ;) We go out 2-3 nights a week and eat super quick meals and leftovers whenever possible. I bathe the kids only 1-2x / wk. I throw in a little extra Dora showing if dh and I have had an especially rough day. I spend extra time cuddling at bedtime (which allows me to rest and them to feel super loved). We keep our free time as unscheduled as possible. Since newborn stage is really rough you might want to consider paying for someone to spend a day cleaning your house and running errands and doing laundry, etc.


Hopefully that might give you more energy and enable you to really be present with your daughter. But honestly, it's not uncommon for me to be physically but not mentally with my children. Especially when I'm going through a rough career patch (which seems to have spanned the entirety of their short lives at this point!) And I think that's ok. I think there's something to be said for just being there, even if you're in a daze. And when your newborn gets older you'll find the kids will have so much fun together they won't care if you're just there spacing out on the couch fielding the occasional question or lego construction assistance. So far they still seem to love me!

post #3 of 11

If I were to take a wild guess, the OP is a resident (i.e., training, making some money but not much, and having very little control over her own schedule).  If that's right, we're in the same boat, but you're ahead of me.  I just had my first, am still out on maternity, and already dreading handing him off to someone else.  We had an cyanotic episode his first week home.  While he's just fine, I'm pretty traumatized and am really worried about giving him to a nanny (day care was off the table after that event).  Anyway, no advice, but I'm with you. 



post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 

Yep, resident. 4 more weeks of maternity leave, also dreading the day I have to go back. Anka what is your specialty? FYI, there is a physician mothers thread under Finding Your Tribe. Being a resident mom is crazy challenging but I wouldn't change it for the world.


Little Griff yes definitely agree about hiring as much help as possible. We have a once weekly housekeeper and also someone to help with the the yard once a week. Also agree about not running errands and basically keep our time together unscheduled. Those things help.Glad to hear I am not alone!



post #5 of 11

Well, I'm very impressed. Power to you both!

post #6 of 11

I work full time and go to school full time, so I can relate.  This coming semester, I will probably only interact with my son when he is getting ready for school Monday - Wednesday because I don't get home until after 10 those days, a couple hours past his bedtime.


I just dwell on the fact this is temporary and make the most of daily rituals with him.  Admittedly he is older and pretty independent these days. 

post #7 of 11

I'm a physician with 2 kids. I've been out of residency for 8 years.  It gets better.  Just keep telling yourself that. The hours, the job and the money- they all get better.  In the end you have a fantastic job in a profession where you get to help people- it's worth it in the end.

post #8 of 11

I'm an intern with a 19-month old.  It's been very hard for him to have me work such long hours.  He wakes up in the night to cry, "mama. bus. no bus. mama coming."--meaning, don't take the bus to work; come home!  When I was a med student, I worked these hours for several months but we had a fabulous nanny and my son was younger.  Now he has daycare that he doesn't particularly like and is adjusting to a new place.  It will be hard to afford, but I am hoping to find him a nanny again, because I think it is much better for him to develop a stable attachment to a long-term caregiver that he likes and trusts as much as he trusts me and his dad.


It's hard to be a mom and have a job that demands so much, and where most everyone else doing it has much less going on in their perrsonal lives--or at least, more flexibility in that area.  Still, I love the work.  I try not to feel too guilty, and to do what I can to stay connected, hoping it's good enough.

post #9 of 11

Just another piece of encouragement from the it-gets-better camp.  I just finished residency and things are *so* much better now.  I'm actually in a fellowship program so not 'making good bucks' but it is research-based and amazingly flexible.  It's like a whole new world.


Is there any way to get flexibility in your program?  I was able to go part-time during PGY-II and it was fabulous.  I practically had a meltdown after returning FT after an 8-week maternity leave, and was seriously considering quitting residency.  Turned out the PD was totally open to a part-time arrangement, all I had to do was ask.  I hadn't even considered that it might be possible but I could have saved my kid (and my program!) a lot of stress if I had brought it up earlier.

post #10 of 11

Mambera-- it's awesome that your program was so accomidating.  I've heard of this sort of arrangement before, especially in the larger medicine programs.  Unfortunately, many of us are in fields or programs where even asking would be interpreted as a lack of committment or sign of weakness, so we do delay until we're about to quit before asking for accomidations.  I wish the ACGME came out with a statement to protect mothers and babies -- you can imagine it would protect pumping rights for lactating mothers, provide for nonretaliation for longer than 6 week maternity leaves... and get rid of the general surgery 'chief year' requirement, which basically means that any 5th year general surgery resident can only take 4 weeks off during her fifth year, or has to repeat the year.  One resident in the general surgery program at our hospital went back two weeks after having her baby, and one of the fellows in a pretty lifestyle friendly general surgery specialty was told they wouldn't complete her if she took more than four weeks off (not, to clarify, "we'll add on time to the end of your fellowship to make up the missed time"... no... they were actually not going to complete her!).


Medmom, I'm in a surgical subspecialty that is very male dominated (I'm only the 3rd woman in the history of the program), although my program is actually very benign -- no trouble at all with pregnancy/maternity leave despite some medical problems I had during pregnancy.  I'm worried it won't get better as an attending... we have a lot of emergency cases going at night that always get passed to the more junior attendings, plus building a practice, etc.  In fact, having watched a few of my collegues go to the attending side, it actually looked worse.  More stress, longer hours, less time with kids.  If I didn't love my field as much as I do, I'd quit.  But I love operating.  I guess we'll have to see how things work out when I actually go back to work.



post #11 of 11

Congrats on your new little one! Here's another cheer from the "it gets better" camp.  Admittedly, I had my first 3 months after walking into fellowship rather than residency, but it sounds like you're doing a great job - outsourcing what you can, setting your expectations low for doing things other than family time with your time off, and making the most of your maternity leave.  I'm an attending now and no one balked when I very firmly said I'd be taking a full 3 months off after my second baby - we had a wonderful summer and I returned to work last week much more ready to dive back into patient care, teaching, and research than I was after the first.  I'm as protective as I can be of my personal time, keeping my travelling for meetings and willingness to come in after hours to a minimum for now and my career may slow down a bit for that, but there'll be time for those things down the road once the kids are a little older. 


The other think I'd suggest, if possible, is to take a "second maternity leave".  After finishing fellowship, I took 6 weeks off to have a summer vacation with my then 21 month old and my husband (a school teacher so he was off already) before starting my new job in August. We traveled and enjoyed lots of quality time, refilling our cup before diving back into being a dual working parent family.


Hang in there!

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