I’m a doctor, I’m a woman, I’m a mother to a fiercely independent little girl and I want her to know she can do anything she wants. But I am not a feminist, at least not the way it’s been interpreted recently. ( …and cue in the angry comments)
As a fourth year medical student, I was the co-president of our school. Among other things we were asked to give a speech to incoming medical students at their white coat ceremony. There was also a female OB/GYN physician giving a speech. She said something that quite frankly alarmed me at the time. In a nutshell, she said that there will be times that they will not be there for their families, for their future kids. That patients may take precedence over their personal life plans. And she also said there will be times that they won’t be able to be there for their patients, that they won’t advance to the next level in their career because of their family, or get the promotion in the academic center. As I listened to this I felt…deflated. I thought what an awful message to send to these new and excited medical students about to embark on one of the hardest journeys of their lives. That was then.
As I continued on my path, became a pediatrician, then married and had kids, I realized how true her words had been. You cannot have it all, all of the time. Yes, you can have some of it all the time, or some of it some of the time, but something’s gotta to give!
If I focus solely on my career, then I will need to cover the bases with my family by outsourcing help. If I decide I want to be at every pick up and every drop off, focusing on my career just ain’t happening. Both scenarios are completely OK. But there’s been a trend in society that if women can’t do it all, while looking gorgeous in stiletto heals then there’s something wrong with them. That they are not trying hard enough? What!?!?!?
My mom was a stay at home mom, she was there for me for EVERYTHING. But in the eyes of the world, she’s just “a mom” I’m all for women doing what they want to do but at the end of the day some women just want to be a mom, and that’s okay. I was so determined and focused when I was younger. I thought I would work 4 days/week and be mom the other 3. Easy! It wasn’t until I had my own kids that I started resenting all the hours I had to spend away from them. I was not career focused anymore, I was mom focused. And I know I’m not the only one.
As our daughters prepare for their future and we talk to them about career options, we should not ignore the most magnificent career of being a mom. It should not be minimized. Yes, I think school, education and a career are all important but I wish someone talked to me about the fact that I may want to just be mom and going to school for 11 years and coming out in debt and working 40 hours/week and taking call….may not be the career of choice if I just wanted to be a mom.
I am so incredibly fortunate to be able to work part time but I went to school for a lot of years and have a lot of debt to now work part time. Could there have been other career options I would have entertained if someone sat me down and said, ” Look, something happens to you when you have children. That hardcore ambition kinda melts away and you just think about your babies ALL THE TIME. And yes they drive you crazy and yes you will want your time away from them but just think about them in your career choice.” I know that seems like a lot, maybe I wouldn’t have listened and gone to med school anyway but maybe I would have?
In the era of #bossbabes, I just want to make sure that our daughters know it’s okay to just be mom if that’s what will make them happy. It’s by far the most important job I have had or will ever have.
Elham Raker, M.D. is a pediatrician and mom of 2. She enjoys time with her family the most. Her website is adrdmomandablog.org and she can be followed on instagram @drmomandablog