According to the Office of National Statistics, 70% of mothers in the UK now work full-time. Being a full-time working mother can often lead to feelings of guilt, stress and worry because of the divided attention between your family and work life. However, it is important to remember that these feelings can be set aside by devising a plan and finding the right balance between your medical responsibilities and parenthood. In this article, we provide you with five tips to manage your time which will ensure that you, your family and your career are equally successful. We also provide you with a personal account from an NHS Trust Grade Doctor Paediatrics and her advice on juggling motherhood and being a doctor.
Rather than constantly feeling upset because you are not with your child, you should think about how your role within the NHS is benefiting both your family and the UK public. By working, you will be able to afford different educational opportunities for your child or perhaps save for their future whilst simultaneously acting as a valuable asset to the UK’s National Health Service.
It is important to accept that there will be good and bad days. As a mum, you will not be the first one to feel this way and our advice is to discuss how you are feeling with your spouse, friends, work colleagues and the online IMG community.
It is likely that you will feel less anxious if you ask your personal network of friends and family to care for your child. If that is not possible, ask them for references of good quality nurseries or nannies. This way you can work knowing that your child is being loved, cared for and will be happy whilst you are away working.
Another tip that helps you feel less overwhelmed is to stay organised. Often, this can start the night before, such as packing your child’s lunches, laying out their clothes (and your own to save extra time!), you could even lay out their breakfast, place bags by the door etc – allowing you to enjoy spending quality time with them each morning, rather than rushing around the house.
You could also create a daily to-do-list to help you divide the schedule between you and your spouse.
Another way to stay on top of household responsibilities is to meal plan. Plan for a shop to be delivered at the beginning of each week and then write down what you will all be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner. This way, when you have a busy day, you do not have to worry about what you are going to cook because it has already been planned ahead of time.
A good way to feel less emotion over being away from your child is to stay connected even when you are not together. If you have younger children, and if it is possible, you can FaceTime them during your lunch break or on your way home from work. Or perhaps, you could pre-record a video or voice message to leave with their carer to show them. If you have an older child, you could leave them a note in the morning or plan some one-on-one time for the next weekend ahead, giving you both something to look forward to.
Although it is important to make enough one-on-time with your children, do not forget about your partner! Setting aside a monthly date night can often lead to you feeling excited and rejuvenates your relationship. And remember to leave some time for yourself too! Finding time to read a book before bed, have a bubble bath, exercise, or spend some time doing something you love will allow you to recharge your batteries in order to take care of your family.
I got unexpectedly pregnant during my post as a Paediatrics Emergency Medicine Medical Officer in Myanmar and whilst I was studying for my MRCPCH clinical exam preparation. At the time, I was contracted to work 48 hours per week and my department saw over 3000 patients a month. Although my husband is a very supportive partner, he is a military doctor who stays away from home, so I could not always count on him.
I had a very tiring pregnancy and the only motivation was for me to pass my MRCPCH clinical exam with high marks – of which I did, and I am very proud of. My daughter was finally born and unfortunately, she was born with a hole in her heart (VSD). She underwent her surgery and we have been told she needs to have the second surgery in the UK as it is not possible in Myanmar – this was another reason for my decision to relocate. I was only given 90 days paid maternity leave and I took 28 days unpaid leave – giving me 4 months off work.
Once I returned to work I decided to hire a day nanny who worked 7am to 7pm, I also used her as a night nanny whilst I was on-call. It was difficult being a doctor and a mother, so I decided to move in with my mum and my dad. This helped me relax as I knew that when the nanny was caring for my baby, my parents would be around too.
After work, I always made sure I had quality time with my baby. I would sing her lullabies, read and dance with her. And then after she fell asleep my study time would come. My top tip to studying doctors would be to study at every opportunity you have. Make everything paperless by using a phone, tablet or laptop and put them on aeroplane mode to allow you to concentrate. Sometimes, I even practiced for my OET exam by speaking to my baby in English. By staying organised, you can still work, care for your baby and conduct extra-curricular activities – I managed to finish two audits and was a co-author of a research paper.
My second piece of advice to IMGs with children is to relocate to the UK alone for the first month or so. Once you have settled and have everything organised, such as nurseries, schools and accommodation your family can then come over. I am worried about how I will manage when my baby arrives in the UK, I am hoping my mum can come for the first six months on a UK visit visa. When my mum leaves I will have to get a nanny, I tend to install CCTV to reduce my worries.
My final tip would be to tell your child that you love them as many times in the day as possible. By giving them lots of hugs and kisses they will not worry about being away from you. Overall, being a mother and a doctor is a wonderful life and I am very grateful.
Ons.gov.uk. (2018). Families and the labour market, England - Office for National Statistics. [online] Available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/articles/familiesandthelabourmarketengland/2017#mothers-with-a-youngest-child-aged-between-three-and-four-years-old-have-the-lowest-employment-rate-of-all-adults-with-or-without-children-and-are-the-most-likely-group-to-work-part-time [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].
Parents.com. (2018). About Your Privacy on this Site. [online] Available at: https://www.parents.com/parenting/work/life-balance/moms-balance-work-family/?slideId=slide_a0a3f42c-07fd-42bc-ba34-f775b5623b2d#slide_a0a3f42c-07fd-42bc-ba34-f775b5623b2d [Accessed 7 Nov. 2018].