Parenthood in medicine
Written by Varsha Kunwaha
After spending 16 hours in the OT on her two solid feet, she reaches home to find her six-year-old son waiting for her. Thanks to her caring husband, he has been fed & sent to bed. His father though, has fallen asleep. But the boy has been waiting for his mother to come to him. Father sings well; thanks to another fact that he was a singer. But he couldn’t tell him stories like his cool, hot-shot surgeon mother did. And this little boy belonged to that category of children who love to sleep by stories more than lullabies!
Her eyelids are drooping & the schedule reminds her of another surgery on board at 6 am tomorrow. She knows she needs sleep. She thinks of looking up on PubMed to see if there was any paper on an extra cup of coffee compensating for her four days of lack of sleep.
“Mamma,” her son calls out, eagerly. At that instant, her heart leaps & melts and she forgets all about PubMed & coffee & the child who was up for the surgery tomorrow. For that moment, she is just a Mommy. She tells his son the only story she can come up with. The story of the man who was blessed with a potion by which he could work day & night to help people, without a single minute of sleep. She narrates with all the energy she can until she notices he has fallen asleep. She smiles & sighs & smiles again.
The above little screen shot from a female surgeon’s life play no doubt; falls too short to depict the reality. Since the last decade, women have been emerging as lead roles in all fields of medicine. The rising concerns & changes in gender roles have heralded a revolution; and with the turning of the dice, the new way of shared duties has come upfront; be it house-keeping or going to the moon; except one field- parenthood. A survey was done in 2009 to investigate the experiences of parent-physicians to determine whether women & men perceive different challenges to the dual role. Female physicians reported bearing the most responsibility for the daily functioning of the family; male physicians relied on their female partners to carry out the main family responsibilities. While women reported feeling guilty about their performances as mothers and as doctors, male physicians reported regrets about the lack of time with family.  Despite these concerns, studies have shown that physicians with children report more job satisfaction than those without children, and physicians with the largest families report the greatest job satisfaction. 
Let’s put the statistics a little away for now. The fact remains as true as the fact that sun rises in the east; the fact that a woman, & not the man shall be the mother. Thus, with parenthood arises the most sacred duty on the earth. With shared parenthood, both father & mother can take care of materialistic needs. But then, parenthood goes far beyond making sure that your child has been fed & sent to school & then to bed. It’s more about standing up for him as he outgrows his little clothes than buying a larger size of his shirt. It’s more about listening to his tears than bearing his tantrums. What if our so very busy schedules fail us there? In this world where depression has become a pandemic deadlier than Covid, how can we ensure that we are always there when our children need us the most?
Perhaps like in every other field, it’s never the black & white. Perhaps it’s not grey either. We have been wracking our brains in work & life, trying to balance them; forgetting that both are too heavy for the scales to handle them. We need an integration, not a boundary. We need a blend, and not a segregation of the two titles we doctors shall someday carry, or are already carrying- the titles of being a parent & being a doctor! But how on this good earth are we going to achieve that?
One way we can do this by taking our kid along with us; by making him our companion & a partner rather than keeping him at a distance since he is too young to see the kind of world we live in once we step in the hospital. Just be their friend, because our children are often far wiser than we believe them to be. Also, perhaps we can take our families along. Old is gold, after all! So why not check out if our joint family can help us there?
Another golden way which we can choose to take our children with us is keeping our work at work itself. Your office doesn’t need to tag along with you to your home as well. Now, that sounds contradictory to the statement we discussed earlier on the black & white of medicine. But what we actually want to say is that, we can try to carry the strength & dedication we possess in the wards to our homes as well but sans the stress & frustration! Carry the burnout but not the anxiety; unload your sadness but also take along a little hope to your home; so that our children understand us & learn with us!
Now, that is easier said than done. We are all humans, after all. When we have a bad day, we are too quick to unload all of it on any poor person who crosses ways with us. But we can develop a little patience, by practices like meditation & Yoga that help us be grounded & down-to-earth. When we are free of stress & anxiety, they energy that surrounds us changes too, the energy that also communicates with the people around us, especially our children. Children happen to be more intuitive, because their mind doesn’t adhere to the boundaries we put on our attitude as a result of our teachings. Thus, they often simply learn by intuition & observation by interacting with your energies. So why not keep it to the highest vibration possible?
Parenthood is the most sacred & purest form of love you can ever have. Medicine, on the same side, is the noblest profession known to humanity. Isn’t the gravity of both the fields is too powerful to be held all at once? Many become parents, but what do we say of people who are both doctors as well as parents? Isn’t that an achievement in itself, or a beautiful blessing? Is it not our privilege to carry both the titles with the love & honour they deserve, by offering our very best to both of them? We surely can, and we will.
About the Author:
Varsha is a medico by brains & a writer by heart. Living in Mumbai, she is an MBBS student in Grant Medical College; and dreams to inspire & change & heal. She loves books & is fond of traveling as well. Most of her writings are inspired by real life experiences & places & people.
- Parsons WL, Duke PS, Snow P, Edwards A. Physicians as parents: parenting experiences of physicians in Newfoundland and Labrador. Can Fam Physician. 2009;55(8):808-809.e4.
- Cujec B, Oancia T, Bohm C, Johnson D. Career and parenting satisfaction among medical students, residents and physician teachers at a Canadian medical school. CMAJ. 2000 Mar 7;162(5):637-40. PMID: 10738448; PMCID: PMC1231217.