Every mother has a different story. Many make the choice to return to school while their children are still young, in the hopes of a better future for their children, but also for their own fulfilled dreams. That’s my own story.
My mother was a doctor, so I always wanted to be one, too. Specifically, I first wanted to be a gynecologist but I now run an aesthetics company. I wanted to study it and infertility because it was a new frontier - not many other doctors had chosen that specialty, and I had a feeling I could really help other women and mothers. I knew many years of school lay ahead of me if I were to pursue that path, but it also felt right.
Some of the most taxing years of my life were during my residency while I still had young children at home. But I learned how to manage it - I had no choice! I know I’m not alone in saying that many mothers learn how to balance when they’re already on a tightrope, suspended hundreds of feet in the air. And although they were my most taxing years, I look back and think of them as some of the years of my life I was the most proud of, because I took this balance into stride. Here’s what I learned - for all the moms out there who are finding their own balance between the pursuit of their dream careers and the amazing responsibility and honor of being a present mother.
1. Kids understand - talk to them.
I always felt that filling in the “why” for why I was working so many long hours helped my kids better understand why I was gone, and absolved some of my own guilt. I’d sit down with them at night after a long day and tell them about what I was learning, who I was helping, and how I was doing something I was authentically passionate about. I’d turn the conversation around and ask them, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And then, I’d tell them about school, studying, and working hard to ultimately become what you want to be. I took them along the journey with me, even though they had no idea what big words like gynecology or infertility meant.
How can you share what you’re doing with your kids? Kids understand not only words, but feelings, too. They can understand if you seem genuinely excited about what you’re learning. This positive emotion paired with a logical explanation for why you’re gone for long hours will help them conceptualize all of it.
2. Make one day of a week a “special day.”
You’ll need at least one day a week where you can put work behind you - and even though I know you’ll want to catch up on rest and turn on a movie with the kiddos, find some way to make each day of the week a “special day.” Maybe every Sunday is your relaxation day, and your kids can vote or come up with their own activity that can be special. Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend the whole day at the aquarium or do something that will drain you even more. It can be small things, like making a pizza from scratch or building forts for the afternoon nap. It’s something both you and your kids can look forward to and plan for, and takes the pressure off making everyday somehow “special.”
3. Ask for help.
Finally, and I cannot stress this enough - but you must ask for help. It takes a village, truly - that’s the case even if you aren’t in school or balancing your career too. Ask the neighbors if they don’t mind walking with your kids to the school bus in the morning, ask any in-town family you have if you can come over to theirs for dinner one night (one less night to cook!). Communities are the very best at helping, and they don’t mind doing so! Stop feeding the myth that you can do it all yourself.
Aside from those tips, you got this! If I could do it, you can, too.