Work/Life balance? Got it? How did you get it?

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    I absolutely have work-life balance and I got it by:

    1) Having only one kid for a 2 high stress/demanding career family.
    2) Putting off serious pursuit of med school untilI my kid got much older.
    3) Working for organizations and companies that offer flexibility. Earlier this year, I quit a job paying almost 6 figures when management changed and they became strict about scheduling.

    What would have helped me to have it even more? Not marrying a guy that works more than Surgeons do. I’d like to think that if I had married a teacher or a nurse I may have had 2 kids instead of one with them spaced VERY, VERY far apart, LOL!!!


    I do now. I didn’t when I first came to this site a few years ago, and I was wondering if anyone did.

    We live in a small town with a lot of family and several close friends. I spend my mornings working PT as a psychiatrist doing inpatient consults and run a very small clinic. I spend afternoons playing with my kids and visiting family and friends. My husband is also a physician and works full-time, but his hours aren’t crazy demanding because his group is big enough and the hospital is small enough (no traumas or transplants).

    My husband makes the bulk of our income. I also make a pretty good salary and we both are enrolled in a loan repayment program at our hospital since we are in an underserved area. We hire out anything we can including a babysitter that comes to our home, weekly housekeeper, lawncare, painter, handyman, etc. This is also pretty easy since we live in a LCOL area.

    I started medical school at age 20 and finished residency at age 29. I had my first two children while in residency, and that was difficult and I probably would have done it differently if I had it to do again. I am due with our third next week and I’m very excited about it. They are spaced very close together (oldest is 3.5).

    There are times when I deal with urgent, over the phone questions and consults when I am home with my kids, and that can feel a little stressful. But overall, I am really happy with my work life and my home life right now.

    Lol…I guess I did almost the opposite of Path201X, but it’s working well for us.


    Annie, I am pretty much exactly where you are. We struggled for a few years to get to the point we are now, but it was totally worth it. We made choices to move closer to family (but not too close!), take lower paying jobs with better hours and lifestyle, and to live somewhat below our means.


    [quote=annie501] Lol…I guess I did almost the opposite of Path201X, but it’s working well for us.[/quote]

    IMHO, there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to this issue. My point is to say that you can have work/life balance, doing what’s ultimately best for you and your particular situation but understanding the sacrifices that go along with ANY choices made.

    I’m reasonably certain that NONE of us got to this point easily and I’m sure it’s also true of most women that it was a LOT harder when we all first started this juggling act.

    But with time and the wisdom that hopefully goes along with it, things improve! 😀


    I have no balance. I try really hard, but I don’t. Third year sucks. Being in surgery is long.

    I am about to stop studying today and I am going to get some frozen yogurt with my husband and kid. I guess that is my balance today.

    Sometimes I wonder if becoming an astronaut or a rocket scientist might have been easier.

    I just don’t think I am used to 31-hour workdays yet. That’s probably it. I’m a little tired/glum today.


    Why do people think being a good Scientist is easier? 🙁

    I guess knowing so many Physician/Scientists combo’s, and hearing their perspectives on their careers gives me different outlook about this than perhaps many other people have.

    Sure medicine is “different”, but from what I’ve heard and seen as compared to Scientific research, you simply trade one pile of crap for another. Whinning students, whining patients. Decreasing reimbursements from insurance companies, decreasing grant opportunities. Completing office paperwork at home, reading journal articles at home.

    Boo-boo smells no differently than $hit to me. 😎


    If the carpool lady is on time and the babysitter doesn’t bail on me and the cleaning lady remembers to show up, and no crisis at any of the kids’ schools and nobody gets sick- then I sort of have balance as a part time doc in private practice. If anything breaks down, then it’s pandemonium. I have been known to feed the kids Tylenol and Advil and hoping the fever stays down long enough for me to be done at work before the school calls.
    It’s hard because my husband works full time as an internist and is very busy (also the major breadwinner) and we have absolutely no family in the US. So whatever I can’t do , we have to outsource. Add to that the additional issues of having a special needs child who needs a lot of extra one on one time and therapy, and it can get difficult to balance.

    Best thing I ever did though was getting out of primary care- I couldn’t have kept this work schedule in primary care. As is, I have a 100% consultative practice in endocrinology, where call is really light and I am in full control of my schedule (working 2.5 days a week). I also make a ridiculously low amount though, it really feels like I work for childcare and therapy and then it’s all gone ! It’s a trade off.


    [quote=Path201X]Why do people think being a good scientist is easier?[/quote]

    I can’t answer for everyone but *I* think being a scientist is easier because I watch my husband do it every day and, WOW, does it look easy.


    (To be fair, he’s a) a physicist [= experiments are dead — never urgent/time sensitive] and b) he works in the private sector.)

    Re: balance, what does that mean, anyway?


    Yeah, my brother is a PhD in Mech Engineering. He worked at one of the most famous labs in the country, invented something one of the top universities in his field now owns, and is now tenure-tracked at another university. So in all fairness, I guess I should have said professor, but even during his terrible graduate “life in the lab” days, he had charge of when he sat, ate, pooped and peed. To me that sounded pretty nice. As a third-year med student, I have pretty low standards these days.


    Ladies, why are even talking about the careers of MEN, why by definition the reason they have such “perfect” work/life balance is because of US!


    [quote=southernmd]…he had charge of when he sat, ate, pooped and peed. To me that sounded pretty nice. As a third-year med student, I have pretty low standards these days. [/quote]

    Geez Southern, you make 3rd year sound like being in prison! :crazy: Prisoners are the ONLY folks I hear of who don’t control the things you listed, LOL!!!


    The physics people I know do seem far more relaxed than the biologists. Especially the theory guys – they are beyond chilled out.

    But progress in the labor-intensive field of experimental biology is built on the backs of countless graduate and postdoc slaves, working inhuman hours for minimal pay. As an MD-PhD I will say that third year of med school was *way* easier than grad school for me. Even intern year at least had heavier and lighter rotations. Lab work was completely unrelenting – four years of 14-h days, and I was the slacker in my lab (and got plenty of sh!t for it from my PI). An 80-hour week is way more manageable when it contains an overnight or two and a required day off, than when it’s done as 7 workdays of 11+ hours.

    I totally took the easy way out by escaping to the clinic, and I sure left behind a lot of envious and disillusioned PhDs who didn’t have that escape hatch. Several of them actually went to med school *after* completing their PhDs – yikes.

    Work-life balance is totally achievable in clinical medicine. Academic research, not so much. If you’re seeking balance you’re already out of the running IMO.

    So yeah, I’ve got balance. I got it by leaving basic research. That’s my two cents. 🙂


    I have found out taking one day off per week will keep me sane. Right now, I don’t feel comfortable taking two days off per week financially. For some reason, I was only able to take 2 days off for the entire months of Nov and Dec. I kind of thought my group offered more flexibility, but I guess I was wrong? I am really hoping this is not going to be a trend for the future…

    I wonder if I am at a place where I take 2 days off per week, I would feel balanced? At the moment, I am thankful to be able to take one day off per week and feel somewhat less that completely unbalanced.

    I envy you ladies who feel that they have found balance. It is good to know such things are possible.

    SW to MDSW to MD

    I find my school/work/life balance is a infinitely long continuum, constantly shifting given the variables of the moment.

    Overall I am pretty happy with it- I work a few hours week, studystudystudystudy, and get to spend time with my kids. I did tear up yesterday when my son was explaining to my 6-year-old that Mom can’t always be there for school things because she has lots to do with school. 🙁 But they got it- my daughter immediately jumped in with- “but we can still do family movie night, right?” Quality trumps quantity in my world.

    I have been struggling to find time for my research project- so it is one of those things I feel I am not doing as well with, but it will get there- hopefully over break I can get further with it. chart review >>> basic science in the continuum of flexibility.

    I think working so many hours in social work (easily 60+ most weeks, usually over 70-80, while only getting paid for 40) at $11/hour reset my expectations on work/life balanace- not necessarily for the good. But nonetheless, it gives me a time to think back on where I was not happy or satisfied with what I was doing, DH and I were working opposite shifts b/c we could not afford daycare and the house payment on our very modest home, and we went to the grocery store every week with a budget of $60 to feed a family of five for the week.

    Not to say there won’t be dark times ahead- there most certainly will. But since entering med school, I feel like work/school/life is balanced.

    Of course that feeling of balance flew out the window this week with a hugely disappointing B in a course. So. Demoralizing. But, if that is the grade I earned, so be it. I don’t have the luxury to spend 18 hours/day studying- so I have to make the time I do have count. I’ll get over that B, eventually.

    And last, but most importantly, I have an amazing partner, who is truly in this with me. We are a team, and that is why this works. 🙂


    I’m with Southern about third year of med school. Balance is simply not possible. To get through third year — and I’m talking passing, not getting honors — you have to work both while at school and at home, as studying for the shelf has to be done too. We work the hours of residents, but in addition have to study for exams and do assignments outside of the hospital. So it’s not an 80 hour work week, it’s more like a 100 hour workweek. That being said, I personally have given up on work/life balance right now. It’s just about surviving, getting through the “work” part, and hoping I’ll still have some time to see my son while he’s young once I’m done with med school. I think work/life balance can be viewed over many years — some years you have more “life” (ie, like when I was in graduate school) and some years are more “work” (like in med school). I think whether research or clinical work is harder depends on the individual. I felt research to be much easier because the schedule is flexible, while clinical work is an unrelenting requirement to be at work at 6 am every day, 6 days a week. At least in research times, I could sleep in a little when I was tired. I also agree that having a great team is key. My husband and I, who are both in medical school, get through it with a team of caregivers for our child. And to SW to MD — I would not sweat a “B.” For me, there have been many of those. Perfection is not possible for most mothers in medical school. Getting through it and graduating with an intact family is an accomplishment you should be very proud of. I wouldn’t sweat grades lower than an A, as long as you keep on passing and getting through. Remember, P=MD.

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