Starting a family during residency is not the most straightforward life choice, but it’s not impossible either. Many people who grow their careers as a physician want to start a family at the same time.
There are ways to make it work. Balance and being present are two primary components, but we’ll get to that down below. Life will happen, no matter how much you plan.
While starting your family in your fourth year of medical school may be ideal, you’ll likely end up with your new bundle of joy quicker than you think.
Everyone’s journey on their medical career and family paths are their own. They are unique. That being said, there are some general guidelines you can follow to navigate this exciting time.
From communicating with your co-residence to being a present parent and partner when you’re at home, let’s uncover what it’s like starting a family during residency and being a med student.
Preparing for Maternity
As mentioned above, life loves adding a little zest every once and awhile. Talking to your partner about when it’s ideal to start a family, and using birth control until them is step numero uno.
You both need to be realistic as to when it’s best to start a family. You will also have to plan to be flexible. I understand being a med student with a tight schedule being flexible is the last thing you’re equipped for but go with it.
Understanding any maternity benefits, you are entitled to and make a plan for how much time away from your residency responsibilities you will need. Most medical schools require you to make up your residency time if it’s longer than six weeks off.
There are acts and regulations in place for pregnant women that vary state by state. In New York, you get 12 job-protected weeks paid benefits thanks to updated maternity and parental leave rights.
Communication is Key
As a parent resident, your needs are going to differ from your co-residence. For example, you may need to rush from the hospital straight to daycare to pick up your child. Some of your co-residence may not understand and perceive your actions as though you don’t care.
That’s probably the farthest thing from the truth. Talk to a senior resident or an intern that you trust and explain what your needs are. When your team and your superiors are aware and on-board with what you need, you honestly can do it all.
There will be a time where a co-resident may fall ill, and you can volunteer to cover their shifts. It’s all about the balance of give and take.
Never feel bad about standing up for your needs as both a parent and a resident.
If you are in medical school, then you are proactive and always get the job done. This probably carries over into your home life as well. You will find a program that is accepting of residents who are parents.
Providing for your family and growing your medical career go together hand in hand.
Get Organized and Plan
As if the many hats of medical school wasn’t hard enough to balance. Get ready to throw more on. Want in on a secret?
Compartmentalizing your life is a handy little mental trick that can help you get through your home life.
When you leave the hospital physically, leave all the mental baggage there as well. Be present when you are at home.
Having a routine is vital to successfully running a family and a career simultaneously (medical school or not).
You make your routine. You follow that routine. You live and die by that routine!
Maybe the last part was a little excessive, but you get the point.
In a perfect world, you would start your family near the end of residency in your fourth year. However, the world is far from perfect. That’s why it’s crucial to have a plan in place for your rotation obligations.
Yes, you’re going to need to take time off when you have a baby. And yes, there are benefits (that vary state by state). Typically, you will only get six weeks away from your residency before you will have to make up for the time away.
Speaking with your co-residence and working with them, so everyone is happy with rotations is essential.
That being said, never feel ashamed for meeting your pregnancy and family obligations. There will come a time when you will have the opportunity to make up for the lost time, and you will make it up.
Parenting 101: Lighten Up
Seriously. You can plan as much as you want. Heck, you’ve made it this far into medical school, you’re probably an excellent planner. But life has a way of disrupting even the most well thought out plans.
Starting a family during residency means the last thing you need is added stress. Having a small child (especially the first one) is filled with many heart palpitations.
The last thing you need to worry about is if someone gave your child a brand of juice you don’t like them having.
You’re going to have to figure out how to let things go. Think to yourself: is this going to harm her or damage her life five years from now?
If it’s a no, take a deep[ breathe and move forward. You’re probably thinking easier said than done, Heather.
Well, it doesn’t have to be. If you want to grow your medical career and your family, it’s 100% doable. There’s just no room for unnecessary stressors like socks on the floor.
In A Nutshell
Starting a family during residency is no walk in the park. With a little planning, however, it’s an achievable and rewarding accomplishment. Finding balance and having a support system in place might sound woo-woo, but it’s the truth.
Communicate your needs to your senior and co-residence, and be open to feedback. You are a team. If you plan on taking more than six weeks off, plan to make up for the missed rotations.
There are not too many things more rewarding than having a family and a career you love. Take some time to plan, learn to lighten up, and you’ll be just fine.
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