I originally posted this on the MiM site, but decided to also share this on my own site as well…
The first year after my daughter was born, my end of year evaluations digressed into a lot of talk about whether or not I was mommy tracking myself. The criticism was not about my work ethic or my skills. Apparently, there was an extensive discussion about how overly preoccupied I seemed to be about my daughter. I mentioned her too often. The suggestion of part-time residency came up and the sentiment was that I would no longer reach my full potential. These meetings are supposed to be confidential-ish but I was told afterwards that perhaps I should try to hide my kid.
The instructions to hide my daughter came from a good place. It came from an attending who had my best interest in mind. He mentioned that in this world even though I was working just as hard, family issues were going to be looked down upon. I would be stereotyped. People aren’t used to mom surgeons, especially not as residents. He told me a story about sneaking off from work as a fellow to pick up his sick son by making up some elaborate story to hide the reason that he had to leave. “It is more respectable to meet friends for beer than try and pick up your child from daycare,” he told me. My response…I would talk about my child incessantly!
So, I did. I figured, if the world wasn’t ready for women to be both surgeons and moms, than I would help to make them ready. The end result is that I feel this has brought me a lot closer to the other hospital staff who are sometimes more open about recognizing the importance of family. Being closer to the hospital staff makes my job easier. I chat with the nurses, scrub techs, office managers about our families. I feel like it gives me a sense of legitimacy and realness which means we are all on the same team. Also, an unexpected result was that I became the “mama hen” of the residents. There are a few more junior residents with kids or husbands and the associated stress. I try to keep an open door policy for them. And we have real and frank conversations about how hard this can be. The supportiveness of being able to have this dialog goes both ways! Also, I find that many of my attendings take an interest in my family life as well as my surgical development.
This past year’s evaluations had no mention of mommy tracking. In fact, I was made chief resident. Last night, as I sat finishing up work in the chief’s office while my baby girl bounced around watching Dora and coloring, I felt I made the right decision. She knows all the names of the other chiefs and incorporates them into her world. She loves coming to the office and is well known throughout the department. She chats with me at night about her day and asks about my day. She tells me she wants to be a doctor like me when she grows up (well, a doctor and a cowgirl of course). I’ll never hide this beautiful girl!
cross posted on www.mothersinmedicine.com