The Reality of the Balancing Act by Carrie Leff

We all live on one side of the mommy wars. If you stay connected to any of the parenting blogs, you will know that there has been much attention paid to whether women can have it all. (Check out Ann Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” and Sheryl Sandberg’s Ted Talk if you haven’t already!). I don’t know that I can answer this question; I just know the reality of my side of the war. The side of the working mom.


My name is Carrie but my internet avatar is The Doctor Mom at my (recently neglected) blog, I am a part-time doctor and full-time mom who is just trying to make it all work. The Doctor Mom is the superhero I strive to be; she is organized, patient and well put together at all times. (I may, or may not be these things.) I spend 3 days a week as a doctor in a primary care (Internal Medicine & Pediatrics) practice, and the rest of my time being the best mom I can to my 3 girls ages 6, 4 and 10 months. Just like all moms, I struggle at different times with my choices and their consequences.


As far as my career goes, I chose medicine (and primary care) because I believed it would give me the flexibility I needed to be a mom and a doctor. When entering into medicine I was never truly aware of the fact that I would never be able to leave it, but that is now my truth, so now I will always be a working mom. I have sacrificed too much time, heartache (and money) to let it all go. I guess that is a good thing when I think about it because, frankly, I am keenly aware of the fact that I would NOT BE A GOOD STAY AT HOME MOM. Honestly, that job is just way TOO hard for me. Being home less keeps me more engaged, patient and balanced. But clearly, this choice would not (and should not) work for everyone.


I love being a mom. But I also am proud to say that I have lofty career goals. Some of them I may attain. Some I may not. That’s just the reality of the finite amount of time we are allotted. I can and do dream big about the things I want to achieve and I’m not ashamed of it. I look to other women in my field as mentors as they have already paved the way for me, and hopefully I can be a mentor to up and coming women in the field of medicine.


Most importantly, and the job I take most seriously, is being a role model to my 3 girls. Since having my 3rd baby I have become keenly aware that these 3 impressionable little ladies are looking to me as their compass, and that is a. lot. of pressure. I want to show them that they shouldn’t shy away from being smart, involved and motivated. I want to show them that hard work and perseverance pays off. I want them to know that they can be a mommy. But, I also want them to know that they can be a scientist, a writer, an artist or an engineer if they want. And with hard work, and a full (color coded) calendar they, too, can make it work.


Being a working mom means constantly changing to maintain that balance. As your kids grow, their needs change and you must change to accommodate them. This is not easy if you have a job that is inflexible or a boss that does not understand your needs. I am lucky to be my own boss, which means I am able to make my own schedule. I can check out early for a special play if needed and block off time to go on a field trip (ok, that is if I plan early enough). Flexibility is truly the key to longevity for any working mother.


Though I strive for balance there are many days that I don’t feel that I’m achieving it. Sometimes motherhood pulls at me more. Occasionally work calls interrupt my dinner or car rides with my kids. Sometimes (ok, a lot of times) I have trouble turning my brain off and relaxing. That is just the reality of feeling over-scheduled.


I’ll end by saying that my success as a working mom hinges on the fact that I am not alone. I have amazing support behind me that makes it all work. That truly is my secret. I married a man who is a true partner in parenting. I have a nanny/babysitter who goes above and beyond her job description every day to care for, love, discipline and clean my kids. I have a sister who is like an extension of myself, and a mom and mother-in-law who I can count on anytime. I am fortunate and I try to remember that in the hard times. It really does take a village to make it all work well. And this is the one job where failing is not an option.

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