How Can I Balance Parenting with Medical Training? 

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Inevitably in medicine, someone will tell you that there is no good time to have children. Arguably, I had my children during two of the worst times in a medical career – intern year and first year of fellowship. Trying to figure out how to be a great parent, while trying to survive 28 to 36-hour shifts, is a constant work in progress.

    If you’re struggling with finding time for your children or stressing about starting your family, I completely understand. There is, in fact, no easy way to achieve the magical “work-life balance” in medicine, particularly during training. But there are some things I’ve learned along the way that might help. 

    Utilize your support network. 

    With the crazy schedules we have during training, it is incredibly hard to raise a family without help. During residency, this meant that my daughter went to my mother’s house for a weekend every month to give us a break.

    During fellowship, we live much further away, and we have had to hire babysitters. Brainstorm who you can rely on to help (both in the day-to-day and the occasional situation). Enlist family, friends, babysitters, nannies, other trainees with children, etc. to help create a loving, supportive network for your children.  

    Find mentors in medicine who have a life that you envy.

    While we often talk about research and career mentors, you should also seek out life mentors in training. These are attendings or older residents whose life you would like to emulate. Maybe they are not the most academically productive, but they seem to have figured out a way to balance their aspirations, partnership, and parenthood. Talk with them about how they do it, and what resources they have found helpful.  

    Carve out time that is entirely work or entirely home. 

    With an electronic medical record, smart phones, and the pressure to publish, everyone in medicine is constantly multitasking. This just makes you feel like you are not fully present in either area of your life.

    I would argue that it is more satisfying to create boundaries where you can truly focus on the task at hand. This may mean getting to work 30 minutes early to spend that time learning about a topic. Or you decide to not answer emails after a certain time to focus on your child’s bedtime ritual. How you divide your time depends on your situation but try to find ways to be “all in” with your work and your family. 

    Forgive yourself when you don’t get it right.  

    You are never going to be a perfect doctor or a perfect parent. Some days you will feel like you are only doing one of these things well (and some days, neither). “Work-life balance” is impossible to achieve. When you feel like it is not going well, forgive yourself! You are trying to do two of the hardest jobs on earth – being a doctor and a parent. Take time to reflect on what is not working and make a plan to make it better (NOT perfect). If that plan doesn’t work, then you’ll try something else. 

    If you are struggling with balancing medicine and family life, feel free to reach out to us. Many of our tutors have had children during training and would be happy to talk with you about what we’ve learned through the process.  

    Further Reading:

    Mom, MD-to-Be: A Female Perspective on Having Kids as a Med Student or Resident – Part 1

    Mom, MD-to-Be: A Female Perspective on Having Kids as a Med Student or Resident – Part 2

    Balance: Having Children During Medical School and Residency


    Photo by Vitolda Klein on Unsplash 
    About the Author