Monday, December 16, 2013

Family Life

by Jennifer Knight, MD, FACS

I picked this topic because for me, Family Life is a work in progress and sometimes putting thought into something you are working on often allows for enlightenment. As a surgeon, the idea of work life balance is a moving target. I struggle with it most days, but recently a colleague of mine told me that they wished that they could master the work life balance like I had. Master seemed a strong word!  There are things I have mastered; work life balance is not one of them. But I think because I do “try” perhaps that’s as close to mastering, as I will get. I though maybe I’d list a few things that I do as my attempt to try.
  1. You need a team. A friend, who is not a surgeon, pointed out to me that I need a team of people in the operating room to ensure that my cases go smoothly and efficiently. Why didn’t I have the same type of team for home? Would a team help my home run smoothly and efficiently as well? So I got a team! I already had a nanny but added someone to clean by house, I signed up for after school play dates, and developed an arrangement with a caterer for parties and functions. 
  2. Facebook. Everyone has an opinion about personal pages on Facebook. I find that I can use Facebook to stay involved with friends and relatives. I can post pictures of my family and send birthday wishes to friends. When I am able to meet face to face, I don’t need to “catch up” as much.  And while I am a peripheral user, a select “like” or “comment” lets other people know I am still around and care.
  3. Plan ahead. I clearly communicate to everyone that if they want me to participate, I need 3-6 months advance notice. I’ve been able to go on class trips with my son, plan weekend get-away with girlfriends, and make most birthday parties. My friends have commented that planning in advance has helped them be more organized as well.
  4. Have a good partner. My husband is also a surgeon and has a high level administrative job in our hospital system. We have to have great communication about each other’s schedules. But he is equal parent. He likes doing laundry and I like yard work. We complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses and both give 100%.
  5. Mow the grass. Maybe not literally. But I love mowing the grass. And while I have a “team”, the one job around the house that I love is mowing grass. I put on my headphones and put my John Deere into drive and have great personal quiet time attacking the lawn. The point is, make sure you have alone time and if that alone time contributes to the family in some way, even better.
  6. Family-friendly and fun-friendly are two different things.  I have friends and work partners who are single. Make sure that your focus on family life doesn’t trump your friends or work partners needs or plans as well.  

This is not a perfect and complete list but each of these things have helped me. Your family life is YOUR family life. Make it what you want it to be.

What tips do you have that help balance your work life and your family life? 

Jennifer Knight, MD, FACS is an Assistant Professor of Surgery at West Virginia University. She serves on the AWS Communications Committee. 

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