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Healthy Balance

Mother’s Day With Dr. Bray: Mothers at Work

These days, more and more women are going into the field of medicine. About half of the medical school applicants in 2005 were women, compared to only 10 percent in 1965.

The result? More and more doctors happen to be mothers. Finding a balance of work and family life can challenge any working parent, but for mothers, especially mothers in the medical field, the stresses are uniquely intense.

Women have been practicing medicine, challenging gender norms, for a long time.
Women have been practicing medicine, challenging gender norms, for a long time.

It therefore seemed appropriate to celebrate Mother’s Day this year by sharing some key points about motherhood and work from a talk given by Megan Bray, MD, an OB/GYN here at UVA.

Challenges for Working Mothers Who Are Doctors

A mother herself, Bray’s presentation, delivered at the 2013 Quadruplicity conference here in Charlottesville, VA, discussed the specific disadvantages women with medical careers face:

  • When to time pregnancy in regards to career ambition and stress
  • Maternity leave guilt and restrictions
  • Can’t do the typical 7 a.m. or 7 p.m. meetings
  • Difficulty finding reliable childcare for odd schedules

Gender Norms in the Workplace

Bray also pointed out cultural gender norms that can hamper success in any career:

  • Definition of success includes “wholeness” and meeting family responsibilities
  • Less likely to be effectively mentored or sponsored or tapped for leadership roles
  • Need to please, make others comfortable
  • Women underestimate their own abilities
  • Women are still their family’s primary caregivers

How to Find Balance

Bray’s antidotes to these challenges?

  • Maintain a sense of humor
  • Build a support network
  • Find reliable childcare
  • Set boundaries/learn to say no
  • Set your own standards (realistic timelines and goals)
  • Make time for yourself
  • Practice something that centers you like yoga or exercise
  • Get organized
  • Be flexible
  • Simplify your life
  • Enjoy quality family time
  • Find joy in the journey

These are definitely instructions all of us can take to heart.

This Mother’s Day, we celebrate all the women who are both doctors and mothers, and all the mothers who face the challenges of balancing family and work, whatever their jobs may be.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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