I’m a working mom, but being a mom doesn’t define my career goals. Long before I ever thought about having children, I had decided that I wanted to be a primary care physician. In fact, I went to medical school to become a primary care pediatrician and felt so strongly that this was my path that I would have switched professions rather than settle for another specialty. It’s true that primary care affords me many luxuries as a working mom though, including no overnight calls in the hospital, office hours that allow me to do daycare pick-up and drop-off, and flexibility in scheduling. These are just added benefits to a job that I love. These lifestyle factors are increasingly becoming more important to women in medicine and are why so many more women end up in general pediatrics and primary care, whereas fields like cardiology and critical care are predominantly men. It makes me feel bad for the women in these fields who have to make significant family planning decisions based on their career interests.
Recently though, two physicians have asked me if I was only doing this job for a few years or when I was going on for my fellowship. The assumption here being that a former CHOP chief resident wouldn’t do primary care except for the lifestyle factors and that motherhood must have contributed to this decision. I doubt that this question is asked to men in primary care. I resent that there are still pediatricians who look down upon the important work that primary care physicians do and view my career as a loss of potential. I am also saddened that while being a working mom in primary care is viewed as a “good choice” for raising children that the opposite is then thought of the working moms who follow their passion to the PICU/NICU/Onco [insert your favorite fellowship]. These moms face different work-life balance challenges than I do, but this doesn’t mean they love their children less or are less committed to motherhood. I don’t think we should judge working moms based on how competitive we think their careers are, or aren’t. I have many great mommy role models who work 30-hour shifts, weeks of nights, and 9-to-5. We all do the best we can as mothers and doctors within the construct of what our specialty allows and in the more inspirational cases, we change the definition of what is allowed.
So the answer to your question is, I’m doing this forever.