One of the challenging things about being a working physician mom is the unpredictable nature of my work. As a pediatrician I take calls from home and have a set daily patient schedule, which is certainly more routine than someone who responds to emergencies or attends deliveries, but there are still many things that come up and throw off my schedule. My family has learned that sometimes a “regular day” can turn into more and that a certain degree of flexibility is needed when dealing with the unpredictability of illnesses. I learned this lesson as a child watching my cardiologist step-dad in action.
One particular day stands out in my memory. Knowing that my step-dad was working late, my mom and I drove over to the hospital to bring him dinner. When he failed to respond to multiple calls and pages announcing our arrival, we grew frustrated and started to leave. We grumbled about being inconvenienced. As we drove around the side of the hospital, someone waved us to stop at the cross walk where a team of doctors and nurses escorted a stretcher over to the helicopter on the nearby helipad. Much to our embarrassment, there was my step-dad leading the team. Here we were worrying about his dinner getting cold and he was saving lives.
I hope that my kids will learn to appreciate this as well. There will come a time when mommy is late because she was taking care of a sick child. As “essential personnel” there will be snow days and natural disasters that close schools and offices but not mommy’s work. There will be phone calls from worried parents overnight and on holidays that intrude into our own family events. These obligations and interruptions are part of my job, and make it quite unlike many other jobs. But there will be days like today that reaffirm the importance of my career to my kids, when walking in our neighborhood we ran into one of my patients and his parents who were excited to see me. The dad said to my son, “your mommy takes very good care of my son.” However, my son was oblivious to meaning of this conversation and I informed the parents that he still thinks that I work “at the pretzel store,” which is across the street from my office and his special treat when he comes to visit. I appreciated the sentiment though. It was kind of them to want to share with my children their positive experience. So while he may never see me escorting a patient to a helicopter, I hope that he will see many other positive examples of how my career impacts children in our community.