Family comes first for some who have finished residency

by Dr. Whoo, MD

I have met several women who have completed residency and maybe even practiced beyond that, but decide to quit and stay at home with kids. I wonder – why would a woman who has gone through all of that training just quit? It would seem like the hard part is behind them and I am perplexed by their decision but, of course, I don’t want to be so rude as to ask that question to them.

From,
A lawyer and mother of two in Seattle.

I am going to try to tackle this question, even though it is not my current personal experience or decision.

I actually went through residency with a woman who did this very thing. She went through medical school, a strenuous OB/GYN residency, and then worked in private practice for a couple of years. She was married to another physician who eventually completed an interventional radiology fellowship.

During residency, she had two children, and then had a third when she was out in private practice. Once her husband finished his training, she quit practice to be a mother full-time. When people would ask her why, her answer was simple: “Because I want to, and financially, we can do this, so why not?”

I know she loved her career, and she was a very skilled, caring, and compassionate physician, but she just wanted that time with her family more, and they were in a position to swing it. She didn’t think of her choice as “quitting medicine,” she viewed it as choosing her family. It is no different than the other career women (lawyers, executives, teachers, bankers) who make the very same choice. She always planned to return to a GYN-only practice once her children were school-aged, and she became board-certified, and kept up with the field via conferences and CME.

I have since lost touch with her, but I have no doubt that she was very happy with her choice. While most physician-mothers are not as extreme, I see varying degrees of women choosing “lifestyle” specialties or different levels of “part-time” practice after residency.

Even though medicine does require more rigorous training than most careers, it does not necessarily change the way you feel about how your family life should be structured. There have been many times that I have considered cutting back practice hours, myself, in order to enjoy more family (and me) time.

I recently made a move that enabled me to still work full-time, but greatly reduced my time on-call, and therefore, my time away from my family. Currently, I am the bread-winner, and I still have some student loan debt that needs to be paid, so up and quitting is not a viable option for me.

However, if I am able to become a partner in my current practice, reduce my in-office time, and still manage a decent living, then I will likely choose that path. There many different ways of finding a work and home balance for women today, and I am thankful that we have the ability to “choose medicine” and we can also “quit medicine” if this is the best thing for us and for our families.

Dr. Whoo is an obstetrician-gynecologist who blogs at Mothers in Medicine.

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