1. What is your typical day like?
I graduated as a physician assistant in 2006 and went to work immediately in the field of pediatric neurology. I was very lucky to find a job at a major children’s hospital from the start. Working in a sub-speciality used to be rare for physician assistants but is now common. Neurology is never dull and the bulk of my patients have epilepsy, migraines, or movement disorders. I initially worked full time (four 10 hour days Monday-Thursday) but since my daughter was born in July 2012 I have worked part-time – two 8 hour days Wednesday and Thursday.
On days I do not work I love to be active and take the children to playgroup, the museums, indoor pools, the library, and to visit family. I really enjoy the stay at home mom experience (in addition to the working mom experience).
On days that I work we all get up earlier around 6am. We love having one car, and it saves a great deal of money. My husband and I trade off and on getting the children ready and lunches are typically all packed the night before. We are out the door by 7, and we take my husband to work. Then, the kids and I make our way to daycare. Daycare was a tough adjustment for me since I was raised by a stay at home mom. After a very long search we found a very nurturing center and now my older child, Lilly, just accepts “school” as a part of her weekly routine. We, thankfully, only have had brief stints of crying in all the time she has gone to daycare. I typically leave the kids at school then and am on my way to work by 8:15.
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a very new hospital that is now ranked 9th in the U.S. I have an 8:30 patient every day, and then usually see a mix of new and return patients for a total of 12-14 patients a day. There is no “clocking in” and it is expected that you arrive on time for your clinic and it is acceptable to leave once you are done seeing patients. Some days there is no actual lunch break if clinic runs over as it often does. Unfortunately many of our patients are very sick with severe epilepsy and/or brain injury. Sometimes it is not possible to see them quickly and appointments often run over. Despite how hectic my job can be I love my patients and their families. Some of them have known me as a young newly out of college kid, then newly engaged, and then twice as a very pregnant mamma! I see most of them on my own with a doctor available by phone if I need him/her. By 4:30, I am typically done for the day and I head back to the daycare to get the kids. Pick-up time is the best, and I try to make sure I take time to ask about their day and find out from their teachers if they are adjusting well. We quickly pick up my husband then and head home.
Sometimes the drive home with traffic is 45 minutes to an hour so we use books, music and hand held DVDs to keep my 2 year old entertained. Work day evenings tend to be rushed with a quick and easy dinner, bath time and then bed. My husband helps with baths but I typically put both kids to bed. We have no idea what a good sleeper would be like so usually 1 to 2 times a night I get up to comfort Lilly who sleeps in her own room in a twin bed. Paul is still a typical newborn sleeper with many wake ups to. Work days are tiring but the off days make it worth it. We are very blessed to have grandparents close by and usually 1 or 2 Thursdays a month my father comes up to watch Lilly and Paul. Those days are so much easier without having to fight traffic and do the daycare drop off and pick up. (You sound busy, but like you get to make up for it a little on the days off. I love that you are doing something you are passionate about, and fully able to invest in what’s best for your family.)
2. Why do you work?
Continuing to work as a physician assistant, even if only 2 days a week, allows me to keep my clinical skills current. It can be challenging to take years off when you work in the medical field because you may come back and standards of care have changed. Also, working gives me a sense of security. If something terrible would happen and my husband could not provide for us as well it is nice to know that I would already have a job in place. From time to time I stress about how my children feel about daycare. They really aren’t at an age were they can communicate if they don’t like it. But, I see my 2 year old learning how to interact with other kids, hugging her teachers, and counting in spanish so I figure she is doing ok!
3. What’s the best thing about being a working mom? What is the worst or hardest thing?
We love having the extra income and it allows us to take small vacations, update our house if needed, and be able to put money into our savings. If I did not work we would be on a very tight budget. I may also be a better mom when I come back from the “break” that the work days provide. It makes me more grateful for the time Lilly, Paul and I spend together.
Definitely the guilt I feel about whether or not all of their needs are being met while at daycare is the hardest thing. I am sure this is irrational, but I am pretty particular about how they are cared for and sometimes I wish we had family that could care for them the days I am away. It can also be tricky to be at work and have the daycare call and say your child is sick. I have had to turn patients away when I had to leave suddenly and that doesn’t make anyone happy. (Sick days are the WORST for a working mom!)
4. What items or tips do you recommend to help “make it work”?
As soon as Lilly was old enough to start using language, we talked a lot about how she goes to “school” sometimes, and we would point out other friends who also went to school and that seemed to help her want to go. This decreased my mommy guilt because she rarely fussed about going to daycare. Having an employer who is flexible and understanding when it comes to your children is also a bonus. I have a good deal of time off and flexibility to come home or call off if the kids are sick in an emergency. (I totally agree that communication – even with your little one – is super important. I talk to Sam a lot about “mommy’s job” and what kind of job he wants to have when he is older. I also think bringing him in to see my classroom and meet my students sometimes helps him make sense of the time I am away. I know that wouldn’t work for every job, but it has been nice in my experience.)
5. What encouragement, scripture, etc. has been important in your life and might be meaningful to another working mom?
I think happy parents will make for a happy child. No matter what the working situation is. I hope that if I am loving, kind, and respectful to my children every day they will turn out well regardless of whether they are home, in daycare, or with family. (YES! Truer words were never spoken.
Rachel, thanks so much for sharing today!
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