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Balancing a Baby and a Career

Rachel McGuffey, MD, Lexington Clinic Pediatrics

A baby!  This is who you have been waiting for.  Without a doubt, parenthood is one of life’s greatest joys…and challenges.  Decisions about career and work responsibilities are difficult for new parents.  Should we explore part-time work and working from home?  Will we be able to manage careers and also be nurturing parents?

I knew from day one that I would be returning to work after maternity leave.  This allowed me to make some important preparations for my return to work.  First, I had to find quality child care.  Finding someone you trust in the care of your infant is very important in successfully returning to work.  Next, being a breastfeeding mother, I introduced the bottle a few times prior to returning to work.  I also tried formula a few times just in case I was unable to store enough milk once I returned to work.  Lastly, a few weeks after delivery, I started going out to the grocery and running a few errands, just to get the baby used to being away from me.

When I returned to work, I started back half-days for a couple of days.  This allowed for a better transition for me and the baby.  It allowed time for him to adjust to the bottle and his caregiver, and for me to adjust to being away from him.

Having been a pediatrician for 7 years, I have worked with many families and children.  Now I have walked in the shoes of those parents who bring their children to see me. I never realized how difficult even a simple thing like coming to the doctor with a baby can be!  Organization is key. Small things like preparing bottles the night before help make the mornings go more smoothly.  I have to allow a little extra time in the morning since I never know when he will decide he is hungry again right as I am about to walk out the door.  While at work, I have to find time to pump breast milk for the next day.  Also, a call at noon to check on my baby reduces my anxiety.

The last, and most important aspect of returning to work, is having a strong support system.  My husband and I have created a partnership in the care of the baby.  With both of our long work hours and my physician’s call, we have to plan our chores and work on them together to keep the household running.  Shared responsibility for the baby helps both of us get some much needed rest when we are home.   Our network of family and friends give advice, help in child care, and provide emotional support.

Having a career and being a mother are both rewarding.  My greatest joy of each day, however, is knowing that there will be a smiling baby reaching for me when I get home-- a baby to whom at that moment; I am the only one in the room.