Before you raise your expertly plucked eyebrow, please understand I mean that ironically. No-one else expects me to be that toned, honed, all achieving gladiator of a woman, except me. I know I am far from alone in wanting to succeed, to exceed in fact, at everything I do. But despite an 8th day being on my Christmas wish list, last time I checked there were only 7 days in the week.
Successfully combining my role as a part-time NHS GP with being a full-time mum is a challenge and at times, feels harder than it should. I never considered my life as a binary choice in terms of being a mother or having a career and made naive presumption that one day I would have both. Now that I am in that fortunate position, I have to fit a whole week of being 1400 people’s GP into just 3 days and a whole week of being 2 people’s mum into the rest of the time. It’s easy to feel that you are not giving either audience your full attention.
Much more helpful than a sense of under achievement for me and other GP parents is the notion of collaboration between these two roles. My experience as a parent gives me valuable insight into the challenges of parenting and provides some practical information too which can make all the difference in the consulting room when building trust and rapport with parents. Understanding how frustrating it is when a 6month breastfed baby refuses to take a bottle of milk or what devilish tricks or chocolate buttons are needed to persuade a stubborn toddler to take his penicillin helps you understand better the situation being discussed.
My medical knowledge as a GP is useful, of course, when my own children complain of various coughs and colds as I know how to safely manage most things myself. Also useful when reassuring my husband that our son’s momentous tantrums are well within the normal range for a 2-year-old. More importantly, I come home with a sense of gratitude. I hear a whole lot of life in my consultations, talking to up to 60 patients a day and it makes bedtime stories even more precious.
And so the two roles can enable each other to flourish – synergy if you like.
There are times during my working day, when the triage call list extends off my screen, the electronic prescription requests reach treble figures and my coffee is stone cold that I wonder, would I rather be a stay-at-home mum? One advantage of working part-time, is that you never have too many consecutive days to consider this question. In fact, it was approximately 08.15am when I heard a crash and went into the lounge to find my youngest jumping on the coffee table, my tax return papers all over the floor and peeking out from under them – my laptop. I had my answer.
It is important to recognise the limits and the opportunities being a GP parent offers and learn to say yes when it matters, and more importantly – no when it doesn’t. You don’t need to join the PTA the first term your child starts school but for the same reasons, you don’t have to complete that extra dermatology qualification in your first few years of being a GP. By accepting occasional mediocrity in both your macaroni cheese and your medical knowledge of malaria, you give yourself a more realistic chance of success in finding that star-spangled Lycra fits you and your mum-tum.