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Raising Children As a Doctor Mom: Time to Let Go of Working Mom Guilt

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

1999 -> 2019.


The first picture is of a very young me with my infant son. I had just finished my Cardiology Fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and was continuing on as a first year Cardiac Electrophysiology fellow. I was one of a very few female EP fellows, and the only trainee with children. I was learning from some giants in the worlds of both Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology. Trying to balance learning a highly technical procedural skill with being a young mother was probably the most difficult thing I have ever done. After completing my EP Fellowship I was honored to be asked to stay on as a junior attending at the Brigham. However, at that point, I realized I could not juggle motherhood, complex ablations, and a full-time research/academic career.

I made the difficult decision of leaving academic medicine, and joining a private practice in the Dallas area. I felt I had let down my academic mentors, and that I had “sold-out”.

When I started my practice, I had an 18-month-old as well as a 4 year old.

I always felt like I was the worst Mom ever:

  • My cupcakes and cookies were store bought not homemade.

  • I never had time to volunteer at my children schools or be a home room Mom.

  • I dropped my kids off early and had to pay someone to pick them up after school.

  • We ate a lot of Chick Fil- A and frozen pizza!

  • I rarely had time to pack a cute homemade healthy lunch and my children eat cafeteria food. Several times I forgot to reload money into their cafeteria account and they had to eat a stand by meal PB&J given to them by the school.

  • I missed many soccer games, viola practices and golf tournaments.

  • Once I arrived late to my son’s award ceremony because I had a sick patient at work, but pretended that I had been there the entire time.

  • After 5 PM my nanny would drop them off to me at the hospital. Then, while I continue to operate, I would lock them in the doctor’s lounge, to watch cartoons on TV and eat candy and soda while I continued working.

Flash forward to 2019:

My son, now 19 years old and 6-foot-tall shadowed me over Christmas break and Spring break because he “wanted to watch mom operate”.

Last year I “peeked” at his college admission essay. He had written that he wanted to be a Cardiac Electrophysiologist just like his mom, because his mother did cool stuff, like shocking people with sick heart beats!

I cried reading it.

Currently, my son is finishing up his freshman year at the University of Chicago and is majoring in Biology, which was also my major in 1984. This summer, he applied for and was accepted into a research internship and he will be doing Cardiovascular research in transcatheter valve replacement.

Looking back over the last 20 years, I realize now that I did not screw up too badly. Even though many days I would come home feeling defeated, and guilty that I had prioritized my work over my children and family. My son loves me! He loves science, he loves medicine, and above all he is happy!

So, to all the young women who are considering medicine as a career:

Please know you can raise a family and work full time. It is possible!

For all you #doctormoms and #workingmoms out there: you may think that you are failing but your children understand that you love them. They are watching you and learning. Do not underestimate the transformative power of your love and all that you do. Everything turned out fine for me and my 2 boys. And I know it will for you and your children as well.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Thank you for this post Dr Khan. Your reflections are excellent. I am a pediatric cardiologist, mom to 3 young women and wife to a critical care doc. I clearly remember those days of "mom guilt" and the challenges of balancing it all. I often have medical students and residents with me and have been asking those who have physician parents the following question for many years: "What was it like having a parent who is a physician?" More often than not, the response has been something like," It was fine," or "I never knew any different." The amazing thing about our kids it that they are whole, creative and resourceful, even if we, as parents, are not there t…

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