Balancing Career and Family as a Pediatrician

May 15, 2005

There's a perception among physicians in the specialty, according to Lydia Shrier, MD, that, "if they do something in one sphere-say, raise a family &#8212 they are sacrificing something in the other sphere-like their career." But is that true? Not so, she says, in many cases!

There's a perception among physicians in the specialty, according to Lydia Shrier, MD, that, "if they do something in one sphere-say, raise a family - they are sacrificing something in the other sphere-like their career." But is that true? Not so, she says, in many cases!

Dr. Shrier, herself a pediatrician, led a workshop on the subject of personal balance with her mother, child psychiatrist Diane Shrier, MD. At Balancing Career and Family: Perspectives from Two Generations, daughter Dr. Shrier noted an important change in terminology across generations: The issue isn't about "balancing" today - it's about "integrating."

"This is not about trying to do everything well and keeping all these balls up in the air; it is really about how to take these two very important aspects of our lives, integrating them and recognizing that they complement each other," Dr. Lydia Shrier said. "Your family life makes you a better pediatrician and your career will make you a better parent."

The Drs. Shrier also focused on the important career path.

"You really don't have to have a linear trajectory in your career. You can be more focused on the career at one point and less focused on the career at another point," Dr. Lydia Shrier urged attendees. "Reenter your career at a later point." She also pointed out that a linear career trajectory is "less compatible with building a family, particularly for women, who have most of the child care responsibilities."

Dr. Lydia Shrier made clear the importance being able to focus on different spheres at different times, holding up her own example: She nursed her child for a year, prompting her to change her career focus drastically.

Dr. Diane Shrier set down important rules for any well-integrated professional, including the importance of having a partner and picking that partner carefully. Partners must recognize that they are undertaking this venture together-because a partnership is rarely split 50-50 but more likely to be 90-10 one day and 10-90 the next.

"Recognize that responsibilities shift over time," the senior Dr. Shrier encouraged the audience.

Dr. Lydia Shrier noted that, as in any partnership, maintaining the relationship is "a priority."

"You have to value that partnership and nurture it and make sure that that is not getting sacrificed."

Most importantly, the junior Dr. Shrier urged, integrated professionals need to "develop a priority scheme" for themselves so that they are doing only what they need to do "and to be OK with doing everything well but not perfectly." (Workshop 5231)