I am often asked “how do you do it? How do you manage to have a career and have two children?” My answer is always the same, “we just do it and we make it work.”
In 2010 I graduated from medical school with two degrees. I had a very clear idea of how my career would pan out. I would do my foundation training, then get a training post in obstetrics and gynaecology, which has always been my passion, and become a consultant by the age of 33.
Well here I am at 31, almost coming to the end of the second out of seven years of obstetrics and gynaecology training, with not even a glimpse of the end of my training in sight. Does this bother me? Am I disappointed? NOT AT ALL!
How lucky am I to be blessed with my two beautiful children?! For me personally, it’s not a race. I want to be a competent and confident consultant and by completing my training on a less than full time basis, it allows me to spend these precious years with my children and also have a career, which I have worked so hard for.
It is by no means easy. The stress and strain of having two young children and both Kam and I having quite high-flying careers, can take it’s toll on us.
Being a hospital doctor, I work a variety of shifts. A normal day is 8am-5pm (if I’m lucky); an on call day is 8am-8.30pm and night shift, 8pm-8.30am. Kam’s work hours are also very variable, especially during busy periods such as Christmas, which is when we all go crazy with our online shopping (he works for a leading courier company so Christmas starts in October for us!).
I work on the basis of a 12 week rolling rota, which includes weekend shifts. I have one week day off per week and work 70% of the on call, unsociable hours. There are also “off days” slotted into our rota, to make it hours compliant. I have been lucky in that my employer has allowed me to have some say in deciding how to work my on calls, as long as it averages 70% overall. This has been key to our childcare arrangements, because without this flexibility, we really would have been stuck and would have had to look into a full time nanny, which neither of us are very keen on.
No two weeks are the same for us in terms of school drops and picks and nursery runs. Maicen only ever went to nursery three days per week, and that was school hours of 9am-3pm. I feel quite bad for Rhys, as he has full days from 7.15am until 6pm or even later. But this is what we have to do in order to have our careers, which is also beneficial to the children in the long run. We try to send Rhys to nursery a maximum of 3 days per week and recruit my family to help here and there. I also have one dedicated day off per week and take odd days of annual leave when required.
In order for me to be in work on time, I need to leave by 7am for a 8am start. Kam would ideally leave at 6.30am, however, this has become a bit later as he tends to do the nursery drop for Rhys at 7.15am. The next few weeks are going to be very testing for all of us, as Kam will need to be in his depot well before Rhys’s nursery even opens and won’t get home until very late. Therefore, Rhys is going to spend a week or so with my parents in Birmingham, as we just can’t arrange appropriate child care for him.
The boys are used to being at my parents’ house for a week at a time without us, as it’s something they have both done before they even turned one. But they usually go together, so they will most definitely miss one another for that week. I don’t feel bad about it because they are going to a loving home, where they are well looked after with the people, who love them more than anything. We receive lots of photos and calls daily, so we still get to see their beautiful little faces. It will also allow Kam and I to focus on work, as it is a demanding time for both of us, especially as I will be stepping up to a registrar post in January.
OUR “ROUTINE” (If you can call it that)
On a normal day, I wake up at 6am, go downstairs, make a cuppa, which I manage to take two sips of and prepare Maicen’s snack box. After brushing my teeth and getting dressed (all of the above within 15 minutes), I wake Maice up by 6.20am and he’s downstairs and dressed by 6.30am. We then have 20 minutes for him to brush his teeth, have breakfast and get ready to leave the house. We run a tight ship in the mornings.
How could I forget that whilst Maice is having his breakfast, I wake Rhys up and get him dressed and ready to leave for nursery. He luckily has his breakfast at nursery so there’s not much to do for him in the mornings.
Another mum and I do a drop share for Maicen and her daughters, so on the days I’m working, I drop him off at their house at 7am. On the days I’m off, Rhys and I drop them all off and collect them, as I always keep Rhys off nursery when I’m off. It allows me to spend some quality one on one time with him, which we haven’t really had all that much of. Mainly because I kept Maice at home for the majority of my maternity leave with Rhys, so it’s always been the three of us. It does, however, mean that my off days are incredibly busy and I’m always on the go. I rarely get any down time but I think I do this to compensate for the time I spend away from them when I’m working weekends and nights.
I must say that we are very lucky with Rhys’s nursery because they allow us to change the nursery days on a weekly basis and they charge for one school day if we keep him off for the whole week, so we don’t really lose out. They are very flexible and have been very good to us over the years.
When I’m working, Kam collects Rhys from nursery and then heads over to collect Maice from his friend’s house by 6pm the latest. By this time he has already had dinner there. The children tend to be so hungry when they get home from school, that we decided it was best to give them their dinner by 4pm and then allow them to have snacks thereafter. This seems to work well for our children and theirs.
Bath time happens every other day. I wish I could say it was daily, but it’s not. They freshen up and put on fresh underwear every day but it’s just impossible to bath them both every day, given the above timings. They are often just so exhausted in the evenings that they are ready to go to bed by 7-7.30pm. I read them a bedtime story every night, which 9 times out of 10 is either Peter Pan or Aladdin. They then go to bed without much fuss. It has been even easier since refurbishing and redecorating their bedrooms, as they love spending time there and sleeping in their own beds.
So that’s how we do it in a nutshell. Our mornings run like a military operation and are most certainly time critical. Sometimes I feel that we just wing it and hope for the best, which is probably true. But in general, it works for us. There’s a degree of forward planning when it comes to weekends, but week days are planned pretty much on a fortnightly basis, unless sickness is involved, in which case we just go day by day. There are no magic tricks involved as to how I do it. My life is pretty hectic but I wouldn’t change it for the world.