A father and his son are cherishing a stunning sunset on the beach, making unforgettable memories.
A father and his son are cherishing a stunning sunset on the beach, making unforgettable memories.
A father and his son are cherishing a stunning sunset on the beach, making unforgettable memories.

Returning To Work After Parental Leave

Returning to work after parental leave can be a daunting prospect for many new parents, especially those in demanding professions like healthcare

By: Varun Verma, MD

Published: Mar 6, 2024

📂 Physician Perspectives

Written for:

✅ Residents and Fellows

✅ Early Career Physicians

✅ Mid Career Physicians

✅ Established Professionals

Recently, one physician shared their struggle in a physician only discussion forum, expressing the stress of long clinical hours (in a job they love), followed by caring for tired and cranky kids at home, and spare time filled with chores and meal prep. This scenario resonates with many working parents who find themselves juggling professional and personal responsibilities. Fortunately, fellow physicians offered valuable insights and advice based on their own experiences. 

Returning to work after parental leave can be a daunting prospect for many new parents, especially those in demanding professions like healthcare. Balancing the demands of a career with the responsibilities of caring for young children can feel overwhelming at times. However, there are strategies and tips that can help ease the transition and maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

My wife gave birth to our three kids and is a physician who owns her private practice, so I am all too familiar with the organized chaos that ensues as physicians return to work. When our first child was born, we both woke up and stayed awake for ‘moral support’ no matter if it was feeding time or diaper changing time. This completely decimated out sleep cycles. By the time our third child, our son, was born, we had agreed that only one person would take a nightly shift and the other would sleep to be refreshed.  

Give Yourself Grace

One common theme among the responses was the importance of giving oneself grace during this transition period. It's essential to recognize that adjusting to a new routine takes time and that it's okay to let some things slide temporarily. Finding a balance between work and family life is a journey, and it's essential to be patient and kind to oneself along the way. As the father of a 7, 5 and 3 year old - I’ve learned to laugh at the toys scattered around in all corners of our house. We pick them up when they’re a trip hazard and during our once a week cleaning ritual.

Open Communication With Your Partner

Communication with a partner is also crucial in managing the workload at home. Having an open and calm conversation about sharing responsibilities will help alleviate some of the burdens and ensure that both parents feel supported. Sharing tasks such as childcare, household chores, and meal preparation can help lighten the load and create a more equitable division of labor. This can be especially important if both parents are physicians with demanding schedules and responsiblities.

Leave Work At The Office

Another valuable tip is to establish boundaries between work and home life. One physician suggested finishing work tasks before leaving the office to avoid bringing work home. Another said to frankly ask employers about exploring resources that could be provided - such as in person scribes or AI scribing options, and this could help streamline workflow and reduce stress.

Outsource What You Can Afford To

Outsourcing tasks that are feasible financially can also be a game-changer for busy parents. I realize this is a privilege, but in many households it a necessity to continue taking care of patients and your family. Hiring a house cleaner, ordering prepared meals, or delegating laundry duties can free up valuable time and energy to spend with family or engage in self-care activities.

Consider Changing Your Hours

Some physicians recommended adjusting work hours by reducing to a 0.8 FTE (Full-Time Equivalent) to create more flexibility and time for self-care. Prioritizing activities like exercise, spending time with friends, and scheduling fun outings can help prevent burnout and maintain overall well-being.

Conclusion

Returning to work after parental leave is undoubtedly challenging, but with the right strategies and support systems in place, it's possible to navigate this transition successfully. By prioritizing communication, setting boundaries, and outsourcing tasks when needed, working parents can find a balance that allows them to thrive both personally and professionally. Ultimately, it's essential to remember that it's okay to ask for help and to prioritize self-care along the way.

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