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I am 22 and single. I have no aspirations to be a mother anytime soon. Washing, feeding and clothing myself seems enough of a challenge at times, let alone having that responsibility for another person. But the age at which people are planning to have children is something that is discussed. Most medical students I know, like me, like to plan ahead.
They know where the next few years of their life are going: the end of medical school, foundation year 1, foundation year 2, choose a specialty and work to be a consultant or GP.
So why wouldn't you at least think about the other side of your future — the non-academic, family side? This, for a lot of people, includes having children.
But assuming you have met someone you would like to have children with (which is a challenge in itself), your bank balance won’t be fantastic straight out of university.
I don’t know how much junior doctors earn, but with student loans to pay back and bills, rent and additional costs such as council tax mounting up, it is fair to say it would be a few years before most medics would be in a financial position to start a family. You could easily be in your 30s by the time you can even consider it.
I personally blame the female body's inability to adapt quickly enough to the fact that our lives have changed so much.
Graduating, getting a job, finding a partner and financial stability all take time, and unfortunately our bodies haven’t kept up with these social changes.
In my case, I will be at university for three years longer than the average student and will therefore enter the job market three years later. I will then be working as a foundation doctor for two years before applying for specialty training.
This doesn’t seem like the ideal time to be thinking about having children but if I wait until I am a consultant, I might be risking my fertility, and if I have children before becoming a consultant then I risk my career. Catch 22.
I know I have painted quite a bleak picture but this wasn’t my intention. These musings are based on discussions I have had with other people in the same boat as me.
In reality I don’t see many women who, by my definition, 'have it all'. In the real world, I see 50:50 or 100:0, by which I mean work is OK family is OK, but neither are great, or work is great but family is non-existent or vice versa. I want 100:100 but I have yet to figure out how to achieve this — and I don’t think I’m the only one.
Salma Aslam is a medical student at Bristol University
Read the BMA's guidance for working parents
Life is a compromise and nowhere more so than in the area of family and work.
You are on a hiding to nothing if you are looking for a perfect balance. Also factor in the important role of female hormones (which means hopefully, that maternal instinct will elevate concern for your children above concern for the day job) and you will soon see why work ok/family ok is not such a bad result after all.
And you're right - don't leave it too late!
Totally agree with Lorna Doone's comment. Life isn't about 'having it all', it's about striking a balance. When you want to have children, go ahead - it won't be easy, but it can be done and you can still do whatever speciality you want to, you just have to work a bit harder. If you plan your childcare well, you won't be rich in financial terms, but the love of your family is priceless.
Most jobs in the NHS involve lots of compromises in satisfaction in work-enjoyment, and life outside work, whether male/female, parent or not. My most enjoyable working times were at unsustainable total hours, but it is far less enjoyable at lower rates for me. Rising up the ranks also involves less enjoyable work, which is why I thoroughly enjoy my life outside work, with children and other diversions. I am intentionally gloomy, working in NHS will always demand more however much you give, but full-time parenting is not for me, and many adults are in a far worse work/family position these days
Have children when it is right for you and your partner, but be clear in your head how much of your career you are happy to sacrifice, and don't leave it late - fertility and general energy levels decrease, and you may also be 'sandwiched' looking after your parents also
May an old (70 yrs) male doctor reply?
You write that you personally blame… That's not wise. You should treat this apparently unsurmountable problem like all the many others you're going to come across as a GP, staff doctor, or boss, & as a woman & maybe a mother: by taking one step at a time, by climbing little by little. Currently you're single & I understand a student. So first find your mate or pass your exams - you choose, unafraid, for all choices are fraught and many will turn out to be wrong. Can't be helped, for that's life, so grab it, most of us think it's the only life you'll get.
Salma...take on board the words of the wiser people above!
As someone only a few years older than you and who previously dwelled - often still do- on the same "issues" you are dwelling on,there is one thing I definitely feel I have learnt.... Don't dwell too much, and don't dwell for too long.
Too much in life is unpredictable and out of your control, but that doesn't mean " do nothing." At any time there may be a potential opportunity or situation in hand; make the most of it at that time! There will be times when you may not have the same opportunity, or have an opportunity and can't use it (I don't just mean career-wise); don't dismiss something you can make the best of in the here and now for the intangible assumption or expectation of something else at some other time.
Also, don't think of "compromise" as a dirty word; all the best lives I have looked to for inspiration have had some compromise somewhere; just be sure for your own peace of mind that you know what compromises you can accept or - perhaps more importantly - compromises you can never accept without regret or resentment.
And finally - perhaps this is only a small mercy in your opinion - but my generation and yours is one where men are also wanting to "have it all" ( a ridiculous phrase!!) with career satisfaction but time to see their kids' school plays and sports games and etc etc etc....
The conversation is changing, I think; and I hope we can encourage it to change it for the better, for all of us, the men and women who want to contribute at work and at home.
I wish you all the best for the rest of your medical life and outside of it; enjoy it! Good luck.
Thank you all for reading and commenting.
I will definitely take on your advice!
My wife works as middlegrde doctor.She is 23 weeks pregnant .I afree it is very hard to cope with the stress of work ,looking after family abd career progression..Especially when uou have to be. Scrubbed in theatres for long cases and again. Travelliing different hospitals in the trust.Looking at the difficulty Prevnant ladies face They all really need appreciation for. Amont of the effort they put in during this period.
I have had a fantastic career and. 2 children.
There is no easy route . Both aspects of my life was hard but fun.
Looking at other professionals I think that medicine is easier to have children and continue to have a fulfilling career that most others.
Life is always a compromise - you cannot have everything perfectly. To have children and a career you need support from your partner and children which I had.
This is a topic that affects all women, not just doctors. Most women have to make this choice without the chunky pay cheque, knowing they'll never make more than 30k/year, many in this country raise families on a combined income of that. You will be making that as an F1 from the start and will continue to climb. Having a baby and putting a career on hold during maternity is a fact of life, it doesn't mean career death(!) it's up to you how long you want to be off work for and you have no idea what you are going to feel about your career once you have a child (you might not want to go back anyway!).
You need to relax really, the last thing on your mind at 22 should be worrying about having a family when you aren't even in a serious relationship, the fact of the matter is that a family might not even be in the cards for you at all if you don't sort that small detail first. Focus on what is actually happening in your life at the moment, your whole blog is addressing an issue that isn't actually real for you at the moment. Focus on your present, the rest of life always falls into place when it is time.
I often have the good mother vs good doctor conversation with my medical friends. I have 2 daughters and despite their cries of "do you have to go to work today?" I feel I am a good role model for them. It is unlikely they will grow up to be in a situation where they can choose not to work. I want them to see the psychological, physical and financial benefits of being an independent working woman and be confident they can realize their ambitions.
My experiences as a mother bring a lot to my medical practise too.
With a bit of organization we can be "good enough" in multiple roles. Medics tend to be perfectionists and that is what causes us so much frustration. We are lucky to have a well paid interesting and important job. We are amongst the few who can afford good quality childcare too.
4 children, atypical career path (currently consultant gastroenterologist but previously fully trained GP with other odder career paths). My registrar training was done part time over 11 years because of the amount of hours the full time posts were then and because 2 years in the middle of it didn't count for training - same job but no on call when all 4 small and on call was always resident. Always said I would carry on as long as I was enjoying it.
Now my full time husband stands to lose 3/4 of his lump sum in a tax bill and is paying crippling tax bills annually as he is over the annual allowance for pension contributions. Ironically it is now that we are most likely to quit. Our enjoyment of family goes on, the same can't be said of work and the recent financial assault from the government is simply punishing our previous work ethic.
I don't envy today's trainees, as it seems that the pathways are less flexible than they were in my day. I had my 3 children (now in their 30s) when I was a Specialist Registrar, and worked half time throughout (thus taking 12 years altogether before being eligible to apply for consultant posts in Haematology) But that was fine,and I was fortunate to be able to work part-time for my first 6 years as a consultant.
It's a shame this is still seen as mainly a problem for women to solve, - if only the profession was a bit more family-friendly for men as well as women. My husband was an orthopaedic/trauma consultant so I might as well have been a single parent!
I dont think I will be able to have it all. When I have children, will go part time and see how it goes. If its too much, I will leave. The solution is to have a rich husband so there is no pressure! Hopefully mine will win the lottery!
Really interesting reading all of the comments above. Let's see where life takes me!