To Baby, or Not to Baby: Family Planning in Medicine
Published on Aug 12, 2020. Updated on Sep 15, 2020.
For many students, medical school is already a big adjustment, so what happens when you add a baby to the mix? Today on the Osmosis blog, Osmosis Medical Education Fellow Elad Eylat shares how having a baby in medical school was like "setting the difficulty level to impossible"—a decision he wouldn't have changed for the world.
Medical school often has you feeling like you’re running in place. The demanding nature of it puts a strain on your social life and can force you to give up on beloved hobbies. The thought of adding a baby to your already-overburdened schedule may conjure up the image of the white rabbit in Alice In Wonderland always running late. To some, having a baby may sound like setting the difficulty level to impossible, and yet, to others, it may sound like a very reasonable life calculation.
If you’re trying to figure out which perspective applies to you, read on!
Are you ready?
Is anyone ever ready for a baby?
Perhaps it’s a redundant question, but what you can ask yourself is: Are you ready to make the necessary sacrifices to start a family?
As an aspiring doctor, you already know that rewarding things require sacrifice, whether it’s a career in medicine or tiny people that look like you. Having a baby means less time going out with friends and less time binging on Netflix. It means less uninterrupted study time. And it also means any hopes for being a well-rested medical student/resident go out the window (at least for a little while).
So while no one probably ever feels ready to start a family, you may feel ready to make the sacrifices that come with it. Or not.
It’s never a good time to have a baby
What time of year is the best for having kids? Is it Spring? Fall? Christmas? New Years Eve?
Honestly, it seems like it’s never the right time. You cannot do it before medical school, because you need to study for your MCAT. Don’t even think about it once you’re in medical school, because here come the shelf exams and the USMLE.
What about during residency? Are you crazy? You know they call it residency because the residents used to “reside” in the hospital. So, when?
Well, there is never a good time for it—starting a family will always be inconvenient. As medical students, we like to wield tight control over our schedules. We try to perfect our routines for maximum efficiency and to plan our study time down to the minute. Having a baby is about the most disruptive thing you can do.
If you want to keep your sanity, you’ll have to learn to be flexible and to become comfortable with a certain amount of unpredictability and inconvenience.
An unexpected pro…
While it’s true that having a baby forces you to cut time with friends and spend fewer Friday nights out at your favorite bar, having a baby can liberate you in a way. Suddenly, it becomes a lot easier to say no to things you didn’t truly care for in the first place. No one will guilt you for refusing an invitation. You can finally put down that book you were forcing yourself to read only to finish it.
When you get strict with your priorities, you begin to clearly see what is truly important to you and what isn’t. You get to know yourself better, and you can waste less of your precious time on forgettable (and even unpleasant) things.
Am I making the right choice?
No one can answer that question but you. In the age of social media, we often tend to compare our lives to others. When we have a significant life choice to make, we consult Google. We forget that the most valuable input comes from within, since each of us is living a unique situation with individual dreams.
Are you aiming to score neurosurgery residency? Great, but maybe it’s not an ideal time for starting a family. Do you want to start having kids in medical school so that they’ll be old enough for daycare once you’re in residency? Go for it.
Be very honest with yourself. No one else can tell you what’s best for you or when it’s the right time to start this exhilarating adventure. Whether you choose to focus on your career and postpone family life or to start a family and delay your career (or neither if you are a time management beast), is your free choice. You decide what the right answer is.
Elad Eylat is a fifth-year medical student in Charles University in Prague. He had his firstborn child in November of 2019. He finds having a kid in medical school challenging and rewarding. After he graduates from medical school, he plans to pursue an Internal Medicine residency in the US.
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