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Work-life balance & other myths

As a physician with a busy medical practice, and a mom of three very active children, one of my biggest challenges is work/life balance. Some say that the concept of balance is nothing more than a chimera—something we all struggle to attain, and then just as we think it’s within our grasp, something happens, and the entire structure collapses into a pile of toothpicks and dust.

In medicine, we hear the term “burnout” bandied about. According to the latest statistics, burnout among physicians and other medical personnel is at an all-time high. Media outlets have dubbed it a national epidemic. I won’t go into all the factors that contributed to this crisis (you can read more about it here, and in my book The Burnout Cure), but I hope that shining light on the issue will lead to a solution.

In the meantime, we need to practice self-care and set boundaries. The key is learning how to say NO. And that’s what I try to do. Do I want to join yet another hospital committee? NO. Can I volunteer at XYZ event next Tuesday? NO. Can I bake cookies for the school fundraiser? No, but I’d be happy to pick up store-bought cookies on my way home from work. Can I drive each child to and from every extracurricular activity? No, but we have a perfectly good bus system, and here’s a TAP card for each of you, my darlings. (Okay, I haven’t quite implemented that last one, but the kids are still young…) Anyway, you get the idea.

An adjunct to saying No is learning to delegate. I’ve started doing that, both at home and at work. I also cut back my work hours. I am now officially working 80% time, which translates to about 50-55 hours per week, not including night call (about once every other week), and an evening or weekend urgent care shift (also about twice a month).

I exercise, though less than I should, and try to get enough sleep, though that doesn’t always happen.

At home, I’ve become good at consolidating activities (aka multi-tasking) for the sake of efficiency. Like last week, hubs and I went on a “shopping date”: we dropped off the kids at Taekwondo, then headed for the local Smart & Final to do our weekly grocery shop. Picked the kids up on the way home, then opened a bottle of wine to toast a successful outing, and retired to bed for the rest of the date.

Last, but not least, I write. This is my therapy. While in real life I can’t always control what happens, when it comes to writing, I’m in charge. I get to have fun and exorcise my demons at the same time (multi-tasking!).

The characters I write about face some of the same challenges I do. They aren’t perfect and they don’t have unlimited resources. Sometimes they need to make tough choices and hope for the best. Ultimately, though, I write contemporary romance—which means that one thing I can absolutely guarantee: a happily-ever-after.


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