Trisha Radia, Consultant Paediatrician, Training Programme Director for Return to Practice, London School of Paediatrics
Welcome back to our working week. As we continue to hear from paediatrician mothers and how they find their balance between work, children and home, we want to share a message of familiarity and recognition. That despite our differing roles and circumstances, we have a common love for paediatrics and in our own ways find a way to be a paediatrician and a mother. This is not about being a ‘superwomen’ but more about sharing real stories of Paediatricians who, despite the challenges, have found a way to make it work (all in very differing ways).
Reading these individual’s stories, we hope you take away the message that there isn’t one specific tried and tested method to working in Paediatrics and being a mother, but with the richness of seven stories, we hope to create a sense of belonging to a group of women who share daily struggles and do not hide them behind a façade of managing to achieve it all. What does come out in these seven stories is with the challenges and sacrifices that a working mother has to make, there continues to be ‘joy at work’. We hope as you continue to read this blog, that you recognise many aspects of these women’s stories and for many they bring you reassurance and confidence as you evolve into working paediatricians and mothers.
Day 2: Trisha Radia
Consultant Paediatrician, Training Programme Director for Return to Practice, London School of Paediatrics
It’s interesting to read Lizzie’s story as it is different to mine yet there are segments of similarity, a common unsaid thread that connects so many of us. I am a general paediatrician who has worked in a busy District General Hospital and now joined a tertiary unit. I refer to myself as an acute paediatrician because my training took me through paediatric intensive cares and paediatric emergency departments. But that’s where I am happiest – in the acute environment; enjoying the hustle and bustle of a busy department with both ‘well’ and acutely unwell children. I love the team work and camaraderie of that environment – everyone rolls their sleeves up and gets stuck in to get children stabilised or home if well.
But working in acute environments immediately lends itself to long hours, not always leaving on time, high intensity of work load; something challenging to manage with having children and a large family. I recognise that guilt mothers feel when they are unable to get home for bedtime, but found quickly that bedtimes would pass and the boys would wake me full of beans the next day, already forgiven for not being there the night before.
I have two boys, aged 8 and 6 who are wonderful and loving and mischievous as boys should be; they are 22 months apart and now I can barely remember when I had two under two in nappies. I did go Less than Full Time on returning from my first maternity leave and I have to say it is the best thing that happened to me. This is not because I wanted to be away from work – being a paediatrician was a large part of me and I loved being at work. Being less than full time though, allowed me to open up my time and mind to other aspects of medicine. I found time to explore my interest in education, get involved in projects and really focus on them away from the clinical environment.
It was after my second son that I got involved in supporting trainees returning from maternity leave which then evolved into the PRACP course and did this in my non clinical days. Despite working at 60% of WTE, I didn’t feel less than full time in my team. My working week started on a Wednesday, and by then having spent the beginning of the week running around with two ‘playful’ boys, I bounced into work ready to throw myself into clinical duties! I always say to my trainees, you can be 100% present but work Less than Full Time.
I am sure it sounds very rosy, but there were tears… lots of tears! I am a planner (like many medics) and had a ‘life plan’ of when I should have children and what stage of training. But blips with fertility initially hadn’t been factored into my plan! Those days of being on the neonatal unit, or in the Emergency department surrounded by pregnant women or new babies drove frustration into my work life and certainly dented my ‘joy at work’.
I was in the fortunate position to overcome these and now very quickly recognise those feelings of frustration in those around me who are experiencing the same difficulties.
As I progressed through my training, and started running the PRACP course, I found that common thread appeared – whether it be fertility issues, the loss of a pregnancy or challenges of being a working mum – it ran through all our stories yet without a real forum to discuss them in. Something we tend to encourage through ‘peer mentoring’ on the PRACP now.
Another topic that appears on each PRACP course is ‘work life balance’ and ‘juggling’ and I certainly don’t think I have cracked it. I am now working full time in my consultant post and there are days when I think I’ve worked out how to be a working mum; be at work, manage to get to a school event for the boys and then do a little work in the evening towards projects or teaching programmes that I am involved in. But days when I manage all of that are rare and with time I have moved away from frantically trying to do it all and achieve ‘work life balance’.
I really dislike this belief we have of ‘working as if we didn’t have children, while raising children as if we didn’t have a job’. I much prefer to integrate the maternal aspect of me into my role as a paediatrician, and the ‘working mum’ tricks and efficiencies I have learnt into my home life. Guilt of not ‘juggling’ well or not having ‘balance’ in my life between work and home is very much a thing of the past and allowing myself to enjoy and experience each moment, whether it be at home or at work.
I am GRATEFUL for these busy days with motherhood and working as an acute paediatrician. I drop some balls at times, and take knocks at times, but eventually find a way – to say ‘it’s ok’ and make it work with lots of help and support from those dear to me. I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way.