This month we talked with Dr. Jeanette Pedersen, a PGY-2 in Family Medicine. We chatted with Dr. Pedersen about her experience balancing pregnancy, parenthood and residency, and resources available to residents.
Balancing parenthood and residency is tough, and we often have residents reaching out to us about the ins-and-outs of it. As a resident, who had two children during her residency, can you tell us about some of the unexpected challenges you experienced, and how you overcame them?
I would add that balancing pregnancy/parenthood, residency and life is tough. During both my pregnancies as a resident, I had close family members experiencing major health issues and unfortunately also lost a parent recently. On top of residency and being pregnant (and an active toddler during my second pregnancy) this was very challenging at times. I have always been very proactive with reaching out for support when things are getting overwhelming and so I did! I found it helpful to keep my Family Practice Site Director and some preceptors informed about what was happening as well as reach out to close friends for support.
What have been some resources you were able to utilize to assist you with pregnancy and parenthood during residency?
In addition to my supportive residency program, I would say family, friends, and mentors. It was very helpful to reach out to other residents who were pregnant and/or parents for encouragement when morning sickness was making it hard to start an early morning shift. Mentors with young children inspired me to find ways to find time for self-care. I now understand why a busy physician mom mentor in medical school would wake up around 5:30 AM every morning to exercise and get some work done. I used to always be so impressed by that. Now I try to do the same! Joining some physician mom groups has been helpful to realize that everyone has the same questions and are struggling with similar issues.
Do you have any advice to offer those who are considering pregnancy and/or parenthood during residency?
I am fortunate to be in a very supportive residency program when it comes to both pregnancy and parenthood. I know not every resident feels that way. I wish they could and am currently part of a group of residents and Faculty trying to clarify existing policies around different types of leave and advocating for support of residents on leave. I have learned that we never know what might happen in life and there is no perfect time to have children. So, if it feels right, I suggest being open to the idea that now might be a good time. As a busy working parent, you learn to become very efficient with your time and to accept that sometimes life is just chaotic and that is okay. As I am nearing graduation, I am looking forward to finding ways to fit work around my family, and not the other way around.
Lastly, what have you found that works for you and your personal wellness when it comes to balancing being a parent and a resident, and even just as a resident with a personal life?
In addition to the above, I would say good communication and teamwork with my amazing partner. Despite being tired at the end of the day, with a sink full of dishes, toys scattered all over the floor and long to do lists, we often take a few minutes to chat about the day and what worked well and what didn’t. During my second pregnancy, when I was also studying for my CCFP exam, we realized that it would be helpful to schedule certain things including weekly alone time that we can use for whatever we want, family time, and date nights. This has been extremely helpful, and we have continued this even after I completed my exam.