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A Piece of My Mind
November 22/29, 2016

The Good-Enough Parent

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.

JAMA. 2016;316(20):2089. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.10249

The venue was a career development session for pediatric infectious diseases physicians, and mine was the voice of experience. Tension sizzled in the conference room air. “How do I do this?” someone asked. “I’m a constant wreck.” The comments continued. “My spouse travels a lot.” “My spouse is also a physician.” “Will it ever get better?” “I don’t see how I can keep this up much longer.” “My kids are so important to me, but so are my patients. And my research.”

“Life/Work Balance” was the title of the session. Balancing personal life and medical life? I thought. That’s a Sisyphean challenge, one doomed to failure, and to try to push that rock uphill will only feed into the problem: yet more anxiety, a greater sense of inadequacy, more internal torture. “Let’s be honest here,” I told the group. “There is no balance in personal life and medical life. It’s a matter of lurching from one crisis to the next.” But glorious islands of joy wedge themselves between the calamities.