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Cancer Care Chronicles
December 2015

Work/Life Balance: A Tale of the Blue Collar Father and the White Collar Daughter

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
JAMA Oncol. 2015;1(9):1223-1224. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2015.3347

I have been thinking of my father lately. He is alive and well and retired, spending half the year here in the United States and the other half in his native Spain. But I recently had my third child, and it got me thinking of a bigger and bigger issue in our field of medicine—work/life balance. My father immigrated to the United States from Spain and initially worked 2 jobs while Mom was the homemaker. He was a longshoreman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and owned a small Spanish bar. I joke with him that this was an excuse for getting his friends together to watch soccer games and drink while working. When I was 9 years old, he decided to leave both jobs and open a Spanish restaurant with a partner. Although my memory is pretty fuzzy during those years, I still remember spending Sundays with him at the restaurant as the unofficial coat girl. But aside from those Sundays and Mondays, when he took the day off, I never expected him at social events, school functions, or home for that matter. My sisters were 7 and 1 years old at the time, so you can imagine we were a handful for my mother. Three years after opening the restaurant, my father sold his part of the business and went back to being a longshoreman until he retired at the age of 62. I remember asking him why, and he answered, “Because I wanted to see you.”

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