So. E is 8 months old! She sits up! She crawls! She climbs over things! She feeds herself with a spoon! (so what if 80% of it ends up on the floor?) She turns light switches off! She's pretty much the cleverest baby in the whole world. Not to mention the cutest. :)
Work is . . . . . . . . I don't really know what to say about work. A lot of things about it right now are great:
- Hours-wise, my schedule is PERFECT!!!! When I went back after maternity leave, I modified my schedule so I'm only working 2-3 days a week, and they're short days. I'm only gone for about 9 hours on an average work day, which is really nice! It's a lot better than the 15 hour average I had before. I only miss bedtime once a week. M only has to do the morning routine by himself once a week. We all love that!
- H is in daycare only 3 days a week, and E is there only 1.5 days. Both of them spend more waking time at home with me than they do in daycare, which for me is a major marker of work-life balance. If I'm totally honest, I will admit that I have been increasingly interested in working a little bit more, but that only works out financially if I just work longer days on the days I already work. If I add days to my schedule then I have to add days to our daycare contract, and that seriously cuts into my take-home pay. And right now we don't quite have the caseload for longer days on my work days, so I'm kind of in scheduling limbo.
- We're building our ER staff and transitioning to having 24/7 ER coverage that's separate from the GP side. So I only see emergencies once a week (crammed in among appointments) and I'm almost never responsible for the ICU, which is a HUGE decrease in my stress level at work.
- For whatever reason, in the past 2-3 weeks I've had mostly cases that I felt like I could handle (being bluntly honest, this is not because my clinical acumen has suddenly skyrocketed; out of sheer happenstance I've just had a relatively simple caseload recently) so I've been feeling a little more confident at work, and enjoying it more. The feeling of "I don't know what the hell is wrong with this patient, and I don't know what to do next" is terrible. NOT having to feel that way is amazing!!!
- I'm able to pump every 3-4 hours even when I'm at work, which is great for maintaining production and keeping up with E's demand. I am SO much less obsessed with milk production with her than I was with H, I think mostly because I'm with her most of the time so she nurses on demand 4-5 days a week. With H, I would sometimes go days at a time without seeing him at all, so I really needed* a big freezer stash.
Of course, few things in life are perfect, so while there are a lot of changes at work that make me happy, there are still things that could improve:
- While my reduced hours are awesome from a personal standpoint, they obviously come with a proportionately reduced paycheck. Actually, it's disproportionately reduced, because I'm not eligible for any benefits as a part-time employee (medical insurance, 401(k), PTO, etc). And daycare, man - it is expensive!!! We live in a smallish suburban 2 bedroom apartment (it's in a decently managed complex but certainly nothing luxurious), and between rent and daycare we're spending almost $3000 a month. We'd like to buy a house someday, hopefully before the kids are in college, and that is just not in the cards without my full-time salary.
- While I'm enjoying the decreased stress of not having to see emergencies and be responsible for all the hospitalized patients, I would LIKE to be a good emergency/ICU doctor. The only way to get good at that is to do it a lot, so moving toward being more exclusively a GP is actually not benefiting me professionally, even if it significantly reduces my stress in the short term.
- I also feel, with my caseload of relatively simple patients, that my medical skills even as a GP are deteriorating. Use it or lose it! Especially when you haven't been practicing for very long. I also have to look things up a lot more frequently than I should, and that slows me down a lot, and then I'm behind schedule, and then everyone - the clients, the nurses, the other doctors, and me - gets stressed out. And then not being there every day interferes a little with continuity of care - some patients that I'd like to follow up with myself end up having rechecks with other doctors instead because of scheduling issues, so I miss out a little bit on being able to follow my own cases.
- Work isn't super cooperative about letting me pump. They pay a lot of lip service to the idea of being family-friendly, but I get a lot of emails requesting that I move my pump breaks to times of the day that aren't physiologically possible (I take one break, most days, and I'm gone for about 18 minutes. Surely the hospital can survive that long without me). My last long email exchange with HR ended in a stalemate and I haven't heard anything from them about it in a few weeks, and no one has changed my schedule since then (sometimes I'd come in and find my pumping break deleted, or moved to a time slot that required me to go 6 hours without pumping, or some similar shenanigans), so as long as they leave me alone I'm going to consider it not an issue.
Also, having 2 kids is awesome. They are SO ADORABLE together - H loves to make E laugh, and E wants to play with whatever H is playing with, and he likes to hug her and she likes being hugged - I often think my heart will just burst from the sweetness. I love them so much individually, and I think I love them even more together.
I would say that right now, overall, I have pretty close to perfect work-life balance. I would like to work a little bit more (maybe another 6-8 hours a week), and the occasional weekend when M works both days and I'm home for 4 days in a row with both kids by myself (happens once a month) can sometimes feel like it lasts about a month, and we could definitely use a little more income. But I'm also astonished by how quickly both kids are growing up and wish I could slow them down a little bit, and I'm incredibly grateful to get to spend this time with them while they're this young. I LOVE the baby years - I'm not in the camp that can't wait for their kids to be older so they can do more things with them (M is like that), and I wistfully realized the other day that I'm almost done with the first of what will probably end up being the best five years of my life.
*Need is of course a relative term. I could easily have formula supplemented him and that would have been fine. I think because I was away from him so much, I felt like exclusively breastfeeding him was something I could do for him even when I wasn't there (by bottle-feeding pumped milk) and that made me feel a tiny bit better about having to spend so much time away from him.