Our house is teeming with excitement about the impending reality: it’s almost summer break. As the hard-core school, sports and carpool coordination chaos eases up, you wanna know one thing I’m really hoping for this summer break? A bit more sleep. I do a great job protecting my children’s sleep and a mediocre job protecting my own. I work on sleeping with my cell phone off and away from while getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep but reality is my phone has a tendency to creep back up next to the bed and I am often up early to start working. Clearly I’m not unusual in this way. Parenting and sleeping a lot don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Studies find 14% of grade school children are still getting their parents up. The news is grim when it comes to sleeping with our phones, even 4 out of 5 teens say they sleep with their phone (on or near the bed). It’s becoming clear that quality sleep is one of the most undervalued power solutions to preserving wellness in our families. The more data I review, the more I know we have to get the word out on the value of sleep and the way that we protect it as we raise our children. Culturally, this is a swim upstream; we’re bred to revere those who do so much during the day they are left with limited sleep at night. Some new data, a funky article ending, and a 4-minute TED talk lay the foundation for my 3 quick reminders: Read full post »
Today my heart is stuck in my typical quarterly crisis about how I’m spending time on earth. Each goodbye with the boys leaves me a bit emptied. I planned to write about kids’ check-ups and health insurance today, which I will do– but tomorrow, because my heart is here:
Whenever the boys leave (for school, off for the day with Grandma, etc) I still always feel I’m without one of my limbs…
— WendySueSwanson MD (@SeattleMamaDoc) February 22, 201
It’s becoming more obvious to me that the current work-life-balance crisis I’m swirled up in (or smashed into) was triggered by the recent deaths of 2 people I loved, a delicious movie about connection and time, the juxtaposition in watching Jimmy Fallen express love for his Winnie just a minute before Will Smith mentioned everyone’s art could be used to enhance lives, and a voice in me that’s getting louder and louder. I’m hearing the echoes of this voice in almost everything I do right now. Yes I desperately want to work to improve children’s health. Yes I desperately want to witness my life. The gist of the echoes are urging me to consider how I carve out time for mindfulness and unhurried time with the boys. Over the last 24 hours I also read two articles, “Recline! How ‘Leaning In’ is Killing Us” and “Clinging to Each Other, We Survived the Storm” and I knew I could sit quietly no longer. (pssst, read those articles) Read full post »
If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning, torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savor the world. That makes it hard to plan the day.
It’s an entirely challenging task getting to live this just one life.
E.B. White summarizes the dilemma as well as I can imagine when he describes the tension between wanting to savor and wanting to save. For most of us who are raising children there is a constant tug-o-war in our minds/hearts as we decipher how best to live each day, especially when making choices about how we work. Nothing better than savoring the delight of our children, though, most all of us agree on that. Sure my boys fight and squabble, they ignore me when I ask them to put on their shoes, they leave their room a mess, and they forget to say, “please” in front of Grandma. But not a cell in my body denies this: my boys are simply miraculous. I constantly remain awestruck while in the midst of my family. And yes, just like those ahead of me warn, it does feel as if their childhood is coming at lightening speed.
So as the torrid waves of “work-life-balance” perpetuate, I’m unplugging for a few weeks just as I’ve done the last 2 years. A true believer that digital-free time is essential, I’ll use this post to ensure I check-out of the Internet for a bit. After sundown Friday I’ll be off Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (maybe even Instagram), off the blog, and only sporadically into my email. I’ll still be at clinic and also on KING5 News. The rest of the time I’ll be with my family as we work to live mindfully, enjoy the end of summer, and prep for the onslaught of autumn.
Be well until September. In the meantime here’s some good reading:
- Your Brain on Computers — an award winning series by NYT writer, Matt Richel that examines “how a deluge of data can affect the way people think and behave.”
- Slow Ideas a brilliant essay on innovation in The New Yorker from Dr Atul Gawande. Find a seat and carve out a 1/2 hour to enjoy.
- Work-Life Balance Isn’t The Point — Harvard Business Review blog post about the elusion of searching for “balance” with a few unusually helpful tips.
- I’m Still Here: back online after a year without the Internet — writer Paul Miller details his year offline and his mistaken assumptions.
- Reflections on my 2012 digital break: Striving for Polygamy and the 5 Things I Learned during my 2011 August time offline.
I love being a working mom. This is really the first time I’ve known it like I do today. I had one of the best days of my life two weeks ago, seriously ranking up there in the top 5 thus far. And unsurprisingly to me, it was a work day. However unlike ever before, for the very first time I brought my son with me.
Today is “Bring Your Kid To Work Day” but really any day we do it counts. Pick an ideal time and involve your child. My contention is that you’ll rapidly recognize the incredible fortune it is to live this lunatic life that requires navigating the dreaded work-life-balance ordeal.
When my 6 year-old joined me on a work trip earlier this month it was as if at once two huge ships met at sea. All the sudden my little boy was welcomed into the world of making change. I felt unlike ever before I represented more of my whole self while at work. And let me tell you, his eyes were wide open. All day.
One of the post-it notes on my computer at home says, “Design a beautiful day.” The quote stems from Dr Marty Seligman who’s known to have founded the field of positive psychology. He devised the concept of the beautiful day activity (seriously encourage you to click on that link).
Thing is, every time I’ve talked about designing a beautiful or meaningful day, work is a part of it. If I only had one more day to live, I’d work for a few hours in the morning. No question about it. I really do love working as a doctor. Of course, I really do love being a mom. Valuing both of these roles takes skill and I’m don’t always have it…
We surfaced the other day, my husband and me. Bobbed up after having been submerged in the challenges and complexities of stress, tantrums, hectic schedules, holiday crunch time, and career responsibilities. When we surfaced we found ourselves in one of the most luxurious moments of life. It was one of those spells I want to compound. More than just burning it on my brain, I want to relive that memory again and again. I want to hit play and repeat…I suppose that’s part of why I’m sharing it here.
Here’s what I mean: Have you had one of those meals or nights or walks or adventures with your children recently where you realize there is simply nothing better? Where you wake up in a moment and consider that it is for this moment, this one space in the continuum of time, that you were made to be? When you come to feel like it’s why you’re alive?
In my opinion it happens to all of us in profoundly new ways when we are lucky enough to raise children. And it’s usually unexpected. These pristine, magical moments with our children and family don’t come with proper planning. They don’t usually happen on vacation, at the fancy meal, or at the picnic we’ve planned for 2 weeks. We often don’t have our fancy shoes on. The moments tumble into our lives when we least expect it with absolutely zero material value. But like falling in love for the first time, these moments sweep us up off our feet and arrive without a hint of warning.
This is, I believe, the gift of the season of our lives. When parenthood exceeds expectations.
Recently I was talking with a good friend about these rare moments. The ones that happen where your children are enticed by conversation, fully engaged in a game or meal, where they get along with each other, and you realize there is nothing more precious or intimate. Often it seems these moments follow illness or fear. But sometimes it doesn’t take a trigger or challenge. Recently a moment appeared for my friend when she and her husband had cancelled a date night. They were too exhausted, decided to stay home and have dinner with their children and just crash. And it happened–the moment–they connected, their children were angels at dinner, delighted and laughing, present and mindful. She and her husband looked up at each other and realized they were woven into one of those meals they wouldn’t trade the world for. Really.
For us it happened late Thursday night on the floor of our living room. Our six year-old had received Mastermind (a board game) for his birthday and the four of us teamed up to play. It was the first time I’d played in 25 years and each of us presented to the game with excitement. We were enticed to win, eager, and we each giggled as we navigated and explored ways to outsmart the others.
And there we were, lying on a hard wooden floor, surrounded by the darkness of winter entirely together with only little plastic playing pieces between us. Momentous connection and family intimacy. I can barely articulate why and how I knew it was one of those moments except that I realized this is really as good as it gets.
When we have children, many of us slip in the self-care department. We may not eat as well, not exercise like we did “pre-baby,” and don’t have time to go and see our own doctors. Simply put, our own care doesn’t come first. Parenthood immediately demotes our status…
All fine in some ways. It’s astonishingly wonderful to care so deeply about our children. That devotion still catches me off guard.
But we have to keep on top of our preventative screening. No reason not to when it may allow us a longer time to parent our children! So that’s where I come to breast cancer screening. As women, breast cancer will affect about 1 in 8 of us during our lifetime, the most common cancer in women after non-melanoma skin cancer. It can be highly curable if detected and treated early. Most women diagnosed with breast cancer are over age 50, but many are younger and some are new moms. There are some risks we need to know and scientific evidence that can help us do a better job caring for ourselves.
Share this widely, please.
Yesterday I teamed up with Dr Julie Gralow, the head of breast cancer oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) and the UW on Twitter for a 1 hour conversation about moms and breast cancer– lifestyle choices, genetic risks, screening, & coping with breast cancer. I learned a ton preparing for the chat and have already tried to think about changes I’ll make in my own life. When I finished the fast-paced hour conversation I sent a note to a friend on Twitter that I now had to head out for a run, pour out the wine in the house, call my friends to schedule mammography, and ask about a breast MRI. You’ll see why:
Lifestyle Choices May Decrease Breast Cancer Risk
- Alcohol consumption is associated with breast cancer. And it’s dose dependent meaning that for every increase in alcohol consumption on a daily basis, the more the increased risk of breast cancer. This is simply a reminder to moderate. One glass of wine really may be better than 3. Read full post »
Yesterday I started to see a number of tweets from parents and fellow pediatricians on Twitter criticizing Marissa Mayer for announcing that she’d return to work within 1-2 weeks of the delivery of her first child.
First off, I’ll start with my assumptions:
I’m authoring this post in the belief that Ms Mayer has access to quality health care–that is, she has the ear of a board-certified obstetrician, a board-certified pediatrician, and access to a lactation consultant as needed. My hunch is that if she needs info on evidence-based ramifications, from a health perspective, of going back to work 1-2 weeks postpartum, she can get the data she needs. Since she used to work at Google, I suspect she understands how to find what she needs online as well.
Assumptions acknowledged, I’d like to give Ms Mayer the respect she deserves. Faulting her for not making a traditional choice is devoid of context. She is lauded for her enormously successful career at a young age. She is the youngest CEO of any Fortune 500 company. To me it appears she has savvy and skill, invention and grit. Thanks in part to Ms Mayer as the first-female engineer at Google, we enjoy an entirely different electronic world with Gmail, Google search, maps, and images.
As we expect and work to have women hold an increased share of leadership jobs, academic or not, we must acknowledge we can’t have it both ways. “Women are still missing from medicine’s top ranks,” for example. We can’t want and wait for more and more women to have their hands at the wheels of powerful companies and organizations, only to question their commitment to their personal and their children’s health and well-being when they return to work. One week or 6 months postpartum… Read full post »
Sometimes it feels like we’ve got it all in control, a new school, a new schedule, a return back to work obligations. We can set the alarm early, burn the midnight oil, pack the school lunch ahead of time, rise up and meet the challenge. Sometimes it all works and everyone thrives.
Sometimes it is simply miserable to leave our children behind and trudge off to work.
It doesn’t mean we don’t care about our jobs or that we lack compassion, or a passion, intent, or drive to serve. It really can mean that we just love our children.
A recent drop-off at school reminded me. Read full post »
I had an unexpected gift this week: a not-so-sick sick day with my 5 year-old. And it really couldn’t have come at a better time.
We’ve never had a sick day like this before and he’s off to Kindergarten in September so the days were running out for preschool stolen-away sick leave.
In the past when he’s been ill he’s been well enough for me to head off to clinic or work and he’s been home with my mom or his nanny. I’ve ached in the absence but pushed through knowing it really wasn’t me he needed but rest and time away from school. Previously I knew that my patients needed me more.
This time he spooked me. Late Sunday night he developed a booming fever and complained about significant abdominal pain. He skipped dinner, plodded off to bed, and made a series of sweat circles on the sheets. My husband and I were both sitting on the edge of his bed hovering near midnight negotiating the logistics of heading to the ER. I went through the lists of the different diagnoses I imagined could cause his symptoms. I worried. We made plans for his brother, figured out who would go to the ER, and started solidifying next steps. Just then, he stopped complaining of pain and went back to sleep.
I didn’t lose my worry. I tossed and turned. I got up and organized my closet late into the night and tidied little piles repeatedly. I didn’t really sleep.
By morning, the fever was gone. The pain had improved and he joined us at the breakfast table. He downed his breakfast so we took his brother to school. And me? I got the day with my boy all to myself, I got to be home with him–worry changes everything. Read full post »