Hi everyone, Brett Rouault here, a newly minted R1 in Orthopedic Surgery, as well as a new father to my wonderful six-month-old daughter, Adley.
For this blog, I thought it would be best to include my wife, who is an R2 family medicine resident physician based out of Kamloops, BC. She is currently six months into her maternity leave and moved to Edmonton to help support me. We are doing this blog together for two reasons: firstly because I miss working alongside her and secondly because I couldn’t resist the temptation to delegate more work to one of my family medicine minions (jk jk jk)!
Anyways, we will answer some questions about parenting during residency. The Q & A alternates from person to person. Here it goes…
Question 1 (Brett to Taiysa): Do you feel like I am around enough to be a good parent?
Answer: It has been an adjustment for our family adapting to a surgical residency’s scheduling demands. We have learned to cherish and enjoy our time together at 5 a.m. more than I ever thought we would. Yes, being a parent and a resident physician means there is a smaller number of hours in your day for family time, but you just make the most of those hours. Those few hours we are all together are when Adley giggles and smiles the most. She gets excited every time you walk in the door after a 24-hour call shift or when she gets to hear your voice on the phone when you are on call. The hours you get to spend with her may not be abundant, but they are so joyful and we know you are always there for us if we need it.
Question 2 (Taiysa to Brett): What do you find the hardest part of being a father and resident physician?
Answer: The easiest answer and most obvious answer is the limited time. During the post-medical school vacation period prior to residency, I was around for parenting duties 24/7. I prided myself on being very hands-on as a parent. The nighttime feedings, countless diapers and thousands of other parenting tasks were easy with both of us around all of the time. FYI the slimy stuff doesn’t even smell early on! Unfortunately, with the onset of residency, that has gone completely out the window and I often don’t even manage to wake up to our daughter’s cries anymore.
This leads to the hardest part, which is the guilt. Parenting is a team sport and being in a surgical residency 100% makes you a weaker team member at home. I am acutely aware of the sacrifices my wife makes every day to stay home and take care of our daughter rather than continue with her residency. While I know she considers it a privilege, the guilt of not being present (or even of not being helpful when you are actually physically present due to fatigue) weighs on me each and every day.
Question 3 (Brett to Taiysa): Any tips for new mothers who find themselves married to a surgical resident physician?
1) Always have a supply of coffee or caffeine in every form available at all times – you never know when giving your partner a cup will allow you a few minutes to go shower or get your chores done without a baby on your hip! Pre-made frozen breakfast wraps are also helpful for this strategy too.
2) FaceTime is great for allowing you and your little one to say goodnight to your partner when they are on call.
3) Find a hobby or other parents to keep you entertained during maternity/parental leave. This helps keep you sane and feel like you aren’t a broken record that only talks to your baby while being stuck inside all day.
Question 4 (Taiysa to Brett): Any tips for new resident physician dads?
1) Treat your partner like you would a staff: Butter them up with compliments. Try to finish some of their countless small and mundane tasks in order to gain their notice and/or approval. DO NOT CREATE MORE PROBLEMS FOR THEM OR YOU WILL REGRET IT. Do not ask them for too many EPAs or you will receive poor feedback.
2) Treat your child like you would a medical student: Do not trust them near tall ledges or with vitally important tasks beyond their skill level (like not eating poison off the floor). Let them think they are in charge, even when they most certainly are not. Tell them how important they are for the future, even if they want to go into radiology or become a professional dancer. Cheer them on for each small success you witness as they work very hard at becoming full human beings and/or physicians.
3) Time management. Do your important tasks, like this PARA blog, in the evening when your baby is asleep. Always try to find time during your call shift to call home. Cherish each and every moment you get with your family.
4) Don’t forget to have fun. You (hopefully) signed up for this craziness and have the immense privilege of being a physician-in-training and a parent-in-training at the same time. Enjoy the wild ride and don’t forget to ask for help when you need it. While most of us would not like to admit this, it takes a village to raise a doctor too…
That will conclude our brief Q & A session/blog post. Thanks for reading.