As a mother, it's hard not to worry constantly about your children. That's part of the job, right? But what's it like parenting when both you and your husband are doctors?
Dr Preeya Alexander from The Wholesome Doctor gives us a glimpse inside her family life (and you’ll be relieved to know that while she might be a doctor, she still worries just as much as the rest of us).
Lots of people comment that our six-month-old daughter is a lucky girl having two doctors as parents – but if Miss S could talk I am certain she would disagree. At the first sign of a cough or sniffle the child has my stethoscope on her chest hunting for a hint of a wheeze or crackle to suggest something sinister...
My husband, who is a training plastic surgeon, I swear has checked her fingers and toes a hundred times ensuring there are indeed five of each and none have gone walk about! And let me tell you knowledge isn’t always power – having seen childhood leukemia and meningococcal can make you a touch on edge, constantly fearful of what might be. In the first three months of Miss S’s life I can now admit I had several sleepless nights dreading all the potential childhood illnesses that could possibly inflict her – it’s taken me months to accept I have zero control over it. It can be hard to switch off. Really hard.
I have come to the point several times where I have uttered out loud– “You’re her mother not her doctor Preeya, STOP.” And my husband and I have made a pact (spit shake included) that we will never ever treat our daughter (unless it’s something a normal parent would do) because the lines blur far too easily. The decision to go to hospital gets delayed and “she’ll be right” gets said too often. Or it goes the other way, where we present to the emergency department at night concerned that her simple cold is actually tuberculosis – and what a waste of time that is for an already struggling health system! And whilst I’ve jabbed hundreds of children with vaccinations my heart completely shatters when I see my baby’s thighs targeted – so to those who always ask, no I don’t immunize her myself. I wouldn’t be able to see the needle through my own tears!
Do I think she’s lucky having two doctors as parents? I think she has two type A parents who need to chill the hell out and go with the flow.
It’s all about balance – whilst we have valuable medical knowledge, Miss S doesn’t want me to look in her ears and listen to her chest when she has a cold – she wants me to hold her all night with my cheek pressed to hers – because that’s what mums do. She doesn’t want her father’s assessment on her chin wound, she wants him to hold her and reassure her that her dented bike will most definitely be fixed, that all will be well in the world of pink bikes with tassles (yes, I have already envisioned this bike!).
I let the doctor in me roar loud and proud with some things- no TV EVER (because the guidelines say no screen time under the age of two due to the chronic negative impact it has on a child’s language and reading development), home cooked meals packed with vegetables, and daily application of moisturiser to the skin to reduce her risk of eczema development (we are an allergic family). Those are my “musts” but with the rest I have learnt to muzzle the doctor in me. The doctor Preeya tried to make us throw the dummy into an abyss, forever shunning it from our lives until some very reasonable friends reassured us the “dummy doesn’t kill children” and “you can make your life easier, it is allowed.” So mum Preeya let that battle go, and life has been much simpler since!
As I’ve started investigating a return into the to the workforce as a GP it’s proved very difficult having an incredibly busy husband (and I’m sure I’m not alone in this). My husband, who you can imagine is on-call a lot, is the definition of time poor and being a trainee the poor guy has no choice but to do the endless on-call shifts, sleepless nights and long unpaid hours – that’s just the way it is. Don’t think I haven’t had moments of “I didn’t expect to be a single mum” when he hasn’t been home for three days in a row. Or been incredibly envious when my friends tell me their husbands come home after work and do the bath – after work for my husband is sometimes 6am – the day after. And don’t think there hasn’t been significant distress from his end when he hasn’t seen his daughter for days on end except for in the cot at 2am – and I’ve found him in there countless times just staring at her. Sometimes it really isn’t easy- that’s the truth.
When I meet with clinics I have to explain I can’t be like the other doctors who work weekends and some public holidays because my husband is usually operating all hours of the night and Miss S can’t be left at home with a bag of salt and vinegar chips minding herself (despite how advanced she is!). I know having talked to friends that lots of families struggle with mum or dad returning to the workforce in some capacity so we are certainly not alone but the demands and pressures are different for each family and whilst you may look at a family thinking they have it “easy” you really just don’t know!
Having said all that – we do make it work and it works brilliantly for us 99% of the time. So if I ask myself – is Miss S lucky to have us as parents? Yes she is, I honestly believe that, because we couldn’t exude more love, warmth and stimulation for our little girl. We read, laugh, cook together, roll on grass that makes us itch, sing out of tune nursery rhymes and snuggle in bed. And if my stethoscope somehow finds its way onto her chest mid virus well that’s not the end of the world because my cheek will most certainly be pressed firmly to hers- I’ll always be mum first.