Our Residents juggle multiple roles in the course of their medical career: doctor, colleague, mentor and possibly, a parent. In conjunction with international Parent’s Day in June, we speak to the parents amidst our Residents,
Dr Lim Zongyi (Family Medicine) and
Dr Teo Jia Hui (Paediatrics) for some parenting tips on how they balance Residency training and parenthood at the same time.
I have been married since 2017, after dating my wife from Junior College days. My wife is also part of the SingHealth family, working as a dentist at the National Dental Centre Singapore (NDCS). In April this year, we welcomed our newborn son, Emerson, to the family.
I met my surgeon husband 15 years ago while we were studying in Melbourne. We got married just before starting our Residency training and are blessed with two cheeky daughters, currently aged four and seven years old.
My biggest struggles revolved around timing decisions related to family planning. Work and Residency will always be hectic. With a working spouse, it is difficult to find the perfect time to start a family. We have had to work within our constraints and actively coordinate as a couple to manage the process.
As part of Residency training, I also had to work around the constraints of the limited allowable days of absence per posting in order to pass each year of Residency. This has been a major factor when planning leave for various commitments, such as marriage, visits to the obstetrician and childcare leave.
Every working parent I know struggles with the feeling of guilt. Guilt when leaving the care of your kids to the helper, teachers or grandparents. Guilt when working overtime to attend to an urgent patient and getting home late. Guilt when attending to sick patients but cannot be there for your children when they are unwell. Guilt when having to ‘force’ your then four-month-old to switch to bottle feeds instead of breast feeding while you are at work.
As a Family Medicine Resident, I was rotated through different clinical departments across the various SingHealth hospitals. The roster planners, clinical supervisors and Faculty in SingHealth were understanding and helpful in accommodating my needs. I was also fortunate to have supportive peers who helped to cover me on occasions when I needed to be absent.
As a third-year Resident currently based in Bedok Polyclinic, I have received tremendous support from my Faculty and clinic supervisors over the last few months, as my wife and I have had to make adjustments in caring for our newborn.
The guilt never dissipates, but I have learnt to deal with it a little bit better.
I had my first and second child in my third and sixth year of Residency respectively. Having kids was initially tough as I struggled to juggle my intermediate exams and motherhood duties. I even thought about stopping my Residency training but my seniors and colleagues encouraged me to persevere on.
Many of them have gone through similar paths in terms of managing a young family during Residency training and hence, they are able to empathise and are always willing to dish out parenting tips. With their encouragement and support, I was then able to successfully obtain my Master of Medicine (MMed) degree to progress onto Senior Residency before graduating from Residency soon.
All in all, I am extremely thankful and blessed to have helpful seniors and colleagues who are always willing to lend a helping hand whenever I needed to apply for urgent childcare leave, supportive parents who are able to look after my children, and an understanding (but equally busy) husband who has allowed me free rein in making caregiving arrangements of the kids, so that I can have a peace of mind at work.
The answer to this may depend on which parent you ask! J
In all seriousness though, I believe that both of these are likely to be true. As a doctor, a medical perspective does come in helpful when caring for my son. Becoming a parent has made me much more reflective and mindful of what I would want my son to emulate. It’s been only two months though – I am sure that I will have more insights as time goes by.
Personally, I do not think doctors make better parents, or at least for myself. Ironically, even though I am a paediatrician in-training, my parents will still advise me to consult a doctor whenever my children are unwell as my threshold to start medications or seek help is higher. But being a parent has allowed me to understand, empathise and communicate better, especially with my patients’ parents.
Although life has become more hectic with a newborn, there has been a lot more joy and cheer that our newborn has brought into our lives. After two weeks of paternity leave, I returned to work with a recharged passion for what I do. Now, as a parent myself, when I see other parents bring in their children who are ill, I am able to empathise with them and address their concerns better.
It has definitely helped to change my approach towards my patients. During my ‘younger’ days, I used to be less sympathetic towards parents for bringing their crying babies to the children’s emergency over the slightest illness. But after having first-hand experience of being a mother, I have learnt to be more understanding and patient.
Being a parent has also taught me to be a great multi-tasker to find the right balance between work and family life as my priorities have now changed. Before being a parent, I tend to spend more time at work. But now, I am more mindful of the time I have and learn to prioritise various responsibilities at work better.
Get as much support as possible during the first few months of infancy – be it from your family or from hiring a nanny. Especially as a first-time parent, you will be faced with many new unexpected challenges and there is a lot you can learn from experienced hands.
Parenting is also not only about caring for the infant but also for the mother, who has undergone tremendous changes in her body during the course of pregnancy and childbirth. For other aspiring dads out there, be sure to take good care of your wife so that the both of you can put your best foot forward for your newborn!
Congratulations on taking the first step towards embracing the challenge of starting a family during Residency! It takes a village to raise a child, and you will have a huge village helping you. So, always remember to go easy on yourself and learn to be more accepting of other parenting methods there are out there.
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