The Balancing Act: Critical Care Physician and Mom
Dr. Krysta Wolfe is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care. Her clinical work involves caring for patients in the medical intensive care unit and pulmonary clinic. Outside of her clinical work, she is involved in resident education as Core Faculty for the Internal Medicine residency program with a focus on ultrasound curriculum development. She also acts as a mentor to residents and fellows as part of the Critical Care Outcomes research group, where she serves as a co-PI on several ongoing clinical trials. She recently took on the role of Associate Medical Director of the MICU and is spearheading efforts to improve sepsis outcomes in the ICU.
I am a mother of three (ages 8, 4, and 9 months). My husband works in marketing, and we live in the West Loop where our kids go to school and daycare. We do not have immediate family nearby so shared responsibility is a necessity. Work-life balance is fluid, tipping between more work some weeks and more “life” others. We rely on after-school programs with flexible hours and activities such as music class and soccer that directly pick up from school (no drop off is a major bonus!). This past year, with the expansion in my job description to full-time childcare provider, teacher, and critical care physician during a pandemic, has been a challenge to say the least. I have truly cherished the extra time with my family while learning to accept that wearing all the hats all the time is just not possible (especially the being a teacher part, bless them!).
ADVICE TO WOMEN FACULTY AND TRAINEES:
Be present in the moment
It’s so easy to be distracted while at home by something at work and vice versa. Countering this takes regular effort and dedication to being focused and present in the moment. I like the quote by Katie Couric, “Get rid of the guilt…When you’re at one place, don’t feel bad that you’re not at work; when you’re at work, don’t feel bad that you’re not at home.” This means that when I’m home, the devices are put away and focus is put on sitting around the table as a family, story time, etc.
Life has a lot of moving parts and can become overwhelming without a system for organization, which for us is a shared and detailed schedule. This extends beyond drop offs and soccer though. We include carving out time for quality family time, date nights, happy hours, exercise, or whatever else is needed to be your best self. The same goes for at work. Academics offers variety and independence in one’s schedule, but to stay on task I schedule blocks of time each day to tackle my various to-do’s.
Have grace with yourself
I struggle when asked how to find balance because the answer is so different for each person. There are many days when the balance isn’t quite there, but you just make it work. That’s most of what being a working mom is for me…making it work. This might mean I miss the party at school or can’t be that mom who makes a DIY Halloween costume, but that’s okay. We are all doing our best and need to extend grace to ourselves!