Dr. Wei Wei Lee is an Assistant Professor of Medicine and is the Assistant Dean of Students at the Pritzker School of Medicine. She graduated from NYU School of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health. She completed her internal medicine residency at the New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell and served as ambulatory chief resident. Her academic interests are focused on improving patient-centered communication and physician well-being.
My husband Tomas works at a non-profit microfinance organization. We are the proud parents of our rambunctious two-year-old son, Luca. In his joyous aftermath, we are actively working to redefine work-life balance. We came late to the parenthood game and had difficulty getting pregnant. This struggle brought us closer and forced us to define what was truly important to us.
For work life balance, we sit down monthly to review our shared calendar to anticipate busy periods, schedule family outings and date nights. Neither of us has family in Chicago for childcare support, so we try to give each other ‘me time’ to recharge. These periods of diastole make us better parents and partners. Weeknights are challenging, we keep it simple by planning easy meals and focusing on making bath and story time fun. We outsource what we can (housekeeping, grocery shopping etc.) to make room for quality time. We plan as many two-fer events as possible, like scheduling a tennis date and getting a babysitter to watch Luca on the playground to fit in exercise, couple time and playtime. We make spending time with extended family a priority and schedule trips to see them. It’s as exhausting as it sounds and a work in progress, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Advice to Women Faculty and Trainees
Be kind to yourself. You are human and there are only 24 hours in a day. There are periods when work is on turbo speed. Ask for help and lean on your partner or other support systems to get by. Recover from these periods and don’t feel guilty about leaving work early to get to the school play or to go for a run. Work hard and play hard, give your all to both pursuits and know when to turn it off.
Be present. Be fully present with your loved ones. Slow it down, be still and take a technology Sabbath. Put away your phone and laptop from six to nine pm on weeknights or on Saturday mornings.
Build a community. Reach out to friends or peers you think are struggling, and listen when someone tells you they are worried about it. Get help when you need it.
Take a compliment. Say thank you, and don’t downplay your accomplishments. Acknowledge imposter syndrome, quite those voices in your head and take credit for your hard work.
Go for it! Go for opportunities that come your way, even if you don’t feel fully qualified.
Pay it forward. Mentor students, residents and new faculty. Share your setbacks and failures, the road is hard and it’s important for them to know that you’ve had many failures and stumbles on your path.
There is no such thing as the perfect time to start a family. If you want a family, don’t wait until the ‘perfect’ time. Start trying when it is feels right, not when it fits in to your career, you don’t know what life has in store for you.