Balancing Act: Raising a Family During Med School

Kristy Crowley - Feb 02, 2018

Balancing your medical career with raising a family is no easy task. Ryan Kelsch, who will soon begin his diagnostic radiology residency at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak (Michigan) and is a USMLE and Comlex tutor for Med School Tutors, shares with us the joys and challenges of being a parent during medical school. Here is some practical advice on balancing parental responsibilities with med school.

Time spent with family is both rejuvenating and required. 

Entering into the medical profession and raising a child takes both time and effort. The average age of a medical student or resident typically ranges from the mid 20’s to the mid 30’s, which coincides with a popular time to have children. Ryan, a 27-year-old father and husband, implements a hierarchy to navigate his familial and medical training duties, with the care for his wife and child taking precedence. According to Ryan, ‘At times, whether it be studying for a big exam or working a 24-hour shift, it is impossible to spend any time with my family. In the end, spending time with your family makes working and studying that much more productive.”

This experience is individualized and differs for everyone. 

Equality in medicine is changing. For the first time, the number of women enrolled in U.S. medical schools (50.7%) has topped the number of men. While gender equality in medical education is shifting, the isonomic state of physicians raising families has yet to equalize. In a study of married physicians with children, women doctors performed 66% of child care and 63% of household duties, as compared to men who performed 19% of child care and 26% of household duties. 

When asked about the difference between male and female physicians raising families, Ryan stated, “My wife decided to stay home to raise our children. As a male physician, I know that my perspective would change significantly if I were the one to bear a child and needed to find time to breastfeed for the following year. That being said, I know around 10 female medical students and residents that have had children and were able to balance their career and, at the same time, be wonderful parents. There are certainly additional perspectives that I will never be able to experience.”

A strong relationship with your partner is your strongest resource. 

“A strong relationship with your spouse is the best resource for raising a family and balancing a career in medicine. There were many nights when I needed to study for boards, yet I also felt the need to spend time with my wife and daughter. During those nights, my wife always let me feel free to do what needed to be done in regards to studying, but at the same time always made sure I was taking breaks. She reminds me of the need for balance.

"Without a loving, giving relationship, the stress of raising children can be difficult for any relationship and can overflow into how you parent. My relationship with my wife is by no means perfect, but I do think we have a strong foundation, and in turn, are able to share in the difficulties and the wonders of raising children. In times when one of us is tired, ill, or our patience has run thin, having a spouse to step in and take a turn rocking the crying baby is what a strong marriage is all about. Having someone to share the burdens and joys of child-rearing is the strongest resource I can recommend.”

Gratification comes in small packages. 

It is often the small things that make the biggest impact. According to Ryan, “One of the most gratifying moments as a Dad are the days I come home after a long work day at the hospital and am greeted by my 2-year-old daughter with a huge smile, hug, and a ‘Daddy!’ as she runs over to greet me as soon as I walk through the door. Instantly, the weariness from the day is assuaged. Whether greeted by hugs or tears and whining, as a husband and father, this is my opportunity to give my wife a break and help take care of the kids as best I can. This can be hard after a long day of work, but it is so important.”

Make time for yourself. 

“Make time for yourself and give your spouse some alone time without the kids.  It can be something as simple as letting your wife go out to run errands on her own instead of with a bunch of crazed little humans. Time spent alone is both necessary and rejuvenating.”

Balance is by far the hardest challenge of raising children. It is a constant struggle to balance the priorities of life and children - adding a wonderful, yet trying element to the mix. As a medical professional, there is really no perfect time to have kids, so just go for it! 

Ryan is a PGY1 who studied at Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine and currently resides in Michigan. Additionally, Ryan is a USMLE/COMLEX tutor for Med School Tutors, an online platform providing educational material and one-on-one guidance for medical students studying for exams. Find more of Ryan’s articles here.