January 02, 2018 7:00 AM

Balancing Parenting, My Marriage and Medical School

As a nontraditional medical student with a family, juggling all the responsibility can be tricky. A second-year student at U-M shares what he’s learned so far.

Attending medical school in general can be a difficult process. As a nontraditional student with a wife and child, it has been extra complicated, as I have had to learn to navigate between my home life and school life.

MORE FROM THE LAB: Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Before starting school, I worked in the radiation safety division at the Enrico Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Plant in Monroe, Michigan, as a radiological engineer. Although it was a full-time job and I would be on call frequently, I was able to complete most of my work on-site. This meant that once I was home, I was free to spend time with my family without other obligations hanging over my head.

Once I started medical school, however, a dramatic shift occurred. I suddenly had classes that could last all day and material that I needed to bring home and study.

When I first started school, I was hoping to find this perfect balance between the two. But I have found that there is no uniform balance — every individual will have a different sense of what balance looks like and how to get there.

Making the most of time at home

For me, I learned during my first year that if I choose to take my 4-year-old daughter, Kai, to story time at the library on a Saturday morning, I will be spending the rest of the weekend preparing for a quiz on Sunday.

Although it has been an adjustment, my family and I have come to enjoy the time we are all together, and we try to make the most of it.

SEE ALSO: Advice for First-Year Medical Students: 5 Takeaways from Michigan M2s

For example, Kai was studying gardening at her school, so we created a garden at home. I built a small above-ground bed where we planted vegetables, fruit and some herbs. She has loved watching the vegetables grow. This summer, we harvested green beans, green bell peppers, radishes, carrots, spaghetti squash, golden honeydew melon, oregano and basil. This has been a great bonding experience for my entire family.

Finding common ground with classmates

In my first year of medical school, I was a dedicated lecturegoer while some of my other peers chose to stream lectures at home on their own time.

I found that actually attending class worked best for my lifestyle. While this may not seem like the most effective use of time to some, it worked well for me because it was a way to create some separation between my home life and school life. It allowed me to more efficiently divide up my time.

One of the hardest things to manage is feeling isolated from a lot of the class. Because I do have a family, I must accept that my schedule will probably not be the same as most of my classmates.

I often have to navigate doctor’s appointments for Kai, coordinate who is doing school pickup and drop-off with my wife, and consider any other aspects that just come with being a parent. I have found it most helpful to study with some of my classmates who also have children and are trying to juggle parenting, marriage and medical school.

I have found that the balance between school and home life may not be ideal, but understanding that this is not forever helps to make the sacrifices easier. This also makes time spent with my family that much more enjoyable.

As I look back on my first year of medical school, it is hard to believe how far I have come.

But one thing that is certain: I could not have made it this far without the support of my family.

This article was originally published on Dose of Reality, the blog of the University of Michigan Medical School.