Monday, November 26, 2012

A parent first

I recently told "Our Story" at the Scottish Muscle Network Conference.  I stood in front of approximately sixty people and bared my soul.  I shared stories from the last two years, stories that I felt told the story of our journey over the last two years: the point of diagnosis, the point when SMA came into our lives;  the importance of striving for my daughter's independence;  saying goodbye to our buggy days and suddenly becoming visible Eilidh; and, finally, her whizzy wheels and her beautiful independence, proving that a good life is so possible.  At the end of my talk I was asked three questions, the first was

"how do you cope being a parent 
to a child with special needs 
and a doctor, too?"

I replied that I know of parents who become professional parents, who work tirelessly for the “cause”, devoting their time and energy to promoting awareness, fund raising endlessly, sitting on committees and pushing forward policies and laws to protect their children.  I understand why these people devote themselves in such ways, I understand that they need to feel as if they are in control, that they are making a difference, because nothing can change the position that they are in currently, but perhaps their future, and the futures of others can be brighter.

In my mind I sometimes want to be a professional parent – I mean, full time and full on! A professional parent, champion of the “cause”! – but then I take a moment to think; I am a parent first and foremost, and then a professional. I want to devote my love and energy firstly to my family with my ideal being a home bursting full of love, fun and laughter.  I try to forget my medical training, leaving my clinical acumen at the front door, as easily as I hang up my stethoscope at work and put my handbag down as I arrive home.  I try not to second guess Eilidh when she is unwell, seeking medical advice when needed – although I have to admit that this is difficult and have been told off for not giving her antibiotics sooner when she starts to cough and splutter – “but she doesn’t have a fever and she’s happy in herself!”  I ask that the doctors and allied health care professionals expect nothing of me and my medical knowledge, explaining in layman’s terms, and then I’ll ask questions, more specific and medical, if I need to.

Three mornings a week, my medical training and clinical acumen are packed with my lunch, my stethoscope is in my handbag and I'm off to work.  As I say my "goodbyes" to D and the girls, my mind is saying "goodbye" to being a mummy and a carer for the day.  I walk into work and say my "good mornings!", assuming my role as a doctor as the meeting starts at 9am.  I listen, I support, I treat, I comfort, I teach and I manage. This is part of who I am, this is time for me and, I guess, a form of respite too (strange as it may seem...)  My job, difficult it is at times, helps me cope in my day-to-day, and my home life enables me to bring infinitely more to my job, too.

I’m not perfect though and sometimes my work bleeds into my home life, especially with so much continuing professional development required.  My on-call responsibility means that I am at work some weekends and called in overnight, too - N hates these calls, me leaving home when I should be with her, but thankfully, they aren't too often.  Then there are the days when home life becomes tough and no matter how I try I cannot leave my feelings at home and concentrate on my job: these are the days when paperwork comes in handy, when my colleagues provide a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on!  

So, how do I cope?
I cope;
I just do.
This is what is asked of me:
I cannot say that it is easy, but this is my life
and I take each day as it comes,
trying very, very hard to be
present in the moment
and grateful, too.

“Although I have several personae, I am one person, and my roles inevitably inform the other.  I am the kind of professional I am because I am a parent, and I am the kind of parent I am because I am a professional.  Through open-mindedness and constant awareness, I will strive to bring the best of each role to the other.”
Barbara Gill

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