I used to think I wanted to work less and be home more, that was until I was forced to stay home. Many of us in the veterinarian world experience this. We work too much, are never home, are burnt out, stressed out, and maxed out. Add kids and owning a business to the mix and in comes even more stress and overwhelm. We feel mom guilt, boss guilt, doctor guilt, resentment, and suddenly lose all passion for the career we once loved and worked so hard to get. We lose our sense of purpose and are ready to throw in the towel and stay home.
Yeah, that was me. A mom of two, a full time veterinarian and small business owner, married to a stay-at-home-Dad, who I often felt resentment towards after a long day of work. I blamed everyone and everything – especially my job. It was my job, the clients, the staff, the work – I resented it all and was ready to be home. That was until I had to be.
This summer, my husband Chad had an unfortunate boating disaster resulting in extensive knee reconstruction. This led to me having to take over domestic duty while continuing to work in my capacity as a full time veterinarian, small business owner and Mom.
I took a week off of work to take over all domestic and childcare duties and fully plunged myself into the role thinking “This is going to be awesome. I finally get to be home and contribute in ways I always longed for.” It took six days to realize I was wrong.
You see, two years ago I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was ready to hand over the keys to my practice and be a mom. In an effort to save myself and my practice, I found a life coach and mentor and started learning why my brain was setting me up for failure and how to re-wire it for success. Consequently, I started filling my cup first. I started some extensive self-care and making it a priority. Ultimately, I regained my “why”. I was on fire! And then my family hit a snag.
For the past two years, I have felt alive again and thriving in all areas of life. My business is booming, my health and relationships are improving, I am working less and making more, I am having fun, and finding joy daily. I never expected that I would lose myself after six days home helping my husband and being a mom. What!?
Don’t get me wrong, I rock the domestic role. I cooked, cleaned, drove all around town, bathed my husband, and tended to everyone’s needs. Everyone was happy and I was happy – but then day six hit.
I started feeling irritable and getting short with my loved ones. I realized in taking care of everyone else I neglected myself. My self-care went to the wayside. I skipped my workout classes and ate and slept poorly. Suddenly, I got a call from work that two people wanted to schedule mobile vet visits and I was irritated by that. “I took the week off! I am not supposed to be with my family.” Neglecting my boundaries, I took the calls and guess what happened? Dr. Becky was back. I visited with clients and stopped at the office and walking through my clinic doors was exhilarating! My staff was ecstatic to see me. They are like little school children waiting to tell me all their stories of what I have missed while I was gone. My associate shared some case details with me and asked for some advice and I was beyond thrilled to offer my expertise. I am completely needed there. I did my home visits and was able to chat it up with my nurse who accompanied me and really do what I do best, take care of my clients and four legged patients. On top of it, I even did a live Facebook video from my car, also something that fuels me.
I left work recharged and ready to finish out my week with my family. I found myself again. I got what I needed – I nurtured my passion.
After spending the past two years discovering what makes me happy and how to continue to do that work, it only took six days to realize that if I am not fueling that part of my life, I will quickly go back down into that dark hole. I will quickly not take care of myself. I will quickly lose myself into the chaotic world around me. We often think that it’s our work or our families. We are so quick to blame. In veterinary medicine, it is easy to fall into the burnout trap and think our job is the problem when it is ourselves – all of ourselves! We often think there is this magical formula for work/life balance. The key is redefining this and learning to nurture all parts of who you are.
It wasn’t until I discovered my purpose, my why, was I really able to embrace and rekindle my love for veterinary medicine and the relationships it allows me to foster. Ask yourself what makes you feel alive? What are you really good at, what are your strengths? What are your values? Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why, really inspired me to nurture my why personally and professionally.
When I get bogged down by an overwhelming demand of my veterinary time and skills, I stop to remember why I got into this gig in the first place. I love animals, I love working with the people that take care of those animals, and I love being a leader to my staff.
As I recognized my life was spiraling out of control and I hated being a veterinarian I knew I needed to ask for help. First I went to the doctor to make sure I wasn’t sick. Second I researched and discovered a life coach. Most of us are left without an adequate mentor once we leave the ivory towers of veterinary medical school. Check out my video on why I think mentors in the veterinary medicine profession are vital.
A sure fire way to fail is to not take care of yourself. We don’t tolerate our clients letting our patients get fat, eat junk food and be tied to a tree all day. Why do we do this to ourselves? Some quick things to start right now to increase your self-care:
Make sure you are putting your time and energy into those that you love. For me it comes down to quality and not quantity time.
These don’t have to be epic Disney World trips you take to make memories and connect. Trust me, your family just wants to be with you, and they will remember the happy times more than the amount of time.