Recently, there has been a lot of debate among smart woman on whether Moms can truly have it “all.”
Some, like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, say yes, and share their tips on how you too can have a thriving career and family. Others, like former State Department official Ann Marie Slaughter say no, unlike what we’ve always been told, for women it’s just not possible. At least not all at once.
Who is right? Well, I don’t agree that you need to be “superhuman, rich, or self-employed,” as Ms. Slaughter suggests, to achieve the A word. To me, the devil is in the definition.
For me, having it “all” means having a full family life and a thriving profession, somehow finding a way to balance my dream career with raising my family of five wonderful kids.
I’ve seen that in many challenging professions, ranging from medicine to law to aviation, we are faced with decisions whether to “go it alone” and become self-employed, or to seek solutions that enable us to succeed in our respective fields, whether in a group practice or another alternative. A general physician may join a group office to delegate and share her administrative duties, she may become a solo practitioner, or she may even explore concierge services. A lawyer must decide whether to “hang her own shingle” or enter a law firm to work her way towards partner. And even a pilot can consider whether to work privately or to be employed with a commercial airline carrier.
For each career path and opportunity, there are countless advantages and disadvantages to consider; there are no easy decisions. Depending on your profession, your goals and your solutions may be different. But the key to identifying that solution is rooted in determining what it means to you to have it “all.” As a dentist, here’s how I went about defining my “all.”
I always knew I wanted a career in medicine, so I followed my dreams and became a dentist in 1998. I initially went into private practice, but overseeing all the demands of running a dental office on my own – including handling the accounting, staffing and human resources, and facilities upkeep and purchasing of new technology – became more than I was willing or able to do along with my roles as a mother, wife and active member of my community.
“All” for me meant serving my patients as a dentist, not tackling the many clerical needs to a well-functioning office. As a result, I decided to contract with a practice support services provider (called a Dental Support Organization, or DSO) that has allowed me to concentrate on what led me to become a dentist in the first place: providing quality oral healthcare to those in need. DSO business support services free up my time to care for patients.
Similarly, other physicians, medical service organizations and physician practice management providers offer similar support in non-clinical functions such as facility maintenance, technology improvement, supply procurement, and scheduling and back-office support.
This solution has given me more control and greater flexibility in my schedule, better work-life balance, and extended support in running a successful office. At the end of the day, I am able to go home to my family after treating my patients, rather than staying late hours at the office handling the administrative tasks.
Are there other solutions out there for those in non-medical careers? I am quite certain there are.
As a dentist, I am grateful for having found a system that allows me to focus on those aspects of my career that to me mean the most and I encourage other mothers who may feel frustration to look for similar solutions. Don’t give up. You can have it all. You just need to figure out what “all” means to you.
About the Author
Karen Robertson Street is a practicing dentist and owner of Coppell Modern Dentistry in Coppell, Texas.