Leah Whitmore – An internal struggle against expectations

Children add an additional layer of complexities to an already complex journey. I’m not just talking about the strict routines or the constant need for forward planning. I’m referring to the guilt and anxiety experienced by many parents who enter the medical profession. What are you supposed to do when societal expectations for raising children don’t match with those of medical school?

The supposition that a parent in medicine is (or should be) focussed on their career rather than their family has always been difficult to manage. Medical training takes several years, and the job is demanding, which often leaves very little time for family planning. In addition, those who do have children are often met with outside scepticism: the belief that one aspect of their life must take a back seat to the other; for you cannot do both well. However, I can tell you from experience that this does not have to be the case.

There have been many people in the past few years who, upon hearing that I was pursuing the medical school dream, would say, “This is the most influential time of your child’s life and you’re going to miss out on seeing them grow up!” I have never been happier to prove such people wrong. Sure, there are days when those little voices make me doubt myself and where I worry whether I am doing enough for my family or neglecting them. But then I look at how they are flourishing and how strong our relationships are, and I remind myself that those voices are wrong.

It’s true that people focus on things they value. For me, I value BOTH my family and my career. Neither one suffers because I make sure to put plenty of time and effort into both. I make sure to get as much of my uni work done during week and set aside my evenings and weekends for my family. Obviously, this means that not all the required learning content can be covered, but instead I focus on and prioritise the high yield information. I try not to worry about what hasn’t been achieved, and when the weekend rolls around, it important for us all to get out of the house. Doing this, I can avoid the stress and distractions of pending work, and it allows me to give all of my attention to my family. I’m also very lucky to have a husband who works with me, our home life is truly a team effort. He assists with tasks around home or with our son that I might not have time or energy to complete. As our weeks tend to require heavy scheduling, being able to divide the small jobs between us works well towards maintaining a strong work-study-life-balance and a strong family relationship.

I firmly believe that having children during medical training is not an impossible task, nor is it a dream set only for the distant future. Removing the stigma of expectations and supporting each other in our pursuits, no matter what they may be, is of the utmost importance in developing a healthy framework for future generations of doctors.









Leah is a first-year medical student at UWA originating from Brisbane, QLD. She lives with her husband, her 18-month-old son, and their cat Penelope. She is one of the WAMSS MD1 representatives with an interest in surgery, internal medicine, and cardiology. She is passionate about encouraging the growth and development of families for medical professionals and removing the stigma surrounding this being an unachievable or impractical undertaking (especially for women).