Claudia Gold is a pediatrician, writer, and perhaps most importantly, a mother. She took some time out of her busy writing schedule to share her experience negotiating the challenges of balancing family and work.
How many children do you have? How old are they?
I have a 14-year-old son, an 18-year-old daughter, and a 24-year-old stepdaughter.
What kind of work do you do?
I run the Early Childhood Social Emotional Health program at Newton-Wellesley hospital in Newton, MA. My first book Keeping Your Child in Mind: Overcoming Tantrums Defiance and other Everyday Behavior Problems by Seeing the World Through Your Child’s Eyes, was released last year. I am currently working on a new book about how stories are told, or not told, from one generation to the next. I write regularly for my blog Child in Mind, which is published on Boston.com.
What were the biggest work/life balance challenges you faced when your children were young?
I have worked part time since my children were born, and took my first break from primary care to start a parenting center when my second child was born. When my children reached school age, my husband and I recognized that to meet the demands of swim practice, play rehearsals, dance performances, and all the other things that go along with having school age children, one of us would have to be more available. My husband is an eye doctor who runs his own practice, so it made sense that I would be the one to change.
Much as I loved practicing primary care medicine, the inflexibility and time demands of being on call were not compatible with the way we wanted to raise our children. Reluctantly, I gave it up, focusing on building a behavioral pediatrics practice that did not require being on call. It was that experience that led to my writing a column for the Boston Globe entitled “Mind-Altering Drugs and the Problem Child.” The overwhelmingly positive response, from parents and professionals around the world, in turn led to the writing of my first book.
What are the most common work/life balance challenges you see in the families you work with?
I think the biggest problem is guilt. When parents are at work, they worry about not being with their kids, and then when they are home they worry about not being at work. There is a pervasive feeling of never doing enough for either.
The central thesis of your book, Child in Mind, is that many of the challenges of raising children are best addressed by empathizing with your children; by considering their perspectives and experiences and responding with love and appropriate boundaries. Keeping your child in mind can feel really hard when you’re sleep deprived, hungry, burnt out, whatever. What advice do you have for parents of young children?
It is important for parents to find time to take care of themselves, both as individuals and as a couple. I know this is easier said than done.
It is also important to aim to be where you are. Twenty minutes of giving your full attention to your child can be more valuable than spending a whole day where you are distracted and anxious. I recently encountered a challenge in my own life where I needed to work hard to remember this. My prime writing time is early in the morning. But this year my son is in jazz band and a singing group, and he needs to be at school every day at 7:15. The bus doesn’t come until 7:30, so he needs to be driven, cutting a big hole in my writing time. I remind myself to take deep breaths, recognize that he will only be home for a few more years, be present with him on those early morning drives, and for now, adjust my writing schedule.
Is there anything else you’d like to add to this conversation on work/life balance?
Being a mother is both an awesome privilege and an awesome responsibility. It is in a sense the greatest act of creativity. It makes sense that women who create in this way can also create their own professional lives. By embracing this creativity, both as mothers and as professionals, we can aim to find new and important ways to contribute to society, while at the same time being present in the lives of our children in ways that support the healthy development of the next generation.
To purchase Claudia’s book on Amazon and do a mitzvah at the same time, click here and Keller will receive a portion of the profit.