Looking back over 32 years of practice, 22 of those years spent raising children while exclusively in independent practice what strikes me as critical is finding and maintaining a balance of care for your partner, children and family members, your patients, your business and yourself (not necessarily in that order). Being solely in independent practice allows for control and flexibility in work schedule that has been seen as “the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work” (Slaughter, 2012) As moms in practice, we are able to make a meaningful career and family life work together without shortchanging our children or our patients when we build our practices with intentionality and mindfulness.
Some Aspects to Consider in Finding Your Balance
In mindfully building your practice, consider the ages and stages of your children, and their schedules, developmental levels and needs. While recognizing what their needs are now, also be aware of how they will change predictably as your children grow.
Aim to arrange your practice hours to allow for maximum involvement in their lives at their current stage. For example, if your children are attending a morning preschool program, consider marketing to potential clients who are available in the mornings. Then take a break in the afternoons to spend time with your children, returning to work some evening hours after they are asleep.
Discuss with your partner the best ways to maximize the quality time you each can spend with the children, and build your schedule around that. At the same time, anticipate the next stages of your children’s lives, and how you may need to modify your practice niche and work schedule, so as to maximize your quality time with them in the future. Staying one step ahead of them will allow you to think and plan for the inevitable changes.
Your time is precious, and the tender years of your children’s lives are brief and not replaceable. Therefore, make the best use of your time. Focus on doing what you do best, and outsource tasks (including those described in this recent post) that are time-consuming or outside your skillset.
I recently consulted with an early career psychologist who is in her first few years of practice and has an 18 month old child. She described how she finds herself working late into the night completing billing tasks and writing chart notes. She felt that she was sleep deprived and exhausted and missing time with her toddler due to the overwhelming amount of paperwork necessary to run her practice. I encouraged her to explore options for creating efficient and effective business practices, such as using practice software that streamlines scheduling, billing, therapy notes, and general accounting and record-keeping.
In my practice, I’ve also outsourced answering phones to a virtual receptionist. This has ensured that all of my calls during business hours are answered by a person rather than by a machine, and I get all of my messages immediately, rather than having to periodically check voicemail. If I am unable to call back in a timely way, I can also send a message to the receptionists to call back and offer an appointment,. The receptionists are also able to assist with directions or other routine information.
Bottom line: With some thoughtful planning, strategic scheduling and outsourcing of administrative tasks you can balance the needs of your family and your practice, allowing maximal quality time for both.