It started with my tweet.

I was working this weekend as it seemed to be for every significant event this year.  My daughter’s birthday, my son’s birthday, my birthday (I’m in denial about this one!), every long weekend and now my wedding anniversary.

Earlier in the year I was working every Saturday and every second Sunday, so I can’t really moan about events falling on a weekend I worked as I worked every weekend!  It was my choice so I didn’t have to put my young daughter in childcare.

What I found so sad is the reply tweet by Wauchope Vets.  I would be upset, frustrated and annoyed to miss my 2 year old’s birthday.

The one thing I find most veterinarians dislike about our veterinary profession is the lack of a life that comes with it.  Even if you don’t work in a practice that is open 7 days, for many vets the on-call component makes the work 24 hours, 7 days/week.

I have worked too many Christmas holidays to recall + Easter + public holidays + weekends + 10-12+ hour days.  That’s the time commitment our profession dictates.

As a veterinarian, you know the hours are part of the job.

As another year of service is added to your veterinary career, the sacrifices can take their toll.

The sacrifice on your personal life.  The ability to have a personal life.  How frustrating is it trying to be in a sporting team or have a weekly commitment knowing every second, third or fourth weekend you may not be available.  The social functions and family gatherings that are missed.  The nights out you don’t enjoy as you are so exhausted from another crazy, busy day or the nights out you just don’t make because of the emergency just before closing.

The sacrifice on family life takes the greatest toll for most veterinarians. Once we have families, priorities and ambition change.

For men, it can become more stressful being the sole financial contributor and balancing providing for the family yet being home to enjoy that family.  For women, it’s how long can they afford to be off work financially & their career, finding and affording childcare, the guilt and stress associated with returning to work, either full or part time and the juggle associated with working and parenting.

It can be the little & big things that can tip a person into dissatisfaction with their current employment or career choice.  It can be the cumulation of years of sacrifice when you realise you are getting older and the time you were waiting for to have a break, is never going to come…

For example:

  • Having to work 3 weekends in a row just to have 1 weekend off
  • Never making it home for that birthday party
  • An unhappy partner as you are late again
  • Never being fully present at home as you are worried about the case in hospital
  • A phone ring tone resembling the on call phone that instantly makes you angry
  • Missing your child’s school activity or sporting event
  • Missing dinner with the family every night or just putting the kids to bed
  • Hearing about non-veterinary colleagues income & lifestyle
The work-life balance is hard and honestly, balance doesn’t exist!  When you are at work, be fully present and engaged at work.  When you are home, be fully present and engaged at home.  That is worth more than not wanting to be at work and doing a 1/2 job and being so worried about work at home, that you don’t even notice your family.
Don’t spend all your time creating professional and financial success if you have no one to share it with.
All those certificates and dollar bills won’t be sitting at your bedside holding your hand and comforting you on your death bed.
Now don’t get me wrong.  I believe in excellence, attaining your professional goals and financial success.   Please make sure it is not at the expense of friends, family and building relationships.  You don’t wait to climb the ladder of professional success only to find it’s leaning on the wrong building.
You are a better veterinarian when you have a life outside veterinary practice.
You will be more fulfilled in your life knowing you get to do what you enjoy, have holidays and experience your children grow up.
Be prepared and have a plan.
Make a list of the dates of important events over the next 12 months and when you want to have holidays.  Work out which dates are non-negotiable and which ones are flexible.  Speak with your employer and negotiate this time off.  If it involves every major holiday, be realistic and fair to others.
If you are the boss, get a locum.  If your business can’t survive without you, you’re on the path to burnout, divorce and unhappiness.  If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford to not have it off!
Is there something you love doing but never have time?  Work out how much time you need.  Is it weekly, monthly or just yearly?  Make it happen.  Every veterinarian needs a break.  From practice & from family commitments.  As everyone with a family knows, the family holiday sometimes is just as stressful as being at home!
Do something just for you.  Ask your partner to understand your need for a break.  No excuses!
I believe there is no balance in respect of equal time in either work or life.  Aim for quality not quantity.  Make the balance about quality not time.  Make every second count.
Balance involves renewal as well.  Have a break from everything to recharge.
Your health, your mental health, your professional health & your family health takes time and effort.  Make it happen!
I would love to hear your comments below and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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