Were you at Western Vet this year? It feels like a year ago even though it’s only been what, a week or two? Vegas will do that to you. Run around like a Tasmanian devil, plow through on sheer adrenaline, then come back and crash for a week.
But I didn’t. When I got home, I turned around the next day and left for a short family trip. The first day in, my daughter got sick, so while my son went skiing, she and I sat around drinking tea. When we got home, she finally got better but then my son got sick. He’s been home from school ever since. He’s not even sick at this point, but he has a cough- and in today’s state of affairs, that’s a no-go.
I know how fortunate I am to be in a position where I can leave for Western for a few days, and stay at home with my kids when they are sick. Veterinary medicine as a whole has not been a welcoming place for parents and caregivers. I mean, you can be a caregiver, but only at work. Flu season and impending pandemics are scary for everyone, but for those who know they have so little flexibility in their lives and work, it’s especially hard. It makes people feel really helpless.
As a profession trending to 80% female, you’d think we’d have a more balanced view of being a working parent. (This is the part where most parents roll their eyes and say, “Suuuure. It’s been great.”)
We still have a long way to go, but when I think about the profession’s view on families now even compared to 10-15 years ago, we’ve made some progress. Kind of. I remember being asked, “Are you getting pregnant any time soon?” five minutes into my first interview. Later, and ER medical director told me “Parents don’t belong in emergency medicine”. Ever. Over and over, I felt like I was failing someone, somewhere, in some capacity, just by being.
I started writing on the side. It took me over ten years to develop a personal brand built on storytelling, and I did it sort of by mistake. There was no intent there, as “personal brands” really didn’t exist in 2009. I was a blogger, and we were looked at with mistrust and apprehension. I didn’t care. It never once held me back or gave me pause. Why is that? Why didn’t people’s opinions on that bother me the way they did their opinions of me as a veterinarian?
- I was so 1000% confident in what I was doing that I didn’t care what people thought;
- I never really asked for approval.
We internalize negative narratives and allow them to make us feel less than. Or, we internalize them and subconsciously apply them to others. It creates so many resentments when there are so many opportunities for us to problem solve instead. When I look at successful men and women in this profession who have truly found balance, it’s never been through corporate edict but by someone who loved this profession SO MUCH that they saw no other option than to make it work. And they did.
These days, veterinarians and others in this space have so much more freedom to create the lives they want to lead. You can build entire empires online. It’s wild. It may not be easy and it’s very unlikely to be straightforward, but the world is full of possibility. If there is one thing I wish I had known earlier in life, the one thing I want to say to all those struggling with feeling bad about the profession:
There are options. There are always alternatives to being miserable where you are. And sometimes the first step is as simple as putting yourself out there on a platform and saying, as scary as it might be, “This is me” and seeing what happens.
That’s what I did, with no idea where it would lead. I emerged on the other side as a professional author, with a published book, some TV appearances, and the chance to lecture all over the world. This is despite my best efforts, because honestly, I’m not even all that ambitious. I just love what I do THAT much.
So why not take that first step? Have you ever thought, and I mean thought really hard, about what you can wring out of this profession versus letting it wring things out of you?
What would bring you true joy in this field? I love seeing and helping my colleagues down similar dusty, weed-ridden paths. Truly, this adventure is the only way to go.
If you’re thinking of changing it up, drop me a line. I always love cheering on my Vet Squad.