Thursday, April 23, 2009

Balancing Dental School and a Family

This is a great post from the Visit his site for more great articles.

Over the course of this website’s history I have recieved several emails asking how I balance dental school and a family. While I am no professional in the subject, I have been married for six years and have half as many kids, so my opinion and experiance will have to do. I encourage any comments on this subject as well.

Dental School is just a step in life. It ends. It lasts for four years and then life moves on. Your family on the other hand stays with you - or at least it should. The first thing to do is to prioritize. Family comes first. This is up to interpretation of course. During finals week my family might have dropped a few notches on the priority totem pole. I have come up with a few items that have helped keep my family happy - most of the time.

1. Time. Your family needs a daily dose of time. There is always 24 hours in one day. Subtract the time spent at school, the needed study time, dinner time, etc. and use the leftover time to spend with your wife and kids. Sometimes you won’t have any time at all. During my second year I remember leaving early for school, coming home, eating, putting the kids to bed, talking to my wife for 10-15 minutes and studying until bedtime. This was common during the first two years but was remedied by a simple thing seen in #2.

2. Date Night. My classmate (who helped write this article) who also has a family likes the following saying, “It is better to spend money on date night during dental school than to spend money on marriage counseling after dental school.” If you go a week and have only spent 15-30 minutes a day with your family than a date night is a good time to relax and have fun. My uncle went through dental school with a family and his motto was to study hard on weekdays and have fun on the weekends. Date nights on a budget usually consist of going out to dinner, a movie, renting a movie, hanging out with friends, going into the city, playing rockband together, etc. You don’t have to go all out each time, it is the quality of time spent together. Find other families in your area and do a swap. Each week one family takes all the kids for THREE hours while the other families go out. Each week rotates between familes. That means that if you get 4 families to participate you get to go out for three weeks in a row and babysit on the fourth week. The babysitting part isn’t so bad because all the kids entertain each other.

3. When you are spending time with your family are you there in mind or just body? Sometimes when it was close to finals I would find myself hanging out with my family, but my mind was elsewhere. I would be half listening to my boys or my wife - or sometimes not be listening at all. When you are hanging out, take a deep breath, relax, and hang out. Then get back to your studies or lab work, etc.

4. Help out around the house. My wife stays at home with our kids and her routine is pretty much the same. Chores don’t change that much and don’t get more or less exciting. If you come home after along day and you see a pile of laundry on the couch or the garbage is overflowing…take a minute to help out. It only takes about ten minutes to do a few chores and your spouse will appreciate it whether they say so or not. It is the small things that help a relationship.

5. Communicate. This is done daily and is self explanatory. Dental school is stressful for everyone. Your spouse wants to spend time with you, your kids miss you, and you miss your family. I won’t get too mushy here, but express gratitude, tell each other you miss them during the day. More communication can be done during date night.

6. Marry an understanding person. My wife is a strong women. In fact she ran 3 or 4 eight-minute miles almost everyday up until about 6-7 months into her third pregnancy. I can’t drive three mile without breaking a sweat. She is very understanding and has made many sacrifices so I could pursue my studies. Make sure to be understanding of your spouses sacrifices and spouses make sure you realize the sacrifices your spouse is making while in dental school.

None of this information is profound in anyway. This is a little of what we have done in dental school. A lot of this is different depending on the family dynamic and the relationships and personalities of each member. Not all my time is spent with either school or family which makes prioritizing difficult. I am a member of several clubs at school and am a scoutmaster for my church and I am looking at pursuing more education after dental school. LIFE WILL ALWAYS BE BUSY. Dental school is just one chapter in the whole scheme and it is very possible to get through dental school with a family. Remember: Roughly 4,500 new dentists graduate each year, a decent percentage of them are married with kids and if they can do it, so can you. I hope this helps and feel free to comment or ask specific questions and I will do my best to answer them.

The original post can be found by clicking the title to this article.