There was a Care Bear in my blind spot. A few hours into a seven-hour car trip, my husband and I switched drivers. As I accelerated onto the highway leaving the rest stop, a dirty diaper, and a few handfuls of rogue snacks behind, I glanced over my left shoulder before merging, only to find a Care Bear smiling back at me. I shifted in my seat and looked again, this time gazing over the top of the fuzzy pink bear head to ensure a safe lane change. I chuckled to myself knowing the bear would loom over my shoulder for the 200 miles of highway ahead.
While my car was temporarily quiet and I was unusually alone with my thoughts, the Care Bear with her rainbow emblazoned belly was a vivid reminder of the children in my backseat. I thought about the significance of having a symbol of them in my blind spot, the place of vulnerability for a driver. Over the past few years as my career accelerated, I found my family was often in my blind spot; I could easily become wrapped up in the prestige of promotion if I did not remember to check on the needs of my young, growing family. What I saw in this blind spot could either remind me to hold steady or make a big change. In the realities of life, the bear I saw in my blind spot was not always so cheerful.
Days earlier on vacation, I talked with friends who similarly found their family in their blind spots and were deciding whether or not it was safe to change lanes. Despite all being safe drivers in our lives, we found surprisingly different approaches to our navigation styles. One friend struggled with accepting a promotion; she weighed a lower stress job that allowed her more time with her child with the thrill of more responsibility and academic challenges. Her twelve-year career had been escalating until she reached motherhood and now she apologetically wished to slow down for her family. Meanwhile another friend faced with a promotion dove in, readily accepting changes to her hours, salary, and responsibility. She knew such an opportunity would not come again easily, but her hasty lane change left her family unsettled in the back seat. She struggled to balance her work satisfaction with her family’s needs.
I thought about my own career and whether or not I viewed my family as a career weakness. Certainly the field of pediatrics looks favorably on families, but there are many instances where one impinges upon the other. Work creeps into home life through technology and hours on call, while my own sick child leaves me distracted and aching for home. At times my family might be the Care Bear in my blind spot, but many other times they were the GPS, steering wheel, or brakes. While I may check in before making any major decisions, I also use my family as a guide and read their happiness as I make adjustments to my pace. As I continued driving my family home, I must have glanced at that Care Bear dozens more times but it never felt intrusive, obstructive, or annoying. Much like my family in the journey of my career, the bear unobtrusively reminded me to be cautious, to be considerate, and to smile.
Guest post written by Katie Lockwood, a working physician mom in Philadelphia. When she's not curing ear infections, Katie can be found climbing urban playgrounds with her two children and a chai latte in hand. Working motherhood is chaotic, but she would not want it any other way.
The opinions expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Photo by Looking Glass Photography.