Incorporating Family into Your Self-Care Plan

It’s easy to think that everyone has a family. But even though we all come from parents somewhere, our working definitions of family – and the degree to which we turn to them for support and nurturance – differ widely. Family can mean the people we’re related to by blood or marriage, or close friends with whom we share our lives. Either way, it’s helpful to have an inner circle of loved ones to whom you can turn for advice, support and nurturance.

But it can be easy for veterinarians to neglect their familial relationships, especially during times of stress and change. Many of us struggle to balance long hours at the office, weekend on-call duties, and the need for family time. In truth, family can be both a source of stress and a source of inspiration and comfort.

If you’ve decided that familial relationships are an area that you should nurture more as part of your self-care plan, here are some possible starting points:

  • Write out a list of who your “family” members are – the people in your inner circle whom you trust most to love and nurture you – and identify those with whom you don’t feel you connect often enough. Set aside 15-30 minutes each night for one week (or as many nights as needed), and telephone one person on the list each night. If a telephone call is impractical, write an email or letter to the person (and be sure to mail it!).
  • Schedule a regular time to get together with one or more of your family members – whether in person or virtually – to catch up. Find a pattern that works for both of your schedules: coffee before work every Wednesday, a phone call or virtual chat with an overseas friend on the first Friday of each month, or a nightly 15-minute walk around the block with your spouse.
  • Write out a 12-month calendar of your most important family celebration dates – anniversaries, birthdays, etc. – and find a way to set them aside. Negotiate with your employer to get those days off, or find another veterinarian to cover emergency calls for your solo practice on those days or evenings. You might not be able to get every major holiday off, but family birthdays and anniversaries might not be as hard as you think.

Get advice and tips from other veterinarians who have made it work or are trying to do so:

How Can AVMA Help

Additional Reading

He Said, She Said: Veterinarians sound off on work and family life balance

Work-life Balance a Tightrope for Many Veterinarians

Give Your Working Moms Control Over Their Schedules