Attending medical school in general can be a difficult process. As a non-traditional student with a wife and child, I have had to learn to navigate between my home life and school life.
Before starting school, I worked as a radiological engineer. Although it was a full-time job and I would be on call frequently, I was able to complete most of my work on-site so when I got home I was free to spend time with my family without any other obligations hanging over my head. Once I started school however, a dramatic shift occurred. I suddenly had classes that could last all day and then material that I needed to bring home and study.
When I first started school, I was hoping to find this perfect balance between the two, but I have found that there is no uniform balance between the two and every individual will have a different sense of balance. For me, I have learned during this year that if I choose to take my daughter to story time at the library on a Saturday morning, then I will be spending the rest of the weekend preparing for a quiz on Sunday.
Although it has been an adjustment, my family and I have come to enjoy the time we are all together and try to make the most of it. For example, my daughter was studying gardening at her school, so we created a garden at home. I built a small above-ground garden where we planted vegetables, fruit and some herbs. She has loved watching the vegetables grow and we are almost ready for our first harvest of green beans. This has been a great bonding experience for my entire family.
This year I have been a dedicated lecture goer. I found that actually attending class worked best for my lifestyle. While this may not seem like the most effective use of time to some, it has worked well for me because it is a way create some separation between my home life and school life. This allows me to more efficiently divide up my time. When I am at school, I focus primarily on that and I try to do the same when I’m home.
One of the hardest things to manage is feeling isolated from a lot of the class. Because I do have a family, I must accept that my schedule will probably not be the same as most of my classmates. I often have to navigate doctor’s appointments for my daughter, who is doing pickup and drop off, and many other aspects that just come with being a parent. I have found it most helpful to study with some of my classmates who also have children and are trying to juggle parenting, marriage and being in medical school. Although it has been an arduous task at times, I have found that the balance between school and home life may not be ideal, but understanding that this is not forever helps to make the sacrifices easier and time spent with my family that much more enjoyable.
As I look back on my first year of medical school, it is hard to believe how far I have come but one thing that is certain is that I could not have made it this far without the support of my family.
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Kendrick is a second-year medical student at University of Michigan Medical School. When not in class, he can be found rolling around in his back yard with his daughter and wife.