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Is your career ruining your family?

July 16, 2013

By Chad Fleming, O.D., AOAExcel Business and Career coach

It was 7 p.m. on Monday, and I had just finished writing six letters after a full day of seeing patients. The four optical coherence tomography (OCT) interpretation and reviews were also complete, and a couple of lights were left to turn off. I closed the back door with thoughts of another day gone by and nobody went blind. I smiled, locked the door and headed home.

Once I arrived home, I made my way into the house to find my children running to welcome daddy home. While hugging my oldest, I noticed the remainder of supper was on the table and both children were in their pajamas. Their mother was getting them ready for bed.

My mind was full of mixed emotions as I watched the children let go of me and head to their rooms for bed with their mother. Exhausted, I sat back in my recliner and contemplated the “great” day the office had.

Many of us chase dreams and run hard toward the goal of growing a practice and being successful optometrists. We download the latest journal on our iPad and tab through the pages to find what the latest method for practice management success is. Never do we find in those digital pages the line item cost of success. Here are three areas to consider when balancing life and career.

1. Contentment—When is enough, enough? That is a question we all must ask ourselves in the pursuit of successful careers, both financially and emotionally. The average OD makes more than $125,000 whether employed or as an owner, putting us in the 85th percentile of income earners in America. If you are an owner, this percentile jumps to the 90th range.

2. Life priorities—It is easy to get caught up in the demands of our profession. You make thousands of decisions daily, some of which affect the future quality of life for others. My mentor continually points me back to my life priorities when I am wrestling with decisions. If my 3-year-old is a priority, then I must make decisions that reinforce my commitment to being a father. If having the highest-netting practice in the Midwest is my goal, then I must make decisions that directly impact that high-ranking priority. If you do not make decisions based on your life priorities, you will only be living for the next urgent decision. Those living from urgency to urgency may end up living life for a purpose they never intended.

3. Who raises your children?—Depending on what generation you are from, your opinion on this may vary significantly. Most optometrists who are married live in a dual-income household where children are under the guidance of daycare. Some families choose to have one parent stay home to raise the children, whereas others have chosen to provide their children with the best care from those outside of their immediate family. Balancing life and career is a very difficult decision when raising children. Calculating the cost of this decision is important now so you don’t live with regrets later.

Many new ODs graduate from optometry school faced with an exorbitant amount of debt. With women making up a greater percentage of each graduating class, they are faced with the challenge of balancing life and career. Men also find themselves facing the same challenges as they must balance life and career in homes where the spouses share responsibilities.

I wish I could say I have it all figured out; unfortunately, I don’t believe it ever gets figured out. To me, it is like guiding a large vessel at sea: small corrections during the journey significantly affect the final outcome.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the AOA.

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