This post is part of our series meant to encourage women in various stages of their lives to tune out the noise of society’s demands and find a balance that works for them, which in turn makes their whole families much healthier.
Meet Karen Smith, MD – family physician, wife, and mother of five.
Hi Dr. Smith! Tell us a little about your business and family.
George and I met at Texas A&M where we were both President’s Endowed Scholars. I was a pre-med major who changed to Education, thinking it would be a better fit for having a family. Then I quit college to marry George and we had Jeremy 9 months later! We went on to have 5 amazing kids, 3 girls and 2 boys. After 7 years I decided to finish my degree. I earned a Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts, and a Master’s in Education before I realized that, while my family was still my first priority, professionally I was more interested in Medicine than Education.
I went back to medical school at 35 years old, with a husband, 5 kids and a graduate degree in another field. I finished residency at 42 years old, worked for others for 5 years, and then started my own practice. I love running my company, A Family Doctor, and taking care of our patients..
As a mom of five kids, how do you find balance?
I keep a very firm set of priorities, and use them to make decisions. God comes first, along with maintaining my own spiritual, mental and physical health. Then George–I don’t want to look at each other when the last child leaves home and say, “Who are you?”. I still build my marriage every day. Then my kids’ needs–I differentiate between needs and wants, but I try to always be there for them. This is where running my own business is such a blessing–for instance, I close early on Fridays to be at football games and watch my youngest daughter perform.
Everything else comes after God and my family–and I consider everything outside the home “ministry,” whether it’s business or volunteer work. We place a high priority on patients and are absolutely committed to them. I also volunteer in several areas–at my church, at North Hills Hospital, and in our school district. I’ve never quit thinking like an educator, and I teach classes at church on a range of subjects. But when there’s a conflict, I use principles and my list of priorities to make choices without guilt.
What tips do you have for making sure a working mom stays healthy while juggling work and family?
Church helps me by providing opportunities to hang out with other women and build relationships. You have to have relationships with other girls. My church also helps keep me focused on the principles I believe in, that under-gird everything I do. If I start getting off-track, it seems something gets said to remind me of my priorities.
What tips do you have for managing your time in the midst of so many responsibilities?
Take care of yourself–spirit, mind and body. It’s not selfish. It’s stewardship. If you put first things first, other things fall into place.
How has being a working mom made you view sleep/rest differently?
I actually have made it a priority. When I was in training to be a doctor, I could rarely sleep more than 5 hours a night, and on-call only about 2! I was able to do it, but no one should do that forever. Now I actively plan for 8-9 hours of sleep every day. My absolute minimum is 5 hours, even on truly busy days. It’s part of taking care of my body and keeping my heart sane.
What mistakes did you make that you wish you could go back and fix?
I would spend even more time with my kids. It just goes so fast. If you keep yourself healthy, there’s plenty of time later for everything else you enjoy.
What advice do you have to fellow women?
Learn to say no. It’s how you prove you have priorities.
What is the hardest part of maintaining balance in your life?
Making time to exercise.
What does a balanced life for you look like?
I like Steven Covey’s First Things First for an approach to maintaining balance. It’s a constant effort to not be ruled by the “urgent” little details every day (obviously I’m not thinking of medical emergencies). A balanced life has time for reflection, time for quiet, time for solitude. Then you go out re-charged to help others. I enjoy both the busy and the quiet times!
To working moms reading this, what advice do you have for moms in Dr. Smith’s shoes? Remember – we want to build each other up and encourage each other to live balanced, healthy lives.