Being a parent during vet school

Introduction

Vet school often comes at a time when students may start or considering starting a family. Some students enter vet school as parents. The demands of a veterinary curriculum make paying special attention to the needs of our children an important part of our adaptation to vet school.

Signs That Our Relationship with our Children Needs Attention

  • A sense of guilt about being away from them is affecting your studying.
  • Absence from the children is contributing to stress with your partner.
  • Your children are expressing concern about your time away.
  • You’re missing significant milestones and events in your children’s lives.
How can a busy vet student maintain and enhance relationships with children during the period when so much effort will be devoted to learning medicine?

Strategies

Find ways to involve your children in your vet school experience. So much of our effort and sacrifice is ultimately for our children. Use this as a motivating factor in your studying. Find ways of letting them know often how important they are to you.

  • Bring your loved one to campus so that they can become familiar with your environment and experience. Show them the classroom (but please avoid the hospitals, anatomy lab and pathology lab).
  • If they’re old enough, share your weekly calendar with them.
  • Schedule time with your loved one that is protected from school responsibilities. Use a calendar, write it in, and keep the commitment.
  • Consider designating time each day to devote to them (e.g., playing a game, reading a book, making a puzzle). The quality of the time spent is more essential than the quantity.
  • Do things you both have to do together to maximize time shared (e.g., exercise, prepare/ eat dinner, do the dishes together, fold laundry, take a bath, or brush your teeth together, etc.).
  • Discuss with the Office of Academic and Student Affairs options for nursing or expressing breast milk while on campus.
  • Talk often, share your day and any concerns you might have.
  • Ask for support for childcare from family or friends. Anticipate when you might need additional help (before exams) and schedule this help well in advance so family members can plan as well.
  • If your children are older, consider investing in a cell-phone for each child so they feel they can reach you when they need to when you’re not at home.

People to Talk to About Parenting in Vet school

  • Your family
  • Dr. Erin Malone, 612-625-4762, malon001@umn.edu
  • Student counseling services: (612) 624-3323
  • Student parent help center – everything from support groups to help with Christmas presents
  • GOALe mentor(s)
  • Any faculty you feel you can approach
  • Classmates, friends, and family
  • Your physician or Student Health Services

Final thoughts

Our children are so special to us. They are a precious source of love, support, and inspiration. Maintaining the meaningful relationships in our lives is what makes it all worthwhile.

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“I had my first child in [med] school. Looking back now as a resident, I know it was the right time for us to start a family. My marriage is still going strong, my sons are great, and I was still able to surf. I watch a lot less TV than the average person.”

JABSOM Student, Class of 2000

License

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Well-being Handbook by Erin Malone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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