Parenting and practicing in a global pandemic: DVM Mom Q&A

November 19, 2020
Kelsey Gustafson, Associate Editor
Kelsey Gustafson, Associate Editor

Two working DVM moms answer questions from attendees at the Fetch dvm360® virtual conference.

During a live session at the Fetch dvm360® virtual conference last week, practicing veterinarians Stephanie Hickey, DVM, and Kim Bishop, DVM, co-founders of the DVMoms Facebook group, sat down with Liz Bales, VMD, to answer attendees’ questions about motherhood, mental health, and more.

Q: As a veterinarian mom, what has changed the most for you? What is it like having on-site daycare?

Bishop: Our practice owner owns a separate building that has an empty room. This is where we opened the daycare for our children. It worked well for us considering we all had school-aged children—we didn’t have to worry as much about safety issues. I think it’s brilliant for a practice to offer daycare services. There is a sense of safety in having your children closer during a pandemic. It also alleviates that other challenge you face as a veterinary parent: trying to map out how you’re going to get to daycare and pick up your kid in time to avoid late fees. Sometimes our end-of-day patients get short shrift because we have to leave on time. Having an on-site daycare mitigates some of these challenges.

Q: Are you doing anything special with childcare?

Hickey: So, my child is in third grade and he was in public school last year. When COVID-19 hit, his school closed. For about a solid month, there was no virtual learning offered. So, my husband stepped up as his teacher, which didn’t go well. So, I had to really think, ‘What am I going to do with this kid?’ I loved the public school system, but it wouldn’t have worked out for me to have him in virtual schooling in the fall. I always told myself I would never put my kid in private school because I grew up in public school. But, I’ve put him in a small private school so he can be in school with his peers. So far, that’s going very well. He’s still learning and he’s happy.

Q: Juggling our personal lives, along with the stress induced by our clients, can be challenging. What do you do when your clients are beating up on your staff? What do you say?

Hickey: I have fired more people in the last 6 months than I have in my 6 years of practice ownership. I tell them that we are not a good fit if they can’t be kind. At the end of the day, my staff’s feelings are more important than theirs. I’m pretty blunt about that. Then, I hand them back their records and say, “bye.” I don’t feel bad about that at all.

Q: How do you manage your children’s emotions while at work?

Bishop: Out of the 4 veterinarians at my practice, 3 of us have children and there is a total of 5 kids. Luckily, all of our children get along pretty well, although we have had more hurt feelings due to this prolonged quarantine situation. We use the same mediation techniques with our kids that we use with our staff members and clients. I feel like I’ve mediated as many arguments between boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife, or child and parent in an exam room over a treatment plan, as I have between children over what movie to watch.

Q: What is your biggest concern? Being a good mom? Being a good veterinarian? Being good at both but failing? Being good at both and doing okay enough? Or, none of the above?

Hickey: Being a good mom. Every decision I’ve made in the past few months have been focused on one question: ‘Am I failing my kid?’ Being a veterinarian and practice owner hasn’t changed for me, aside from the mask-wearing, curbside, and client tension. Most of my decision-making surrounds my kid.

Bishop: My personal story is a bit different. I recently received a diagnosis that will now require me to balance my health, being a veterinarian, and being a mother. I’m trying to find a way to hold all of those balls in the air. I read something I’ve taken to heart. As moms and veterinarians and anything else, we have a million balls in the air, but the balls are not the same. Some are made of glass, some of rubber, and others, of something in between. If you have to let a rubber ball fall to the ground to catch a glass ball, do it.

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