I am excited to announce that I recently became a new mom. I am currently taking some time off from work to stay home with my son. I worked until I was 39 weeks pregnant. It’s been such a wonderful, unique, and challenging time in my life, and I am excited to share some of it on the blog, in case there are some dentists out there considering having children and wondering how it would affect their job.
About 12 weeks into to my pregnancy, I started letting people know the good news. Everyone at the office was extremely excited and supportive. At that point, I asked the advice of some of my fellow female colleagues who have had children while working. Everyone I asked told me they worked until the very end of their pregnancy (I know, I was impressed) and took varying amounts of time off ranging from two weeks to six months. While I am still deciding how much time I will take off from the office, I was hoping to work until the end of my pregnancy as well.
Luckily, I had an easy and healthy pregnancy with minimal morning sickness. I ordered some generously fitting maternity lab coats and most patients did not even notice until the last couple of months. After a certain point, I was spending the first 5 minutes (sometimes more) chatting about being pregnant with my patient prior to their appointment. Some patients would not mention it (I appreciated that), some would just say congratulations (my favorite), and some would ask too many questions. I am sure they meant well, but I generally hate talking about myself. Being pregnant only made this personality trait stronger and, by the end of the day, I was mentally drained and did not want to talk to anyone at all. This was the hardest part for me, even more so than doing dental work with a big belly in the way.
Being pregnant seemed to portray a more mature image of me to my patients. I would occasionally get questions about my age (I am, unfortunately, NOT 22, but thank you for the compliment), but there were absolutely zero inquires when I was noticeably pregnant.
When you are a male dentist and expecting you first child, not much changes for you in terms of your work life. Sure, you will take a week or two off when the baby arrives, and perhaps scale back your hours once you have children to come home to, but you don’t have to. Nobody will know you are expecting a child unless you tell them, so you can maintain separation between your personal life and your professional one. When you are a female, everything is kind of out in the open and you become vulnerable to people’s opinions and suggestions before you even have a chance to form any of your own. Well-meaning patients would exclaim, “Wow, I cannot believe you are still working,” or “Hopefully you will have a chance to stay home and spend some time with the baby.” I had to assure them I would be back to complete their work after the baby was born. I can pretty much guarantee no male dentist has ever gotten these types of questions while expecting a child.
This year, I made it a goal to complete my AGD fellowship requirements before the baby was born because I knew my free time would be MUCH more limited. Instead of traveling to attend my usual dental meetings and courses, I stayed home, put my feet up and spent a decent amount of time watching CE videos from the comfort of my living room. I learned a lot, but I missed seeing all the dentist friends that I have made over the years.
Since being home, I have met many new moms in my community. Most are taking the standard maternity leave that their company provides (usually three months paid), and some take an additional three months of unpaid leave. As a dentist, you mainly work for yourself so the amount of leave you take depends on your personal preference. From a financial and logistical standpoint, it makes no sense for me to stay home with the baby when I could hire a nanny or use a daycare service. However, from an instinctual and emotional point of view, it makes no sense to hire someone else to take care of MY child. The past six weeks with him at home have been great. Sure, there are the obvious challenges associated with having a newborn, but they are completely manageable. This work/life issue is one many moms struggle with, particularly those who have worked hard to establish the careers they love. I am grateful that my job is flexible, and will allow me to work part time for as long as I need to. As of right now, I plan on returning to work in July, and I am hoping for a smooth transition. Wish me luck!
Lilya Horowitz, DDS