What happens when the phrase "We're not saving lives here" doesn't apply to you? Dr. Marguerite Barnard is one of those people. As a specialist surgeon in training, wife, and mom to a toddler, we search for the secret to her calm composure and tips on how she stays on top of her game.
DIFRAX: Tell us a bit about yourself as a Specialist Surgeon in training and what your work entails.
MARGUERITE: It's been a long, compelling, and adrenaline-filled road for the last 14 years, since starting medical school.
I've unexpectedly found a love for the operating room ever since I set foot in the sterile world of surgery as a student. I found every excuse to assist in theatre, attend surgery courses, network with talented female surgery mentors, and learn from their tips and tricks. Now I'm becoming a general surgeon myself.
Most of my scope revolves around cancer operations, trauma, hernias, appendixes, emergency surgeries, breast and thyroid operations, cholecystectomies, and endoscopies. Knowing what I wanted to do early on made it easier for me to manage my ambition as well as give it a name and a purpose.
DIFRAX: Describe to us what a typical day in your life looks like, and how you deal with the pressures of your work while juggling family life.
MARGUERITE: My typical day doesn't have a lot of “typical” in it, unfortunately. You can plan the perfect theatre or clinic day, only to find an ICU patient decompensating and needing urgent major surgery, but it keeps you on your toes. The week is filled with being on-call, seeing sick patients, scrubbing in on major cases, and long ward rounds. Academics are also a big part of what we do, so we slot in meetings during the week. I love research so sometimes statistical meetings or conferences also get scheduled throughout my year.
Nobody is perfect at dealing with a work-life balance I guess. The important part is just to keep re-adjusting. I've found a lot of serenity in swimming, so we'll often make use of our local gym's babysitting services to get a quick few laps in. I've also gotten good at queuing podcasts that I'd love to listen to, and always keep earphones nearby. Another big advantage in our household is that we don't own a TV. It affords us a lot of extra hours in the day, but if I'm craving a good series or a movie night, there's always a laptop for that.
DIFRAX: Tell us a bit about your family and what your favourite part of parenting is.
MARGUERITE: I really didn't imagine I was going to enjoy parenting this much! We didn't go into our parenting journey with a lot of friends with kids. It really allowed us the opportunity to decide what our lives with a daughter was going to look like without people's preconceived ideas about how it should be. We love travelling, so we even hopped on a flight when Daphne was two weeks old. I don't know if it was bravery or oblivion, nevertheless, I had such a great maternity leave figuring out what our own boundaries should be. She's by far the best part of my day. After work we get on the floor, play hide and seek, and awkwardly dance around the living room, even if it's just for 5 precious minutes.
This means the world to me.
DIFRAX: What tips do you have for other moms who have extremely high-pressure jobs and are struggling to maintain a work-life balance?
MARGUERITE: The rules aren't written for you. Be brave. You are most likely never going to fit into society's mould of what parenting should be, and that might just be your saving grace. I consulted with a big mentor of mine before I decided to become pregnant during my surgical training years and her advice was the following - your daughter should be able to function without you around. If you sleep at the hospital for a week, have a deadline, or have a big meeting presentation coming up, you need to know that she is 110% safe, loved, and looked after. So that is something my husband and I never compromise on. We have a nanny that means the world to us, and an equally amazing night nanny I arrange beforehand when I'm on call. We've curated a network of close family and friends who we know she feels safe around, and that allows us the opportunity to fully commit to our work environment.
DIFRAX: What is your favourite Difrax product and why?
MARGUERITE: We recently got our hands on Difrax's soft spout cup in a cute dusty brick colour which Daphne enjoys. It fits in well with our on-the-go nappy bag and because of the unique design I never have to wonder which cup is hers at busy birthday parties.
For more on Marguerite's life and parenting tips check out her Instagram page and read her article here.