3 A good sense of humor will save your sanity.
Once, on a cross-country family trip, we decided to drive late into the night to cover more distance. At one point my toddler
daughter awoke and insisted urgently that we stop. As I stood next to this little girl on a plastic potty in the grass beside
the rural highway, my desire to be home surged.
"Are you almost done?" I asked after a few moments.
"No," she replied.
"What about now?"
"It will be a while." She paused and then asked, "Daddy, why do men have nipples?"
My irritation bloomed like heartburn after lunch at a Mexican buffet—and then it faded as I cracked up. Laughter can be our
best alternative to losing our cool.
I once saw this in practice while working with an outstanding veterinarian. He had an open appointment slot right at the time
a patient came in needing treatment for a laceration. But the pet owners were so adamant that they didn't want to see this
particular veterinarian that they elected to pay an additional fee to see an emergency doctor instead. The technician brought
the medical record back to the emergency doctor and stopped to ask my colleague, "What did you do to these people?!" Rather
than act hurt, he laughed and said, "I have no idea, but I certainly made an impression."
Like our children, our profession can humble us and even make us come unhinged if we let it. Let's not forget that we always
have the option to laugh, even if it's only in private.
4 Remember your priorities.
Last weekend my family was getting ready for a trip to the zoo. As we filed outside to the car, my daughter emerged from the
house holding my iPhone triumphantly above her head in both hands. "Daddy! Look what I brought you!"
When we think about what we really want from life, most of us don't intentionally prioritize heavy caseloads, phone calls
to return or an overflowing email inbox. Yet when we focus on day-to-day living, it is often these realities that claw their
way to the top of our to-do lists. The things we mean to prioritize, such as happiness, personal freedom and strong relationships
with family, can get pushed aside.
My daughter was incredibly proud that she'd found the gadget that's almost always attached to me, especially because of the
importance I seem to place on it. Meanwhile I was disappointed that I had let the value of something so trivial become central
in my daughter's perception of my priorities. I thanked her for being so thoughtful, then asked her to put the phone back
inside. I didn't want to be bothered by it on our big outing.
For most of us, there will be days when we miss seeing our children because of work. There will be aspects of work that seep
into our personal lives, taking up our time and occasionally hijacking our emotions. It's to be expected, but it doesn't have
to be accepted as the norm.
As I finished faxing my medical notes regarding the exploratory surgery to the emergency clinic, I decided that I wasn't sorry
I had stayed late to help this pet and his owner. I was, however, going to make sure I made the evening up to my kids the
next night and that weekend by conveniently losing my iPhone a few times.
Dr. Andy Roark practices in Ijamsville, Md. He is the founder and managing director of veterinary consulting firm Tall Oaks Enterprises.
Follow him on Facebook or @DrAndyRoark on Twitter.