When is the best time to have children?
Video clip: Catherine knows doctors who have had babies at different times during their training. She thinks registrar time is a good time but says that women can’t plan for everything.
What messages would you give to young women who are thinking about a career in science?
I get asked this and I just, if, it depends what their hesitation is I suppose. But from my point of view, if you want to do it, you can do it. The question that I get asked is, ‘When do I choose to have my children?’ That’s what my clinical students say to me and you know, registrars, and so on and so forth and I do, I tend to fall back on the notion that you cannot plan for everything. And I think medicine tends to drive us to be in a position of control and plan, and you know, you’ve got a job plan and you’ve got a discharge plan and you’ve got a management plan and you cannot plan for that. You can’t plan for conception. You can’t plan for complicated pregnancies, you know, the chicken pox, the febrile child, you know, and those are minor complications. Little bumps along the way. So my advice is if you’re thinking of having children, don’t leave it too late. But I don’t mean that in terms of training, I mean that in terms of years.
You know, and I tend to be biological about it. And I say if you start trying to conceive at thirty seven, thirty eight, you know, it’ll be harder than if you’re thirty two. And it’s harder to bring up kiddies, you know, it’s bloody tiring bringing up kiddies. And you know, so if I were to be prescriptive I would say registrar time is the time to do it. But I have colleagues and friends who did it at earlier levels of their training and muddled along.
So Registrar time, before you finished your speciality training?
Yes. I think to do it, I would have found it very difficult to do it pre-membership, pre that big professional hurdle. And I would have found diff-, I would have found it difficult to do it at a time when no-one else was doing it. I would have found that difficult, even though, I suppose I didn’t rely on specific individuals or specific mentors, there was a, a general acceptance that that was the time it was going to happen and it wasn’t out of left field. You know, “I’m a clinical student who’s pregnant”. Although we’ve got, you know, we’ve got clinical students who’ve had babies along the way and they will reap a different kind of freedom later on because they’ve had them so much earlier. But you can’t plan for these things and you need, of the internal factors of being a woman in medicine, it’s got to be cutting yourself a bit of slack. It’s got to be, and allowing, allowing for the fact that you can’t plan everything.