A little more than three months ago, my husband and I were blessed to bring another little boy into the world and into our family. While our first son certainly initially turned our world upside down, I thought I had pretty much figured this motherhood thing out. I assumed one kid + one kid = 2 times the work, right?
I was sorely mistaken. In my new world, 1 + 1 = 17. Needless to say, I was wildly unprepared for exactly how much a second child would impact our family, our household or my career. Here are five ways the second kid has affected my viewpoint as a veterinarian:
1. On Clients
We’ve all heard the statistics of owners retaining only a fraction of what we’re telling them in the exam room. If they have multiple kids with them, then divide that statistical number by 5 and subtract another 7 or 8, because there is just no way they’re getting it.
Even if they heard it over the begging for the smartphone from the toddler, the crying from the baby and the clamor of the veterinary clinic as background ambience, they certainly can’t retain it when they’ve also filled their brains with the endless to-do list that accompanies parenthood.
My solution? Write. It. Down. I was already a huge fan of report cards before Baby Dos arrived. I try to quickly complete my records while the owner is checking out and present them with a one page summary using our software’s templates by the time they’re done.
Now, I’m taking it a step further. In addition to the printed summary, I’m emailing it to them. That way, they don’t have to worry about losing one more piece of paper, can share it quickly with their spouse or partner, and have it easily accessible when they do have an extra few minutes to review it without distraction.
2. On Patients
I have a newfound admiration and respect for pets in households with children. How utterly terrifying for them, right?! In our house, the arrival of our first born four years ago brought new noises, smells and schedules. Now, it’s utter chaos most of the day and night. Routine is laughable, sounds ranging from crying babies to Transformer imitations are constant, and no space in the house is sacred. While my dog doesn’t mind, food is frequently dropped.
Between the baby swing, bouncer and remote-control vehicles, our house is a real-life pet obstacle course. There are toys everywhere, sometimes actually falling from the ceiling (parents: if your kid asks for a splat ball, offer them literally anything else).
I’m lucky that my dog isn’t into chewing on non-edible things and is a low foreign body risk. My cats are currently settling into their new normal with the help of a secluded closet and some strategically placed calming pheromone diffusers. I’m hopeful the producers at NBC will consider a cat-style American Ninja Warrior experience soon.
That said, I look at pets in child-filled households with new respect, and new questions:
Dogs with GI signs: they could have eaten literally anything. From dropped food to Lego pieces, ingestion of pancreatitis and foreign body-inducing items have been on my floor more times than I care to admit. My dog definitely could have wolfed something down while my back was turned.
Cats with urinary issues: Where are their boxes? Do they have privacy? Are they away from the hustle and bustle? Can they get to them without being picked up by a toddler or having to climb over a PJ Masks playhouse? Do they get ANY attention or time with their adult owners? If they’re like my cat Hurricane, she’s completely terrified of coming downstairs when the kids are awake. We see her emerge from her hiding spot only late at night, and if we hadn’t arranged for a new second litterbox location upstairs, I’d be doing even more laundry and cleanup.
Pets with possible pain: In a house with kiddos, anything is possible. I am hyper-sensitive to the potential injury of either canine or tiny human in my own house. Despite extensive precautions, it’s still happened on both ends. The behavior of a child and the behavior of a scared or hurt pet are equally unpredictable, and when put in a confined space together, accidents can’t be entirely avoided.
In a split second a child could intentionally or unintentionally hurt a pet by picking them up, stepping on them, attempting to love on them and invading their space, or a million other possible scenarios.
If pain is potentially on the table, we have to treat it, and we have to prevent it in older pets that may be more sensitive. It’s our job as veterinarians to protect not only animals, but their people and the public as well. Pain control has always been a no-brainer for me, but I now see how quickly and easily these accidents could happen, and how someone, two- or four-legged, could get hurt.
3. On colleagues
Man, I love my work family. I have truly been so lucky. I’m back to work after my maternity leave, and my entire team has been exceptionally accommodating to my new schedule as my husband and I are figuring out how to best juggle two jobs, child care and extra-curriculars. Before our second son arrived, if one of us wasn’t able to do daycare pickup, the other was usually free.
Now, that person likely has the other kiddo, or is pulling a later work shift to accommodate our new schedules. Between summer camps, daycare, doctor visits, two work schedules and family commitments, I had to break down and buy an actual planner. Now, I’ve got the written planner, a refrigerator calendar, and the most elaborate color-coded, ultra-synced Google calendar you’ve ever seen.
How it affects my relationship with my co-workers: I’ve already run late a handful of time and had to switch several shifts with my colleagues to accommodate this new life, and we’re only three months in. My receptionists have been awesome about scheduling me breaks to pump.
Several technicians have been kind enough to take on diaper and bottle duty on the occasions when I’ve had to bring the bambino along for some paperwork or meeting. The entire staff has been kind, understanding, and willing to help.
The lesson here is that not only do I have a renewed appreciation for these people, but the realization that, if at all possible, I need to be flexible in accommodating their schedules and supportive of their outside lives too. Since my return, I’ve been trying to pick up any shifts or make any schedule trades that I can with my colleagues.
In addition to it being common courtesy, it’s clear that the possibility of a kiddo doctor appointment, school event or change in babysitter availability is now doubled, and it’s likely I’ll need to call on them for a favor soon. I’m hoping that by building up this “schedule karma,” the generosity and patience of my colleagues will continue.
4. On Continuing Education
Hi, my name is Caitlin, and I’m a huge nerd. I love continuing education events, from the lunch and learns/dinner lectures to the local specialist lectures to the national conventions. I love learning about new products, new research and ways I can bring better care to my patients. But now…. it’s not as easy for me to justify taking time away from my family.
Don’t get me wrong– the interest and the desire to learn is still there. And sure, my husband can handle both boys for a few hours for a dinner lecture. But for an entire three or four days? Truthfully, he totally can, but I don’t want him to have to. And I don’t want to be away from them for that long, at least not right now.
For the evening and weekend mini-lectures, these are sometimes still ok, but if my husband has something going on or we’ve had another weeknight activity that has disrupted our routine, I’m gonna be a hard pass on those. Sorry, reps, but babysitters don’t come cheap these days and while I’d love to learn, if I’m paying a sitter I’m going to be somewhere with live music and cold beer.
My new solution? I’m still going to conferences, because that’s part of my actual job, and I do love them. But, sometimes the kids and hubby are going to come too, like they did when I recently went to AVMA and a recent state lecture. And online webinars are my new friend…but on the replay. Lately I’ve found myself registering for webinars but missing them at their launch time. Luckily for most of them, I’ve been able to catch the replay after the kiddos are in bed and I could finally relax.
5. On Scrubs…
Can we just say how awesome it is to have a profession in which it is perfectly acceptable to essentially wear glorified pajamas to work? I have a new found appreciation for a scrubs-only wardrobe, because, despite the breastfeeding, seemingly endless walk/bouncing of a newborn around my living room and literally climbing a tree after my four-year old, the LB’s just aren’t falling off like they used to and I need that extra stretchy waistband. #takemymoney #dotheymakesscrubswithspanx
Having a second child has definitely affected my viewpoints on many things, including how I view aspects of my job as a veterinarian. I’m taking it day by day and enjoying both the quiet moments and the chaos because I know it won’t last forever. Someday soon I’ll long for the squishy cheeks and the requests to cuddle up and watch Lego Batman (again). So in the meantime, I’ll keep plugging along and work every day to be a little bit better of mom and veterinarian.