For as long as I can remember, I have been an overachiever. It wasn’t enough to get an ‘A’ in a class, I wasn’t happy unless I had the top grade. In high school, I did a little bit of everything: student council, band, track, National Honor Society, church youth group, I tried it all and worked hard enough that I was successful at all of it.

Naturally, I graduated from veterinary school with dreams of having it all. Having it all is different for every person. For me, my “all” included a successful career as a veterinarian, a perfect marriage, being a leader in my community and in the veterinary field, staying in shape, close friends, fancy vacations, and of course adorable, perfectly behaved children.

As I began my veterinary career, things started out well. I worked at a great clinic and was building up clientele. I was training for a marathon and taking cake decorating classes in my free time. I met my husband-to-be and we planned our dream wedding in Hawaii. Life was going just as I had hoped. But about a year after we married, we decided to have children and that is when my dream of having it all came to a screeching halt!

We had three children in five years and I was running my own small animal veterinary hospital. The combination of these two things became all consuming. There was no time for hobbies, vacation, exercise, or anything else on my list. Once all three of my children were in school and the fog of babies and toddlers was lifted, I started to look around and compare myself to people I knew. One friend had just published a book. I’ve written a few articles, why haven’t I written a book yet? Another friend qualified to run the Boston marathon. Why can’t I find time to train for a marathon?

My vet school classmates are specialists or running large five doctor practices. I’m only a general practitioner running my small 1.5 doctor practice just south of nowhere. My Facebook feed was packed with other people’s European vacations. What happened to the girl that dreamed of having it all? Suddenly I found myself chauffeuring kids to soccer practice, serving ice cream at the school open house night, and chaperoning a sleepover at the zoo with a bunch of third graders.

Just as I was feeling really disappointed in myself, I picked up one of the many veterinary magazines sitting on my cluttered desk. I came across a small article written by Dr. Lisa Radosta. Hidden in that article was a sentence that changed everything. Her friend and mentor Dr. Debra Horwitz had given her a great piece of advice “Women can have it all, but we just can’t have it all at once.”

Those words spoke deeply to me and I felt like a huge weight was lifted. As the book of Ecclesiastes says “for everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” There will still be time to write a book, to further my career, to travel the world, and take on new hobbies. Right now, my priority is my family. I have eighteen short years with my children before I send them off into the real world. They need my love, attention, and guidance. They need me as a role model, to show them it is possible to have a successful career along with a happy marriage and family, but that there needs to be balance. My family needs to come before my career aspirations, my desire to be at the top of everything I do, and to be a leader in my field.

I will be happy with my successful but tiny veterinary practice, doing a few projects in my community, running for fun, and writing an article when I feel inspired because I will be spending the rest of my time at the ball field cheering on my son, chaperoning my daughter’s knowledge bowl team, and baking valentine cookies for the first graders. My dreams and aspirations are still there waiting in the wings until it is their time. Until then I will be content and remind myself that I can have it all, just not all at once.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the editorial team.

Dr-pic-1-604x917ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Jennifer Shepherd received her DVM from Colorado State University in 2000. She is currently the owner and head veterinarian at Cloquet Animal Hospital, a small animal practice in Cloquet, Minn.

When she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her husband Paul, three children, and her dog Coal.