I recently found myself surrounded by over thirty women, in many different stages of life, but who all shared my chosen career of physician. As a fledgling medical student, it was quite the honour to have been invited to the annual female physicians Christmas party. There was a gift exchange, home-made appetizers, and a chocolate box or two, but the ultimate treat was meeting real women living out their vocation–my vocation–five, 10, 25 years beyond my current stage.
Pursuing a professional career can be a daunting task in itself, yet as women, we face additional challenges beyond school admissions, performance reviews, and job interviews. We must overcome the fears and expectations that we are not capable, within ourselves and also within the lingering ideas of our respective work subcultures; ideas women before us have fought to overcome. We must also consider how we will integrate the other facets of femininity into our days, roles like friend, sister, daughter, wife, and mother. We wrestle over future days and projected responsibilities, imagining the possible challenges to innate desires of traveling overseas, pursuing interests, finding a mate, or having a family.
It’s these considerations that I was able to peer into at this holiday party. As I met and conversed with several women doctors, I did not have to dream up a future as a female in my career, since I was seeing multiple versions right before me: women sharing the news of their first pregnancy to women caring for elderly parents; women newly moved into town to women nearing retirement; women accepting work referrals to women needing relief support; women who played instruments for the city’s symphony; women who loved to sew; and women planning their next vacation trip. All lived full and rich lives as female physicians.
No one can decide for us how to balance the many roles we will play in the course of our lives, but that does not mean we cannot follow the example of those who have managed before us. Just as we may borrow our grandmother’s sure-fire recipes, or a good friend’s wedding program design, we can also borrow from our mentors’ course and decisions. Hearing how other women have played their many roles, alongside working as a professional, can demystify our own future balancing-act; as long as we take care to consider how our own values and priorities may differ.
No one can decide for us how to balance the many roles we will play in the course of our lives, but that does not mean we cannot follow the example of those who have managed before us.
Even if we make a point to have a few women mentors, there is something about the extent and diversity of perspectives found in a larger get together, especially one that is multi-generational. It requires intentional effort, but we must find ways as women to share with one another our routes in life. Whether it be a female Christmas party, our colleague’s baby shower, a women’s association conference, or lunch out with ‘the girls’; let’s make it happen. We may find a new viewpoint into aspects of our own future, and eventually find ourselves giving back and shedding light on those coming after us.
Image via Darling Magazine by Daniel Collopy