Mum Life- Lessons I Have Learned in the Last Year

by Dr. Vicky Prokopiou

My most rewarding achievement is motherhood. It is harder than any degree or career demands. It’s 24/7 with no breaks, no off switch, no going home from your job. But it’s the gift that doesn’t stop giving. I’m sure that many of you can relate.

Everything in my life changed when I became a mum. My perception about life, my purpose, interactions with people, my everyday routine, and available time for my own wellbeing.

Becoming a mum is such a pivotal and precious time in a woman’s life.

My path to being a mum was assisted by IVF. I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to go through it. I think it is important for women to be able to freely talk about IVF.

I have a 3.5 yr old, 2 year old and 9 month old and I travelled 8 hours each way by car for treatment to conceive all three children. Full time work within my dental practice and caring for my family was tough. I am very lucky that I have a hands-on husband but there are still times when I feel overwhelmed.

When I realise that I have reached my limits, I tell myself that I need to pause. To stop thinking about work thoughts and endless lists of tasks to do and to focus on the present moment.

HOW TO ENJOY THE PRESENT MOMENT

Believe it or not, my life in the bush was so focussed on work that I was lacking balance. The opposite of what you’d think, right?

Starting and operating a rural practice is far more demanding than in the metro market. I had forgotten to enjoy the present moment. To stop and look around at what was on offer around me. All because I didn’t have control of my wants and could not balance my time. Most days I’d go to work early and leave in the dark. Sometimes I was even too burnt out to enjoy a walk on weekends.

Here’s how to enjoy the present moment.

  1. Look around at the beauty of that moment you’re in and enjoy it. Block off any other thoughts and really focus on whatever it is that you are doing and the people that you are with.
  2. Listen to your surroundings. Focus on the sounds of nature or the laughter of your children playing.
  3. Consciously feel your body touching the ground. Notice the force of gravity.
  4. Pause for a moment and regroup your thoughts. Think about what really matters right there and then.

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT DENTIST MUM LIFE

  • WORKING CHAIRSIDE WHILE PREGNANT

It simply was not for me, but I did work chairside regardless. I am not a very comfortable pregnant woman. My belly constantly bumped my clients’ head. I had nausea and vomiting throughout my pregnancies. No mask could hide my elevated sense of smell. My pregnancies were also not the most straight forward. I had bleeds in the first trimester of my last two pregnancies, babies between 4-5 kg. And the births involved induction & ventouse, emergency caesarean and then thankfully a smooth planned caesarean.

  • BREASTFEEDING WHILE WORKING

Breaks revolve around my breastfed baby. I worked throughout my first two breastfeeding experiences. I’d breastfeed between patients and even run 5-10minutes late when the baby needed me. In the 25 minutes that I had for lunch I would simultaneously breastfeed, pump the other side for the baby to drink while I was chairside and quickly ate a snack. 

Then I’d rush back to work and reset myself, ready for an afternoon of dentistry. If I had a spare 5 minutes I would sit at the back door of the practice in the sun with my eyes closed and imagined that I was at the beach soaking up the warm sun rays. I was exhausted.

Looking back I was a superwoman. You should realise that you or the women in your life are superhuman superwomen.

  • THE IMPORTANCE OF SLEEP and EFFECTS OF ILLNESS 

Babies and kids in general have their own routine and they are the bosses. And boy does it throw everything off when they are teething or unwell. Sleepless nights are torture. I have learned to not be stressed when evernings do not go as planned and to accept that I can’t complete any paperwork or business planning. It is so easy to get worked up, particularly when you are exhausted. Just remember that the difficult times are only transient and they will pass.

As for the next day, my plans are nonexistent as I am focused on helping the children get well and rushing to the doctor. Plus my lack of sleep catches up on me. I am not very productive anyway. But somehow when I have had to work full weeks there’s a hidden store of energy that kicks in. It is only when you stop and look back that you reflect and realise you made the impossible possible.

  • FAMILY COMES BEFORE BUSINESS

I have learned to switch off my work stress or issues when I get home. This took me many years to confidently do. My children deserve my full attention and a happy mum who is present and alert to their growing needs. The business affairs can always wait until the next day. 

How many times do we then lay in bed stressing about the negative moments of our day rather than focusing on our highlights? Yes, all too often. I often put on a meditation track to unwind at bedtime.

  • DENTISTRY IS BOTH PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY DEMANDING

As a rural general dentist and practice owner I found it took a lot of energy out of me. Managing, training, educating, performing procedures, back to back appointments, treatment planning, performing a wide variety of procedures in one day, complex treatments and everything that dentists experience daily.

  • IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO BRING UP CHILDREN

I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it. I’ve had patients eager to hold my baby in the waiting room, the dental team babysit my baby behind the reception counter. But most of all I have the help of my parents who willingly travel as far as they need to so they can be with their grandchildren.

My advice is to lean on your support network and accept what they have to offer. It could be as simple as a home cooked meal or a few hours of childcare. I appreciate any help that I can get.

MY LESSONS

This last year has allowed me to reassess my goals and make my dreams a reality. It has given me the time to think of a clear vision for my future.

With the COVID restrictions I have missed the valuable life skills that my support network gives my children. And the break that I get when they are with my children.

No amount of study or training has prepared me for being a mum. Motherhood has taught me the importance of patience,  taking time to understand the little people in my life, how to prioritise and keep healthy and how to strengthen the relationship with my husband.

I certainly felt the ups and downs of selling my practice and moving home during NSW lockdown.  It has given me the opportunity to bond with my children more than I ever thought was possible as a working mum. It has also given me space to breathe and time to plan my next moves.

I know my limits. When I need space to breathe and think, I make sure I get it. I have learned the tools to manage my stress and to reset myself when things feel like they’re all too much.

Above It is exactly where I want to be, helping other women realise their needs and strengths so that they can shine and take control of their life.

If you’d like to find out about my experience or chat about anything please reach out at hello@aboveit.com.au.

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