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Published on September 20, 2013

Achieving the Right Balance as a Working Mom and Spouse

Dr. Joanna T. Bisgrove shares some interesting anecdotes and tips about raising a family as a working mother

This is the third in a series of Dr. Mom blog posts. As physicians with children, our Dr. Moms will share their personal and professional insights to help you navigate your role as a parent. Learn more about our Dr. Moms.

Growing up as a child of a physician, and with a father-in-law who practices family medicine, you could say that Dr. Joanna Bisgrove’s family tree is strongly rooted in the medical field. Sharing backgrounds as children of physicians, Dr. Bisgrove and her husband often tap into their experiences growing up to raise their two young daughters, ages three and six. Here are some of the things Dr. Bisgrove does to balance her medical practice, marriage and family life.

For my husband and I, having a physician parent has always been our normal. Now it continues with our children. However, for us, the doctors were our dads, not our moms. I think it makes a difference for our girls that I am a physician and their mom. I hope it’s an example that they can be whatever they want when they grow up.

In fact, my six-year-old is very proud that her mom is one of the town doctors here in Oregon. She frequently talks about it in school – and that makes me feel good.

However, it doesn’t always work in her favor. Last year, she would routinely go to the nurse’s office at school claiming she was sick. The nurse would call me and give me the story. We would discuss it and both agree that the symptoms were more fake than real, which resulted in her being sent back to class. She found out the hard way that you can’t fool Dr. Mom.

Getting kids to eat right

I’ve discovered that a great way to get my girls to eat fruits and vegetables is to have our own garden. The girls love pulling food off a plant or out of the ground, and then eating it. My oldest likes purple carrots, and my youngest is crazy about sunsugar tomatoes. They also really get into helping out whenever we go strawberry, cherry, raspberry or apple picking. My oldest generally puts more berries in her mouth than in her basket, which is fine by me!

Finding balance is important

Here are some ways we plan our time to spend as much of it as we can with one another:

  • Weekends are for family time. Therefore, I try as hard as possible to get my work done during the week.
  • We have dinner together as a family as much as possible. We also try to eat at home as much as possible, because it’s cheaper, usually healthier and better suited than a restaurant for having family conversations.
  • I put at least one of the girls to bed every night I am home then cuddle with my husband.
  • On mutual days off, my husband and I do a lunch or afternoon date.
  • We regularly tap into our excellent roster of baby sitters. Also, we drop both girls at the “Parents’ Night Out” run by their gymnastics program once a month, and then go to dinner and/or a movie.
  • Each year, we take at least three vacations. One with my family. One with just the four of us. And one where my husband and I drop the kids off with my parents and fly somewhere for a week by ourselves.

Remembering special moments

A few years ago, we told our oldest daughter about the different kinds of “owies.” Little owies are the ones that mommy or daddy can take care of. Big owies require going to the hospital.

When I was in labor with our younger daughter, we took our oldest to the hospital with us while we waited for friends who were going to take care of her. On the way to the hospital, our daughter looks at my husband and asks, “Daddy, what’s wrong with mommy?” To which I replied, “Mommy is having a BIG owie!”

Here’s another family story

When my eldest daughter was 15 months old, she got very constipated and uncomfortable while we were on a family trip. So we bought some prune juice. The following morning, my husband got up and gave her 4 oz. of prune juice with 4 oz. water. Thirty minutes later, I realized she needed prune juice and gave her 6 oz. with 2 oz. of water. Thirty minutes after that, my mother thinks “poor baby, she needs prune juice” and gave her 8 oz. straight up.

My parents, brother, nephew and I went out and left my husband and sister-in-law with the two babies (my daughter and niece). My daughter then had what can only be described as a “volcanic explosion of you-know-what,” which left a huge mess and an unhappy husband cleaning it up. When we got home, my husband confronted me – that’s when we realized both of us had given her prune juice. Then my mother hears us talking and goes “uh oh...”

Three good recommendations

  • A friend taught me an awesome way to relieve a clogged duct while breastfeeding. Use a handheld electric massager over the clog to help break it up. Seriously, it works!
  • The best book I have read on behavior and discipline for children ages two through twelve is “1-2-3 Magic” by Thomas Phelan.
  • The Young Star Day Care Rating Service is a great way to check on most day care services in the state. It gives a comprehensive look at the learning environment. It also reveals whether or not the day care center is up to date on safety inspections, and if there have been any recent code or rule violations.

Make time for yourself

Too many mothers put everyone and everything ahead of their own health and well-being. I always use what I call the “lifeguard’s rule.” My husband and I are former lifeguards and we learned in our training that you should never go into the water to save someone unless you can keep yourself safe. Otherwise, two people will be drowning. The moral of the story is: if you don’t take care of yourself, you will go down and take everyone who depends on you with you.

We invite you to comment on this article or to ask Dr. Bisgrove a (question.)

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