Going through med school with little kids at home?

I’m still at the very beginning stages of choosing my educational path, but I like to look far down the road to see what roadblocks might be ahead. One thing that is causing me to hesitate is that I don’t know realistically what the day-to-day schedule is of a med student. I would love to hear from anyone who has been through this with little kids at home. My BIL is an MD, but he did his first two years before I knew him (he was in an MD/PhD program, so I met him when he was doing research, having already completed his first 2 years). Even when he went and completed 3rd and 4th year, while he was married to my sis and they started having kids, my sister was home full-time to take care of the kids. So I don’t really think I can ask for his feedback, because I think that my situation is going to be a lot different than his was.

So really, what are the hours like in your first 2 years of med school? Will I ever see my husband and kids? Will I have time to keep up with the housework, to hang out with my family on the weekends? Will I be home for dinner at night? Is the first 2 years of med school comparable to a full-time job - where I should plan on being gone from 8 to 5? If I thought that I’d be home for dinner at least half the time, and able to spend time with my family on the weekends, I think I can survive.

I’d like to think that it would more or less resemble a full-time job (minus the paycheck) in the beginning, where I would drop off the kids at school or daycare, as the case may be, and head to school (unfortunately, the two med schools are about a 50-minute drive from here). I’d expect that I would spend all day at school, and I would love, love to think that maybe the “class” part of it would wrap up by 3 or so so that maybe I could stay at school until dinnertime, studying, where I can focus on it. Then, continuing my fantasy for a minute, I would think that I could drive home (in horrible rush-hour traffic - easily an hour on the way home), eat dinner with my family, spend a couple hours with the kids, get them into bed, and then spend a couple more hours hitting the books. Weekends would be a combination of family time and studying.

Am I totally dreaming? Is that what it’s really like?

And what is 3rd and 4th year like? Is it really brutal, with 80-hour workweeks? I’m not afraid of hard work, and I’m not afraid of missing out on sleep - heck, I skimp on sleep all the time with the work that I currently do (freelance transcription). I just want to get a realistic idea of what my family life will be like if I do this. In a perfect world, I could call in some backup, in the form of a cleaning service, to handle the housework, but given that we’ll be living on one income, that’s not happening. But I have to think that I will be able to see my kids at least some every day, and that I will have time to occasionally clean the house. My husband I think will support me, except that he’ll be more helpful with the kids, less so with housework.

If I follow the track that I think I will, I expect that my youngest will be in kindergarten when I’m starting med school, and then the other two would probably be in about 4th and 8th grade.

I’m so looking forward to hearing everyone else’s experiences. I’m really excited about the idea of a career in medicine, but I want to get a realistic idea of what I’m getting myself - and my family - into.


Hi Mary,

I think a lot of it depends on where you are going to med school. There will be med schools where you may be in lecture all day and then have to study all night, and then there may be programs where you might have a more flexible schedule, with more studying done independently.

Personally (and I don’t have kids), think that dividing your time between studying and taking care of your family will be really tough. You’ll want to excel in both, but unfortunately one will suffer. Now, I know that there have been many mom’s who probably feel they succeeded, but who knows down the road. This is just my feelings. I just think that the vast amount of studying you need to do during those two years is pretty intense. Because you will have young ones still, you will need to really make sure that you have the time to study. Whatever you do, don’t do it at home thinking that the children will entertain themselves and let you study.

Personally, if I did have kids and I attempted this, I would make sure that I left home stuff separate from school stuff. I would do all of my studying either at school or another area away from home so that when I am home, I could devote the time to my family.

Best of luck!

It can be done if you treat med school as a job and arrange child care etc the same as you would if working. From my experience it is extremely difficult and requires many sacrifices but you have to be motivated and see the light at the end. I started as an M1 with a kindergartener and a husband who was still employed out of town. The support of a family is essential but if unavailable having a reliable childcare provider or have back up arrangements will help you in the event a late meeting, study session or the likes that happen past the regular day care hours. Even when home your mom duties are incorporated into the kids time (reading, homework, drawing etc). With a good routine going the kids will have few problems.

Med school with kids is tough, but it can and has been done. You will not be able to spend as much time with kids as you would like. That will not change from the day you step onto the path until you retire. On the other hand you will get some time with them.

You do need to evaluate your support systems. do you have a significant other willing to pick up some of the support?

While it is rigorous from day one, it both possible and essential to carve out family time if you wish to maintain your sanity and humanity.

On the other hand if you have a spouse who is expecting you to have supper on the table every day at 6 and the kids tucked in by 8-- You will have trouble. It takes a lot of support from all to do this. But it can and has been done.

One of my med school classmates who was also a non-trad, had two young boys at home (I believe they were 5 and 7 when she started med school). Her family lived about an hour from med school (her husband’s job kept them there), so she shared a dorm room with another non-trad friend whose family lived about 45 min away-- the three of us had gone to post-bacc together, then on to med school together. She was very efficient a getting her work done during the week so that she could go home Friday afternoon, then spend Friday night as well as Saturday and Sunday with them. She was able to make it happen. Her kids are very proud of her. In some ways, she was able to spend better quality time with them given the limited time they had together. That said, I remember many times when she felt bad because she would miss sports and school events.

I forgot to mention that our med school had lecture and lab in the morning, then we were off the rest of the day. Also, our lectures were recorded, so if you needed to, you could miss class and still hear the lecture.

Another one of my non-trad classmates who joined our class after having taken off a year to have her second child, lived with her family about 25 min from school. She was very good about getting her studying done so that she could go home. Her husband’s job was in international work, so there were times when he would be gone for 4-8 weeks at a time. She had a au-pair, but there were times when she would miss school or rotations from having to manage family.

I can’t speak fro personal experience (I have a cat), but maybe knowing that there were several people in my graduating class that did it may help.

There are lots of students at my school with families (more men than women). I had my daughter in January of my second year of med school. I took a year off and worked on my MPH and a fellow female student also did the MPH and had a baby during that year. As far as I know, we are the only female students in our class with children.

It’s tough, but doable, depending on how much study time you require. I would say that most of my fellow students with families were able to treat med school like a full time job with occasional overtime during the first 2 years and find plenty of time with their families. More and more schools have gone to recording their lectures and archiving them so they can be viewed at any time (and even sped up). Many schools have note taking services.

Third year is probably the toughest on family time of all. Some of the rotation hours are crazy. However, you learn to make the most of any time you have with your family and how to prioritize and be efficient. I’ve long since conceded that I won’t be getting the top grades on the shelf exams because I’m just not willing to give up more of my family time to study for them.