If I’m being honest, I was a workaholic for a lot of my life. I studied hard to get into college and then veterinary school. I’d always wanted to be a veterinarian, but two or three years into my career, I started to have doubts. I was exhausted, anxious and miserable. The job was supposed to be a forty-hour week, but my schedule was perpetually overbooked with appointments leading to habitual late nights and weekend shifts (not compensated, of course). Even though I‘d heard all about the long hours veterinarians put in, I was surprised that I felt this burnt out, this early on.
It’s not just the hours — it’s the heaviness these hours often hold. The nature of the job is that we encounter physically, mentally, and emotionally taxing things every day. Euthanasias, financially-constrained treatment decisions, emotional pet parents who ask us to help them make tough decisions, angry pet parents who blame us for the cost of care, difficult pet parents who trust the internet more than our advice, signs of abuse or neglect, patients who can’t communicate with us, perplexing cases we can’t solve — these are just a few of the weights we carry.
I wondered if I would ever be able to have the work-life balance (let alone the time and energy) to have children. I would cry before work every morning, and when I came home all I could think about were the procedures I had to perform the following day. Like a lot of people who work in healthcare, I assumed that this — living in a constant state of depletion — was just the way it was, and I would just have to find a way to survive.
It took getting physically ill for me to realize that this lifestyle was not sustainable. I had bronchitis with a cough I couldn’t shake and I couldn’t sleep. I begged my boss at the time to let me leave my shift early so I could see a doctor and they refused. As a caregiver, there’s always someone who needs me — but what about when I need care myself?
Shortly after that, it got so bad that I was vomiting and aspirating and my friends had to call an ambulance to rush me to the ER. It became clear, then, that I was literally working myself to death, and if I ever wanted to have a full life that included parenthood, something had to change.
Finding flexibility & stability with IndeVets
Around that time, another vet who I’d met in passing reached out to me about joining a veterinary relief staffing company called IndeVets that would offer me flexibility and freedom, without losing the stability of full-time employment. I’d always been interested in relief work, but didn’t want the headache of running my own business. This company handled everything and gave me full benefits — I could just do my job without having to stress out about it. The more I learned, the more strongly I felt that this was the only way to continue practicing the medicine I loved without destroying myself. I truly don’t think that I’d be doing the job I’d always dreamt of if IndeVets wasn’t a thing.
With IndeVets, I can schedule my own hours and choose where I want to work. I can leave when my shift ends. I can take three-day weekends. If I want to earn a little more money, I can add on to my hours, but it’s my choice. I now have the flexibility and the support from my workplace to go to therapy every week to deal with my anxiety, which always seemed like a luxury I couldn’t afford.
If I want to go to Portugal for ten days or to the Dominican Republic to see my relatives, I can do that. My job supports me as a whole person and it allows me to prioritize what’s important to me.
Balancing vet life and mom life
And now that includes parenthood and being present at home. When it came time for me to have my son, I got a full twelve weeks of parental leave — with the option to extend that if I wanted to. Now that I am back to work I am seeing patients four days a week and alternate between taking Wednesdays and Fridays off.
Most of my peers in the veterinary space have to make significant changes — whether that’s going part time, changing their lifestyle, or quitting their job altogether — to be able to have children. They find a way, but not without a lot of sacrifice. And the vets who continue working full-time often have to miss a lot of important moments, like their kids’ soccer games, family dinners, and holidays.
The flexibility of my work situation means I don’t have to make those kinds of sacrifices. I know that not every industry has an equivalent option, but I would encourage other people who want to have kids to seek out the right kind of workplace, one that gives you freedom and support, respects the boundaries you need for a healthy life, and makes you feel seen.
I love being an IndeVet, but at the end of the day I’m not just a veterinarian. I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend. I don’t want to have to compromise any of these parts of myself, because they all make up who I am.
Of course being a parent has its own set of challenges, but the rewards are unimaginable. My son just turned one. He’s cruising and starting to talk. I feel so very grateful that I don’t have to miss these crucial moments and milestones, because I can have a fulfilling career and a life outside of it, too.