April 23, 2018

Hi all. It is our great pleasure to introduce Jérémie Gaudichon, MD and PhD-to-be from France. He has agreed to write about work/life balance from a male perspective, and we are very grateful for his contribution to the blog.

Hi everyone! My name is Jérémie. I am a pediatrician and I am currently in the third year of a PhD in biology that I am doing in Rennes (France). I’m going to share my experience and views on work/life balance as a Young Investigator in pediatric oncology. I suppose that views can diverge from one person to another and within different life periods for one person. As the years go passing by, you can change your mind and see work/life balance and personal life differently. As we are talking about a balance, I imagine you can equilibrate differently this balance, put more weight on one side or on the other, according to your own past experiences, the needs of your current life and the ambitions you have for your future.

In my case, I have put my work first for a long time. I don’t know if I was already insane before starting med school, but I am sure that medicine made me crazier than I ever was! During my medical studies, I became more and more convinced that I was gambling with my future life. If I failed only once, it would have meant being a homeless shameful despicable loser! So, I worked a lot, looking constantly at the others, believing that I would be a bad doctor as I felt they succeeded better than me…

I chose to become a pediatrician and I worked very hard to specialize in pediatric oncology. But no matter how much I worked, I kept thinking that I would never be the doctor I wanted to be, that I would never be as talented and successful as the ones I could admire. So I worked, I worked and worked! I was in an infernal wheel – I had put myself in an infernal wheel I felt I could never stop. As this wheel was turning always faster and faster, I was forgetting my personal life. I was forgetting my closest friends and family as I was becoming less available for them. And most importantly, I was forgetting my own health!

Then I started my PhD… It bluntly stopped the wheel. I didn’t have to be on call anymore. I had no patients to manage. I was not drowning in a sea of you-must-arrange-that-urgent-work-for-tomorrow-please-do-not-ever-sleep anymore! I am not saying that my PhD felt or feels even now like a holiday, but the goals, the timescale of the work has changed.

Obviously, it perturbed me a lot. I usually had so much to do in so little time and now so much work but with so many ways to achieve it and so much time to think about it, that I was completely shaken! I first felt empty and pointless. And I progressively realized that the past years were just crazy. My PhD brought me a new perspective, a new way to see life.

I understood that work is not necessarily the most important thing in the world, that work must be first and foremost a pleasure. To enjoy your work, I believe that you have to enjoy the moments you have outside work. I have no doubt that the life you live with your girl/boyfriend, your family, your friends, your children (I do not have children yet, but I can imagine) will help you to find the strength to face up to your work. As your work gives a meaning to your life, I assume your personal life gives a meaning to your work. To summarize my thoughts, you have first to feel good in your life to feel good in your work. You have to take care of yourself before giving all you have at work. I am sure that it is the best way to achieve a more efficient and a good work. So, it is my point of view right now, and I am glad that the wheel has stopped to allow me to think about work/life balance. There is no doubt I will see it in a slightly different way in the future. But I hope never to forget the question I’m asking you now: in our kind of job, how can you allege to be able to take care of others if you are unable to take care of yourself?

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