Two-Part Series: Women in Dentistry:  We Juggle Different Stuff from the Men

Submitted By An Exceptional Female Dentist

When I was growing up, I can remember my parents telling me I could “Be Anything I Wanted to Be.” I always thought that this was a good message for a parent to give a child, especially a little girl.  However, I have learned that most messages need to be tempered with qualifiers. In my case, it would have been much better for me to hear: “You Can Be Anything You Want to Be, Just Remember, You Can’t Be Everything!”

I don’t know if this will resonate with many women who read this; it’s my story; maybe it will. You men may find something in here, too, that sounds familiar. We alcoholics, addicts, and co-dependents all grow up with a set of “isms.” These govern our lives until we learn that we can break free and make different healthy choices. Here’s my journey.

I was a single woman, no man in my life.

(I didn’t know how good I had it!).

I dreamed of getting married and having a family. I worked as a dental hygienist five days a week. I wanted to buy a home.

I decided to return to dental school! I became a dentist, married a wonderful man, had a baby, bought a home, bought a practice, all within the first 12 months after graduation from Dental School.

I could be anything I wanted to be, and I wanted to be it All.

It wasn’t so hard at first. Things were new and exciting. I quickly ran out of steam. Here is a list of roles I found myself trying to fill.

Keep in mind that anything less than perfect was not acceptable in my world. Secondly, if anyone knew I was afraid I would not perform to perfection, what would they think? And thirdly, when I looked around, everyone else seemed so successful. Why then was I such a loser?

Roles of the Woman Dentist:

Clinician: My most favorite, doing the dentistry

  1. patient therapist
  2. staff therapist
  3. colleague next door therapist

Business Manager:

  1. numbers, cash flow, invest/reinvestment, HR, government regulations
  2. staff leader, staff trainer, development officer, referee
  3. marketing manager, online presence, community development
  4. leadership development: don’t be the weenie

Organized Dentistry:

  1. assume a leadership role in the local dental society
  2. assume a leadership role in the district dental society
  3. assume a leadership role in state dental society
  4. serve as ADA delegate
  5. Is there anything else I could say yes to?

Community Service:

  1. Join Junior Service League in home town: Now that’s some true “other esteem”!
  2. Join local Community Foundation Board
  3. Chair the local Board of Health
  4. Serve the Church, Play Handbells, Teach Sunday School
  5. Volunteer for local Free Dental Clinic
  6. Volunteer for Missions of Mercy Clinics
  7. Volunteer for the Baptist Men’s Dental Bus
  8. Any other Boards you need a Board member for? I’m your girl!

Family:

  1. Wife, take care of husband, bring him his slippers, sex? What is that?
  2. Mother, food for the family, shopping, meal preparation, and menu planning, budgeting, clean the house, decorate the house (this is why I hate Martha Stewart; she makes me feel so inadequate. I just have to remember she has a staff that actually does all her stuff for her) Beat myself up because my house does not look like Martha’s. Take care of the children, fed, bathed, and dress for school and bed. Do homework after work with the kids. Hey, I thought I had finished school! Wash clothes and make sure the kids look right. You know they are a reflection of me, and they have to be perfect! Take kids to extra-curricular. Beat me up because they had fast food again for dinner at 8:00 pm. Arrange playdates. Arrange music lessons. Celebrate child being cast in a play in Community Theater. Once again, a reflection of me! I’m such an amazing mom for my daughter to have a speaking role in “Sound of Music”! Add in 5 nights a week of play rehearsals and more fast food. I am such a bad mother!

Daughter:

  1. Care for aging Mother with Alzheimer’s
  2. Get her ready each morning; meds, breakfast, dressed, teeth brushed, in the car, and to work with me, so we don’t have to pay for a sitter.
  3. Monitor her blood sugar throughout the day since she has diabetes and is insulin-dependent – in between taking care of my patients
  4. Take her out to lunch
  5. Get her ready for bed, bathed, meds

Friend:

  1. Girlfriends: take time to vent with them
  2. Colleagues: take time to vent with them

Pet Lover:

  1. Take time to love on them
  2. Love on them some more

Taking Care of Myself

Not only did I not know that I needed to make time for this, but I also did not care enough about Myself to make “Me” a priority.  Wonder why I crashed and burned?

In summary, my point of all this is that we all have many demands on our time. I was a woman raised in a society that leads me to believe that I should want to fulfill certain traditional female roles. I also wanted to be a full-time career dental practitioner, own my own small business and pursue all that entailed. As a dental professional, I was mentored to believe that it was my duty to contribute to the work of organized dentistry for the betterment of the dental profession. Additionally, I felt it was important for a woman’s voice to be heard in the world of organized dentistry. As a business owner in my community, I felt it was important to be involved on local boards and to volunteer as well.

I never got the message: You have to make some choices! If you say “yes” to everything, then that “yes” ceases to have any meaning. You cease to be able to do anything meaningful!

In part two: I’ll lay out my tools that this busy female dentist found useful to balance her life in recovery.

Look for Part II in the Summer edition of Caring Connections.