Today, I have a new interview in my Balanced Interview Series to share with you. Meet Barbara, AKA the Tired Superheroine. I initially “met” Barbara online and then in person at the most recent FinCon in Washington DC, and we really enjoyed each other’s company. We connected over some deep discussions of family, work, and finance, I asked her if she would participate in my interview. Check out her responses below.
In a few sentences, tell us about yourself (age, job, family, hometown, etc.)
I’m an interventional radiologist (IR) in the Southern California desert. Originally from New Jersey, and a daughter of immigrants, I grew up in a rural suburb, where my biggest dream was to live in a detached house with its own yard. I met my husband while traveling during residency, and he followed me to Los Angeles for fellowship. That’s how we ended up in Palm Springs. We’ve lived and worked here for 5 years now. During that time we had our son Wesley, who will be two in November. After maternity leave, I became Chief of Interventional Radiology, and later, Vice Chair of our Radiology Department. I also serve as Chair of the Women in IR Section of the Society of Interventional Radiology (SIR). A year ago, I started a blog to describe my path for aspiring and training doctors, who may wonder what work-life balance looks like in a surgical field like IR.
What is one thing you’re passionate about (a thing you’re loving, something you would still do even if no one paid you/even if you have limited time, or a hobby you really care about)?
Learning to write and share this common journey: that of the mom on call. It has been a new way to learn and grow, while flexing my creativity. I am passionate about building my site as a resource for doctors who resonate with my message, so they can draw confidence from it when they need it most.
What does balance mean to you (how do you find balance between work, home, community, and self?
Balance means living according to your values and priorities. For me, this has meant periodically checking in with myself and those closest to me, to evaluate the balance, and tweak it as needed. The way we’ve set up the day to day routine also needs to align with larger goals, for instance:
- Raising a healthy boy
- teaching Wes to swim
- getting him outside daily for toddler-friendly adventures
- paying attention to his diet
- Providing and directing interventional radiology care at my institution
- showing up on time
- working with colleagues, administrators, staff, to hone the quality & safety of patient care
- Tending to the relationship with my husband
- Optimizing our finances
- my S-corporation: learning, optimizing
- tax advantaged moves
- networking, learning, growing, saving
- Helping aspiring and training doctors find work-life balance and financial empowerment
Have you experienced any tradeoffs in your practice of balance?
I’ve chosen to work less in favor of other pursuits. As a result, I end up in the 0.75 FTE (full time equivalents) range. Although I love interventional radiology, I feel there is more to me and more to life than my work as an IR. Working less means less income than my potential. However, I also know the diminishing returns of working more, so that extra work is taxed at a higher marginal rate (puts you in a higher tax bracket). That means that extra work I do ends up netting us a lower hourly rate. Since extra work can also affect balance negatively, working less than 1 FTE makes sense for me right now.
Other trade-offs are between committee involvement in the Society of Interventional Radiology, and working on my blog, in exchange for less time with my family. This trade-off can be challenging during busy weeks/ months. Therefore, if I’m swamped, sometimes I’ll miss a conference call, or I’ll add some space in my blog editorial calendar.
Describe your perfect “average” day. (How does your everyday day flow if everything goes well)?
On a perfect day, I wake up rested. I learn something, and I accomplish something. I connect with my family, and eat healthy, delicious food. On the best days, I share laughs with family, friends, and staff. The perfect day is not stress-free, because a successful interventional radiologist must embrace stress. I believe eustress, or “good stress,” helps me perform at my best.
What are your go-to tools for self-care?
- Insight Timer, a free meditation app. I love 30+ minute guided meditations, and frequently fall asleep to them.
- Tinted moisturizer.
- Hospital grub, choosing as healthily as I can.
- Pomegranate green tea each afternoon.
- My Bob jogging stroller.
What is one morning routine you do that keeps you grounded and happy?
Hit snooze. Take my time getting ready for the day, sipping coffee. On the way to work, I listen to a podcast or an audiobook.
Any decisions you’ve made that have negatively impacted your balance? If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?
In the past, I worked too much, and I lacked the agency to do anything about it. We were under-staffed. Life was extremely out of balance. The staffing at my institution has improved over time, and now I have the schedule of my choice. It has worked out well. If I were to do it over again, I could choose a different position, but I’m not sure I would.
What is one habit, tool, or item you’ve brought into your life within the last 6 months that has helped with your practice of balance?
Focusing on self-care at work, since I spend so much time there. Self-care shouldn’t be limited to when you have time for a pedicure or a yoga class, although those are lovely. For me, in the last 6 months, self-care at work has meant:
- Fasting each morning until at least 11:00
- Stockpiling fluids at my desk so they’re always available
- Allowing myself to slow down or take a break if I need it
- Piling on the baby spinach, tea, and bubbly water
- Moderation with the ubiquitous fried food, sugar available
- Honing leadership skills and work relationships
How can people contact you if they want to know more?
Barbara is an anomaly in many ways. She’s a woman working in a male-dominated field, and she’s a proponent of self-care and work-life balance in a surgical specialty (not exactly known for affording its specialists with a good lifestyle). She’s consciously seeking to share her own practice of balance, one that she’s refined over her years as a physician trainee turned leader AND a mom, with others through her blog. Go, Barbara!
Have something to share about your own practice of balance? Want to be interviewed on this series? Let me know in the comments or contact!