This year for Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating motherhood by featuring several local moms who play important roles both in their families and the Kansas City community. These moms have encouragement for all of us as we care for ourselves, our families and our work.
First, we interviewed pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert. Natasha Burgert, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician in Kansas City. In addition to her full-time patient care hours, she is a member of the Counsel on Communications and Media for the American Academy of Pediatrics and serves as an academy spokesperson. She is also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the American Academy of Pediatrics’ parent-facing website, HealthyChildren.org. She blogs at kckidsdoc.com, and you can find her on Twitter @doctornatasha.
KCMB: Tell us about your family and a little about your path to becoming a pediatrician & mom.
NB: I knew since my teen years that I wanted to be a doctor. I am the first physician in my family, so it was a new path to learn. After graduating from University of Nebraska – Lincoln (Go Huskers!), I completed medical school at University of Nebraska Medical School. I learned how to be a pediatrician during my 3-year residency at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio. After completing residency and moving to KC, I was a mom one year later! Currently, my husband and I have 2 kids, aged 5 and 9 years.
You obviously chose a career path that requires a lot of time and energy. How do you balance your responsibilities as mom and doctor?
“Balance” is a tricky word. It implies that being a mom and a doctor are two distinct entities. In reality, I am a mom and a doctor all the time. As a full-time pediatrician, I do have the luxury of choosing my clinic hours. This allows family time to be more prioritized. However, it is my job and calling to care for children in need. It is not uncommon that I am contacted during my “time off” for patients who need help. Fortunately, my family understands those interruptions are part of my responsibilities, and part of who I am.
How do you handle the inevitable mom guilt & stress we all experience as we work to take care of ourselves as mothers, our marriages and kids?
I get stressed, stretched and pulled every week. Who doesn’t?
We know that stress affects the immune system. We also know that moms can’t get sick! Since I am around a lot of sick kids every day, I do prioritize stress reduction in order to stay healthy. I exercise regularly, eat at home as often as I can, drink lots of water (with the occasional glass of red wine), and prioritize sleep. I rarely watch TV (except if the Royals are playing – Go Blue!) to accomplish these goals.
As for guilt, that’s tricky. My feelings of being pulled and stretched are because I choose to live a full and dynamic life. Sure, I have bad days, just like the rest of us. But if I truly felt guilt about my life choices, then I would make a change. I think we all have that power.
My mom was a successful working mom to my brother and me. She provided an example of independence and success that was only amplified by the support of my father. This foundation of being a child of strong, dependable, and successful working parents has strengthened my resolve to show my children that, yes, you can be a mom (or dad) and still contribute to the world in other ways that provide value and joy.
How has being a pediatrician affected your own perspective on parenting?
My job gives me a front seat to joy and to tragedy. It makes me appreciate each day with a genuine respect for the miracle of healthy children. Kids teach us lessons of peace and resilience, if we listen. They are more powerful than we often give them credit for. All these things have molded my perspective of my role as parent and reinforce the high-stakes job of nurturing and teaching children to be happy and successful adults.
What is your advice for mothers in the trenches with young children?
Raising children is not easy, but I think it’s every parent’s goal to find joy within the experience. If the stress, guilt, balance … whatever you want to call it … is damaging the joy, I would encourage any parent to seek out help. Find the source of distress, own it, manage it, and become a better parent because of it.
Every child deserves a parent who provides stability, comfort, and unconditional love. Find that in yourself and pass it on to your children. You both will be better for it. Good luck!