Jooyeun Chung, M.D. endured intense schooling and training to become a surgeon specializing in weight-loss surgery. And she did so while starting a family and raising four kids, who range from infant to age 8. Dr. Chung shares how she juggles family and a demanding career.

Since we were both going into careers in surgery, my husband, who is a spine surgeon, and I decided we wouldn’t start a family until after we finished our residency and fellowships and became “real doctors.” We knew that our lives would be incredibly hectic during that training period. However, in the third year of my residency, I got pregnant, so there went that plan. I had Katherine as a third-year resident, Gabe 2 years later when I was chief resident, and Conner as a fellow. I just had my fourth child, Max, in March.

Having a baby during residency was challenging to say the least—I trained before the 80-hour workweek limit became law. Fortunately, my dad relocated from California and helped us out with the baby for 2 years. I had peace of mind knowing that the baby was being well taken care of while I was at the hospital for ungodly hours.

The world of surgery has changed a lot with the influx of female residents into the field, but it is still a man’s world. So when I got pregnant, I didn’t want to be labeled. I didn’t want to be the female resident who “slacked off” after she got pregnant. I hate to say it, but when I was at work, I couldn’t think about my kids. It was all about being at the top of my game.

I’m very fortunate that I have excellent childcare. As a result, I can concentrate on just being a doctor when I’m at work. When I’m home, I am all mom. Unless I’m on call, my nights and weekends are entirely dedicated to being a mom.

I think it’s important for working parents to focus on their marriage, especially if both are very busy. Before the new baby came along, my husband and I used to have a date night once a month. We’d leave the kids at home and go to dinner, a movie, even just drinks after work. We tried not to talk about the kids or work, but they both inevitably come into the conversation!The biggest challenge in being a working mom is juggling everything and not feeling guilty. You try to do it all but realize that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. For example, it’s OK to have some dirty dishes in the sink by the time you go to bed. Focus on the big picture. Take one day at a time; you’re going to have good days and bad days. Accept that you are going to feel guilty. When you’re at home, you’re going to feel guilty about things you should be doing at work. When you’re at work, you’re going to feel guilty that you’re not at home kissing and hugging your kids. Just concentrate on your long-term goals and what makes you happy. I’ve read and heard from other career-oriented women that they feel happier when they are working, which in turn allows them to be better mothers. I couldn’t agree more. I know that I’m a happier person when I’m working as a surgeon, and that makes me a better mom to them.


Working Mom’s Survival Guide

READ | I Don’t Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson. Working mothers will understand the day-to-day craziness of Kate Reddy, who tries to balance a high-powered job, small kids and a house in need of repair in this amusing read.

DOWNLOAD | Cozi, a free app that lets you create shareable calendars, task lists, grocery lists, and more with your family to better manage the chaos.

EAT | Chocolate. Well, dark chocolate, that is. The flavonoids in it are thought to reduce stress.

DO | Something for yourself each day. Whether a bike ride or a bath, pencil in a few minutes every day to do something you enjoy.

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