Tips for Balancing Work and Parenting

by Dr. Daniella Zipkin

As an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Duke University Medical Center, and mother of two toddlers, Dr. Daniella Zipkin juggles her time between work and family. Here, Dr. Zipkin offers tips based on her ability to balance these two important aspects of her life:

1. Establish consistent routines. Regular morning and bedtime routines offer a lot of stability in the lives of toddlers and small children, since they will know what to expect. If you are lucky enough to have a work schedule with regular hours, make sure you are a part of these rituals each day, to the extent that you’re able. If your shifts vary or you often work late or overnight, set clear expectations ahead of time, and consider creating a calendar system once your child is old enough to understand one. Giving the child some control by letting them look ahead at what’s coming should ease the turbulence for them.

2. Streamline mealtime. Prepare simple foods you can eat for a few nights, or try cooking on weekends and freezing foods for the week to come. Sit down each evening for a family meal so everyone can stay connected.

3. Turn off the TV, computer, and video games. These activities waste significant amounts of time you could be spending together as a family. Instead, enjoy one another’s company through group activities such as reading together, playing games, or doing puzzles.

4. Take the pressure off! It’s natural to feel some pull towards “making it up to the kids” when you do have time together, by planning special events or buying gifts. Remember that, to your toddlers and small children, the best thing they can have is time with you. Take the pressure off of your free time together, don’t worry about planning too much, and enjoy time at home, outside, or parks nearby.

5. Help your young child or toddler feel special by paying attention to their activities. Encourage them to do more of what they enjoy, and be sure to keep mementos of your time together with you when you work – whether that’s a drawing they have made, or photos you have taken together.


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As a teacher, investigator, and clinician, Dr. Daniella Zipkin works with physicians, staff, and medical residents to improve practices in evidence-based medicine and doctor-patient communication. Through research grants connected to her faculty position at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, Dr. Zipkin studies the impact of communicating evidence to physicians in a collaborative atmosphere and to patients in a clinical setting. Dr. Daniella Zipkin currently serves as a Principal Investigator through a Duke Graduate Medical Education Innovation Grant on case-based teaching conferences in evidence-based medicine. She also leads a project through the Society of General Internal Medicine to create communication summaries for physicians to use with patients when explaining new clinical data. In conjunction with her academic role, Dr. Daniella Zipkin recently presented at several regional and national conferences. Dr. Zipkin developed and taught a workshop in evidence-based medicine at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ pediatric hospitalist program. She also served as a Workshop Leader at the Society of General Internal Medicine Annual Meeting in 2011 on two programs, titled “Is a picture worth a 1,000 words? Communicating Evidence to Patients” and “Beyond Critical Appraisal: Tips for Real World Application of Study Results.” Dr. Daniella Zipkin studied at The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) School of Medicine and completed her residency in general internal medicine through New York University and Bellevue Hospital Center in New York. She started working as a clinician educator through a fellowship at UCSF in the Division of General Internal Medicine. Since then, Dr. Zipkin has held several faculty and research positions in evidence-based medicine at UCSF, the California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) in San Francisco, and Duke University. In addition to her teaching background, Dr. Daniella Zipkin has served in several clinical settings as an Attending Physician at CPMC and as a Primary Care Internist at the Santa Cruz Medical Foundation in California. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Duke University Medical Center in the Division of General Internal Medicine.