For some women, it may be risky business to decide between a fulfilling career and the raising of a family. If you’re like Dr. Caroline Defilippo, you have probably asked the universe, “Why do I have to choose just one?” As a practicing internist with two little girls at home, Dr. Defilippo is one of the many inspiring women who have overcome one of the most difficult challenges facing those who want to defy the typical stereotypes opposing them, all while enjoying the benefits of having both a family life and a career.
Other twists manifested themselves in her personal life, such as her decision to get married three weeks before med school and becoming pregnant as an intern. Getting married right before med school “was actually fun, if anything; having a partner during medical school especially.” And her desire to have children during this time often warranted some unsolicited advice. “It very much was a personal decision for us as a family, and I really struggled trying to hear what some of the good advice was, but not hear people telling me how to do it.” Looking back on it, she says, “It's fine - peoples’ lives go on. They need to be okay with that; you need to be okay with that and accept that. It was hard to shove everybody else aside and say ‘this is right for me,’ ” but “It made me so much a better doctor.”
When asked how being a mother has helped her in her career, she replied, “As a mom, this whole new world of parenting...I have insight to, and it becomes part of who I am in that I am understanding my patients better, and they understand me. Would I be a great doctor without being a mom? Yes, absolutely. I still do my job well, but it just brings a different element to who I am as a person.”
Dr. Defilippo’s roundabout route to practicing medicine didn’t stop her from finding her perfect fit in life, something many of us struggle to do. In the midst of navigating her course, she struggled with the thought, “Am I doing this for me, or am I doing this for you?” She says that finding your path is “hard when you're trying to understand your own identity,” and that the challenges that arise from taking control of your life sometimes just take time to work themselves out. She thinks it’s important to remember that “This is a part of going down a different path and going against the grain and being scared to do things you're not sure of.” Her personal experiences have given her some well-earned insights, possibly the most important being “to not feel obligated and to not worry about the big steps - worry about the next step. You never know what circumstances are going to arrive.” And who knows, the next step might lead you to a remarkable place.