The past year has been a whirlwind for Hina N. Patel, OD, FAAO. In October 2021, Dr. Patel found out she was expecting her third child. Two months later, as she was in the process of building out her private practice, she received an offer for a lease with a Target Optical that she couldn’t pass up. Then, her private office—Eyes on Butterfield in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois—opened in May 2022, and just two weeks later, her son was born.
This timeline wasn’t her original plan, but construction delays pushed her back by two months, and she had no choice but to roll with the punches. “It isn’t easy and not for everyone, but I’m embracing the challenges,” she says of her determination to become a business owner at this time in her life. “But if you are truly motivated to do it, you can find the balance.” She’s even taking on a second lease position in an office opening in January 2023.
Dr. Patel spoke with Women In Optometry about the ever-challenging feat of finding a balance between work and home life as an entrepreneurial woman. Here’s some advice she shared as she personally navigates this journey.
Accept that in the beginning, balance won’t exist. “I wish I could say that the baby had 100 percent of my time, but he didn’t,” she admits. Dr. Patel is extremely thankful to the amazing caregivers who helped her out from the early days, when she was back in the office two weeks after giving birth. She saw patients by appointment only, and then she went home to nurse the baby and spend time with him. “All of the pieces aren’t in place, but the end goal is that in a few years from now, we’ll be in a better place. The first few years, you’re shifting your attention from one spot of your life to the other, and you may never feel like everything is together.”
Prioritize daily with lists. Dr. Patel makes a list every day of things that are most important to accomplish pertaining to her kids and family, as well as two lists for her practice. One focuses on patient-facing responsibilities and what needs to be done to make sure everything looks smooth and under control. The second is for the back of the business, such as making sure glasses are ready and invoices are paid. “Some things will get shuffled to the bottom and all of it won’t happen, but it’s about organizing your thoughts and seeing what’s most important.” She says that as a Type A personality, part of finding balance has been learning how to let go of the idea of perfection.
Phones down for family time. Once her kids come home, she designates several hours each night where she’s not on the computer or her phone. She gets back to work after they go to bed, but they have her full attention during this time. Dr. Patel says it can be difficult to accept that she may not have the time or finances to have them be in every sport or extracurricular activity that she may want, this special time together is so very valuable.
Be a role model. “I’m almost 39, and I think other OD moms may also feel guilty taking on something that they are passionate about that may take away time from their family,” Dr. Patel says. And while it’s not easy, there is a great reward. “My kids know what I’m doing, and they tell their friends about mommy’s office. I created that excitement. I love watching them see me as a business leader. My husband is also in medicine, and they see us work so hard. We’re instilling those values in them.”
Dr. Patel says that she can relate to the struggles that her colleagues feel balancing work and home life, but she feels that the challenges are worth fighting through. “Being a mom with young children is great, but I know that in 10-15 years, they will grow up,” she says. “This practice will become my life, and it’s nice to have something to look forward to that’s an extension of myself, and not just me as a mom.”