Today, I’m joined by my guest and very dear friend, OB/GYN and YouTuber, Dr Danielle Jones. In this episode, we get real and talk about when is the right time to start a family as a professional woman, the heart of balancing it all, and why the most important thing you can do is be hyper intentional with your time. Dr. Jones is a board certified OB/GYNyn, currently living out her dream of being a nomadic physician, traveling around the world with her family of 6 for clinical positions. She’s currently living in New Zealand, which is pretty amazing. Known online as Mama Doctor Jones, she has established herself as the leading voice in pregnancy and gynecology education online, with over 2 million followers across digital platforms like YouTube and Facebook.
She is passionate about science communication and patient empowerment through the creation of educational and entertaining video content. She and I actually founded Pinnacle Conference together, along with Dr. Natalie Crawford and Dr. Pam Mehta, and she is one of my closest friends. I cannot wait for you all to be a fly on the wall with this conversation, because you can tell we’re just chatting like friends, and you are privy to this conversation. Let’s get to it.
During my conversation with Dr. Danielle Jones, we talked about all things working mom, work-life balance, social media-all of it! I’m thankful she was able to join me from across what seems like so many oceans, even though she reminded me we do share an ocean- her East Coast in New Zealand and my West Coast here in Hawaii. Being in similar time zones not only allows us to have conversations like this, but also nighttime text conversations when she’s still awake. Since she’s not particularly a morning person, she was grateful to be joining us at a time that wasn’t 6 in the morning- the time we usually have our Pinnacle meetings.
We started off talking about her success with the many social media platforms that she is involved in. Dr. Jones said she first became interested in social media when her husband introduced her to Twitter back in 2009. What started out as a fun way to read up on the news and send memes back and forth would soon grow into a much more important aspect of her life. She explained that her desire to improve her writing and find this creative outlet led her to start a blog that she would post on every Sunday. Her ability to detail her time in medical school in a humorous and engaging way would lead her to find a community of other doctors and medical students that she could learn from for years to come and now she uses her platforms to educate others and combat misinformation.
So how does this affect her family life? For Danielle, it has given them a different community and has helped her with consistency. She even announced her first pregnancy through her blog! So, her children have been involved in the blog from the beginning and she hasn’t seen many downsides to this so far. She was also able to connect with the community she was building by studying with other medical school students on Twitter, or learning from other doctors she connected with. Seeing this benefit early on helped her to stay consistent and stick with social media- something that she is grateful for now!
For those of you that don’t know, Danielle has 4 kids and actually celebrated her thirteenth wedding anniversary with her husband, Donny, recently. Knowing how hard she works and all that she juggles, I wanted to dive more into her pregnancies and how she decided when to start her family. Danielle and Donny got married young and both knew they wanted kids, but Danielle starting medical school just a few days after their wedding led them to their “trifecta” pregnancies, as she likes to call it. She elaborated by saying, “We decided to have a baby during 4th year, which ended up to be 2 babies in the middle of 4th year, thanks to some infertility and some twin things in there. Then, our second pregnancy, and my 1st boy, was born in my 3rd year of residency and my last baby was born in my 2nd year of attending. So all three medical training babies.” Me and Jeff didn’t start our family until I was in attending- we met later and were married later than Danielle and Donny. So for all of you out there in medical school, law school, or whatever it is for you- I asked her about knowing when is the right time to start a family.
We’ve all heard the sayings, “it’s the right time when it’s the right time” or “there’s no good time,” but Dr. Jones had some thoughts about these sayings and showed me how we can actually reframe this type of thinking. She said she actually advises people in the medical field that are thinking about starting a family that “it’s always a good time in medical training.” In her case, she didn’t know she wanted a big family until she actually started having her kids. If she had waited until she was 36 to start her family, a big family might not have been an option. She challenges people to consider that medical training- or whatever training you are in- will always wait for you, but having a family at the right time for you won’t always be there. She believes this can help people not feel like they have missed their opportunity. That’s great- but how do we know when it’s the right time? She says she encourages people to just look at what they want in life and be honest with themselves. Dr. Jones recognizes that she is not necessarily at her best during transition periods in her life. She took that knowledge and decided having kids during her intern year or during a move probably wouldn’t have been a great move for her and planned accordingly. All that said, she leaves us with this: “You just have to do the best you can. Obviously you can’t time it 100 percent.”
Now that we’ve talked about starting a family, let’s get into what it might look like when you do have that family. Some people may think that your first years out of attending are just all rainbows and sunshine, but me and Dr. Jones both agree- it is definitely not. So I was curious to hear now that we know how hard Danielle works- how does she manage 4 kids? She was quick to praise her “incredibly supportive” husband and explain that by helping keep each other in check. She also mentioned that, as a web developer, he has a somewhat flexible job. So, does that mean you can only manage a family if your partner is not in the same professional field as you? Of course not! Danielle went to residency with plenty of couples who were in the same field and also juggled work and kids. She said it just takes some intentionality, asking for help when you can, and taking small steps in the right direction. By just seeing the direction you want to go, you can begin to take small steps in that direction!
Not doing this, could lead to you looking back and realizing you have let wanting to be a doctor dictate your life- something Danielle warned about. I completely agree with her and would even add that this mindset can lead to people feeling bitter. That’s why I totally agree with Danielle’s advice- be intentional and decide what your priorities are at any given point. If it’s more important to you to have a family- then go do it! Dr. Jones has a helpful analogy that can help us rethink our priorities that she explained to me like this:
“You should look at your life like you’re juggling balls. All of the balls are things in your life and some of them are glass, and some of them are plastic. So at various points of your life a glass ball is something that can’t be dropped. So for me, my family is always a glass ball. There’s also balls in your life that are plastic. Right now, I would say my job is a glass ball, but at some points in my life, it has been a plastic ball. So I’ve been able to put it down for a moment, proceed with what I’m doing, keep juggling, then pick it back up. That’s how I see social media as well. If I put it down for a little bit, it will still be there, it won’t shatter, and I can pick it back up and start juggling again when I feel like I have a better handle on the things that can’t be dropped.”
This is an analogy she believes she heard from Nora Roberts, and one that I think we can all learn from! It really speaks to all the things we have to juggle, but reminds us to not feel bad if we have to take a breather or pause. Sometimes, we just have to reevaluate things that aren’t working for us. If you’re feeling stretched thin, this is a super important thing to do. Danielle said that when she gets stressed, she now takes a second to think about what “plastic” balls she can drop before she drops a “glass” one.
So the next step would be identifying which balls are glass and which are plastic. Danielle knows that her family and marriage are glass balls, but says that it’s good to remember the balls can always be flexible. Because of her current work situation and appreciation for her co-workers that need some time away, she is glad to make work a glass ball for now. But she knows it won’t always be glass. This helps her keep her sanity and know when to set certain things down if they are no longer “glass.” Nobody has the secret to extra time, so it’s important to use these strategies to consider where we put our time, something that will change for everyone.
What if you are worried about putting down a plastic ball? Will it really be there for you when you’re ready to pick it back up? Danielle assures us that it will be and that social media is a great example of this in her life! She put down her social media for a few years while she was in residency because social media is always a plastic ball for her. When she picked it back up years later it was still there. People who had followed her years ago were reaching out saying they were happy to see her back on social media! She wants people to know that even if you need to set something like social media down for a few months, or even years, it will be there for you when you are able to pick it up again.
Since we’re talking about social media, I wanted to know how Danielle’s rapidly growing channel affected her decision to become a nomadic doctor and live in New Zealand. I will say- her answer surprised me! She says that this is actually something that was always on her mind- YouTube just made it a little easier to put into action. Before she even knew she could make money on the internet, Dr. Jones and her husband had plans to pay off her student loans quickly and begin saving for a year of travel. She remembers looking at her first monetized video and thinking, “Why would they give me money for this?!” Ironically, she paid off her last loan with YouTube money! Then, enter the COVID-19 pandemic… obviously travel wasn’t happening, they were homeless, and jobless. The YouTube money lightened the load for Danielle’s family and she was able to enter back into medicine in the way and at the pace she wanted to. So it wasn’t an exit strategy for her- don’t you love that?
So, what does this all look like for Dr. Jones? Her job as an OB/GYN, creating content daily, her marriage, kids, and everything in between- how does she get it all done? She gave me some insight into what her typical week looks like. She says what’s funny is that she doesn’t have a “regular” week. Between having a different day off every week, and inconsistent weekends, it’s hard for her to have a set, weekly schedule. She does well to utilize her days off for conversations like this one as well as batch filming content. While it may not be the same day every week, she knows she wants to get out a video a week for YouTube. She focuses her energy here because this is the only platform she’s trying to actively grow. She focuses on one platform at a time helps her keep her “brain in line.” It might look more structured than she feels like it is, but I reminded her that, even if it seems unconventional, it’s a schedule! Even if it’s not the same day every week, she is setting aside blocks of time to batch film and plan her videos and that’s just what works for the season of life she’s in right now. Even though I do love a schedule, I recognize that sometimes we need to just give ourselves a little wiggle room! So in this season, Danielle’s “schedule” is to just write down everything and get it done as she has time- keeping those glass balls in mind.
Do you ever feel like there is so much to do on your schedule? Dr. Jones feels this way too- she told me she tends to be “go, go, go.” This leads her to hit a wall on occasion, and she crashes, feeling like she can’t do anything. I think that probably resonates with a lot of us! Seriously. I think so many of us have pushed ourselves and we don’t know how to stop until our body tells us it can’t do this anymore. For Dr. Jones, she feels that in some ways, she is good at getting started but she struggles with knowing when to stop. Sound like anybody you know? I know at my time in college, it seemed like the motto “Work hard, play hard” was so praised, so learning to set boundaries can be hard. For Danielle, wanting to “play hard” is her motivation! She knows that if she works hard, then when she does have time off, she can really take the time off! I mean, she does live in New Zealand… who wouldn’t want to take time off to hike and explore New Zealand as much as possible?! At the end of the day, balance is hard. We agreed that we all carry around a bit of a facade that we have it all together, but sometimes it’s good to admit that. If not, we set the bar at an unattainable height. We all go through seasons like this, so that’s why I find it so important to have certain systems in place that help us get through them in a healthy way. Even though Danielle has a lot going on, we can see ways that she is doing just that. She is intentional about her priorities, knows what things are number one, and puts her time and energy towards those things.
If you’re anything like Dr. Jones and I, then taking a break isn’t always that easy. Danielle says she can begin to feel like she’s underachieving if she takes a break and I know for me, it feels indulgent at times! But take this advice from Dr. Jones- “I think I do much better with this now but I think this is something really important for the younger listeners to hear- it’s okay to have time for yourself. As a mom, it’s ok to have some space from your kids for a little bit and take that when you need it.” (Moms- if you’ve been feeling guilty about this particular concept, you can read more about how to think about these boundaries here.) Even my daughter seems to have this figured out! Yesterday, she brought me her Ipad and requested some extra screen time. She said it was because she needed some “Aria time” because it had been a busy day. I started to laugh but then I thought, “Good for her!” She knew she needed some time for herself to unwind and she took it- something us adults could learn from. I’ve seen so many patients that have been doing crazy things and have pushed their bodies to exhaustion because so many of us struggle with this idea of taking a break.
Danielle mentioned that New Zealand actually has systems in place that tend to make this less of a problem in her context. She has co-workers that are taking some time for themselves and she believes if they were in a U.S. based hospital, they wouldn’t be able to do this as easily- whether because of protocol or just social pressures. She thinks it might make it harder to come back to the U.S. and practice medicine but I encouraged her to use this perspective when she does come back! We’ve got to change the culture. Not just in medicine, but in everything. The amount of pressure we put on ourselves as working women to do all these things and then we feel like we’re falling short when we don’t- it doesn’t set us up for longevity or happiness.
Of course this isn’t always easy. Danielle likes to remind medical students that once they graduate, they have the power to advocate for themselves in this regard. After spending years practically begging to get into medical school or residency, and then working crazy hours because you feel like you have to, it can be easy to forget that once you graduate you have a choice. For Dr. Jones, she knew she didn’t want to work full-time and this was met with scrutiny by others in the field. She knew she didn’t want the hours that full-time comes with so she stuck to her boundary and found a great part-time job, despite people telling her she would never find one. This brings me back to the glass balls- Dr. Jones knew what she wanted. We need to identify what we truly want and prioritize that. It may not be socially acceptable, but Danielle encourages young people to consider this. I think she’s right- if you are giving so much to one sphere of your life, where is the harmony?
Okay, so how do we assess our balance not that we’ve figured out our priorities? Danielle had some great advice about this topic that I’m going to share with you. She notes that we should look back on patterns over the period of months or years to avoid being so hard on ourselves. If she reflects on the last few months and realizes she isn’t spending as much time with her kids as she would like, she can adjust this and it is less upsetting than thinking, “Today I haven’t tucked my kids into bed.” Maybe you didn’t do that today, but have you tucked them in any over the past month? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to work on this, but if your answer is yes, maybe you aren’t doing as bad as you thought. I do this as well because looking at the day-to-day can make me so hard on myself, but if we look at the overview we might realize we aren’t doing too bad. Of course, if you’re a perfectionist like Dr. Jones, it’s hard to not get down on yourself, but she has found that using this practice has helped her to zoom out and look at the bigger picture.
So there you have it! I think we all have so much we can learn from Dr. Jones and I hoped you enjoyed her insight as much as I did. From identifying our “glass balls” to assessing how well we are balancing those balls, her tips can resonate with so many professional women. Whether you’re in the medical field or not, we as women juggle so many things and I hope this conversation helped to guide you through thinking about how you are balancing your family, work, studies, or whatever you have going on! If you want to continue learning about this topic, you can read more about how I manage my life here. If you would like some help putting some of these things into practice, Danielle suggests the book Get Untamed: The Journal by Glennon Doyle. She is currently working through this book so I wanted to include it for you guys! Until next time!
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Hi! I'm Dr. Rupa Wong. Physician. Private Practice Owner. Mama to 3 kids. Managing Partner. Educator. Textbook Author. Conference Co-Founder. Mentor. I am more than just one thing, even as a doctor and I bet you are too. I would love to help you envision the life you want, and then get after it. What are you waiting for?
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