[Editor: This is an article by Mitul K. discussing how he juggles moonlighting with having a family. It is a challenge to weigh the values of spending precious time with loved ones versus working extra hours to secure your financial future. Mitul talks about the struggles he went through in Residency and Fellowship regarding this topic.]
Moonlighting With A Family
Moonlighting is great for many reasons (see here and here!). I think that its important to pursue moonlighting for its many immediate and future benefits. I’m here to discuss one of the tougher parts of moonlighting, moonlighting while you have a family. Moonlighting is a time intensive activity that will most likely take you away from your family at times that they are likely going to be home (nights and weekends mostly when you’re in training).
It’s important to strike a balance. Understand that by moonlighting to earn some extra money, you’re taking time away from your loved ones. Now this is difficult if you’re married, but it becomes even more challenging if you have kids as well. I value my time with my wife and kids and I recognize that moonlighting takes me away from them. Additionally, it adds extra responsibilities on for my wife. Anybody with kids knows that dinner and bedtime can be some of the most challenging times of the day. Similarly, the weekends are rewarding times with kids, the ability to go take them out or just spend a quality day with them are so valuable. It is truly heart breaking when my kids are crying as I walk out the door to go for a moonlighting shift, sometimes it really makes you wonder if its really worth it! When you add your normal call responsibilities, then you can lose some significant amounts of time with the family.
The key for successfully moonlighting with a family is to discuss your plan and expectations with your spouse. This involves coming up with what is a reasonable number of shifts for a month with your spouse. So even if you have the energy and desire to go out there and make a ton of money, you need to consider what works for your spouse and family. Also, consider when are the best times, can you get help with kids for some of those evenings or weekends that you’re going to be working. Its important for your spouse to be involved in your moonlighting plan.
Moonlighting has a lot of financial benefits and this is the case with your family as well. Moonlighting can be an important source of income for funding some family related expenses. It was important to have moonlighting shifts available to help pay for daycare, which can be very expensive. As discussed in this article about my financial plan as an attending, funding a 529 can be a great way to help start saving for college for your kids. Kids are expensive, which is a topic for a full post in the future, but moonlighting helps you with those expenses.
Moonlighting is an important financial tool, but its important to understand that you’re putting some additional burden on your spouse and family by doing shifts. I think the benefits are important to notice, which is why I still did a fair number of shifts during residency. While I focus mainly on the impact on those with kids, its important to know that even without kids, losing nights and weekends from a significant other or spouse has an impact also. Being a physician and a resident has its own strains on relationships and with families, and moonlighting adds another layer on top of that. Your family is your base, understand their needs and don’t think that taking every available shift is the top priority in your life.
[Editor: I second everything Mitul has discussed, and wanted to add that one of the strongest motivators for me is actually the anticipation of growing a family in the future and NOT having to spend time away from home when that happens. The more I work now to earn and save more money, the more time that money has to compound. In the future, this will afford me the independence to not have to work as long hours when my kid(s) are still young.]