The mother of all days

the mother of all days

Megan Fairhall talks about the challenges and opportunities she has faced as a woman and mother working in dentistry.

How would you describe the challenges faced by female family members across generations?

The challenges faced by women, including my own family members across generations, have evolved over time but often share common themes rooted in societal norms, gender expectations and inequalities. Despite these challenges, women have continually fought for their rights and worked to create a more equal society. I am grateful for this as it has positively impacted my own life and career. 

Would you say that there is still a remnant of that mentality today which puts a lot of mental pressure on women trying to have a career in parallel with motherhood?

Many women have faced barriers to pursuing higher education or were encouraged to prioritise domestic roles over academic or career achievements. We now live in a world where women have the opportunity to ‘do it all’.

Although this has allowed women more equal opportunities, it also means we are often expected to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities simultaneously. These range from working and advancing careers to nurturing children, managing household tasks and paying bills.

Many find this a considerable pressure resulting in overwhelm and burn out. This ‘second shift’ of unpaid labour can be physically and emotionally demanding, especially when combined with the demands of a challenging but fulfilling career. 

Should women feel guilty in their desire to develop their careers?

No, women should not feel guilty for striving to develop their careers. Pursuing a career and personal fulfilment is a valid and important aspect of life for anyone, regardless of gender. Feeling guilty about personal or professional aspirations can stem from societal expectations or old internalised beliefs about gender roles, but it’s essential to continue to challenge these narratives.

It’s crucial we all create a supportive environment where women feel empowered to pursue their career aspirations without judgment or guilt and continue to pave the way for a more equal future where individuals can thrive in all aspects of their lives.

Would you agree that the dental profession offers multiple positive examples of successful women who are redefining the narrative of motherhood?

Yes, absolutely. The dental sector, like many other fields, has seen a significant increase in the number of successful women who are redefining the narrative of motherhood. This includes many of my fellow dental professionals: Dr Zainab Al Mukhtar, Dr Safa Al Naher, Dr Sarah Buckley, Dr Lara Watson and dental therapists Kayley McCauley and Victoria Wilson.

These women along with many others in the industry are breaking down barriers, challenging stereotypes, and demonstrating that it’s possible to balance a successful career in dentistry with motherhood.

Many females are leading by example, showing that they can excel in their profession while also prioritising their families and personal lives. They are demonstrating that motherhood and a thriving career are not mutually exclusive but can complement each other with the right support systems and resources in place.

Furthermore, these successful women in dentistry are often serving as mentors and role models for both males and females. They are inspiring the next generation of dental professionals to pursue their goals without limitations, showing that with determination and resilience, it’s possible to achieve success in both their professional and personal lives.

Do you agree with this statement?

‘Every part of your identity as a mother and career woman deserves to be nurtured. If you only focus on motherhood when you clearly aspire to make a professional difference, your happiness can be affected and negatively impact on your family life.’

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Every aspect of a person’s identity, whether it be as a mother, a career woman, or any other role they wish to pursue, deserves to be nurtured. Neglecting one aspect of one’s identity in favour of another can lead to feelings of imbalance, dissatisfaction, resentment and ultimately, unhappiness.

For women who wish to further their careers and also have responsibilities as mothers, it’s essential to nurture both aspects of their lives. Although challenging at times, for their own fulfilment, it is paramount. Achieving a balance between motherhood and a career requires intentional effort, support systems, and more often than not, difficult choices. However, when both aspects of one’s identity are nurtured and fulfilled, it can lead to greater happiness, satisfaction, and wellbeing, benefiting both the individual, their family and workplace. 

Have you found your happy place with your career progression and mother of a young daughter?

Yes, although it has required time and adjustments across all aspects of my life, the journey of motherhood remains an ongoing evolution. I am progressively learning to embrace change more consistently and adapt when necessary, although I acknowledge that this is sometimes easier said than done.

During the early stages of motherhood, I decided to embark on a brand refresh. I sensed a profound shift in my identity but found myself uncertain of who this new person truly was. Engaging in the rebranding process with my designer provided me with an opportunity to explore and define my evolving identity as both a mother and a dental professional. It proved to be a deeply cathartic experience, aiding me in discovering this new version of myself.

Furthermore, the arrival of my daughter has ignited a renewed sense of motivation and drive within me, as there is now a greater purpose driving my efforts. I have also prioritised effective time management, adhering to the philosophy of ‘working smarter, not harder’. Upon returning to clinical work following a period of maternity leave, I streamlined my approach, especially ensuring to utilise my tooth whitening treatments.

Consistent results, minimal fuss

Working with Philips Zoom whitening products (in-chair and take home systems) has made this whole process of working so smooth and easy. This is because I have can achieve wholly consistent results for my patients, safely and efficiently, with the minimum of fuss and without sensitivity or complications to tackle.

This success has reinforced my position as one of the leading tooth whitening exponents and trainers in the UK. Philips also recommended me to one of its corporate partners {my}dentist and I now provide guidance on its national tooth whitening programme across its network of nearly 600 practices. 

Rather than increasing my hours, my focus has been on maximising earning potential within the hours I am at the practice. This approach has resulted in reduced time away from my daughter, decreased nursery fees, and an improved work-life balance.

What would you advise your peers? 

Becoming a mother for the first time is undeniably one of the most challenging yet profoundly rewarding experiences I have encountered. The transition into motherhood while balancing professional life has, of course, given rise to some fears and concerns. However, during this journey one undergoes a process of learning and personal growth, emerging as a more resilient and efficient individual. The necessity for optimal time management has also heightened my productivity level.

A crucial skill on this journey has been the art of prioritisation and delegation. Recognising the limitations of my own solitary efforts, I have tried to embrace the importance of seeking help from others. Whether support from family members for childcare or colleagues to help manage additional tasks at work, assembling a robust support network has proved to be instrumental in mitigating stress and enhancing the management of both professional and parental responsibilities.  

Equally vital is the prioritisation of self-care. As the saying goes: ‘You cannot pour from an empty cup.’ Hence, it is important to carve out time for personal wellbeing. Whether a leisurely walk, a rejuvenating massage, or simply unwinding with your favourite Netflix programme. Taking care of yourself enables you to be more present and effective both at work and at home.  

Finally, if I can do it, then so can you!

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