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The 7 Secrets of Successful Parents

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We all face enormous demands on our time, and our family life is always threatened by competing priorities, whether or not we work outside the home. But we have to learn to distinguish the important things, like spending time with our youngsters, from the urgent things, like ever-present project deadlines and chores. The truth is that in order to be an effective parent, you have to continually re-rank your priorities.

When I had my first four babies during college, medical school, and my internship, I breastfed each one. But I didn't make it to the one-year mark, the ideal goal. It wasn't until I made a conscious decision while I was pregnant with my fifth baby to put breastfeeding higher than other priorities that I succeeded. To do that, I had to say no to several opportunities—including taking over a busy practice—at the end of my residency training.

Putting your kids first doesn't mean you have to be a martyr, or a superwoman. No one is saying that you can't take time for yourself. But it does mean that sometimes you have to make choices. A hospital administrator I knew gave up her job to accept a less prestigious position so she could spend more time with her daughter. The turning point came as soon as her daughter's preschool teacher told her, "Whenever Kaitlyn draws a family picture, you're not in it."