2021 BLOG SERIES- WOMAN, MOTHER, BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRIC DOCTOR
Motherhood, career, child behavior stress. Not knowing what to do as a parent. Even feeling guilt or unease about your skills…or lack thereof. Subsequently wondering what others think of you and bouncing between trying not to care and analyzing yourself to death.
Any of this sound familiar? I have good news. You are not alone. In fact, even trained pediatric doctors have similar thoughts in their own motherhood journey. Don’t believe me? Meet Dr. Nerissa Bauer. Woman, Mother, Behavioral Pediatric Doctor.
Frankly, I found our conversation FASCINATING.
After a career in academia and a medical pediatric practice, Nerissa took a leap into entrepreneurship. Specifically, she now works with families of children diagnosed with ADHD, depression, anxiety, and other behavioral disorders.
“It’s a privilege to walk with families on this journey. I want to help them feel confident. Not everything can be prescribed and it’s important to meet them where they are. I recognize there are universal struggles, but I utilize a tailored approach for understanding and to instill confidence with my families.”
Enjoy getting to know Dr. Nerissa, Woman, Mother, Behavioral Pediatric Doctor!
EVOLUTION OF DR. BAUER- WOMAN, MOTHER, BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRIC DOCTOR
Nerissa completed her residency at the University of California San Diego where she also met her husband, Benjamin. She described the med school experience:
“While in med school, all I really knew was taking care of patients. Obviously, that’s what a doctor is and does. On the other hand, after launching into my career, I recognized additional avenues beyond diagnosing and treating. For instance, teaching and research became a big part of my medical journey.”
During her training in San Diego, the tragic Columbine school shooting took place. A pivotal point in not only Dr. Bauer’s career, but also her approach with patients and families.
First, she saw the trauma this incident caused in her pediatric patients and wanted to figure out a way to educate not only kids but also the parents. Additionally, she was adamant about more education on gun safety in her own patient interactions.
She and Benjamin then moved to Seattle where she attended the University of Washington to earn her Master’s in Public Health. Nerissa became engrossed in the research. Fascinated to improve not only the behavioral care in children through primary care, but also improving the systems for parents. Above all, education and tools being the primary focus.
“Discussing parenting as a doctor with parents in a 15-minute wellness appointment is HARD (impossible). Yet parenting is a big and overwhelming responsibility. No one is trained to do this job.”
For the record, I’ve never felt more seen than in that moment. YES!
BURN OUT TO CALLING
The Bauer family moved to Indianapolis for Nerissa’s work at the IU School of Medicine. Her roles there consisted of clinical rotations, teaching, and research. Additionally, in 2016, Dr. Bauer started a blog, Let’s Talk Kids Health.
Let’s Talk Kids Health is a play on words. One of Dr. Bauer’s foundational teachings for parents is to stop utilizing the word “let’s” unless you plan to actually participate with them. For example, “let’s clean up the toy room.” The word let’s implies you will be cleaning with them versus giving them the task of cleaning the toy room themselves.
Such a simple and interesting shift!
For a time, the blog filled the void she was feeling, but after 13 years in academia at the hospital, she felt called to do something different. In addition, she hit burn out trying to wear so many different hats day in and day out.
Extremely grateful to be able to take time off, she did so to process her thoughts on where she wanted to make the most impact.
In turn, Nerissa shifted her focus more specifically to the blog and how this parent platform could be expanded. Her goal always being to engage, educate and empower kids and their families, in particular those with behavioral challenges.
Parent training workshops began to take form.
“I saw an opportunity to support families by educating on the subject of ADHD to both the kids and the parents. Kids with ADHD now learn why their brain works in this way. This understanding then helps them to be more confident and compassionate as a family. I love watching the transition into confidence of my families.”
Her 8-week course takes a family on a mission. Even assigning kids the role of detectives in their own adventure. Equipped with tools and props to keep the kids engaged while learning about their brain. One of her graduates described the process:
“Each mission assigned a task at home that didn’t feel like homework but aimed to develop new habits and routines to address the deficits related to ADHD. I give this course 5 great big stars and a bear hug for the thoughtful moments of affirmation spread through the training in super-secret missions.”
RAISING KIDS AND BEING A BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRICIAN
At this point, I was so curious what it was like to be a doctor, nonetheless a pediatrician, and have kids of her own. It felt to me like being an expert in this area would be amazing! Nerissa laughed…
“When my daughter was around 3 or 4, I was working at Riley and specialized in teaching pediatricians specifically for the 2-12 age group. My daughter was in a stage of having awful tantrums. While out in public or at home with the windows open and she had a tantrum, I would think to myself… ‘WHY WOULD ANYONE LISTEN TO ME????’ It was a really eye-opening experience and I believe helped me walk with patients and their families with more empathy.”
She also shared the mixed emotions of having a very busy job and wanting to ensure work-life balance not only for her but also for her young family. This became a larger struggle as the kids got older and she took on more and more responsibilities with her work.
Her kids were a big catalyst to her taking the leap and trying something different from the research and teaching she was so accustomed to. In fact, Jack (14) and Emma (11) have been extremely supportive of Nerissa’s newest business venture into entrepreneurship.
“I feel like I have a second chance in my career. A rebirth to the career fulfillment piece for myself. It’s exciting!”
A few keys Mother AND Doctor Nerissa shared about raising kids:
- Have the conversation. Always. Be proactive. For example, she has a great resource for starting the conversation about guns you can find here.
- Kids thrive in structure and routine.
- You can’t take the mothering out of a mom, but we need to give ourselves permission to fuel our own tank. Don’t lose your identity. In fact, modeling this behavior to our children is extremely important.
LET’S TALK KIDS HEALTH
While Dr. Bauer still sees patients two days a week, she also has established a number of programs to support families. A lot of these resources pivoting to virtual in 2020 and having a larger than expected impact.
First, Facebook lives for Listen & Learn sessions for families. Dr. Bauer is joined by nationally recognized experts to discuss parenting, mental health and other family topics. A great way to supplement topics parents discussed with their pediatrician but would subsequently love further discussion.
Second, Read & Grow with the parenting book club. A group setting for reading popular parenting books with twice a month interactive discussion. Parents gain perspective and communicate with not only Dr. Bauer, but also other parents facing similar challenges.
Finally, Commit & Take Action through virtual courses specific to behavioral health. Supporting families to find their strengths and remind them they can get through this as a team. “Where you are now is not where you will be down the line.” Giving families hope and confidence to work towards their unique NorthStar.
“Kids are resilient and have so much to teach us. Give them the why and they are fine.”
I absolutely loved this line. It was in reference to 2020 and everything kids and families have gone through but applied to so much of our conversation. Dr. Bauer was not downplaying the effects of 2020 by any stretch. But rather simply pointing out adults can learn quite a lot from the kids and how they are bouncing back.
When I asked what she has learned from 2020 and being an entrepreneur, here was her response:
“I learned there are different ways to help and meet them (the families) where they are. Through education and support. I am feeling fulfilled and also as though I’m reaching a larger audience with my blog, Facebook lives, and parenting book clubs. You can’t always know the impact, but the information is out there and that makes me feel as though what I’m doing is important.”
I couldn’t agree more and immediately went online and signed up as a subscriber to Let’s Talk Kids Health.
BEHAVIORAL PEDIATRIC DOCTOR SUMMARY
Dr. Bauer left the world of academia and a hospital practice to pursue something of deeper meaning for herself. She saw an opportunity for more parent and children education, and she took the leap. What an inspiration she is!
And yet, she is humble enough to note that she doesn’t feel like an expert parent, nor will she interact with her parents as if she is all knowing. This was extremely evident when one of her parents passed by as we sat outside and enjoyed our smoothies. The parent was so excited to meet her in person (all virtual up to this point) and you could feel the appreciation and love of Dr. Bauer and her teaching.
I couldn’t have planned this interaction, but it was a wonderful example of the impact this Behavioral Pediatric Doctor is having on not only our children, but also parents. Feeling seen, feeling heard, and feeling we have strengths to build upon.
“Where you are now is not where you will be down the line. Remember how hard it was to potty train? But you did it!”
Simply reminding parents they have gotten through hard things before, and they will again.
In summary, be okay asking for help. Put on your oxygen mask first… and not just on a crashing airplane, but in life.
Dr. Bauer’s last piece of advice for moms in today’s world?
“You can’t take the mothering out of a mom, but we need to give permission to ourselves to fuel our own tank. I encourage women not to forget who they are while they are also a mother.”
Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
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