Ellen McDonald, MD
Dr. McDonald is a mom of four sons and an internist in private practice in Pasadena, CA.
How many children do you have? I have four sons, ages 6, 8, 10, and 13.
What’s your specialty? Internal medicine.
What’s your favorite parenting tip? It’s important to like your partner and forgive each other. When a baby comes and you’re not getting any sleep, you don’t take it out on your child, you naturally take it out on each other. You have to be able to wake up the next morning, laugh and move on. Having a baby is a stressful time.
Another favorite tip of mine is buy an industrial-size box of earplugs. When our first baby was born, my husband and I took turns wearing earplugs at night. That way, at least one of us would have a good stretch of sleep.
What has surprised you most about parenting? I used to think that parenting would get easier. It doesn’t. It just gets different. I was pregnant in medical school, and I remember having to wear a big mask with a filter in gross anatomy! One of my instructors was a surgeon with three children. She told me that your children need you when they’re babies, but they need you even more when they’re older. I couldn’t imagine that at the time, but now I understand. My 13-year-old is so independent, yet he still needs to know that I’m nearby so he can check in with me when he needs to.
How do you get your kids to eat healthy food? We don’t have a lot of restrictions. We don’t keep soda in the house, but when we’re out if they want one, they can have it.
Every night we sit down together for a real meal. We don’t make our sons clear their plates to have dessert because I think that encourages overeating. As long as they eat a good portion of their meal, they can eat dessert. They get all the nutrients they need and mostly gravitate toward the healthy foods in the refrigerator.
How do you work exercise into your family’s life? My boys aren’t really big into sports, but they are very active and spend much of their time playing outside. Last year, I started running. I want to set a good example for them. It was much harder to make time for exercise when my kids were little. They cry when you leave, and it’s hard to justify it, but now that they are older they want to come with me. I was surprised one day when my then 7 year old kept up with me for more than a mile!
How do you recharge your batteries? My husband and I go out on dates a lot. We mostly go to the same restaurant every time and then watch a movie afterward. We usually spend the first part of our dinner talking over our schedules, but then we move on and have fun.