Dr. Robyn Stuck is the sole owner and practitioner at Radcliffe Complete Small Animal Care & Laser Center. As such, she is always on call. As the mother of sons Parker, 10, and Cooper, 8, she is always on the job.
It’s been interesting and challenging, she said, juggling life with patients, her kids, and husband Nate.
“Being a solo practicing veterinarian, I am the one on call 24/7,” Stuck said. “As a result, there are times I have to take calls during dinner or we have to cut certain outings short so I can get back for an emergency. There have been years where a night out for our anniversary ends quickly with us heading to the clinic for an emergency call. I have even had to bring the boys with me at times on emergency calls if Nate is out of town, because trying to find a last-second babysitter can be challenging.”
Despite whatever issues may arise, Stuck said she and her husband never wavered from the idea of having a family. The two got married in 2002 before she was even in veterinary school. Six years later, their family grew with the birth of Parker.
Having dated for some time before they were married, and then waiting a bit before having children, she said she knew that it would work out.
“Nate (a sixth-grade reading and language arts teacher at South Hamilton Elementary School) and I have always done things equally, from cooking/laundry/house chores to mowing the yard,” Stuck said. “We have been together since middle school, and have a great marriage where we are both committed to doing whatever is needed for our family as a whole.”
Originally from Sioux City, Stuck did her undergraduate work at Buena Vista University. Four years later, in 2006, she graduated from Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Being a vet is the culmination of a lifelong love of math and science. Stuck said she knew early on that she wanted to do something in the medical field. It was during a preceptorship as a junior at BV that she decided the patients would be animals instead of people.
“Veterinary medicine allows me to practice a wide variety of medical disciplines and incorporate them into my love for animals,” Stuck said. “I also love that every day is different. You just never know how your day might change with one phone call.”
Stuck came to Radcliffe in 2014, and now practices small animal veterinary services and performs annual exams, dentals, surgical procedures, and a large variety of other services. But it was while splitting time for eight years between clinics in Humboldt and Goldfield that her sons arrived. Parker actually came a little early.
“I was working in Humboldt and Goldfield up until a few days before each birth, and I was actually on my way home from work when I was crashed into by another driver in a snowstorm,” Stuck said. “That sent me into labor with Parker.”
Stuck said nothing really changed at work with her pregnancies. She did have to be careful doing some duties, however.
“The only major changes I had with practicing while pregnant was not setting up fecal samples or taking any radiographs which can each lead to pregnancy complications or birth defects,” Stuck said. “Otherwise, it was pretty much practicing as usual.”
The real changes came during her six weeks of maternity leave with each son. She was an associate while working at the Humboldt and Goldfield clinics. The change, other than having newborns, wasn’t so much on her.
“Since I was an associate for mixed animal practices at the time, I am sure it made the clinic schedules a little tougher to fit everything in for the large and small animal appointments,” Stuck said. “I primarily did small animal appointments when I was in the clinics, so I am sure things were a bit tough while I was out on maternity leave. However, the two vets I worked for were very understanding and supported my need to be home with my sons for those periods of time after giving birth.”
Today, with both sons now in school, the struggle has been with time. Stuck is usually up right after 6 each morning, then gets her sons up and feeds them breakfast around 7. She is usually out the door by 7:30. Then Nate takes over by getting them to and from school, which isn’t a real problem since they are all in the same building.
After school, Nate works on homework the two boys might have, then he gets them off to whatever activities they might be involved with. When he’s not working his second job in Des Moines, he usually has dinner ready by the time she gets home.
“After dinner, I help with any homework that is left and we typically get the boys ready for bed together and let them read before they go to sleep,” Stuck said. “We try to have their lights out by 9. I usually try to go to bed by 10:30 myself, unless I get an emergency call. We are open from 8 to 5 Monday through Friday. However, most days we are not out of the office until at least 5:15, but this can vary greatly from day to day.”
The hardest part about being a working mother is dealing with time. Stuck said there is a guilt factor involved no matter which direction she goes, and that can weigh heavily on her.
“The most difficult part of being a working mom and wife is making myself take time off,” Stuck said. “I feel guilty for not being at the clinic in case a patient needs me. However, I also feel guilty for not taking our boys on longer family vacations, especially since my husband is a teacher and his schedule would allow for it.”
Having gone through it all for 10 years, the last four especially, Stuck said there are some tips she can offer mothers who want to keep working. It all centers around the family unit and balance.
“It has to be a family effort,” Stuck said. “If you try to do everything on your own, you will be even more tired or burned out than being a mom can already make a person. Balance is really important, and the thing that I find requires the most regular attention to ensure that it doesn’t get out of control.”