Jill Simons had finally made it: She was a partner in her pediatric clinic, and she was recognized by her colleagues as a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Then she realized that neither goal matched the desires of her heart and the principles of her faith — and she let them go. The 48-year-old pediatrician, mother of 10-year-old twins and member of Our Lady of Grace in Edina, looks back.
Q) How did your approach as a pediatrician change when you became a mother?
A) It was humbling to realize how much I didn’t know – especially my advice on sleep for young children. I wanted to call all the parents and say, “I’m sorry!” I realized that, for the most part, parents know what’s best when they get the facts and listen to their instincts that God has given us.
Q) Have you adjusted your workload?
A) I mainly became a mother who stayed at home. I worked on weekends or evenings when my husband was at home, taking care of paperwork and some writing and editing. I sold my share of the practice and went to the daily allowance (payment). It was difficult (to scale back) because as a pediatrician I have a lot to offer, but I realized my needs are more with the boys. I didn’t want to shake them up to fit into my life, but to make them the priority. It felt less chaotic.
Q) Was there backlash?
A) People would say, “Oh, it’s such a shame.” But the choice was obvious. And now my interest in educated mothers who stay at home has grown into a research project!
Q) You are busy! You are still a certified pediatrician, you research and write, your twins learn from a distance, your husband is a cardiologist caring for COVID patients. How do you fit into self-care?
A) I see self-care as a necessity. It’s an act of love: if I can keep myself calm, it keeps my boys calm too. They are little sponges. So I get up early – around 4:30 or 5 am – to get some things done. Then the day will go better. I run, I do yoga, I play the violin. And I take a bubble bath every night – just five or ten minutes. That is my protected time.
A) I had bought a violin in college and taken three or four lessons and then stopped picking it up for years. My boys music teacher encouraged me to play it again. It was so much fun to be able to play at a beginner level. It’s soothing. Everything I’ve done in my career, you do it for perfection, it has to be mastered. And violin is something that I just let myself do to the best of my ability. It’s out of pure love for it.
Q) That’s so refreshing!
A) My mom is 90 and she will be taking a sewing class online! My parents raised me to never stop learning. I am so curious about life, and I love many things! We never got bored during COVID. I want to try so many things!
Q) How does that relate to your faith?
A) I am amazed at so many things, and having children increases that. Their curiosity about the world stimulated me to think in a deeper way. From the moment they were little they watched spiders or studied dinosaurs and had to explain things to them and realize, “Wow, I can’t explain! That’s how God made it! “You realize how much of life is unimaginable and incomprehensible. Having children and then (putting up with) the pandemic – it makes you think about what really matters and appreciate the beauty of the world and the simplest things.
Q) Becoming a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics has been a long goal of yours. It gave you added credibility and made you a much sought-after expert to endorse books and other projects. What changed?
A) It was heartbreaking over the years when I realized the AAP strayed from things I held true and believed medicine to be true. I had joined the bioethics committee asking questions and writing letters, but it remained silent. I was especially concerned about their stance on pro-life issues and about transgender children and transition. One day when I was introduced to the American College of Pediatricians, I realized I was more in line with them. Their mission is to protect children from the moment of conception. And when they publish something, they go through very thorough source research. That was a turning point: the AAP published a number of things that their own scientific committees disagreed with.
Q) How do you explain the shift you see in the AAP?
A) I think they are victims of culture. Liberals are more outspoken, and I think it is easier for them to go along with that. They just followed the mainstream and moved away from science.
Q) And you feel that they have become detached from your Catholic values. Can you give me an example?
A) The AAP would advise children not to go to the tanning bed or get a tattoo without their parents’ consent, but they would advocate that a teenager has the right to have an abortion without the knowledge of her parents.
Q) What about gender reassignment? Does the AAP support the fact that teens should have access to those hormones without parental consent?
A) In some cases yes. It is still a gray area. It varies by state. In general, the way the AAP has handled it is listening to the child and her wishes, which contradicts many of the things we say to minors and ignores research and what children can handle in their development.
Q) Last year, you relinquished your AAP membership and joined the ACP Members’ Board, knowing it could cost you professional opportunities.
A) That was difficult for me. I knew some people would hesitate to use me as a book reviewer. The ACPeds have been misrepresented, and it has not had an opportunity to respond because it is still so small. But it got to a point where I could no longer ignore what the AAP was doing. And when I have guys, the older they get, I try to be a model for them to do the right thing. We teach them to stand up for what you believe in. Then it clicked: I have to do the hardest thing.
Q) Without the AAP stamp, do you feel like you have to work harder to prove yourself?
A) It’s harder. It requires putting up with a little bit of misinformation, but steadily trying to promote the truth.
Q) What do you support?
A) I say a lot of Hail Marys. That’s my go-to. Sometimes I pray to God, “Just be with me.” I don’t even know what to ask or what to do, but I just need someone to help me through.
Contact Simons through her website, drjillfunk.com.
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