Dr. Sonntag Balances Being a Mother and Being a Dentist

  • by Amanda Sonntag, DDS
  • Apr 27, 2020
4-27-SonntagAmanda Sonntag, DDS, has seen it all as far as making both motherhood and dentistry fit into her life. She had one of her children during dental school, one during residency and one while working in private practice. Now, she enjoys every opportunity she gets to share tips from her experience with other women in dentistry and information on how the profession can enable women to do their best personally and professionally. She shared with AGD Impact how her journey as a dentist and as a mother started. 

My dad is a dentist in my hometown, but I was not the kid who lived in the office and assisted. He did a good job of not bringing work home, so our family life did not revolve around dentistry. I didn’t grow up seeing his day-to-day work, but he would sometimes get emergency calls on the weekend, go into the office and then be back an hour or so later. I was always amazed that whatever problem the patient had was fixed within such a short period of time. I’m also a pretty crafty person — I like to quilt — and I love interacting with people, so the more I thought about it, dentistry seemed like the perfect mix of art, interaction and helping people. 

Now that I’m a practicing dentist with a family, too, it’s important to maintain a work-life balance in the same way my dad does. I have three children — Genevieve, 7, Giulana, 5, and Gretchen, 2 — and I always welcome any women in the dental profession who are interested in having children to chat with me if they want to know about the pros and cons of having them at each point in your career. I had our oldest while I was in my third year of dental school at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), partly because I knew it was a large university system and I would get maternity leave. 

My husband and I had been married for five years at the time and were ready for children, and we knew there would be another set of struggles if we waited until I was in private practice. My first meeting with my third-year clinical program director started with me telling him, “Hi, my name’s Amanda — by the way, I’m pregnant.” And he just said “OK.” None of the faculty or staff at UIC said anything negative. Our pediatric program director was super awesome and let me do my entire first pediatric rotation in general clinics instead of having to see nitrous oxide patients while pregnant. Then, with my second child, my residency program director was this amazing family guy who was instrumental in supporting me. For my youngest, I took 10 weeks of maternity leave, and my boss and entire team were so supportive. One colleague filled in for me quite a bit, and I don’t know if I could have taken that much time if I wasn’t working in a group practice with four other dentists to help cover my patients. 

It’s important for any profession that wants to involve more women to make it accessible for them to both have a career and be a mother, but you also have to support women if they don’t want to have children. It’s tough as a woman, because you’re stigmatized if you want to be a mom, and you’re stigmatized if you don’t want to be one — so how do you win? Whether in jest or not, a lot of my classmates called my maternity leave a “vacation.” Recovering from a cesarean section while also studying for a midterm or caring for another child is tough — not a vacation. 

Now, as an associate dentist in a group practice, I only work three days a week. I’m able to pick my daughters up from school, but there are nights when I don’t tuck them into bed. You give and take, and my kids know that on Monday nights, my husband does dinner and tucks them into bed, and I will be home late. That’s our norm. 

But, the other nights, I get to eat dinner with my family. I get to go to a job that I love, where I have amazing team members, and I’m lucky to have all that support around me. I cannot complain about what we have. It’s not always easy, but it’s lovely for what it is, and it’s our little world that works for us.