Dr. Barbara Ryan is a mother of one, an experienced surgeon with her own private practice, and a former member of the Fleet Surgical Team in the U.S. Navy. Although she loved her profession and the opportunity it gave her to help others, Barbara saw the 100-hour workweeks impacting her family and personal life more and more year after year. She longed for freedom in her life, the chance to continue helping people, and the opportunity to run her own business on her own terms, so Barbara joined Moms Making Six Figures. There were many naysayers along the way, but she knew she could take what she had learned and not only continue to help others but also commit to and support her family. Within a year Barbara was making six figures. How did she do it? Here’s her story.
Life Before Moms Making Six Figures
After the 9/11 attacks, Barbara, a fully trained surgeon, was even more compelled to serve in the military and support her country in its time of need. Upon completing Navy Officer Indoctrination School, Dr. Ryan was deployed three times from 2001-2003 before returning to work stateside at the Balboa Naval Hospital. At a Blockbuster Video one Monday night with a girlfriend—she and her friend were both nursing injuries at the time—Barbara met her future husband, Aaron, a bomb tech also on active duty with the Navy, who is currently on his 13th deployment.
“I loved the Navy,” says Barbara, “but after I got out, I decided to calm my life down a little bit,” turning to a private practice in plastic surgery. However, the long working hours soon got to Barbara and she started rethinking her career: “While I really loved medicine and operating, I just knew that I didn’t want to continue working 100 hours a week.” Barbara also sometimes worked at the University Hospital on the side, but it all became “a bit too much.”
She enjoyed the lifestyle of being self-employed and helping people—a true passion of hers—but found that she didn’t have time for her other goals and priorities. Even while she was in the Navy she barely had time to see her daughter Josie, now 26 years old with two kids of her own. “I would see her between deployments. Then when I opened my surgical practices, they were so far up in North County and she was down south, so I didn’t see her very often. I felt like I was missing a lot of her life.”
Barbara also had the desire to go on mission work and travel to see her parents—who live in East St. Louis, Illinois—more regularly, but her career simply did not allow it. “My life was hectic, unforgiving, and completely career-focused like so many business owners,” she confesses. That’s when Barbara decided to make a change.
Taking Back Control
Confident in herself and drawing inspiration from her parents, who were always self-employed and have enjoyed a lot of flexibility as a result, Barbara joined Moms Making Six Figures about seven years ago. As confident as she was, it was a scary transition. “It was a bit scary from a reputation standpoint,” she explains, as she wasn’t sure how her colleagues and friends would react. She also had bills to pay; both her and her husband were concerned about being able to pay the mortgage. But Barbara pushed on: “I had a big ‘why’ as to the motivation behind wanting to change my life. I really wanted to create the life that I had envisioned as a surgeon, but without the 100-hour work week.”
She and her team members invested a lot of time initially. “But it was so worth it because we gave back to others in so many ways, especially with our time.” Within a year, Barbara was making six figures. “It’s not everybody’s goal, but I had to pay my bills—and instill confidence in my family.”
She also thought to herself, “Okay, either I commit myself to my practice 100% and move forward with surgery—and really not have time for my family, for my husband—Or I move forward with Moms Making Six Figures and change our lives.” And change their lives she did…
Living Life on Her Own Terms
Barbara now lives the life she had envisioned for herself and her family. Her lifestyle allows her to incorporate everything that she loves—educating, inspiring, and helping others—while running her own business. “I really like to enhance people’s growth, and through that interaction they usually end up enhancing my growth too.” She now has time for herself and her family.
“It’s given me a lot of freedom. Freedom and the ability to really get to know people and dive in with them. I’m also able to provide inspiration to other men and women, to show them that they can change their lives. They don’t have to stay in the same career that they planned on initially or work three jobs without their lifestyle ever changing. There are ways to make a change to achieve that time and freedom we’re all looking for.”
Barbara also gets to travel on her own terms and is able to coordinate her trips with her personal plans. “I love the fact that I can visit my family and see my parents, and at the same time continue to work. It’s work but it doesn’t feel like it. It just feels like I’m going to visit friends—or make new ones.”
An active member of the church, Barbara now has the opportunity to give back to her community and hopes to one day do some mission work with her husband. “Before, I just didn’t have time for that. I was always so tired and always working, and if I was home it was literally to rest, pay bills, and then head back to work.”
Always on the go, Barbara does not have plans for retirement, and although she misses certain aspects of life as a surgeon, she wouldn’t go back. “I miss actively operating on a daily basis, but that was becoming less and less. I do miss saving lives and those rewarding aspects of the job. But there are so many more ways to help people through what I’m doing now.”
Barbara’s Advice for Other Corporate Women
To those questioning whether or not they can change their lives for the better, Barbara says, “You can always make your own choice. At Moms Making Six Figures, we always say, ‘it may be for you, it may not be for you.’ But what if it IS for you? That’s really what I was thinking when I started. What if I really could change my life to be financially stable while scheduling it in a way that was great for my family and great for my growth? Don’t hesitate, don’t question—just give it a try and start learning.”