Finding Balance. Avoiding Burnout.

A Bend Family Rises to the Challenge of Creating Balance in Their Busy Lives

Article by Sarah Richards

Photography by Julia Kelleher, Jewel Images

Originally published in Bend Lifestyle

Work-life balance isn’t a new concept, but it’s an evolving goal more people are striving toward, and it’s a value of the Bend community. Yet there’s still palpable pressure to be an unfailing individual, parent and/or partner, who’s also physically and mentally healthy, while also excelling in a career or keeping up the home front. “The truth is you can’t be 100 percent at everything,” says Dr. Jason Richards, director and clinical psychologist at the Bend Anxiety Clinic.

“We have to draw hard lines and make incremental changes in our everyday lives, both as adults and for our children, to achieve any real semblance of balance.”

In Bend, Dr. Richards’ patients cite many life stressors, ranging from work and money to political and environmental concerns, relationships and even technological and social media dependence. According to the American Psychological Association’s 2018 “Stress in America” survey, one in five adults feel they do not do enough to manage their stress.

Drs. Stephanie and Steve Christensen, owners and dentists of Deschutes Pediatric Dentistry, head the epitome of a Bend family that is constantly learning and rising to the challenge of creating balance in their busy lives. They are the parents of twins, Mason and Lucy, age nine, and a set of triplets, Cooper, Calvin and Lily, age seven. For a while, they had five kids in diapers and a startup dentistry practice, launched in 2005, that took years of hard work to bring to fruition.  

The dentists made ends meet by working part-time in Salem before moving to Bend permanently and didn’t take home a paycheck from the clinic for nearly three years. The Christensen’s warm personalities and ability to build trust with young patients, from infants to teenagers, finally caught on with parents and word-of-mouth referrals flooded in. Today, they operate two clinics in Bend and Redmond, servicing families from across Central Oregon and have added Dr. Ashley Swan to their team.

They’ve built their practice on a standard of care involving balance and understanding. It’s clear they operate a well-oiled machine with happy staff welcoming generations of families to the clinic where exam chairs are set up like a classroom. A prize wall is set up for kiddos that need a little incentive after having conquered their fear of the dentist.  “There’s a person on the other side of that tooth,” says Dr. Steve Christensen. “It’s important for us to be aware of what’s going on with each of the kids at school and at home so we can better understand and help them.”

The Christensens say their success in the office and at home is largely because they surround themselves, and depend on, many people every day: friends, coworkers, teachers and their staff at the clinic. They haven’t been afraid to ask for help. They have a nanny, Kate, an assistant, Norah, and a practice manager, Erin, who make what they do possible. They also attribute taking manageable, small steps to stay sane, including monthly family planning meetings, where adaptability and communication with one another and the kids are key. They established immoveable family traditions, try to take appropriate time off, learned to say no when they hit their limits, and work to be fully present when they switch between doctor, parent and spouse mode.

As we work to achieve balance in our lives, it’s important to not only seek challenge but also give yourself a break, be glad for what you’ve done so far, and figure out how to draw hard lines of boundary where you can. The Christensens, and the people they depend on, pull it off—together.

“I like to decompress on our 25-minute drives to and from home, outside of Bend. It’s a beautiful drive, and we take time to talk and connect.” –Dr. Steve Christensen

"We love being outside, it’s one of the many reasons we built our lives here.” —Dr. Stephanie Christensen

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