I find myself in serious contemplation of my career. A career I have worked hard for, but that now appears inflexible and a destructive influence on my family. How many times can I leave my four-year old in tears, carefully remove his arms from my waist and whisper ‘Sorry darling, Mummy has to go to work’. To shut the door and still hear his sobs of ‘don’t go again Mum…’
The problem is that no matter what people say nursing does not lend itself to a family friendly life. The shifts are long and unpredictable. The work itself is both mentally and physically draining. I personally can’t walk out of the hospital door without thinking about my patients and their families. Being a nurse for many is a vocation. It’s not just a job, or a profession. The training is hard, the job is harder. You have to love what you do, or you just wouldn’t keep doing it. Always chronically understaffed and overworked, the patients come first. Other people’s families constantly put above your own.
The level of responsibility I and my fellow nurses have is huge. No longer are we the profession so often portrayed in old films. You know the ones where we meekly follow the Doctors round and do their bidding. That went out the window with our hats and aprons many years ago. Nurses are now more autonomous, more skilled and more educated than they ever have been. In my opinion this is fantastic but it comes at a price. That price is stress. A stress that grows almost unseen, but bubbles over into family life.
Here we have a profession that is predominantly made up of women, that doesn’t lend itself in any way to family life. Lets face it flexible working isn’t an option. I can just imagine my managers face if I said I wanted to come in at 10am some days or finish at 5pm. I would have to pick her up off the floor she would be laughing so hard! Patients need 24 hour care, nurses have to provide this.
Obviously I can’t work from home that is a ridiculous notion. Where would I put all the equipment? Besides I can’t see the ward round stopping by my house to make a plan of care or the x-ray team trundling up my drive… So flexi-homeworking not an option. Of course we are a minority in that our family has two nurses that work inflexible long shifts, which only compounds the problems. Some one is always tired, someone is always at work and both of us are inevitably stressed!
Is this my choice? Well kind of but not really. I often think that if I really had a choice I wouldn’t go to work. But then I remember that I like having my own money and I like having something that is mine and not the children’s. It’s not a selfish thing to want to have some time where I am a nurse and not ‘Mum’. I think in many ways it makes me a better Mum when I return to the children. Or it would if I wasn’t so shattered after work! But the children hate it. I hand my children over to my husband like I handover my patients to my colleagues at the end of my shift.
No one I speak to has the answer. It feels as though the day is coming when I will need to make a decision. I either am a nurse or I am a mother. I raise my children, but lose everything I have worked to achieve. There doesn’t appear to be a happy medium for me. Its my career or my kids. There is no competition in my eyes. If somethings got to give I know what it will be. That doesn’t make it ok and it doesn’t make it any easier.