Friday, April 27, 2012

Working It Out

Okay this is still not my deep, thought provoking blog post, which is still on the back burner.  It needs more time to simmer and coalesce into something better than it is right now.  Unfortunately I have other pressing issues that are distressing enough to need blogging about.

Remember that awesome job I got the summer after Aidan died?  It was at the same hospital where I worked in the NICU, but the position was on a different unit. The new job compared to the NICU was WAY less stressful, WAY better hours, and allowed me to get out from under the dead baby cloud that constantly hovers over the NICU. There was NO way I was up for dealing with babies so soon after Aidan died, so getting this particular job was one of the biggest bonuses of my life. was a contract job...and it looks like the contract is up.  I haven't spoken directly to my manager yet to confirm anything, but the nurse who was hired for the other position under the same contract let me know yesterday that she was told the contract was up at the end of the summer.  Right around the time I planned to go back to work.  What this means is that I'll likely be offered my old job back in the NICU, since I was technically 'on loan' to the contract position.

It's a completely bummer.

I learned of this yesterday just as I was on my way out the door with Kaia to walk over to the bookstore.  My coworker texted me right after she found out. After reading it, I barely remember the walk to the bookstore or back, so many thoughts were flying through my brain.  I mean I knew upfront the job might not last forever. That's kind of the risk you take accepting a contract (heck it's kind of a risk you take accepting ANY job), and I hadn't planned to work on that unit forever. It's a bit too slow in terms of learning opportunities and since I still consider myself a long ways from being an expert nurse, I knew one day I'd be itching for a challenge.  I was hoping however, that I could at least get through the first year of being a working mom with a toddler before any major changes had to be made.

First of all the hours of the contract job were great. I worked 2pm - 10pm Monday to Thursday. No overnights. No holidays. No weekends. Another huge bonus was that although I was only working 80% of full time, the hospital still offers benefits and a pension. This is important because Brian's work offers neither and I'm the one who carries the benefits for our family. With that schedule, I would have only needed childcare 4 afternoons a week (from noon-ish until 5pm when Brian gets home) and although I wouldn't be there for bedtime 4 nights a week, at least I would get to spend all morning with Kaia and we could do things like go to the park or shop or just play together.  I wouldn't have to miss a single day of at least one solid block of time with her.  Not to mention that I'd be off Fridays, every weekend and every holiday. It was honestly a great job, with great side benefits.

Compare that to the NICU where I have to work 12 hour shifts, including days, nights, weekends and holidays. Our shifts run 7am to 7pm which means leaving home at 5:45am/pm and returning sometime around 8:15-8:30am/pm (depending on whether it was a day or night shift). This pretty much rules out spending any time with Kaia on work days, unless of course I work only nights and don't sleep during the day (which I know is pretty common with some nurses who have small children...but totally not an option for me. I get sick/anxious/depressed when I don't get enough sleep). It also means finding someone who would be willing to look after Kaia starting at 6am since Brian also starts work at 7am. Having two parents rushing out the door before you've even woken up seems a little cruel for a toddler. Plus, don't even get me started on how much I don't want to work holidays and weekends.

One benefit to shift work is that you DO get more days off work per week.  For example, if I worked 80% of full time doing 12 hour shifts (which is equal to the four 8 hour days per week I have at the contract job), I would only be working 16 shifts in 36 days or about 2 to 3 shifts a week.  However, when you work nights it basically takes up two days for every night worked, since you have to sleep before and after. Plus you end up feeling like garbage a lot of the time when you switch from nights back to days. I know people do it, of course. Lots and lots of nurses have small children and find a way juggle it all.  Some even really like the ability to have days off during the regular work week.  This means they are available to help out at their child's school or go on field trips or schedule doctor or dental appointments without having to take time off.  It also means they need less days of child care, which can be good financially. I might just have to wait and see if those pros outweigh the cons in my case. If not, it might mean I need to search for another job.

This is one of the things they never cover during 'Career Day' at school. The focus is always on 'what you want to be when you grow up' in terms of a job...but no one ever stops and tells kids "you might want to consider what you want your life to be like OUTSIDE of a job when you grow up". Your kid dreams of being a paleontologist? Better hope they like roughing it and living in remote areas away from family and friends, because dig sites are notoriously far from the suburbs. An artist?  Creativity is great...hope it also translates into creative marketing strategies or you might need to sell a kidney to pay the bills. A police officer? It isn't all guns and bad guys, it's a lot of paper work, interpersonal dynamics and rotating shifts. You want to be the boss? That's great if you like long hours for no overtime and don't let having to deal with other people's problems ruin your mood everyday. For me, working in the NICU was my dream nursing job. However, I might have tried to angle myself more towards an 8 hour daytime nursing job if I had stopped to consider what I wanted my life to look like outside of my career. Clinic nursing, public health, management or visiting nurse are all regular 8 hour days. It's not that I MIND working nights.  I actually quite like them, but not when they interfere with seeing my kid and my husband.

I know I have to work when my maternity benefits end. It is not financially possible for me to stay home. I even WANT to work, at least part of the time. I generally like my job (when it's not too overwhelming), and I like that it requires my brain as well as my people skills. I like my coworkers, both in the NICU and the contract job. I like the kids and babies I get to see every day. Heck, I sometimes even like their parents. I like that my job contributes to making people healthier and thus happier. I like the camaraderie of the work place. And of course, I especially like the paycheck and the material advantages that come with having a higher income. We are planning to do a few small home renovations over the next year or so, and those won't be possible if I'm not working. 

But...Kaia will only be a child once. She will also possibly be my ONLY living child as I may never get to have another. How much of her childhood do I want to spend away from her, looking after other people's kids?  Will it benefit Kaia to have me home more, or will she thrive in a different setting?  How much are we willing to sacrifice financially in order to have an ordered, settled home life?  Right now, it works out nicely that I take care of meals, some of the chores, and Kaia during the day and Brian works full time. Will the wheels start to fall off the bus if we're both working and someone else looks after Kaia?  I didn't have a baby to sit around all day...but I do enjoy 'me' time.  Will there be any of that left over after work, Kaia, Brian, and chores? Shift work is physically demanding...will I be able to cope with the amount, quality and timing of the sleep I'm going to get? Kaia deserves to have a mom who can be engaging and present when she's not at work...and I don't want to feel like a zombie. With me working, Brian will have to be more flexible with his schedule. Is that going to cause friction and stress?  Who will we get to look after Kaia?  Can that person be counted on and trusted with our daughter, our most important treasure of all?

I'm anxious about what's going to happen over the next few months.  I'm happy I'm off until early August as I'll get to have a bit of the summer I didn't get last year (hello summer sunshine...haven't really seen you since 2010!), but now that 'back to work' is really starting to become a reality, it's more daunting than I had realized.  I want to do what's best for me career wise and financially, but I also want to continue to be a good mom and wife.

Millions of people make it work. Just going to have to trust that we will sort it out too. Eventually.

What is your home life vs. working life like?  Do you stay at home? Work? Work from home? Is it working?  How did you arrive at that solution?


  1. 2 kids and we both work full time... It's a challenge but we need to make it work and we do. 3 year old in day care and 8 year old in school and after school program.

  2. This totally sucks-and I completely get it. As a nurse, with 3 kids under the age of 4 and a husband with a traditional 9-5, I've lived it. Something that worked for me was doing "per diem" work. Is that an option for you? I know typically there are no benefits attached, but in my area some health systems offer benefits (albeit at a higher, but still doable rate) if you contract for a higher number of hours per week or pay period. Pay rates are usually significantly higher with per diems as well, and the higher pay rate allowed me to work less hours per week, and the ability to make my own schedule and choose my own shifts meant that I NEVER have to miss any significant events in the kids lives. I choose when and if I do holidays. I do minimal weekends, and no nights. Also, Resource Nurses (ie float pools) offer the most flexibility for scheduling since you're staffing whole hospitals not just one unit. It's been an adjustment giving up all of the perks like PTO time, maternity leaves, short term disability and retirement matches that go along with full time work, but the sacrifice is worth it to only work 2 days a week and get to spend the rest with my kids. My opinion is that I have my whole life to work, and only a precious few years to raise my kids. Good luck and I hope everything works out :)

  3. i'm a nurse as well & i work evenings (3:30pm-midnight) 5 nights a week (unfortunately including weekends & holidays). i have 2 little boys (2.5 & 1), so i'm happy to have my mornings with them since they aren't in school or anything which is a big reason this schedule works for me. the other big reason this schedule works is because my husband doesn't work (SAHD).

    when the kids are young this is actually a pretty ideal schedule since they're awake & happy in the mornings when i get to spend time with them. but i don't know that it would be doable with a husband working a regular 9-5 job.

  4. I am an elementary teacher and as much as I would love to be a stay at home mom we can't afford it right now. My husband is a RN and has many coworkers who work less than full time, anywhere between 40 and 80%. I'm very jealous that I don't have that option however I do get my summers off. I was only able to take 8 weeks of maternity leave (3 of those being unpaid). My baby is now 9 months old and I've definitely adjusted to working but it's still hard. My husband is starting the CRNA program in May so come that time I'll more or less feel like a single mom. Sometimes I get overwhelmed now with picking Lynden up from daycare, bringing her home, making dinner, cleaning up, getting her to bed, finding time for me, and trying to take care of everything else around the house and that will only get worse as my husband starts school and will have to focus on his classes. Some nights I let Lynden play while I clean up so I can keep my sanity but other nights I saw screw it and focus on her. You'll figure out a way to make it work and it will become the new normal. I also think being in daycare is great stimulation for kids, even babies. We can tell that Lynden starts to get bored if she's home with us for too many days in a row and she absolutely loves daycare!

  5. Oh, I completely forgot until now my whole point of stating that I'm a teacher. I also struggle with the fact that I spend all day long with other people's kids while someone else watches mine. I was a nanny for a family with twins all through college and really played a big part in raising them. So the last several years of my life have been spent devoted to other people's kids. I feel it's unfair that I don't get to do the same with my own baby but at the same time it makes me appreciate my time with her more. Teaching third graders is great most days but I'm also VERY happy to see most of them go home and no longer be my responsibility at the end of the day. :)

  6. I'm full time stay at home with my kids (2.5 and 8 months) and my husband is a nurse. He does morning and afternoon shifts, no overnight shifts. He does 10 hour shifts and works a four day week. Financially this is really tough on us, but ultimately I want to be at home with them. But that's just me, and how things work in our family. Everyone has to do what works best for them. I had a really stressful job pre-kids and I don't want to return to that sort of work again, but I know this time while they are little is so precious and goes so fast, that there will be paid work for me in my future, at some point. Just not sure what or when. But man it will help pay the bills! Not to mention give me a lovely sanity break, as it is tough to be home all day, every day with the kids. I have tried a bit of work from home since I've had the babies, but it just got too tough, as I still had the kids here so it was hard to get said work done.

  7. I was farmed off to daycare from age 6 WEEKS and hardly ever saw my mother. As a result I grew up feeling abandoned, unloved,and unwanted and I resented not having her home and we never really bonded.I basically raised myself and grew up not trusting or being able to get close to people.It really damaged me emotionally. I swore I would stay home with my kids and I always have.The way I see it, a second salary basically just goes towards daycare and parking anyway with very little little left to "justify" the mother working,esp. vs. the benefits to the child if she stays home, at least while they're young.

  8. Thanks for posting this - it helps me to see the decision process other people go through re: work/money/schedules. We are starting to think about how to make it work if/when we have living children again...I totally agree that career planning should have more of an emphasis on how work affects the balance of a person's life, and not just the job itself.

  9. I work full time and my husband stays home with our 3 month old daughter, Dahlia. I feel a little guilty that I didn't have angst about returning now! Our schedules allow for one of us to be home with her at all times, I just figured there was no law saying it had to be me and my pay is what keeps us in nachos so...that was pretty much that.

    I am lucky with my hours though, I go in at 4 in the morning and get out around 12-1 in the afternoon so I have a good amount of daylight left to spend with my cuppycake. I make it a point to spend time with her when I get home, she is the first person I greet and we have bed time rituals, bath every other night, 6pm bottle and bedtime stories, that give us some one on one time even if the rest of the day was hectic.

    When I was little my mother worked 3rd shift, she napped in split shifts for it and I honestly don't know how she managed all she did with 2 kids and an abusive alcoholic husband. She really was Wonder Woman! I never felt abandoned, there were times I missed her but she really made up for any lost time with reading to us, walks to the park, watching movies with us, taking us outside and filling our wading pool. I have so many good memories of my mom and hardly none of my dad who was around so much more. Quality over quantity!

  10. (In response to an earlier comment...) I think it's important to remember that there are PLENTY of kids who go to daycare full time from a very young age and grow up to feel very loved, cared for, and independent adults. I, myself went to daycare and had babysitters after school until my mom got home from work and never felt neglected or unloved. It's all about making a point to be fully present when you are home with your child. Sure, there's days when I put my daughter to bed and feel like I didn't spend as much time with her as I'd like because I was cleaning, doing dishes, laundry, etc. but then I always make up for it the next day. And bedtime is always our special time together.

    On the opposite end of that is knowing that there are also plenty of kids who do have stay at home moms/dads and don't get enough socialization which can lead to attachment issues and difficulty making friends in school.

    Ultimately you have to do what you feel is right for your family and what is financially feasible.