November 15th, 2017
Nurse Practitioner by Day, Mama by Night (or All the Time)
As I first ventured into motherhood, I was often asked by my sisters, friends, and colleagues how I did it. Not only how I was able to be a mom while also working full-time as a regional nurse practitioner, in a role that involves frequent travel, but how I made it look so easy. To this, I laughed. I may be able to make it work, but only when a well-organized schedule falls perfectly into place.
Having two small kids with a third on the way and a husband who not only teaches full time but is a high school football coach, I rely heavily on our full-time daycare schedule. When daycare is closed or one of my girls is sick, it’s a stark reminder of how much we need it for our lives to work.
This past week was a perfect example. The Friday prior, we had been notified that a few kids at daycare had gone home with low-grade fevers Thursday night. I silently cursed the people who sent these kids to school, although I knew that the kids had probably been fine before school that morning. But that didn’t stop me from worrying, as my daughter suffers from periodic fever syndrome. A low-grade fever lasting 24 hours in most kids can knock my daughter down for 5 days or more. Her temps often hit above 102 degrees and she is miserable.
Sure enough, the very next day my daughter woke up with a fever that quickly spiked to 102.7. And as per past fevers, it lasted a full 7 days. As if this was not bad enough, my 14-month-old woke up from her nap struggling to breathe. This necessitated a quick trip to the ER where she got steroids. This happened again about 36 hours later — back to the ER, where she got another dose of steroids and the lovely diagnosis of croup.
So, how do I make it work? Well, first, sometimes I don’t. Last week, I spent the entire week at home taking care of sick kids, doing my best to call into meetings and work as much as I could from my satellite home office. Thankfully, I only had one speaking event and a morning of clinic — and my husband was able to take that morning off, getting back to the high school just in time for practice. If, for whatever reason, we had not been able to make this arrangement, I would have had to cancel my clinic or try to find someone to cover it, which is not an easy task.
And if not for external support, we would not be able to make things work. I have a very supportive family living close by. When I know I have to travel, I clear dates with my mom, who steps in to pick up my kids from daycare, feed them, and get them ready for bed before my husband gets home. When my kids are sick and I have an important meeting I cannot miss, I ask for conference lines or arrange childcare with my father-in-law. There are also times when I run into roadblocks, and I have to put work aside and just focus on being a mama for the day. The hardest part is missing out on patient care. I think that any healthcare provider will tell you that putting patients first is natural. Having to adjust that mentality isn’t always easy.
The other answer to how I make it work is that I NEED to work. I have realized over the years that working is the key to my sanity. Don’t get me wrong — the love I have for my kids is indescribable. But I also love being a nurse, something I dreamed of since childhood. I love that I was one of the youngest bedside nurses in my new graduate cohort. I love that my Alaska Native heritage paid for a large portion of my college. I love that I was able to work full-time while attending graduate school. I love, despite the numerous obstacles faced throughout my years of education, that I succeeded. I love the worried well patients I see in clinic. And lastly, I love seeing the sick patients whom I have treated improve.
My career allows me an outlet, a way for my mind to work outside of being a mama. This allows me to be a better mama and truly appreciate both my career and my family. So when asked how I make both my career and motherhood work, I smile (after I finish laughing) and say, “family support and perseverance.”
I’d love to hear from other parents: How do you make it work?