Being a nurse and mama is hard work. Heck, being a mom is hard work. Shoutout to the SAHMs who are rockin’ it daily (you truly are superstars). For years, I watched co-workers step into the mama-and-nurse dual role and watched them try to find the perfect balance. Then I stepped into that same role and understood the weight of their struggles a bit more. Nursing is hard. Period.
This is a letter I wrote to my child, from a mama and nurse’s standpoint:
To my sweet child,
I wake up and sleepily make my way to your room. I am greeted with your happy little smile and giggle when you see me. Some days I am greeted with screams because you are just ready to eat. But either way, I am always happy to see you.
I get you changed and fed and spend the next 30 minutes or so playing with you. In between peek-a-boos and chasing you around, I cook you breakfast. It is normally an Eggo waffle I pop into the oven. I always grimace because I feel like I could do better. Give you real food instead of the pre-packaged, frozen, Walmart special. But I can make it quickly and spend more time with your smiling face . . . so Eggo it is again. After getting you dressed, I throw on my scrubs.
Sometimes you start to whine because you know that means mama is going to work.
But I keep trying to make you laugh and distract you from the impending school drop-off. I hate the drop-off process even though I know you are totally fine when I leave. We get to school and some days you cling to me with big crocodile tears. I feel a lump creep up in my throat but know I have to keep a brave face for you. I smile and promise I will be back and contemplate the entire ride whether I really need to work or not.
A million thoughts cross my mind: Is he going to cry all day? Do I only need to work part-time? Should I spend more time with my son?
These are usually always followed by a phone call to your dad, who quickly reminds me you are fine.
Some other days at school drop-off you leave me with ease. You are eager to go see your teacher and play with all of your buddies and turn around and give me a beautiful smile as if you’re saying, “I am fine mama. I’m a big boy.” My heart is always so happy that you are content, but then my mama brain starts worrying that you are too OK without me.
My mom guilt sets in again: Am I leaving him too much? Should I change shifts to spend more time with him? Should I cut back my hours?
These, too, are always followed by a quick phone call to dad. FYI, your dad really is a saint (most days).
Either way, drop-off goes, whether it is easy or difficult, I always think about the fact that I leave you at daycare to be cared for by someone else while I go care for other people. Some days I really focus on this and think about if I am doing the right thing.
But the truth is, my dear child, caring for people is part of who I am. I really would be lost if I didn’t get to wake up, wear scrubs, and care for someone.
By the time I pull into the hospital parking lot, I am rushing. I power walk to the unit and try to hide how winded I am as I wait in the line to clock in. My coffee is usually cold by this point, hair messy, but for some reason, I feel right where I need to be. See, I miss you so much but part of me feels right at home when I am caring for others. And I do feel that one day, you will be proud of your mom for doing just this.
I begin to work: assessing patients, making small talk, administering medications, educating on various disease processes, treating pain, ordering food, ensuring they have the care they need when they leave the hospital, the list goes on and on. The business of mama’s job makes the day fly by.
At times, I am hit so hard by the mom guilt I feel for wanting a career and to be a mama. Sometimes the world makes me feel like I have to choose one.
But, I want you to know that is a lie.
It is possible to love your career and to love your child.
And I honestly feel like working and being your mama has made me better at both aspects of my life. It forces me to balance things, it teaches me to multi-task, it brings out my best qualities, and allows me to be a role model for you.
Don’t get me wrong, when the alarm clock rings, most days all I want is to stay cuddled up by your side. But I am always glad I went to work even when it is a crappy day—because I am setting an example for you.
By being a nurse, I hope I am displaying what it means to be selfless and honest. I hope I am teaching you what it means to be disciplined. I hope I am showing you what it means to be committed to being the hands and feet of Christ.
I know I give up being your caregiver most days, but God is using me to be a caregiver to others just when they need it most. So, please remember that every shift worked and every hour clocked in I miss you with every ounce of my heart. But please also know God has a unique path for you. Just as God has used Mom as a nurse, He will also use you to shine your gifts for others.
And oh, my child, how I want that for you so very much.
I hope one day when you are in my shoes, you understand—and you, too, are out in the world doing what God has called you to do.
I hope in the end you know that mama being a working nurse made the time together so much sweeter, the hugs tighter, and the bond stronger.
Previously published on the author’s blog