Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work. – Mary Matalin
A few months ago I read an op-ed in The Atlantic by Anne-Marie Slaughter, former director of policy planning for the U.S. State Department. In this article she writes about the struggles of working moms in today’s culture, and what needs to change. This was the first time someone used language to describe what I’ve come to understand over the past few years. Having control over your schedule isn’t a job perk, nor should it be a privilege. It’s the only way women can successfully raise children and manage their careers.
Soon after my daughter was born in 2016, I realized that working full-time, 9-5 Monday to Friday as a nurse practitioner on someone else’s schedule wouldn’t allow me to be the kind of person, partner, parent and nurse I wanted and needed to be. Until that time, I worked at least two hours over-time nearly every work day and spent most weekends trying to catch up. I knew I couldn’t keep doing this as a parent or a wife, so it was time to change.
I spent the entire first year of my daughter’s life working towards being in control of my schedule and working from home as much as possible.
Although my family was a huge reason why I decided to work from home and gain more control in my working life, the main driver behind my decision to change how I worked was having cancer. For those of you who don’t know, in 2014 I was diagnosed with a Hurthle cell carcinoma – an uncommon form of thyroid cancer. If it weren’t for having cancer, I don’t think I would have prioritized my family’s needs and my own wellbeing. It was my wake up call to start living on my terms before it’s too late.
Besides managing NursEd, these days I work as a nurse practitioner providing virtual care services from the comfort of my home and do home visits for local residents. For the most part, I get to decide when and where I work. Although my hours aren’t always consistent and predictable, they work for me and my family right now.
I don’t make as much income as I could working full-time for someone else, and I sometimes miss relationships that develop from working closely with colleagues. I have no interest in experiencing the overwhelming stress that comes with working for inflexible organizations. I’ve seen the suffering that comes with prioritizing a career over family, and I can’t do it.
The boundaries, hard work, commitment and sacrifices it takes to raise young children and have a career feels like running a marathon. Just having more control over where, when and how I work makes it possible to try my best.
I wish we didn’t have to choose between our careers and our family, but we do if we work in the majority of health care organizations. Most organizations simply don’t make it easy for us to juggle our conflicting responsibilities.
Here’s what would help:
- Let nurses work together to create schedules that work for them.
- Figure out what needs to be done at work, and what can be done at home.
- Match work, child-care and school schedules.
- Leverage technology to better integrate personal and professional responsibilities.
- Create a work culture that celebrates and values the role of parenting.
If we want working moms to remain in the profession and have fulfilling, impactful careers in nursing, we can make it easier by having honest conversations with our colleagues, friends, peers and managers about what we need, because our choices and our values matter too.