This is a post about motherhood, or maybe about being a working mom, or maybe about changing my nursing career to fit the needs of my family and me. Maybe it’s a post about everything, about how lots of things in life get intertwined in strange and complicated ways and you’re left with a beautiful tangled mess. Whatever this post is or isn’t, it’s my attempt at explaining how I came to a very important decision but also about all the decisions that are yet to be determined.
I always assumed that by the time I had a baby, I would have my life “figured out”. My career dreams would have been achieved or at least defined, my desires solidified into quantifiable, attainable goals, and I would be content in my life experiences. I would be set in my career, my dreams would spin to be centered on my family and I would happily retire to stay-at-home-motherhood for the season while I had young children. These assumptions are not bad, in fact, I think they are of the most honorable sort.
I always thought of the days of babies as a future event, one that never got too close to me, even when we started having theoretical conversations about theoretical children. I think I got the previous assumptions and inclinations from a million different sources like my own family, society and the culture at my work. But I believed a lie in the midst of those assumptions: the lie that once we get to a certain stage, we will be that glorious future version of ourselves who has it all worked out perfectly.
Instead, as I sit here marveling at this kicking child, I find myself more upended than ever about who I should be, what I should do, and how I should do it. After all those visions of my future composed self, ironically I’m still the same sporadic self, one who is having to sift through all my new roles and come to a new definition of who I am and what I want. All I know for certain is that I want to take care of my husband and this child, and that I’m not ready to give up working entirely. I feel called to do both.
Now before I get into the gigantic question of whether mothers should or shouldn’t work outside the home, hear me clearly when I say that I believe that decision is unique to each individual. Out of all the debates that I’ve heard during this pregnancy, this one is the most fiercely argued and defended (except possibly the epidural question), sometimes provoking advice that I didn’t ask for or want. After talking with other moms, reading books and articles, reading the Bible and thinking long and hard, I’ve determined that the dilemma of “to work or not to work” outside the home doesn’t have a straight answer and if you’ve had to determine this for yourself, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Besides desire or conviction, mothers often have to take into consideration a million other factors like finances, childcare, health of yourself and/or baby, and time. I don’t think any mother takes it lightly and certainly no one deserves condemnation regardless of whether or not their choice lines up with your personal conviction. In the end, you follow the path that you believe will benefit your family the most. You make hard choices, whether that hard choice is to give up work or to stay, and trust that you’re doing your best with the information you have.
In my case, I couldn’t rest on either side of the debate. On one hand, I always thought I would want to be a stay-at-home mom and honestly surprised myself that I wanted to continue working to some extent, to continue to build my career as a nurse. For as much drama as I deal with, I love my job working with families in the ICU. It’s opened up whole new dimensions of the realms of customer service, ethics, end-of-life decisions and coping mechanisms. I understand how to deal with people in different ways, how to communicate difficult issues, and how to process through my own emotions in a productive way. My job has stretched me and taught me and I’m sad to let it go. I’ve mourned the loss to a certain degree.
On the other hand, I’ve worked full time in the ICU for six years now and it seems like this is a good time for a break. Very soon I will be leaving my full time position working with families in the ICU and will be working part time solely as a staff/charge nurse again. Thankfully, my job provides flexibility that many others don’t and we have family members who have graciously and eagerly offered to keep this child on days when my husband and I are gone. Thankfully, financially we had the room to consider a part-time schedule and my husband is overwhelmingly supportive for either route. Thankfully, nursing has opened many doors that women in the corporate world or other professions don’t have as options.
Believe me that I did not take this decision lightly, in fact I probably worried about it more than I considered it, even before I got pregnant. I ruminated over whether this child would be damaged by my absence for hours during the week, whether I would regret missing those fleeting moments, and whether this change seemed like a good fit for our family at the time. In the end, I had to pray and trust that after seeking the wise counsel of others and having endless conversations with Seth, that I had to move forward with my conviction to have a little bit of both- some time at work and the majority of my time with baby.
But my angst over life decisions doesn’t stop at the working controversy. Honestly, I wish it did. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t have so many other desires that tug on my heart like cooking, writing, and even going back to school to become a nurse practitioner. Fortunately, those dreams don’t hold an expiration date based on age, like becoming a football player or a ballerina. Those particular goals quickly dwindle if you get past your teen years without any solid evidence of your athletic genius. But dreams like writing a book never expire. And each time I sit down to write my thoughts, I only improve my skills and vocabulary. Every book I read gets me one step closer to understanding how to put words and phrases together. Every recipe I make gives me more expertise into how to turn ingredients into food. Every shift I work as a nurse gets me more experience that will go towards an advanced degree one day. Unknowingly, I’m working towards those deep desires of mine on a daily basis as I go about my routines.
One of my coworkers, with several decades of wisdom more than me, made a passing comment to me that I haven’t been able to forget. She said no one figures out their life until their thirties. She wasn’t trying to insult me by saying this (I’m 27), she meant it as an encouragement. Hearing this provided an overwhelming wave of relief but I also think her statement applies on an even broader level that’s not constrained by years. I think you never really have it all figured out, although you would like people to think you do. Maybe some lucky individuals feel completely oriented all the time, but I would venture to say that most experience seasons of wavering desires and undulating goals. But her nugget of truth proved extremely thought-provoking and has given me the freedom to feel like I can still try and fail and change directions.
So I’m taking a shaky step away from what I know and moving towards new adventures, some consisting of diapers and baby snuggles and some yet to be fleshed out. Nursing is an excellent career with versatility and flexibility not available in many other jobs and I know no matter what other interests I take on, I’ll always be a nurse. It’s a part of who I am; it’s how I see the world. And now I get to take my profession into a new phase of life and see what exciting prospects emerge with a stethoscope in one hand and a baby in the other.