This should really be titled “I feel guilty” but I don’t want to focus just on that. My life as a working mom is different than most because I’m a nurse. So working 12 hour shifts is a totally different ball game and while it’s “only three days a week” (insert eye roll), it is 14 hour days of emotionally and physically taxing work. But does it really matter? It doesn’t matter if you work a 9-5, 5 days a week or a 7-7, 3 days a week. It doesn’t matter if you work from home or have to commute. We are all in it together. The guilt, the pride, the choices, the struggle-it’s all the same.
When I had Everett, I decided to go part time. I had wanted to cut back, and thought it would be a good time. Of course the transition back was difficult, but we had family to watch him and it gave me a chance to still get out of the house and have adult responsibilities. Shortly after that, I picked up a new job title that was still part time, but included office and management responsibilities. This included additional meetings outside of my work hours, a week of 24/7 on-call time once a month, and increased responsibilities in managing staff. I missed the first time Everett rolled over when I was at work. I also missed his first day of preschool because I got called in. There were times I didn’t see Julian for 3 days straight because of my schedule. Countless moments that I could beat myself up over.
I have felt sad for myself and the moments I’ve missed, stupidly wondering if they somehow “knew” I wasn’t there and felt abandoned by me. I have felt torn between going to work and staying with my kids, and hoping they know how much I love them even though I go to work. More than anything I have felt guilty. I have felt so guilty leaving the kids in the care of someone else. I wondered if they would resent me, feel like I wasn’t giving them enough. And then the times that I am at home, there are other things that need to get done. Laundry, dishes, cleaning still needs tending to. Which means more time “away” from them where my attention has to be somewhere else. And then they start whining, or throwing fits, or acting like CHILDREN, and I feel guilty again for losing my cool because our time together is limited and should only be happy and joyful, right?? It just doesn’t work that way.
But what have I gained? Neither of my kids have ever gone through serious separation anxiety. They are adaptable and flexible because they have had to be. From an early age, they were shuffled to different relatives houses, dropped off by me, picked up by my husband. Or maybe they didn’t see me at all that day, but life went on. As they get older, I can teach them about what I do. That I am skilled at listening to and examining newborns and making sure babies are born healthy. That I am trained to watch new moms closely, so they don’t become a statistic and leave the hospital as healthy as they were when they came in. I can help my kids understand the value and importance of hard work. And hopefully I can teach them that they can have a career and still be a great parent.
The older I get, the more I realize my kids don’t care. Maybe one day they will, but right now they don’t. They’re blissfully unaware of the struggle I feel to make them feel loved while not being with them as much as I can. They don’t know that I’m missing Christmas, or working through the night, or can’t pick them up from school today. All they want is ME. When I get home, Everett says “Mommy!! I missed you Mommy!” and Julian gives me the best hugs. No one is mad at me. No one is crying that I wasn’t with them. They just want me when I’m there.
Right now, I’ve cut my hours back more. I work one shift a week, and I wasn’t intending to cut back this much, but it’s actually been a huge relief with everything we’ve had going on, and especially with this pregnancy. I work night shifts 7pm-7am, which is how I started my nursing career so I feel like I’ve come full circle. It’s not exactly the hours I would want to work if it were just about me, but it’s the schedule that works best for our family, so it’s just a sacrifice we make. I don’t focus on it too much. Instead, I focus on the time I get with my kids. You may not be able to control your work hours or if you even have to work at all. But you can control your attitude and mindset. You can remind yourself of being a positive role model for your children. And you can definitely make the most of every moment you get.