To me, the most amazing individuals in the world are the #nursemom and #nursedad. Like unicorns, they manage to rock the world of nursing and parenting with a magic that smells like coffee and determination. While I am not a member of the nurse-parent team, I know many of our #newthingnursetribe are and that is why I invited my nursing school friend and esteemed colleague, Lindsay Woolf Grainger, MPH, MSN, RN, to tell us how she has tried to find work-life balance as an almighty #nursemom.
I am delighted to be sharing my experiences with you on the New Thing Nurse Blog!! I am Lindsay Woolf Grainger - a nurse, nurse educator, wife, mom, and friend of Sarah’s from nursing school. Yes, I remember the “good ol’ days” of skills check offs, late-night study sessions with Sarah, and fun ,yet random, hair cutting parties (look - we had to be creative with our budgets as nursing students). I am humbled to have this opportunity to offer my thoughts on the daily quest to balance work and family priorities as a #nursemom.
My husband and I have three daughters - ages 1, 3, and 6. Our days can seem like a blur of feeding, entertaining, refereeing, comforting, and disciplining our kiddos. I love the privilege of being a parent, and with these responsibilities on my plate, my career has had to evolve.
The news of my first pregnancy created some immediate changes in my work as a new grad, nightshift nurse on a transplant unit in a large, urban facility in Georgia. For starters, I actually asked for help when moving patients. I was extra sensitive to smells and took better precautions NOT to inhale. My participation in doing CPR compressions was frowned upon. I also realized that nightshift combined with the fatigue of pregnancy was pretty intense, so I put my name on the list for a transfer to dayshift and was grateful when a position came up within a few months.
Some really groovy things happened during pregnancy too. I discovered a new-found confidence and assertiveness. This led me to schedule a meeting with our CNO to discuss my concerns about the hospital’s then-recent decision to cut the training time for new grad nurses in HALF. I don’t know if I credit the hormones or what, but I felt compelled to advocate for future nurses, and it seemed like my barely emerging “baby bump” was leading the charge.
After the delivery of our daughter, a whole new wave of realities came crashing into my life - the challenges of breastfeeding, the haze of post-partum hormone shifts, and severely truncated sleep. New career questions emerged. I had the luxury to return to work PRN, but even so I was clumsy at maneuvering pumping while on the job (in the bathroom—really people?), and I felt anxious to be away from home yet anxious to maintain my professional pursuits while at home.
So that delicate teeter-tottering of balancing career/family time began quickly for me. Today I work as a full-time nurse educator, and I appreciate the flexible schedule that it affords. I still struggle to manage all of the childcare needs (especially when the kid(s) are sick) and worry that my mind too frequently drifts to work plans or schedules even when I am hanging out with my kids. There are many competing interests to balance between the needs of our family and the demands of my job, but I try my best. And I try to forgive myself for the days of lopsided priorities.
A few things that help redirect me towards balance include:
Open Communication - I think that effective partner communication is essential (with or without kids). The more my husband and I communicate about our concerns and our needs, the better we seem to be able to work as a team to equilibrate our jobs and family.
Landing Intentionally - To state the obvious, working in health care can be really stressful. With lots of family responsibilities in the mix, it is important for me to be intentional about where I work. I have decided that on the job I need to land somewhere in between “bored” and “stressed out.” I need a job that remains challenging and engaging without driving me nuts from the stress.
Being Creative - My entrance into the field of nurse education started with a random phone call one year out of nursing school when I was 3 months post-partum. I was sleep-deprived, unprepared, yet curious. So (naturally?) I said yes. I am so grateful for the opportunities that this career path has afforded me and our family. Being creative and open-minded with career choices and scheduling can make work/family balance easier to achieve.
Sharing - One of my favorite ways to prioritize my family is to include them in my job! As a new nurse, I invited (ok…begged…) my husband to occasionally visit me at work. I wanted him to understand what I was up to each day on the job. I have taken my children (even as babies) to the hospital to introduce them to co-workers and (hopefully) foster their interest in and appreciation for healthcare. Now as a nurse educator, I look for ways to include my kids in the classroom. My kids have also enjoyed volunteering (alongside nursing students) with Meals on Wheels in our community. (Full disclosure: I *might* be guilty of dressing our girls in child-sized scrubs during these events to max the cuteness factor.)
So, I have mentioned a few things that point me more towards balance, but I should probably mention a few of the pitfalls that distract me in this pursuit:
Others! I cannot look at the lives of others (the credentials they have achieved, hours they work, activities their kids do, accolades their kids have achieved, relationships they have with their partner, etc…etc…). I don’t live anyone’s life but mine. No one is living anyone’s life but her own. The comparisons that tempt me are unhealthy and unfair and don’t help me figure out how to balance my unique responsibilities and goals.
Sleep! For the record, I have tried (as probably most of you readers have) to sacrifice sleep for the benefit of my job and my family. Prolonged sleep deprivation has not moved me an inch closer to balance, so I would call this the ultimate “anti-balance” pitfall!
Every day can be viewed as a new opportunity to reassess our work/family balance and to move weight from one end of the teeter totter to the other. If work is suffering, then refocus on work. If family life is suffering, then refocus on family. And always know that no one (not even an acrobat, or your co-worker, or even your distant social media acquaintance) is perfectly balanced or put together. All of you nurses out there who work tirelessly to serve your families and your patients. YOU are heroes!!!
About the Author: Lindsay Grainger, MPH, MSN, RN is a full-time nursing instructor at the Mary Black School of Nursing of the University of South Carolina-Upstate. Her academic interests include community health, public health policy, immigrant health and refugee health. She holds a Masters of Science degree in Nursing (CNL) from Augusta University and a Masters of Public Health degree from Emory University. Lindsay has worked at the bedside in organ transplant nursing and in general surgery. Lindsay has also taught undergraduate and graduate clinical courses at Augusta University.
Outside of the classroom, Lindsay enjoys spending time with her family. (Her three daughters keep life whirling and twirling!) Lindsay's hobbies include learning languages, practicing yoga, and writing music. Lindsay currently serves as a volunteer at the Greenville Free Medical Clinic and previously served as a volunteer for Friends of Refugees in Clarkston, Georgia.