Working Mom Nurse

I’ve been choosing to care for other people’s kids instead of my own. Let me explain, for the last 8 years any time my child has been ill and unable to go to school or daycare, I still go to work. We always “figure it out.” I’m not sure why this is my default. I spent today ruminating about this behavior while my febrile son slept on me. Is this a nurse personality trait, have I been coached by previous supervisors to always put my patients before myself or my family, or is it my character flaw?

I’ve called in sick to work twice in the last 4 years. Once when I was hacking up a lung to the point I was dizzy and once when I threw up in front of my attending. I have always come to work, not because I didn’t want to use PTOs but because I didn’t want to seem like a dead beat. When I’m at work sick, coworkers often say they wished I’d stayed home but they do the same thing so I don’t take the comments personally. When I’m at home sick I feel guilty like I let someone down. I’ve asked my non-nursing friends about this moral dilemma. They respond incredibly nonchalant about staying home sick, “who cares… if you’re sick, you’re sick.” In my first year of nursing, I was sick 4 12-hour shifts. I was sick in October, December, February, and May. Being sick that many times in a 12-month roving period meant I had a sit down with a supervisor to discuss my excessive absences. It’s very possible that this meeting of shame has brought me to this mindset.

Why the sudden focus on absences?

This past week my son had strep. Being the nurse that I am, I let him sit with it for 5 days before getting him checked. This caused my husband to take time off because that’s our deal. My husband doesn’t even consider asking me to stay home. Unfortunately, he had no choice but to be at work today. That’s it, I had no choice, after 8 years of leaving my sick kids behind I called in sick. Rather than waiting till the last minute at 6 in the morning to check a temp, I proactively called in sick to work. It killed me at the time but I let my poor boy sleep in and then we spent the day snuggling.

I love this kid, “Momma I’m gunna need wet towel, a barf bowl and bring me the fan.”

I spent the day thinking about all the times I “figured it out.” It’s stupid. I have to believe that my patients’ parents understand and my coworkers understand that sometimes your kid is sick and you stay home. End of story. So from this moment forward, I will make every effort to stay home with my sick kids. It shouldn’t rest solely on the non-medical parent because a nurse is always expected to show up no matter what.

In no way does this mean you develop a “screw it” attitude because our work is one of the most important jobs in the world but you have little time with your kids while they are little. Statistically you spend 99% of your time with your child before they turn 18 years old. At a certain age, “the snuggles” only happen when they are sick.

If you have sick time available so you can care for your family, why leave your sick babies at home? What do you do? Do you force yourself to show up Every Single Time or do you decide to care for youself and your kiddos when you need to?

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