Nurse or Mum is it time to choose between the two?

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I find myself in serious contemplation of my career. A career I have worked hard for, but that now appears inflexible and a destructive influence on my family. How many times can I leave my four-year old in tears, carefully remove his arms from my waist and whisper ‘Sorry darling, Mummy has to go to work’. To shut the door and still hear his sobs of ‘don’t go again Mum…’

The problem is that no matter what people say nursing does not lend itself to a family friendly life. The shifts are long and unpredictable. The work itself is both mentally and physically draining. I personally can’t walk out of the hospital door without thinking about my patients and their families. Being a nurse for many is a vocation. It’s not just a job, or a profession. The training is hard, the job is harder. You have to love what you do, or you just wouldn’t keep doing it. Always chronically understaffed and overworked, the patients come first. Other people’s families constantly put above your own.

The level of responsibility I and my fellow nurses have is huge. No longer are we the profession so often portrayed in old films. You know the ones where we meekly follow the Doctors round and do their bidding. That went out the window with our hats and aprons many years ago. Nurses are now more autonomous, more skilled and more educated than they ever have been. In my opinion this is fantastic but it comes at a price. That price is stress. A stress that grows almost unseen, but bubbles over into family life.

Here we have a profession that is predominantly made up of women, that doesn’t lend itself in any way to family life. Lets face it flexible working isn’t an option. I can just imagine my managers face if I said I wanted to come in at 10am some days or finish at 5pm. I would have to pick her up off the floor she would be laughing so hard! Patients need 24 hour care, nurses have to provide this.

Obviously I can’t work from home that is a ridiculous notion. Where would I put all the equipment? Besides I can’t see the ward round stopping by my house to make a plan of care or the x-ray team trundling up my drive… So flexi-homeworking not an option. Of course we are a minority in that our family has two nurses that work inflexible long shifts, which only compounds the problems. Some one is always tired, someone is always at work and both of us are inevitably stressed!

Is this my choice? Well kind of but not really. I often think that if I really had a choice I wouldn’t go to work. But then I remember that I like having my own money and I like having something that is mine and not the children’s. It’s not a selfish thing to want to have some time where I am a nurse and not ‘Mum’. I think in many ways it makes me a better Mum when I return to the children. Or it would if I wasn’t so shattered after work! But the children hate it. I hand my children over to my husband like I handover my patients to my colleagues at the end of my shift.

No one I speak to has the answer. It feels as though the day is coming when I will need to make a decision. I either am a nurse or I am a mother. I raise my children, but lose everything I have worked to achieve. There doesn’t appear to be a happy medium for me. Its my career or my kids. There is no competition in my eyes. If somethings got to give I know what it will be. That doesn’t make it ok and it doesn’t make it any easier.

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43 thoughts on “Nurse or Mum is it time to choose between the two?”

  1. Would you consider a career where you could use your knowledge as a nurse but have normal working hours? I used to work for MND Association and we had a team of nurses who worked our helpline? It’s probably a stupid idea but thought I’d share just in case xx

    1. Thanks Kelly – no idea is stupid at this point and I will certainly look into the idea of doing something with my nursing skills that is no so clinically based x

  2. I just saw this on twitter so had to read. I’ve just made this exact decision and have contemplated blogging about it but to be honest I think it’s all too raw still. I’ve let my registration lapse and it was such a hard decision to make. I haven’t bothered to keep it open on the bank. I was going to but my husband travels a lot for work and often at short notice and on weekends. I would be notoriously unreliable! I know it’s the right decision for my family, although it wasn’t really a choice. My pay never covered the childcare so I had to stop anyway. It would have been the easiest choice in the world if it wasn’t for the hard work I put in to get there in the first place. Good luck deciding what is right for you. Whatever you choose stand by it and don’t feel guilty! Nursing really isn’t as family friendly as people believe it is.

    1. Thanks for commenting Kirsty – I wish more people realised that nursing isn’t even close to being family friendly! That must have been such a difficult decision to make and I hope it works out for you. I know people say you can always go back, but its never as easy as they make out is it? Good luck with you choice, I know I will have to make mine soon x

      1. Petite Pudding and Winnettes. I’m a midwife currently coming to end of mat leave. I too have been wrestling with where my career is heading! I’m wanting to be a SAHM/WAHM. Main reasons as you guys have stated. It is far from being family friendly. Its a tug of war between all the hard work, training and effort put into a job which I still love…but I love my family more! x

  3. What a powerful and emotional post and one that has moved me reading this. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for you, I struggle just being able to work from home, and having read your post I need to appreciate that more. I hope that in time it gets easier for you. Claire x #triballove

    1. Thank you Claire – I think its hard no matter what job you are trying to do as a Mum. Am pretty sure I wouldn’t get anything done if I was working from home like you. You must be very disciplined x

  4. I hate that this is what our pick of sector is coming to – excellent and dedicated professionals having to contemplate leaving the profession they love because of the ridiculous pressures on family life – teaching is no where near as hard as being a nurse or a dr or in the police but I do have similar thoughts about education too. So hard.

    1. Its not right is it? But I honestly don’t see how they could change it with out damaging the service we provide. I wish there was someone out there with the answers. Thanks for commenting xx

  5. I’m currently on maternity leave and am going back part time, I am lucky my mum is able to care for my son one day a week when I go back, so hopefully he will look forward to the day I work. It is very difficult as it is such a demanding job and you can’t leave your work at work, you’re always worrying about something when you get home. Personally nursing is such a big part of who I am I would struggle to leave the profession. Good luck in reaching a decision that works for you and your family

    1. I think if we had family closer maybe that would help. It certainly seems hard now we have two kids and the eldest has started school so some weeks he doesn’t really see Mummy at all if I am working all weekend. I agree that nursing does become a part of who you are and I would find it so hard not to do it anymore. But I can’t bear to see his little face on weekend mornings streaked with tears. This will be the toughest decision I ever make. Thanks for commenting and good luck on your return to work xx

  6. That would be so heartbreaking! I have much respect for then men and women working in this position. It takes a lot of strength to care for others like they do.

    1. Thank you for commenting – it can be a hard job but at the same time very rewarding. But yes a little heartbreaking when the job starts to effect family life x

  7. Remember the decision you make is not forever. I took quite a few years off whilst my children were small and have gone back to it recently. There will always be a need for nurses but your children’s intense need for you is quite short lived. Part-time /bank work could also be a possibility – just enough hours to keep your registration valid.

    1. I keep telling myself its not forever an there is always plenty of bank going. I don’t want to miss this crucial part of my childrens lives, but I do worry that I might lose a part of myself too. Thank you for commenting xx

      1. It’s true, I did lose a bit of ‘me’ and turned into ‘justmum’ (aka PTA mum/helpermum) but I’m reversing the trend now just in time for my teenagers to get to know this part of me.

  8. I really don’t how you do such a demanding job that is emotionally and physically draining. I am in complete awe of you. I think when you are ready to make that decision you will know. I walked away from my teacing career, something that I thought I would never do. I still miss it but do I regret it? No. You have to do what is right for you and your family. I hope you come to a decision that you are happy with xxx

  9. It is so hard when you become a mother now and that fact is not well publicised. Thank you for your honesty. I left my old job because it did not pay well enough to support childcare costs for 2 – so few do – and am worrying about whether I can do teacher training, because it is so stressful now but at least gives the combination of job security, income and school holidays at home (I know it’s still work time, but at least from home) which nothing else does. It is women still who primarily shoulder the cost of children, and the cost is high: flexible work seems to me to be vanishing, term time jobs are gold-dust, time out of careers cost, technology is taking jobs, and all the time men attack women for “wanting to have it all” or “scrounging” whatever we do while they swan around waving their privileges and really having it all. The way we pretend that children are not an ordinary part of life nowadays is crazy. I think we need to move to part-time work being the norm, but all part time work seems to be under attack at the moment.

  10. It should be possible to do something about this on a systemic level. I gave birth in Belgium, and there were I think three teams of nurses switching around shift work each day. What do you think is the obstacle to that in the UK? Genuine question.

  11. Have you thought about Practice Nursing? Can offer a more flexible approach whilst still allowing meaningful and fulfilling clinical contact. The bonus too of seeing patients benefit from your care and compassion over an extended period. Very rewarding and practices are crying out for staff.

  12. I am not a nurse but a teacher. I feel my job massively compromises my family life. The children in my class come before my own child in terms of allocation of my time. It’s either that, or I lose my job. I leave for work at 6:45am and am often home around 6:45pm. Then I open my bag with yet more work to do for the evening. “But teachers only work 9-3!”

    My fiancé is a police officer. He works awful shifts but I am beyond jealous that he never has work to bring home. He is paid overtime. I am paid for 6 hours a day but I usually work 12. My daughter is 2 and I feel like I am missing her childhood. But to be able to afford to live, I don’t have a choice.

    Jobs in the public sector are the most overworked, under appreciated and underpaid.

  13. I had an office job and found working and juggling kids a nightmare and I just was not happy so in May this year I decided to give up work! I have to say it was the best decision I have made, yes you have to make cut backs due to losing a salary but the positives far out way the negatives. My daughters confidence has increased massively having me around doing things with her, the house is more relaxed, family time is family time as the chores get done when kids are at school and preschool and the most important thing I am no longer missing out on the important things! I feel happier and more relaxed and I honestly don’t know how I use to fit in work. I know at some point I will have to return to some sort of work once they are both settled in school but for now I am just enjoying being a mum! It’s time for parents to stop beating themselves out trying to do it all and just do what’s right for you and your family xx

  14. This must be so hard for you. I’m a big advocate for flexible working for parents, but obviously that doesn’t really work in a profession like nursing. I don’t have any answers, but you’re raising an issue that other nurses must be facing too – is it time for the healthcare industry to think differently about how they manage shifts? I don’t know if it’s even possible, but it would be a shame if mothers like yourself felt like they had to give up a job they loved.

  15. Wow. Honestly reading this is like reading my own mind a few months ago. I have 3 children and have worked my butt off over the years as a paediatric nurse. It got to a point where as much as I loved my job it was becoming too difficult. My husband hated my job and even with set weekly shifts childcare was difficult. We ended up in a situation where I was missing out on my children to care for other people’s children. As rewarding as my job was I had to go. I’ve since taken a community job within the health visiting team. You would think with cushy 9-5 hours it would make things better but loosing the unsociable hours pay has meant going from part time to full time to make up the difference! I see less of my kids than ever and am using none of the skills I have spent so long developing. It is much more flexible and there are times when I can get home early and there’s always a way to get to school plays etc but I don’t see how I’ll ever be able to go back to ward life and the job that I love as all my skills will be gone! It’s such a shame that highly skilled hard working nurses are being pushed out of the profession because it’s impossible to suit family life. I don’t see how this can be improved without being completely unfair to those without children either. Such a shame.

  16. I’m going to make an assumption that not working is not an option financially.

    It really doesn’t matter what job you do but your kids are going to be clinging to your legs on the days they are at home and you are working. I would be inclined to say that in the grand scheme of things it’s good for them to see their Other parent as an equal opportunities parent. Even if you had a term only job you’d be working 10 weeks while they were on holidays (assuming you have 20 days pa) .

    Childcare , working hours structure and Arranging coinciding shifts so you all get time off to gather are surely the issue?

  17. As a fellow staff nurse, I completely understand where you are coming from. The only way I can get afford to work (with childcare costs) is to work set double shifts each week (15 hour days) so that my daughter only has to go to nursery 2 days a week (I actually work these hours 3 days a week but the third day when I’m at work my daughter is with my husband). The nature of working those hours means that 3 days a week I don’t see my daughter at all as she’s still asleep when I leave for work and in bed by the time I get home. The work is difficult and stressful, and I work in a unit where a lot of the patients are aggressive and have complicated health issues. We’re regularly short staffed and the work load and is ever increasing. I feel like a crap wife and mother as I just feel stressed out and exhausted most of the time, and spend most of my days off exhausted and not making the most of our time together. The nature of working in a ward means I regularly miss spending weekend time and special dates (Christmas / Easter etc) with my family. We’re due another baby next month and I really not sure about keeping up this working routine once I return after my maternity leave.

  18. I have not had to work 24 hour shifts but as a teacher I have some level of understanding of the lack of flexibility and the incompatability with family life. I left my job after maternity leave as I knew I couldn’t do both. I could be a great mum or a great teacher but I couldn’t cope with being crap at both because that was what would have happened so I left work. I don’t regret it one bit. I am however needing to earn some extra pennies so I am going ro tey and supply 1 day a week. Could you do this? I’ve heard of agency nurses… would this allow you to still keep a foot in the door on occassion? Alternatively could you find a new job in a GP or community setting where hours may be improved? I sympathise with the struggle of having 2 nurses in the household. 2 teachers always struggle with balancing work and home life so I can see how nurses do too and you dont get the holidays to have a break together! Hope you find something that works.

  19. I am a mum and a nurse. It’s hard to juggle the shifts and family life but there are flexible options out there…have you considered nursing in a specialism? Many of these jobs I.e. TVN, discharge liaison, community palliative, continuing healthcare are based on mon-fri hours. There are also private companies who have nurses in fields such as such as complex care; nutrition support; being a rep for a catheter company. Look further than the acute sector and you may find some interesting things. Good luck

  20. I’m am in awe of nurses. It seems a hard stressful job that can be rewarding.
    I have gone back to work these past couple of weeks and finding it very hard. I work in retail and it’s a physical job. I’m on my feet 9 hours a day. I get up at 5:15 am to breastfeed my daughter and get ready for work to be out of the house by 6am. I drop her off at mums before heading to work for 7am. I pick her up at 4pm then we get home for 5pm. It’s tea bath and bed. No time for playing anymore.. it’s very hard being a working mum. My husband is gone more than 12 hours a day. We are both shattered in the evenings and in bed early. It’s tough with both parents working full time. But we have to do it to live.

    I love the rawness and emotions in this post. I wish you all the luck in whatever you decide. Xx

  21. I seen your post on insta and had to comment. I too am a nurse and having to seriously contemplate my career due to health reasons and totally inflexable managers. Im starting a community post soon and hoping this helps. Would you consider that as an option? X

  22. Oh im sorry to say this but reading this actually made me feel better to know that i am not alone. I am not a nurse iam a chef but the hours are long and not flexible and i often go days a week not seeing my little girl. I am trying to launch 2 of my own businesses in the hope that one day i can take a step back from my cheffing life as when she starts school i will see her even less. I am starting 2 new ventures and really want then to be successful so if anyone has any advice i would really appreciate it and Thank you for your post!!

  23. No one has the answer because there is no perfect solution. Before kids I never envisaged anything other than being the all singing all dancing supermom… top career women with 2 immaculate high achieving kids staring at me with doughy eyes when I got home from work. Hahaha… what a joke. My job never felt the same after my daughter (I was an Architect) so I trained to be a teacher thinking I would find it more fulfilling and I would have more time with my girl. Sadly not, it was exhausting. Now I’m three kids deep and work just doesn’t even seem worth it. Where did all my ambition go? Er… into my three gorgeous kids that need me, that’s where. Good luck making your decision, it’s not an easy one. #EatSleepBlogRT

  24. You need to do what’s best for you and your family. Just think that nursing will be always there after your children are grown up. But you cannot get that time back from when your children are small. But I do understand if you need to work to survive and pput a roof over your heads and food on the table. That’s why I’ve had to go back to work. I do wish I had a choice.

    Good luck in what ever decision you come too! xx


  25. This is obviously a very difficult choice for you! You obviously love your job and I understand that. I am lucky that teaching is more flexible and I am able to work part time. It must be hard with both of
    You doing shift work too. I hope you find a solution that works for you all. #EatSleepBlogRT

  26. That is really hard. It is so unfair that the world isn’t set up better to support parents who want to continue with their careers without sacrificing family life. I hope you might find a solution or even a slight career change that allows you to do something you love. #EatSleepBlogRT

  27. You have all of my respect and empathy. I feel the added layer of being a woman makes it even harder. Not many male doctors that I know struggle with their career vs. their fatherhood or place in the family. Its a conundrum no matter how we look at it. I am the breadwinner in a two mom household, and while I am not a nurse or in a medical profession, I feel many of the losses that you do when it g=comes to my sweet little girls. Life is hard with many enigmas… I wish you luck with this one, and know you have my support!

  28. I can completely relate to this but as a teacher. I love my job and I love the school I work in but there is no work/life balance. The one salvation is that I do get the school holidays off. I really feel for you and the decision you have to make. I hope you find a way to make both work for you!

  29. I know exactly what you mean, I am a nurse too, but I no longer nurse because it just didn’t fit with our family life. The shifts were just too difficult to work around. There are other avenues where our skills can be used, but I decided it is no longer for me. I love patient care, but I feel like we are too busy to care how I wished I could. I ahed rushing between patients and wanted to have the time to actually talk with them more, answer questions and offer more support. Good luck lovely xx #eatsleepblogRT

  30. This post is so close to my heart as hubby works in the hospital, although he has set hours he does oncall which often means he stays late or skips out on weekends.
    Just today he came home as Ben is drifting off and knows he’s missed yet another chance to spend time with his child.
    It’s hard, but it’s something we just have to cope with and as a wife I have to make sure he doesn’t beat himself up over what can’t be helped.

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