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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Pregnancy Discrmination: Know Your Rights

I was subject to what I felt was discriminatory action during my pregnancy with Pudding. It wasn’t done openly but in a covert way I felt I was being punished. You see when I applied and accepted a new job, I wasn’t pregnant. I wasn’t even trying to get pregnant. But lo and behold when I turned up on the first day I felt decidedly queasy. I put it down to being nervous. It wasn’t nerves, I was in fact pregnant, just pregnant enough to show in a test. Oh how I struggled with the dilemma of telling my new boss. But tell them I must because I knew I would need to make some alterations to my work patterns.

Initially they took it reasonably well. They didn’t sing from the roof tops obviously. I could kind of understand where they were coming from, after all that had just employed a young vibrant woman full of potential. Having her go off on maternity leave in a few short months was not in their plan (nor mine come to that).

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The discrimination started with small things. I was suffering with sickness, not in the morning but in the evening. So I requested to swap my night shifts for days so that I could continue working. This was met with a less than helpful attitude. Despite giving them a weeks notice, my manager advised that I would have to find people to swap myself. If I could find no one then I would have to take the time as holiday. I ended up having to use a  chunk of my annual leave because they were unable to accommodate me.

On inspection of the new rota, I realised that for the next 9 weeks I was only on nights. Despite having told them that I was not coping well with night shifts. I did the best I could but after a few weeks of nights I couldn’t continue. My head was pounding and I felt sick all the time. I called into work to tell them I was unwell. There was no sympathy or well wishes. I ended up at the doctors who signed me off for two weeks.

Work requested I sent the certificate to them but no one called to see how I was. I eventually ended up in hospital, having to undertake a scan of my head to check that I wasn’t suffering from a blood clot on my brain due to the continuous nature of the headaches. When work finally called to ask if I was coming there was no concern for what I had endured.

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I did return to work after being signed off for 3 weeks. My meeting with the manager was less than pleasant. Blamed for being unwell and told that it was my fault for picking up an extra 7 hour shift somewhere else. I was then informed that I would be subject to a sickness review for the period of time I had off and that any further episodes of sickness would be monitored.

So upset with how I had been treated that I decided I know longer wished to work their. I made the difficult decision to find alternative employment at 25 weeks pregnant. To my surprise I was offered two positions and I jumped ship without looking back. The experience left me feeling very vulnerable and I spent some time researching my rights as a mother to be.

Here are some of the most important things to remember if you are being discriminated against at work.

  • You are allowed to request time off for antenatal appointments – you should not have to make the time up afterwards
  • Your employer must conduct a health and safety review once you advise them of your pregnancy and your working conditions must be adapted where possible to ensure the safety of you and your unborn child
  • If you require time off for pregnancy related conditions these should not be subject to any disciplinary proceedings in line with the usual sickness policy. (In short you should not be penalised for being pregnant)
  • The date for enforced maternity leave is now 36 weeks – you cannot be forced to take maternity leave any earlier than then. Even if you are unwell during your pregnancy.

Women have a right to be able to work whilst pregnant in a way that does not put either ourselves or our unborn child at risk. If you feel that you are being discriminated against or unfairly treated at work due to your pregnancy, then speak out. Know your rights.

Equality for Women: Is it all about the money?

I was invited this week to talk on BBC radio about equal pay for women. It was an interesting experience hearing myself on the radio. It also made me think. Until the question was raised by Nick Robinson about the difference in mine and my husbands pay I had never really thought about it. You see Mr Pud and I work in the same field so it’s easy to make a comparison between our wages. Obviously I don’t make as much as he does as I work part-time following the birth of our two children. It doesn’t worry me that he makes more than I do. After all he shoulders the majority of the bills and its ‘our’ money. But it did get me thinking.

Having our children was a joint decision. As was me reducing my hours at work to take on my new mothering role. However, I never really contemplated the effect going part-time would have on my career. It’s not just my monthly income. Being part-time means I am often overlooked for extra opportunities, such as training or extending my role into management. Almost like I am not considered a valuable member of the team. Not worth investing in because I am too involved in raising my kids. I can see that this is why my husbands role has far outstripped my own. The opportunities he has had would never be offered to a part-time employee. Don’t get me wrong he has worked so hard and deserves to be where he is. But what now for me?

Men and women have rols (1)

I love my children, they are my world. But it does feel as though they are now the only world I am allowed to have. Labelled a part-timer and a mother. A label that on closer inspection is holding my career back. Perhaps I am to blame. In all honesty I don’t want to have to be out of the house longer than my contracted hours. Equally so I don’t want to stagnate in my role. Or to lose my passion and drive in a career that I have worked so hard to achieve.

For me it’s not about the gender pay gap. Of course my husband earns more than me, he works more hours than I do. But this feeling of being a lesser member of the team because of my reduced hours is damaging. I can feel my lack of confidence growing at work. The anxiety I have begun to feel about my job has made me reconsider my decision to work at all. Some days it feels that despite my best efforts I am failing. Failing at my career, failing as a mother and failing myself. I always dreamed that I would achieve great things. That one day I would be Chief Nurse in a forward thinking innovative NHS. I can’t even imagine that now.

“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do or achieve. Do what you want to do and be who you want to be. Just en

It is not just the gender pay gap that is holding women back. How can we reach true equality for women when we cannot support part-time employees in the work place? I know myself that working part-time does not mean that a woman lacks passion or ambition. The biggest hurdle for gender equality is providing equal opportunities. Offering career pathways that include flexible training around reduced hours. Realising that part-time doesn’t mean less dedication.   Equality is not all about the money, it’s about feeling equally valued in the workplace.