The land of the living

Nursing is a unique profession in that it’s a 24/7 job. We work the day shift, night shift, evening shift, morning shift…the possibilities are endless, depending on the needs of the hospital unit and patient population. I have been blessed in my career to have experienced just about every shift—I paid my dues on nights for a few years, then moved to days, then had an office job, then worked evenings. I’ve appreciated the flexibility as it’s enabled me to care for my family while keeping a job, even when I decided to sacrifice moving my career forward to stay home with my kids.

Being their primary care giver, especially while Sam was still a baby, was important to me, and still is. But looking back at the last three years of my life, I have to admit that I didn’t only sacrifice my fancy job—I sacrificed a little bit of myself as well. Working evenings and weekends, working when my family is home enjoying their time together, has affected me like I never thought it would. You look at your week and know that on four out of seven days you get to be with your family. But it’s the three evenings I’m gone that hurt. It’s being away from them that makes the difference, not only in my schedule, but in my mental health as well.

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It seems like I’m saying my ideal would be to stay home all the time, and maybe it would, but that’s just not a possibility for us right now. I am making a change however, and going back to working days. This change comes after a lot of thought and a lot of intense conversations, but I think overall, it will be a good thing for our family, and for me. I miss the little comforts of working during the day, like drinking coffee on my way to work, or putting on makeup because more than the three other nurses I work with will see me. I miss the rhythm of the daytime, getting up at the same time every day—the routine of it all. I’ve talked before about establishing a routine for home, and I have, to an extent. But this will be so much more. And I’m hoping having regulated, weekly work time will help me regulate and plan my time at home as well. Not that I have that much to get done in a week, but now I’ll be juggling my time in a very different way.

I’m still only working part-time, which boils down to two days a week and every other weekend. We hired a sitter to watch the kids while I’m gone. One thing I realized is that I’m giving up my kid-free mornings—I work the days Sam is in preschool. But that’s OK. Maybe now that I’ll be home every evening, I won’t feel guilty about leaving for a solo trip to Target or a coffee date with a friend after dinner.

Mostly I’m glad to be back on the day shift. Everything changes at night. Everyone goes home. The hospital is quieter, but the requests from patients (who you’d think would be sleeping) become more obscure. And other things happen at night—school things, like concerts and PTA meetings, and fun things, like date nights and girls’ nights out. While I feel lucky to have chosen a profession that allows so much flexibility, I’m also thankful to be returning to a normal schedule, a schedule the rest of the world follows. I’m glad to be counting myself, once again, among the land of the living.

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