How to Balance a Nursing Career with Motherhood

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By Jennifer Larson, contributor

May 5, 2011 - Nursing is a challenging yet rewarding career. Motherhood is, too. But when you combine the two, they can go from challenging to downright demanding.

Who can make it all work? And how? Several nurses who shared their stories say their commitment to nursing and their role in the health care team is critical. And at home, teamwork is just as important. A supportive family makes it all happen—and makes it all worthwhile.

Mothers Day
Busy mom Lane Faughnan, RN, finds balance in her daily life by splitting up household chores with family members and remembering to take time for herself to recharge and rejuvenate every once and awhile.

Lane Faughnan

Lane Faughnan, RN, 36, is a clinical research nurse at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn. She joined the staff at St. Jude in 1999, and she’s been working in clinical research since 2004. She enjoys her job and said she can’t imagine not working.

Faughnan was even recognized as one of the Memphis Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40”—a designation that celebrates achievements in various professions—in 2008.

She’s been a mother since the birth of her daughter, Sophie, in 2001; she became a mother of two when her son Whit, now 6, was born a few years later.

When asked how she balances motherhood with a full-time nursing career, Faughnan was thoughtful.

“I wouldn’t say that I have it all,” she said. “I know there are things that I’m not doing.”

But she noted that she and her husband Brian have found a balance that suits their personalities and works for them.

“I think it’s just a matter of perspective,” she said.

Faughan and her husband have developed a schedule where they split up certain household chores and tasks. For example, he drops the kids off at school in the morning, and she picks them up after work. And they alternate nights when each one is responsible for their kids’ bath-and-bedtime routine.

And on her “off” nights, Faughnan tends to retreat to her crafting area. While her husband reads bedtime stories, Faughan might work on a sewing project or other home project. She’s made slipcovers for an old sofa, and she’s dabbled in scrapbooking.

Knowing that she’ll have some dedicated quiet time is rejuvenating. She knows she will always have time to do the little things that she enjoys, the things that recharge her.

“So I figured it out,” she said.

Mothers Day
Julie Harrington, RN manages to balance a thriving NICU nursing career with parenting, while also working as a childbirth educator and teaching parenting classes! She thanks her husband for helping her succeed in all of her different roles.

Julie Harrington

When Julie Harrington, RN, isn’t working, she revels in spending time with her husband, Jerry, and their  three kids: Lucas, who’s almost 6; Eve, 3; and Sarah, 14 months.

But families are an important part of her professional life, as well. Harrington, 34, is a NICU nurse in Libertyville, Ill., who works the night shift three nights per week, caring for new babies and their anxious parents. And she also works as a childbirth educator and teaches parenting classes.

Harrington credits her husband for helping her do what she loves professionally. He’s the one who stays with them during the days when she has to sleep.

“It’s a juggling act. Having good support is the most crucial part of it,” she said. “Knowing that my children are well cared for and loved all day long allows me to just go to sleep and not worry about a thing.”

That doesn’t mean that she doesn’t sometimes long for a day shift. She occasionally has to miss out on school activities that happen during the days when she’s sleeping before a 12-hour night shift. But working the night shift works for her family right now, and she does get to spend a good amount of time with her children when she’s not at the hospital.

“We’ve learned to balance it,” Harrington said.

What keeps her doing it all?

“I absolutely love what I do,” she said of her job. She loves taking care of whole families and helping them cope with the uncertainties that come along with the intensity of the NICU.  She also loves training new nurses and teaching them how to learn the skills they need to know to work there.

Harrington’s advice to other nurses is to find whatever works best for them and to go with it. Know that there will be ups and downs, she said, and try to keep a positive outlook.

“Really just trying to keep a healthy perspective on things is the biggest part of it,” she said.

Shelly Obsbourne

For the past ten years, Shelly Osbourne, RN, has worked as the pre-post coordinator in an ambulatory surgery center in Columbus, Ind.

After giving birth to her two children (Paige, 7, and Blake, 5), Osbourne decided to go from a full-time schedule to a two-days-per-week schedule. She currently works the day shift.

“I balance my professional career with my family by only working the two days a week,”  said Osbourne, 36. “The days I am home I am able to focus solely on my family.”

She also credits her husband for helping her maintain the work–family balance. He supported her decision to continue with her professional career after having children, and she’s very happy about that.

And since nursing can be a very demanding job, both physically and emotionally, she deliberately seeks out opportunities to nurture herself. She spends time with family doing fun things like camping or riding bikes, and she regularly meets up with friends to have dinner.

“After a difficult day at work it can be hard to come home and be the supportive loving mother that you need to be to your own demanding children,” Osbourne said.  “Nursing also makes you appreciate the health that you and your family have. In this career you can always find someone who is worse off than you.”

What advice would she give to other nurses who are seeking a healthy balance of work and family? Take advantage of your options; after all, one of the benefits of having a nursing career is that the profession encompasses a wide variety of choices, including a range of specialties, work sites and shifts. 

“My advice would be to make sure the professional career or nursing area you are working in is something that you are passionate for,” she said. “Find a job you love with the hours that work for you and your family.”

- Article courtesy of NurseConnect.com 

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