While working-motherhood isn’t easy on anyone, there is a unique sort of struggle that comes along with a profession that involves providing care as part of its job description. For many nurses and others who work in caring or nurturing professions, the emotional weight of work compounded with the maternal role can be a crushing burden if this unique struggle and distinct set of needs is not recognized and addressed.
Put more plainly, make sure everything has its place in your life and that it stays there. While it is easier said than done when we are the most trusted profession, the profession most known as the held hand and the crying shoulder for individuals at their sickest and most vulnerable, we have to allow ourselves to leave work at work.
Sometimes, this might look like crying in the car or singing at the top o our lungs on the drive home to release the weight we have been carrying with us throughout the work day, so we can prevent that weight from falling onto the shoulders of our children, partners, and other loved ones. Compartmentalizing and holding your time at home as sacred and separate from work allows you to remain whole, even when the stories you encounter in a work day may be devastating.
While it is important to keep work in a separate space in life from your home and family, it is also important to commit to the space where work resides as well. Do work you care about. Be a professional that you’re proud to be – champion and advocate for causes that matter to you. Give of time and your expertise. Work with populations you hold near and dear – some of us want to work closely with children. Some have a particular love of working with the aging adult population. Some want to work with military veterans, or victims of rape and abuse, or cancer patients.
Work takes us such an enormous chunk of our lives, it is an absolute disservice to ourselves to work in an area that does not make us feel whole. Work takes us away from home and away from our families for so much of our time that it is of the utmost important that the work we do seems significant, and therefore worth that sacrifice.
We must learn, also, to be fiercely protective of the time we have – for our loved ones, and for ourselves. While the saying that one ‘cannot pour from an empty vessel’ may by now be trite and common, it is nonetheless true. The caring we provide to our patients and then to our families must also extend to ourselves in order for us to get through.
Be protective of the boundaries you set and the time you allot yourself to rest. Nursing as a profession is taxing on one’s heart, and in order to be both the best mother and the best nurse that you can, you must, must, must continue to feel whole.
Find time to make peace with yourself, especially when things do not go perfectly – when work forces you to miss an important event, or when you leave a shift with an unresolved issue, or when your hands are tied and you are prevented from doing more for someone you so deeply wanted to help. Also yourself the quiet space to acknowledge what you are feeling when things go wrong – but also allow yourself to bask in the warmth of when things go right. Allow yourself to feel, to process, and – if need be – to let go and forgive.
Finally, if it can be helped, do not go at it alone. We are all out here. We are all out in the world every day, caring on the job, sometimes crying in our cars, grabbing coffee before work, and possibly all crossing paths without even knowing it. Reach out to those around you who are going through or have gone through this same crazy, beautiful (yet sometimes ugly) experience. No one understands your struggle in quite the same way as someone who is down in the trenches with you. We are all in this together. We have to be.