Many working mothers worry if their kids will end up OK. Especially when they are constantly “leaning in” to the workplace and home at the same time.
But the kids will be alright. Truly. Even if you have to spend many hours away from them every day.
The reality is that 70 percent of mothers with kids under 18 work outside the home, and 40 percent are breadwinners. With the high cost of living in some cities, many moms have no choice but to work.
There is, however, good news, according to recent evidence. Many studies show that having a working mother is not only suitable for financial reasons – but the situation has several positives for kids and the family as well.
As an ER nurse, I often see firsthand how lucky I am just to have healthy children.
Every single day I work with the parents of kids who are unwell. It’s hard to feel sorry for myself as a working mom when I see how hard they struggle. It’s a perspective that I wish more people had because it puts the challenges of working motherhood into perspective.
There are so many societal pressures about what mothers should be doing. Many of these pressures have become unspoken rules that we find ourselves following even though we don’t realize it. Likely, we are just so ridiculously busy that we don’t have time to examine these thoughts and feelings to see if they are even true.
But these insidious thoughts about working mom guilt feel genuine, and that’s why we feel so guilty about them. But while our children are the centerpieces in our lives – especially when they are little – it doesn’t mean that they can’t function without us looking over their shoulders each minute of the day.
My kids don’t need me every time they color in their coloring books or create art; they don’t need me spoon-feeding them their meals. They will figure out a way to get in their mouths if they are hungry.
They certainly don’t need me welcoming them with Pinterest-friendly snacks every time they come through the door.
Giving our kids space also gives them autonomy to learn on their own, in their way.
Children build self-esteem by figuring out how to do things by themselves. It makes them feel good, and they like to repeat the things that make them feel good about themselves. It is a recipe for healthy personal growth and self-development.
Maybe, as mothers, we just need to get out of our kid’s way and let them do their thing.
And finally, for once and for all, let’s just stop feeling guilty.
Working mom guilt is unnecessary, according to evidence.
Here is more evidence for those with working mom guilt:
#1. Studies show that daughters and sons benefit from having a working mom
According to a Harvard research study, daughters of working moms are more likely to advance in their careers, and sons of working moms go on to spend 50 minutes more each week caring for their own families.
As a working mother of both a daughter and a son, it was good to hear that working would positively benefit my children’s participation in both work and home. The study showed that having a working mom did not influence the future careers of sons one way or another. However, mother’s employment is essential to how much their sons participate with their own children later on in life.
The take-away is that working mothers have a chance to help their daughters be more financially independent as adults -and teach sons to participate as fathers.
#2. Kids of working moms are just as happy
The same Harvard study later showed that kids of working moms wind up just as happy in adulthood as the children of moms who stayed home.
The belief that having a working mother is somehow damaging their children is just not true. For mothers with concerns that their working outside of the home is somehow making their children unhappy, this should bring some relief.
#3. Working moms may be happier
The outrageous amount of multitasking that many mothers are required to do to have a career and care for children can be overwhelming. However, despite the challenges that come with finding a work-life balance, many moms who work say they’re healthier and happier than moms who stay at home.
This tells me that mothers can – and should- do what makes them happy. If that means staying at home, great! If having a career works better for you and your family, then that is OK too.
#4. Being out of the workforce for even a few years causes women’s earnings to plummet
Many women already earn 70 cents to the dollar than men in similar jobs. But add time taken off for childbearing years, and women are also paying something known as “the mommy tax.” Being a stay-at-home mom costs a lot of money.
Don’t succumb to the guilt of being a working mom. It’s OK, really.
Being a working mom often provides many women with cerebral stimulation that they don’t get at home.
I love being an emergency room nurse and a science geek at heart. I am challenged and stimulated while I am working with patients in a way that I’m not at home. I have had the opportunity to see more disease states, complex injuries, and unusual diagnoses than I ever could have imagined even existed.
It would not be an exaggeration to say I learn ten new things every day at work. Also, I am surrounded by some of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Many of my co-workers have the same drive for helping people I do. They motivate me to keep learning.
The bottom line is that it is essential to do what is right for your family. Doing what works for you to keep your family functioning, healthy, and happy is what matters.
It may mean lowering the bar in some other areas of our lives. There is no winner for the cleanest house. Saying that your home is messy because you play with your kids is a privilege. And I am so grateful for that privilege on the days I don’t work.
Whatever kind of mom you are – free yourself of the judgment that what you are doing is wrong or bad. And funnel that energy into creating a family life that engages, inspires, and invites joy into your days.
Nothing canprepare any parent for the insanity of parenthood, because it’s impossible to understand its complexity until you’re there. However, after working as a nurse for so many years before having my children, I do think it gave me a tiny edge.
As an emergency room nurse, I work in a lot of unusual and often stressful situations involving the health and wellbeing of my patients. Admittedly, I’m exhausted on my days off, and sometimes I feel guilty for working such long hours.
But even though I often feel overwhelmed with my crazy life as a working mom, I am so grateful for how my experience as a registered nurse has helped prepare me for motherhood.
Toddlers can act just like miniature psych patients.
In the ER, I deal with every single type of mental and psychiatric disorder ever documented in the literature. We work with everything from homicidal schizophrenia to depression or anxiety and everything in between.
Some of the most exciting conversations I have with my two-year-old remind me of similar situations and conversations that I have had working as a healthcare professional.
For example, I have watched my toddler throw herself on the floor in a fit of tears because I didn’t peel the banana “the right way” (believe it or not, I have had similar conversations with patients). I guess you could say that I have had a lot of experience with having irrational discussions over the years.
As a result of my experience working in an ER with an acute psych ward, I have almost no reaction when my toddler melts down or breaks into a fit of rage out of nowhere. I have had too much experience dealing with angry, irrational patients. Having composure and speaking with respect is always the winning choice and warrants the best response in both scenarios. (When a nurse gets mad back at a patient, the patients yells louder. It’s the same with toddlers).
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I stopped worrying about things that aren’t worth my worry.
As a nurse and mom, I am generally more concerned about the things that might seriously injure or kill my children. Sure, a broken arm would suck, and no mom wants to see their child in pain. But a broken bone won’t kill you. Like, for example, falling out a window in a home that hasn’t been childproofed could.
I want my home safe from the significant injuries, but I also don’t want to helicopter-parent them from ever injuring themselves.
(But I also have an irrational fear of swimming pools now too as a direct result of my experience as an ER nurse, so I suppose being a nurse and mom has also made me a bit paranoid as well).
The way I see it is that kids grow and learn so much through play. If they are playing right, they are going to get hurt once in a while. Minor injuries are a part of childhood, and having them can help kids grow and develop resilience to other things that happen to them out in the world.
Being a nurse is a constant reminder of how lucky I am to have healthy children.
I have had the privilege of working with pediatrics as an emergency medicine nurse. As a result, I have watched a lot of parents deal with their children’s chronic illnesses, life-threatening injuries, and so many other medical-related issues that can keep kids in the hospital for weeks, months, or even years.
It makes it hard for me to complain about how busy my life is as a working mother. Because in reality, when you have healthy children, you have everything that you need.
As a working mom and nurse, I see a lot of the bad things that can happen, and it makes me more grateful for the things I have. It is all a challenging balance. But it is also an honor and a privilege – and it has prepared me for motherhood in a way that nothing else really could.
Long gone are the days when I could leisurely wake up naturally and decide whether I wanted to take the 9 a.m. or the 11 a.m. yoga class or when I would put my running clothes on in the afternoon and lay around until I “felt ready” to head out for my jog, sometimes several hours later.
Before becoming a nurse and mom, I used to put a lot of thought into the location of my runs. Where would I go today? The beach? Or to the running trail? I never even thought about how long I would be out. I just ran until I felt tired and then called it a day.
Now I’m lucky if I get to squeeze in a 20-minute run after I put the kids down at 8 PM. And by that time, I’m usually so tired I can barely muster the energy to get out the front door!
For the record, I am happier now than I think I have ever been. I wouldn’t change anything about all of the blessings in my life that make me so incredibly busy. I LOVE being a mom and an ER nurse. But, as a healthcare professional and a person who enjoys a little self-care here and there, I am all too aware that I need to get regular exercise if I want to keep my sanity intact.
What are the simplest ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom?
Over the last month, I have been interviewing fellow nurses to find out how they squeeze in a workout while balancing motherhood and 12-hour shifts. Some of the feedback I received was very encouraging! The conversations I had with these nurses convinced me that it is, in fact, very possible to stay fit when it seems that there is no more time in the day.
For me, finding time for fitness has been a trial and error project. Over the past three years (since my first baby was born), I have tried several methods to squeeze workouts into an already crammed work/life schedule. Some of these methods worked, some I tried but didn’t stick to, and some never came to fruition.
My journey to stay fit, along with the information shared with me by my fellow nurse comrades, revealed four primary ways that nurse moms can successfully find time to exercise.
It is possible to find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom. Be creative!
Fit nurse tip #1. Work out before the kids get up.
Before kids, I never in a million years would have dreamed that I would be awake in time to make it to a 6 AM hot yoga class. But free time is sparse now. If I don’t make time somewhere, then it won’t happen. It’s as simple as that.
The good news is that when I drag myself out of bed early for a workout, then I feel amazing for the rest of the day. Sure, I’m tired, but I would be even more tired if I didn’t exercise at all. By starting my day with a yoga-induced rush of endorphins, not only do I feel better, but I am so much more productive throughout the day.
My goal is to make it to a 6 a.m. class at least two times during the week on the days I don’t work. Also, I am usually able to fit one early morning class on the weekend as well. Sometimes it ends up being only once a week, and sometimes if I’m lucky, all three. But something is always better than nothing!
Fit nurse tip #2. Work out on your lunch break.
A nurse friend of mine changes into running clothes and goes for a jog during her lunch hour. Talk about dedication to your health! She says it works for her because she can do it no matter what time her break is. Additionally, the midday exercise helps break up the day, helps her deal better with stressful patient assignments, and gives her energy for the rest of the shift. And she is a good role model for patients to boot!
(On another note, my husband replaced his lunch hour with an F45 class 3 times a week. Although he is not a nurse, he is a busy working parent nonetheless. The benefits for him are so obvious. He is noticeably better able to manage work stress and comes home with significantly more energy at the end of a busy workday. And he says he feels a lot better too!)
Fit nurse tip #3. Work out after the kids go to bed.
I know a lot of nurse parents who make it to the gym or a yoga class after working a 12-hour shift. This seems to be the most popular time for many parents because the kids are in bed and it’s an excellent time to work off the stress from the day. It is an effective way to put the day behind you and do something for yourself after spending 12 hours putting patients’ needs first.
On occasion, I will try to go out for a run or a walk if I still have a little energy left in me, usually during the summer months when the days are a little longer. Unfortunately, it is also typically when I am the most tired, and I just want to crawl into bed with a book and fall asleep. But I do love listening to music and disconnecting for a little while after a long shift, and a quick run is a relatively easy way to do that!
A post-work run for me is usually pretty quick, 20-25 minutes max. Unfortunately, if I run too long, then I risk not being able to fall asleep, and there’s not much worse than that. After all, sleep is essential to the already sleep-deprived parent!
Fit nurse tip#4. Try squeezing in exercise during the days when you are at home with your kids.
Finding new ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom requires some thinking outside the box. Why not try squeezing in a workout when you are at home with the kids during the day? Besides, isn’t taking care of a baby or toddler already a kind of workout in itself?
Here are a few ways to exercise with kids in tow:
Turn on a workout video in the living room (good when the weather is poor!)
Take the kids for a walk in the stroller
Take a stroller strides class with other moms
Run around with the kids on the playground
Kick a soccer ball around with the kids
Try teaching your kids with a Gaiam yoga video (watching my daughter practice yoga just melts my heart!)
Turn up the music and dance with the kids (it just doesn’t get more fun than that!)
How do you find ways to exercise as a busy nurse mom? I very much enjoy hearing about ideas of what others are doing. Feel free to leave a comment!
As a mom and nurse, I have a lot of information to share about this topic – all from personal experience!
One of the main reasons I decided to become a nurse is because I wanted a better work-life balance for when I started my own family.
In my first post-college career, I worked in the corporate world, working 50+ hours a week. At the time, my job also required that I frequently travel for business meetings – often for up to a week at a time. That is a long time to be away when you have small children!
At the time, I also had a few nurse friends who told me that they appreciated the flexibility nursing allowed them when they decided to start families of their own. Nursing was already a career that I was very interested in because I had a desire to work in a field where I could help others and make a difference in the world. And since starting my own family was something that my husband and I eventually wanted, becoming a nurse began to make a lot more sense.
So nine years ago, I went back to college to earn a BSN. I have since found that being a nurse mom has its challenges. However, I love both jobs, so it is worth it for me.
Here are the pros and cons of being a mother and nurse:
Being a mother and nurse has many perks, but it is not for the faint of heart.
For example, hospitals are open seven days a week, 365 days a year, and they need a lot of nurses to help with patient care. There are day shifts, night shifts, mid shifts, and even 4-hour break relief shifts available to many nurses. The flexibility also allows for many moms to go back to school and earn an advanced nursing degree which can help create even more career opportunities.
There are also many times that that nurses can work in a day- including 8, 10, and 12-hour shifts. In the hospital setting, most shifts are usually 12 hours. However, you can also work as a nurse in a doctor’s office, where shifts may only be 8 hours a day. And in some hospital specialties, such as the PACU or Cath Lab, nurses often work 10-hour shifts.
A five day work week can become 3
Unlike most professions, many full-time nurses work three days a week instead of 5 (a benefit of the 12-hour workday). That means nurse moms get to be home at least four days a week to spend solid, uninterrupted, quality time with their families.
And as a bonus, you will be able to run errands during the non-busy hours. For example, I can take my kids with me to go grocery shopping on Tuesday and Friday mornings – and we are usually one of only a few shoppers there! Running errands is so much easier when the roads and stores are less busy. If fact, since I became a nurse, I can hardly stand shopping on the weekends.
Travel is a lot of fun in the years before you start a family. But once children come along, that overnight business trip doesn’t seem so exciting anymore. In nursing, you have the option to go to the same workplace each time you go to work. Unless you are attending a nursing conference, there is no reason that you would need to travel for your nursing career.
Nurses can work per diem
Did I mention that nursing is flexible? The most significant benefit I have found being nurse mom is that I have the option of working per diem. Per diem means “by the day.” As a nurse, you have an opportunity to work the days that you want to work and stay home with your children on the days that you don’t.
Here are a few benefits to per diem nursing:
Higher pay then a career nurse
Work as little as one day a week or as many as five days a week (as long as there is a need for an R.N.)
Make your schedule
Cancel shift the day before if you are needed at home
Add on a shift at the last minute
You can leave your work at work.
Nursing does not require that you maintain a home office. In general, nurses do not have to bring work home with them. It is a great feeling to be able to leave your work at work. Best of all, you are not constantly worrying about quotas, reports that you need to turn in, or managing other employees – all of which many moms who work in business or other industries often have to do.
Cons of having a nursing career as a mom
Nursing is hard work
I would not get into nursing if you think that it is an easy job. I assure you, it is not. Nursing is the most challenging work that I’ve ever done in my entire life. You will need some recovery time on your days off because nursing can be a very physically and mentally challenging job.
Because the work is so stressful and can often lead to burnout, I always emphasize how important it is that nurses take good care of themselves. Proper nutrition, exercise, yoga, and meditation are a few great ways that nurses can make their health a priority.
Being a mother and nurse at the same time is challenging because both jobs are arguably two of the hardest jobs in the world. Albeit, they also are extremely rewarding as well. So if you are up to facing the challenges that come with being a nurse mom, you can find a lot of joy in being both.
The shifts are long
Since most hospital shifts are 12-13 hours long, you likely won’t see your children at all on the days that you work. Therefore, from the time you get up until the time you go to bed, you will be focused on things entirely outside of your family.
For that reason, I do not work back-to-back shifts, because I just don’t want to be away for my children for more than one day at a time (another reason per diem nursing works for me!).
12-hour shifts make for a very long workday. An unfortunate side effect is that you are going to be extra tired on your days off when you are with your kids. But let’s be honest, being at home with your children can be exhausting too!
You may have to work night shifts
Some nurses like to work the night shift. Unfortunately, many nurses, especially nurse moms, do not want to work the night shift. Working graveyards is hard on the body because you are always fighting your body’s natural circadian rhythm. Over time this can cause or exacerbate nurse burnout.
Also, depending on where you work in the hospital, they may have mandatory rotating shifts, meaning that all nurses alternate between night and day shifts. Talk about a confusing schedule!
Motherhood is the hardest job there is. And when you flip your sleep schedule around, it may make it even harder to manage motherhood because you will constantly be fighting with exhaustion.
You will likely have to work some holidays and weekends
Hospitals never sleep, and that includes holidays and weekends. While many people are enjoying a “family day” on a Saturday or Sunday, nurses are often working to take care of patients. Unfortunately, sometimes that can mean missing time with the kids, birthday parties, sporting events, and other special family outings.
There are many trade-offs to being a nurse as a mother. Sometimes you will miss important events, but as an exchange, you can be home during the week on days that everyone else is working.
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider about the discussion regarding “is nursing a good career for moms?” And many things depend on your current career and child care situation.
I hope this information is helpful for you if you are a mom who is interested in becoming a nurse (or want to be a nurse mom eventually!) If you have any questions about the information in this post, please reach out to me in the comment section.
Are you considering nursing as a profession? Leave a comment below!
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(This post about pumping essentials contains affiliate links. You can find my disclosure policy here.)
So you have made it through the first few months of breastfeeding a newborn. Congratulations! You are doing a great job, MamaMama!
But now a new change is looming on the horizon: your maternity leave is slowly creeping to an end. And you are wondering how you are going to continue providing your dear baby with their primary source of nutrition, breast milk.
And, like me, there is probably a big question going through your head right about now:
What pumping essentials do I nee when I go back to work?
I had so many concerns about being a “pumping mom,” and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I was going to make it happen without a ton of stress. But I knew I needed to be prepared. I am a registered nurse, and I work hectic twelve-hour shifts. Like most pumping moms who work, I don’t have time not to be prepared.
I am happy to share that I have been successfully pumping as an ER nurse in a very busy level 1 trauma center for the last four months. And I still can’t believe how well it is going! Sure, there have been a few minor hiccups along the way (like forgetting my breast pump at home, whoops!). But overall, the experience has been way better then I would have thought.
I now know that I will be able to continue pumping breast milk for my baby for as long as I desire. I want other working moms to know that they can do this too. (Read more about what I have learned about pumping at work as a nurse).
Pumping essentials for pumping at work
Top 9 pumping essentials you need when you go back to work:
This pumping essential is the highest on the list, for obvious reasons. Without it, you have no way to access your milk! I am using the Medela Freestyle portable pump because it is the one that my insurance covered, and it works great. You want to make sure that you have a double pump so you can pump both breasts at once to save time.
Check with your insurance to see if they cover a portable breast pump before you buy one. I live in California, and my insurance gave me a breast pump free of charge!
(Just a note, the different brands do not work interchangeably with each other. So you want to make sure you find one brand you like and stick with it! Otherwise, you will end up with a bunch of parts that don’t work with one another. You don’t need your back to work pumping supply list to be any longer then it already is!)
You will need breast milk collection storage bottles to store your milk until you get home from work. I use the Medela bottles because I already use the Medela pump, but there are several other brands you can use as well. Just make sure the ones you are using are made without BPA (it’s a safer plastic that helps retain breast milk’s beneficial properties).
I also like the Medela screw-on lids better than some other brands because they are leakproof. (I tried a different brand and had an issue with leakage all over my packed lunch!). You can wash them in the sink, and they are also dishwasher safe.
I like this nursing bra accessory because it makes it possible to double pump without having to hold the pumps with both hands. Once you start pumping, you will find that having to keep the pumps in place is annoying and makes it difficult to do anything else. This pumping essential will just make your life easier!
This ingenious contraption can hook on to almost any nursing bra and make it a hands-free pumping bra as well! That way, you can still do other things like check email or scroll through your phone. Because let’s be honest, pumping can be pretty dull after a while!
After you pump, you need to make sure you have a place to store your breast milk until you get home. I always pack a lunch for work, so I just use my insulated lunch bag to store my milk. You can use any insulated storage bag.
Engorgement is no joke. There have been a few times at work when I wasn’t able to pump on schedule, and I ended up leaking through my scrubs (you could barely see it but still!). As a result of that embarrassing experience, I started wearing nursing pads when I was at work.
I use reusable nursing pads made of bamboo because I have read that many disposable pads contain absorbent chemicals that come in direct contact with your skin. They also run the risk of trapping moisture, especially if you are leaking. This can increase the risk of mastitis, a very painful bacterial infection that will make you sick and can be dangerous if untreated. Disposable pads can also be expensive over time if you are frequently using them. I have 12 reusable nursing pads, and I run them through the washer and dryer with all my other clothes.
The beautiful thing about pumping is that you can store your breast milk in the freezer! So even if you have a surplus of milk, you can put it away for later use. These little breast milk storage baggies are great because you can write the date on the top section, so you know how long they have been in the freezer.
Place them in the refrigerator for 12 hours before you need them to thaw them out. Or place them in a bowl of hot water for quicker use. These are on the high list of absolute must-have items to pump at work that you will need: I have used over 200 of them already!
My freezer got a little overloaded with breast milk within the first few months that I was back at work, and this milk storage organizer helped me to keep things more organized. It also helped me keep the milk organized by date, so I make sure to use the oldest milk first.
Your baby is going to need a way to drink your breast milk when you are not there, right? I tried so many different brands of bottles for our baby (there are so many!), but I finally settled on Dr. Brown’s newborn bottle feeding set. Different brands are NOT able to be used interchangeably with one another, so its a good idea to find a brand you like and stick with it. Otherwise, you end up spending a bunch of money on bottles and parts you don’t even need.
In the beginning, your baby will only need the 4-ounce bottles because they won’t be drinking as much milk. But as they grow, you need to switch to the 8 oz size. My son is six months and can take an entire 8 oz bottle in one feeding very easily.
The Dr. Brown’s bottles have a blue vent system that is supposed to remove excess air bubbles from the milk. This supposedly helps reduce feeding problems like colic, spit-up, burping, and gas. Our daughter struggled with pretty severe colic and constant spit-up and switching to Dr. Brown’s bottles helped the situation tremendously. She still had some issues, but they were noticeably much better!
Take it one day at a time, Mama.
You may get overwhelmed, but you too can do this!
I hope these pumping essentials help to make your return to work much easier on you. There are a lot of products on the market, and it can be overwhelming for a mom who is preparing to go back to work from maternity leave. So, make it easier on yourself and have a plan in place before you go back to work (read more about how I pump at work as a registered nurse who works 12-hour shifts).
After successfully pumping at work with two babies, I have whittled down my list to include the things that have helped me the most. I hope this helps to guide you in the right direction to find what works for you too!
It is your legal right to continue to provide breast milk for your children and pump while you are at work. Do not let anyone tell you differently or make you feel guilty about it. Only you know what is right for you and your babies.
Good luck, Mama! Let me know how it goes as a pumping mom in the workplace, and please reach out to me if you have any questions. I would be happy to help you!