I Didn’t Play Cards As a Nurse And I Don’t As a Mom Either

By now, you’ve likely seen the appalling at worst or incredibly misguided at best comments of Senator Maureen Walsh of Washington State made regarding nurses. If you did miss it here’s a link, Sen. Walsh asserts that often nurses have enough down time “play cards” therefore they don’t really need protected breaks for lunch etc. As a nurse from 2009 until my son was born in 2016, most of that time being in the pediatric ICU, I can tell you that statement is pure lunacy. I have had the immense privilege of having my two main adult roles share incredible similarities. Nursing and motherhood are so alike in some ways that it is easy to compare them.

The Assumption of Downtime

There is an assumption of downtime that may or may not exist. I’m sure those of you outside of the healthcare profession are thinking, but when I have visited loved ones in the hospital, I see nurses just sitting at computers. Electronic charting is a huge portion of healthcare provider’s responsibility. The amount of detail required to go into a patient’s chart is insane, taking time away from the bedside and actual care of that patient.

Did I ever work a slow shift?

Of course! Did I also break ribs on a three year old on Thanksgiving Day in vain trying to save their life along side an incredible team? Tragically, also yes. Have I seen breastfeeding coworkers leak milk through their scrubs because they didn’t have time to pump while caring for someone else’s critically ill baby the same age as their own child? Skipped using the bathroom? Eaten a pack of hospital issue graham crackers while taking report on another admission as my only sustenance in a twelve hour shift? Gone months without an actual lunch break while working because that doesn’t really exist when you work in an ICU? But play cards? No. Never did that one.

Recently on a Facebook group I am a part of, a fellow SAHM lamented that another women commented that her house must be perfect since she has time to clean “all day long”. Phrases like this hit the same nerve in me that the card playing comment hits in my nursing heart. Unlike nursing there is not a set schedule of medications and assessments at given times (minus the self imposed schedule for my own sanity).

Small children make a lot of messes. Duh! Even my own expectations for stay at home mom life were ridiculous. I thought my house would be cleaner and I would have more free time. My house is chaotic and I have more free time to fill with activities that create mess. My children aren’t too keen on the idea of my lying on the couch watching soaps drinking mimosas all day though so that fantasy hasn’t come to fruition either. Maybe I should teach them how to play cards.

Under Appreciated by Society

More and more college educated women are choosing to leave the traditional workforce to stay home with children in large part due to rising childcare costs and shrinking maternity leaves. Even with many SAHMs being college educated, society still views the choice as outdated and unimportant with the degrees having been “a waste of time”. Particularly in contrast with millennial feminism, traditionally female roles are balked at, nursing included.

Nurses keep hospitals running. From my personal experience, any time a hospital system decides to treat nursing as commodity rather than as a profession by simply filling vacancies with warm bodies, outcomes suffer at a tremendous rate.

This concept isn’t specific to stay at home moms, however. Women across all professions are forced to choose to hide their motherhood at work with poor access to pumping time/rooms, flack from coworkers for our countries dismal excuse for maternity leave, and fear of being “mommy tracked” where people are passed over because of their status as a mom. Let’s face it if there weren’t mamas our existence would dwindle pretty damn quickly. So suffice it to say here, I feel motherhood in general, whether you work outside the home or inside it, doesn’t have the honored place in society that it deserves.

Tension Even within Their Cohort

Watch any episode of Grey’s Anatomy and you’ll see nurses making snarky comments and spreading gonorrhea. That’s about it. Very few medical shows represent nursing well to the community at large maybe because actual medicine isn’t all that sexy. No one wants to see my husband (an ER physician) signing patient charts, but they’d love to see him crack a chest in the trauma bay (I’ll bet you can guess which happens more). Bedside RNs do most of the hands on patient care in inpatient care settings, but often there is tension between advanced practice nurses and doctors. This of course is not true always or even the majority of the time, at least in my own personal experience, but it does exist.

And then there is the old stand by of nurses “eating their young.” Why in a field created to care for people at their most vulnerable would more seasoned nurses trample on newbies? Because they can. Because that’s how it’s always been done. To show them the seriousness of the profession. A million crappy reasons, but people still do it. Sounds a lot like mommy wars now doesn’t it?

Just this week I was engaged in small talk with a mom I didn’t know with kids slightly older than mine. I mentioned a struggle I was having with my toddler only to be completely shut down, “Oh it must be tough to have children who misbehave.” Why yes it is hard to raise humans. Why do we do this to other mothers? Because one works in an office as a badass attorney while her husband does preschool pick up and we miss our own career. Because one mom feeds her kids kale chips while the other feeds her kids smushed goldfish off the minivan floor. I see cared for fed kids. Who the hell cares as long as they are safe and loved?

Senator Walsh Made A Grave Error

Nurses are a force with which to be reckoned. Just ask Joy Behar after her 2015 comment about stethoscopes being for “doctors”. One group you do not want to piss off is your nurses, be that as a patient, physician, or politician. A fact, I am confident Sen. Walsh is learning as her inbox fills to the electronic brim with fiery fury from healthcare’s largest specialty.

As fortunate as I know that I am to be able to make staying home financially work for my family, a small part of me cringes every time I have to fill out paper work. Checking the unemployed box after the degree I worked for and the work I do in our home raising our children seems like a misnomer. Of course there are incredible perks to this gig that I don’t take lightly! I can see milestones happen before my eyes, I can be at every school event, schedule appointments during the day, not cram household maintenance into evenings and weekends when I am worn down from a 9-5 job (or 7-7 or 3-3 like nurses do). All of which is a huge blessing!

My breaks are checking out when I decide to coast through for a little bit during screen time, bedtime if I have finished household things or decide to put them off (something you cannot do in healthcare), and the scheduled breaks I give myself with babysitters or time away when my husband is on solo parent duty. Those breaks recharge me to get back to my kids with full vigor. But you know what I do get? Even if it is with two tiny munchkins in tow? To pee and eat every single day without some clueless senator thinking I don’t deserve to because I’m just a mom.

6 thoughts on “I Didn’t Play Cards As a Nurse And I Don’t As a Mom Either

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post, Meredith. I have a very high level of respect for nurses. I am a public school teacher, so I have always grouped the “community helpers” together in my brain as being on the same team. Firefighters and police officers are also on our team. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much!! I have a ton of respect for teachers as well. We had a huge teacher strike here in OK this past year as one of the lowest paid states in the country. Teachers shape our future. Thank you so much for reading and for all you do!!

  2. This is an excellent post! So much respect for nurses and know they do a job that so many of us couldn’t handle. Both nurses and mothers deserve much more appreciation for what they do on a daily basis.

  3. Great post! I can’t believe how dumb that woman was to make such a public remark like that! I can’t imagine being a nurse and hearing that statement!

  4. YES!!! I am overjoyed not only that you wrote this but that you described it do accurately. My cor-workers and I made many “jokes” about cards this weekend as we were working while others with celebrating Easter. It’s maddening for someone to make such an absurd statement about people who she may one day depend upon!

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