I never know quite what to say to new friends. "Oh yeah, I'm a nurse. Well... I was for three years. But I quit and let my license expire. So I'm not really a nurse anymore? I used to be a nurse. I guess I'm retired."
This week is National Nurses Week. It happens to end on Sunday, which is also Mother's Day. I feel as though that transition echos the story of my career. Or careers, really. It's funny to me that being a stay-at-home mom is not really recognized in our culture as a real career. Because if I'm just a stay-at-home mom, it must be because I'm too lazy to juggle both a job and motherhood. Or, since I'm a Christian, maybe it's because I've been brainwashed into thinking that my only purpose in life is crank out babies and make sure dinner is on the table.
Ever since I was little girl, part of me wanted to be "a nurse that delivered babies." So I studied for four intense years to become a nurse. I didn't get a job in OB, but I still loved my career as a nurse. I clashed with some of my coworkers, developed close friendships with others, tried to let the stress of the job roll off my shoulders, and loved serving those around me.
As much as I loved my job, I knew there was a different career waiting for me. Dare I say, a more important one. So when I told my boss that I was pregnant, she already knew what that meant. I worked my last shift as a nurse at the end of May, 2010. Two weeks later I had Chloë, and launched into motherhood.
I got paychecks for my first career, which according to our culture's standards, meant I was valuable to our society. For my second career, I don't actually make a dime doing what I'm doing. Since a salary is so highly worshiped and interpreted as success, it's no wonder that a zero-income profession is often viewed as a useless waste of life.
I'll be honest. Sometimes I feel the pressure from the mindset of our culture. What did you do today? Two loads of laundry, and you made dinner? Yeah, well I worked for eight hours, brought home a paycheck, and still managed to do two loads of laundry, and made dinner. Clearly I'm more valuable/a better person/a harder worker. I don't want to disregard the heavy load of mothers that do have to work. Because I know many of you. You work insanely hard, and I know God blesses that.
But because my husband has been blessed with a good job, and we live within our means (gasp!), we don't actually need a second income. We don't have fancy cars or expensive hobbies, we don't have cable, and we don't buy coffees or sodas every day (it adds up fast: averaging $1,092 per adult, per year for coffee, and $850 per household for soft drinks!) Things like eating out and going to movies are considered special splurges. I don't consider my life boring or deprived because I've only been to three movies in the last three years.
So, you bought into the religious dogma that you had to give up an
amazing and rewarding career so you can sit around with your kids all
day? Not exactly. Yes, I gave up a wonderful career. But I traded it for a better one. Wow, you really did feel pressured to quit your career.
Nope. I wanted to. Yes, being a nurse was gratifying. Every day, I
could point to something and say, "see what I accomplished! I helped
someone get better! I did lots of awesome procedures! I was kind to my employees! The company awarded me
Employee Of The Year! One of my patients thanked me for my work!"
I'm really grateful for that chapter in my life. The experience helps with my current career, believe it or not.
To Be Continued on Motherhood As My Career.