Torn between my kids and my career


I am a new grad, got my license in January 2009 and three weeks later had a baby girl! I was blessed to be able to stay home with her for over a year while I looked for work due to our bad economy. So maybe I got spoiled being home with my kids for so long. (I have a 4 year old son) I was excited when I was offered a job at the same hospital where my husband works. It's in a great unit which offers a unique opportunity as a new grad. We are like a holding unit that takes patients from the ER or direct admits and we take care of them until they get assigned a bed on the appropriate unit. No critical care patients, just anything from cardiac to ortho to general medicine. This unit is only open M-F and no holidays. The patient load is light and there is a real atmosphere of teamwork. Everyone helps everyone else. There are several other new grads who were hired along with me and I was given 12 weeks of orientation and training. So far I have loved it there!

However, I am REALLY struggling with not being with my kids. When I work a day shift I do not see them at all since they are asleep when I leave and asleep when I get back. Although I get 4 days off a week, I am so busy on those 4 days that I feel like I don't have enough time for everything. I do make spending time with them a priority and it helps to do that, but then I feel like my time with them is limited and I have to squeeze in as much quality time as possible. So it's kind of forced in a way. Not natural like I am used to. I guess I'm just used to being home with them all the time. Especially my little girl, she is 17 months now and learning new things every day. She got tubes put in her ears recently so her speech has taken off. She learns several new words a day! :) There is nothing I would rather do than be a stay at home mom right now.

I've thought about quitting and going back to school but it seems foolish to pass up this opportunity. Everyone keeps telling me to hang in there for at least the first year to get away from the new grad status. At this point I am having anxiety attacks when I'm scheduled to go in so I'm just hoping to make it to the 6 month mark in October! Today my babysitter called off due to a death in the family so I am thrilled to be home, even though I don't have enough PTO to cover it and will be losing money today. My husband is trying to be supportive and says we don't need my income...but we really do since we have alot of debt to pay off. If we didn't have that then we could live comfortably off of his salary.

Thanks for the vent. I guess I'm just trying to decide what to do here. I'm worried that quitting so soon will look bad even if I go back and get my BSN. I have asked for part-time so I could go back to school and also be with my kids more and my boss does not feel comfortable giving me part-time as a new grad. I'm considering looking around once I hit the 6 month mark to find a part-time position elsewhere. I just hate to do that since I love the unit I'm on so much. My husband is planning on obtaining a home equity loan to consolidate our debt starting next month. It's very tempting to quit next month! I am actually going to start going to counseling because I'm getting so upset about going to work...I don't think it's normal. I wish I could take some kind of anti-anxiety medication but I'm sure it would affect my ability to work safely, make me drowsy.

TIA for any opinions or suggestions.



Specializes in Home Care. 1 Article; 2,188 Posts

Do what your heart tells you and live without regrets.

If you can afford to stay home and be a full-time mom with the support of your husband then do it :)

There's always time to go back to school and start or resume a career.

cayenne06, MSN, CNM

Specializes in Reproductive & Public Health. Has 10 years experience. 1,394 Posts

I have two young children, one with special needs, and it has been a constant struggle for me. I was unable to continue a wonderful job because I could not manage the call hours- arranging childcare and juggling my husband's work schedule was just too much. Right now my husband and I work opposite shifts and I go to school full time. Some days I only see my kids for 1/2 hour in the morning. Now that they are not in school, I see them more but the flip side is I have barely any time to do my homework!!

The only caution I would give about staying home is that it might be harder to get hired when you eventually go back to work. If you can afford it, could you look for a part time job?

rn/writer, RN

17 Articles; 4,168 Posts

I don't want to minimize your struggle, but this is a good kind of dilemma to have. Many people have jobs they don't like or no job at all. Or they need to work five eight-hour shifts and cram everything else into two days. You have some really nice things going on in your life. Now the trick is to find balance.

Working is never going to feel the same as staying home with your kids. That's a reality. But you are blessed to have built a strong foundation in their lives and no one can take that away.

If you have a really good job, one that is kind to new grads, you are indeed fortunate. Even crummy jobs are hard to come by in this economy, and the forecast doesn't look likely to brighten any time soon. You could go back to school now, but if you stay employed, your facility might help you obtain a BSN with tuition reimbursement. You could go back when your daughter starts school. You'll have a few years of real-world experience by then.

In the meantime, if you have four days off a week, you have more flexibility and more choices than many other people, and this may be where you can adapt.

Two ideas can help you here. One is time management, and the other is combining goals and tasks.

To make the most productive use of your time, take an inventory of how you are currently spending your days off. What's truly necessary, and what can be streamlined, cut back or even let go of entirely?

In combining what's left after the inventory, try to let go of compartmentalizing kid time vs. everything else. Your children do not need to have your undivided attention to benefit from your presence. Making dinner? Send your four year old to round up some of the ingredients (this will help ready him for school), and give the little one safe kitchen tools to play with. Let them both stir. At the table, thank them for working with you and point out that they helped make the meal you're about to eat.

No, that isn't the same as sitting on the floor and playing with them, but in some ways, it can be better. Sharing that kind of interaction and feeling useful are really good for kids.

Do the same with picking up a room or doing laundry. Include them in as many ways as you can. They will develop a connection with you and they will begin to understand cooperation and contribution in a family.

Whatever you work out as far as the practical details is less important than your perceptions and attitudes about what is happening. If you communicate to your children that you are short-changing them or that they are suffering, that is what they will learn. But if you ditch the guilt and the grief (after a decent mourning period) and present the changes as an adventure, they will see your enthusiasm (pretend at first, but eventually real) and move forward feeling happy and secure.

You mentioned going to counseling, and that is a fabulous idea. Give yourself a chance to work through the adult angst without letting it spill over onto the kids. Communicate with your husband as well. He might have ideas about areas that you can let go of or things he would be willing to take on. The most crucial concepts here are family unity and a positive outlook.

Here are a couple of practical suggestions to help you get started--

It's nice to be able to use coupons, but limit yourself to the cream of the crop. Don't mess with little piddly ones when you can make more in one hour at work than you can save with five hours of clipping.

Stick mostly with same-color socks. (Except for a few pairs of special ones for your daughter. Girls need a few frillies, after all.)

Every couple of hours, blow a whistle or ring a bell, and have a quick clean-up time. Let your son initiate this once or twice a day. He'll actually look forward to straightening a room. Your daughter can participate as well. Teach her to put her toys in a bucket or pick up clothes. They'll get the idea that straightening up after themselves is a sport rather than a burden. When the five minute clean-up is done, clap for yourselves and resume your day.

Invest a few minutes into teaching them how to do manageable tasks. A four year old can learn how to set a table or fold grocery bags if someone shows him what to do and helps him through it the first couple of times. A one year old can be shown how to stack her books or put her shoes in her room. Doing these small tasks tells kids that keeping the house up is a family affair.

Record bedtime stories for your kids to hear when you're at work.

Concentrate on all the things you're thankful for. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude in yourself and your children. Focus on the positive parts of your life and cherish the opportunities that come your way. Your kids will learn to be optimistic and determined.

I wish you the best in finding balance. It sounds like yYou have the tools to build a really great life.

Edited by rn/writer



30 Posts

Wow thank you everyone for your insight and suggestions. I really appreciate it. I did inventory what I do with my time, and besides playing with the kids and doing some chores, I am ashamed to admit I spend alot of time "checking out" by watching TV or going online. I think the main problem I have is psychological, and I'm hoping counseling will be helpful. It's hard to explain without sharing personal details, but I get claustrophobic and panicky when I feel like I "have" to do something. Which sounds immature and selfish I guess, but it's really not coming from that kind of mindset. I think alot of it has to do with things I went through in my childhood. Which I've been through counseling for and continue to struggle with. More than anything I want to have the normal reactions and coping skills that others have! It seems like others struggle with adjusting to a new job or other life changes, but don't come to the point of desperation that I do. So yes, I have an appointment in two weeks with a counselor and hope to start working through this somehow.

Meanwhile I need to find a way to cope with managing my time and not feeling overwhelmed, so I will put your suggestions to good use. I'm still on the fence about keeping this job. In part I feel like I shouldn't be chasing after a career and money when my kids are only little once. But if I quit it would need to be for their benefit and not just because I can't handle working emotionally. It would also have to be financially workable and not to the point where we are running on a really tight budget or anything. Part-time would be perfect, but I'm not in the position to work part-time since my boss will not give it to me and I'm still a new grad so no one else will hire me.

It feels good to be able to share my struggles with other nurses and moms! (And give my poor husband a break) Thanks again.



194 Posts

I wish I had your job and hours! I'm a new nurse currently stuck working 5 night shifts a week, which means the two days off I do get are spent with me sleeping for half of them, and being dog tired the rest of the day! I only get to sleep with my hubby 2 nights a week, which stinks! I am looking forward to being able to work 3 twelve hour shifts a week, hopefully soon but I'm not holding my breath. I have a stressful job, sometimes we are lucky enough to have sufficient staffing, but often we have a full load (8 pts) and no aides to help. I have four young children, and they are certainly not getting much quality time with me right now. If you compare yourself to other new grads with families you are sitting real pretty; I would carefully consider your options before you make any decisions.


llg, PhD, RN

Specializes in Nursing Professional Development. Has 45 years experience. 13,469 Posts

It sounds like you have a great job (and great family) -- and I can't see why you should have to give up one for the other. A lot of kids with working parents grow up to be well adjusted and there is no reason your kids can't be in that group.

Working part-time sounds like a perfect option for you. Maybe you'll have to wait a little while to have that option, but it sounds as if your boss will allow it after you get fully oriented and show that you are able to "pull your weight" as a member of the staff. Focus on doing a great job while you are there so that she sees you as valuable to her staff. Focus on the fact that "full time" will be temporary -- and once she sees you as a highly valued member of the team, she'll be more likely to let you switch to part time.