Emily Graham shares her experience as a mother and a student nurse
I’m a post graduate nursing student in my final placement. My son was five months old when I decided that I wanted to retrain as a nurse, and was only nine months when I started later that year. Some people I know thought it was a bit of a crazy thing to do. There were, even before starting the course, lots of practical challenges to consider. How were we going to survive on one income while paying for childcare? With no family close by, how would we do pick ups on days where my husband and I were both working. And how was I going to study for a full time degree when my baby was yet to sleep through a whole night?
I remember enjoying my first week. I made friends and felt excited about learning something new. Although I missed my son a lot, I enjoyed the time I got to myself. It was placement that I found the most challenging to balance with family life. My husbands schedule is unpredictable and as the sole bread winner his work had to take priority. This meant often having to rearrange my off duty last minute or simply having to miss days if my son was ill. These missed days had to be made up which sometimes meant cramming a lot of long shifts in to one week. The early starts were impractical too. The childminder lived quite far away and so the fastest way to make sure I got to work on time was to cycle. I would walk to her house, pushing my bike with my bag on my back and the baby in a sling on my front.
Obviously no one was making me stick out the course. In fact it was that Christmas, three months in to it that I nearly gave up. I went to see my form tutor. A mother herself, she told me that in no time at all my son will be grown up and I will still have at least twenty years of working life left in me. It’s true that I won’t get that time back with him but I believe that it is a career that offers flexibility and stability which is essential for a working parent.
I’m at the end now and despite how it might read - it hasn’t all been hard. I’ve actually enjoyed it. And it did get easier. As time went on I stopped feeling like I was abandoning my child and realized that the interactions he was getting while away from me were good for him. I grew more assertive and found myself more able to communicate my own needs. My time management got better and although I continued to work hard at my study I realized that having the best grades doesn’t matter as much as being there for your family.
My advice to any parent thinking about becoming a nurse would be that this is not a course that fits neatly around family life. It’s a course that will at times push you to your limit financially and emotionally. You may never be able to give 100% because whether at home or at work a part of your mind is somewhere else. But if you can cope with that and come out the other side then I think its definitely worth it. For me it’s without a doubt the most rewarding and challenging thing I’ve ever done.
Emily Graham, Post-Graduate paediatric nursing student on her final placement