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Women, especially Mothers in the workforce is a hot topic! It seems that I’ve read about a million articles and books on this topic…..am I damaging my children by working outside the home? am I damaging my career by staying at home? am I damaging my mental health by trying to do and be everything? am I going to hit the glass ceiling? am I really respected at my job? can the workplace really be changed to accommodate families? should I move to Sweden where each parent gets several years of paid leave after having a baby?
I don’t think anyone has truly solved any of these questions in a broad sense but it is quite clear that all individuals come from a unique situation and somehow need to figure out the right option and balance for herself. I feel very fortunate to have found a career I love that also allows for the work-life balance that I desire….although I know this can be tough to find! I do want to make it clear that my path is not for everyone and I know many intelligent women who are incredible mothers and stay at home, have a part-time gig, have a high-powered full time career or do a mixture of the three. Here are a few thoughts on my personal working scenario…
1. Tell us about yourself. (Family, Education, Career, Current Job)
I have been on a six month hiatus from my job as a Nurse Practitioner (check out this post if you’re wondering what a Nurse Practitioner does). I was working part time in a Family Practice, which I loved, but decided to take a little break after the Physician I was working with decided to close his practice. However, I’m currently in the interview process for a new job and excited to get back into it! I am a registered nurse, have a masters of science in nursing and am a board certified nurse practitioner. Before and throughout grad school I worked several different RN jobs in the ER, intensive care and the post-surgical unit. I finished grad school exactly three months before having my first baby and started my first NP job when my son was 3 months old. I continued to work after my daughter was born until this past summer.
2. What surprised you most about your first job out of college?
I remember being surprised that adults in a professional workplace could act catty, or rude, or lazy, or disrespectful etc etc etc……I thought high school was over, but nope, there will always be interpersonal conflicts and it’s really important to learn how to deal with them in an adult/professional manner.
3. Any “Do’s/Don’ts” for business attire?
I just need clothes that look good underneath a white coat and am free to wear scrubs if I want to so I’m probably not the best person to answer this question! Since I’m on my feet all day, comfortable shoes are a must. I swore I would never buy “nurse shoes” (aka Danskos) but they are truly the most comfortable shoes I own and thankfully they have some cute dressier options out there these days. Beyond the white coat, I think it’s important to look put-together as this helps foster the impression of professionalism and competence, an important aspect of establishing relationships with patients.
4. How do you bring your faith to your work?
In my profession, I have serious and difficult conversations with people on a daily basis which may bring deeper life issues to the forefront. I will certainly discuss my faith if a patient brings it up and I have prayed with patients during office visits if a patient requests this. However, I am accepting of people from all faiths and never push my beliefs on anybody. Due to the difficult nature of my job at times, I am frequently sending up prayers for my own strength and guidance and have also been incredibly fortunate to work with people who share my faith which has been immensely encouraging.
5. What challenges have you faced as a woman in your chosen career?
Traditionally, nursing is a female-dominated profession (although more and more men are joining the ranks) and because of this, I’ve found a unique level of flexibility regarding my career especially pertaining to family obligations and scheduling. I am fortunate to have experienced few work-related challenges related to my gender.
6. Have you ever been discriminated against because you were a woman? If so, how did you respond?
No I have never felt discriminated against because I am a woman.
7. Did having kids change your approach to your career? If so, how did it change?
When I was considering my future career path, I decided that I wanted a career that would allow me to be home with the kids more days than at work each week, especially when they were little. My career choice has afforded me this luxury and I have not experienced the challenges that moms in other professions may face when they decide to go back to work or switch from part time to full time. Once again, in my clinical-based position, as long as I maintain my licensure, certification and continuing education I am marketable, especially with the demand for medical professionals out there. I’m not sure if this would change if I took a longer break from my job and perhaps if I was more interested in an administrative position it would be different. But really, there are so many options out there, healthcare is a great career choice for mothers who want flexibility!
8. How do you and your husband balance the demands of work and home?
Everything is a team effort in our home. We highly respect each other, our time and our home/work responsibilities. For example, it was never assumed that I would always be the one staying home from work with a sick kid and in fact, my husband has more flexibility with his job to take a day off here and there for emergencies and has done this more often. At the end of the day (even with me being a stay-at-home-mom right now!) we’re both worn out, so better to work together and do what needs to be done to make our life run smoothly and keep everyone sane.
9. What do you wish you had more time to do?
Oh about a million things and I’m sure every parent whether they work outside the home or not could come up with a long laundry list of things they would love to have more time to do!
10. What advice would you give to women entering the workplace?
It’s difficult to think so far in advance when you’re young and just starting out, but I think it’s really important for women and people in general to really consider what kind of career and lifestyle they want as adults including what they may have to sacrifice in order to get there. Do you want a high-earning salary? the ability to climb the corporate ladder? travel opportunities? flexibility? nights and weekends off? is a lot of time and money needed for education? how saturated is the job market for your desired career? As an 18-year-old, the practicalities of that dream job may not really be on the radar and I think as parents this is one way we can help coach our kids when the time arises.
Also, research has shown how women, in comparison with men, often short-change themselves when it comes to promoting their skills and assessing their own value in the work place. For example, I remember talking with someone who works in human resources for a large corporation and she said in her experience, that men will almost always negotiate a salary offer while women negotiate for more money less than 50% of the time. What’s up with that? It’s not easy to negotiate a salary or ask your boss for a raise (I know, I’ve done it) but it is worth the effort!
Written by Renae Wortz