Nursing Career for Moms: How to Make It Work

nursing career for moms

Overview

Nursing Career for Moms: How to Make It Work

Let’s talk about navigating a nursing career for moms. Don’t feel like reading? Listen here!

Motherhood changes your life in an instant. It’s a funny thing: we have the better part of nine months to prepare for a baby’s arrival. Yet so often, our tiny human’s debut still turns every aspect of our world upside down. And for many women, their nursing career is no exception.

A new baby forces you to reevaluate what you want out of your nursing job:

  • Should you work full-time or part-time? 
  • Is your current workplace culture supportive of family life? 
  • Does your job offer the benefits your growing family needs? 
  • Is your schedule compatible with daycare or school dropoff, after-school activities, and the work-life balance you crave?

Trust me, I know that nursing is physically and emotionally demanding work — and I understand that adding parenting to that equation might feel a bit daunting.

But I have some good news: your nursing career is nothing if not flexible. Regardless of your needs, your perfect nursing job is out there — I promise. But first, you need to take a hard look at your new routine and figure out what that “perfect job” looks like. Be warned: your answer might surprise you!

Keep reading to learn why a nursing career is a great match with motherhood — and how to make the most of yours.

Adapting to Your New Normal

We’re all familiar with some of the effects young children can have on our lives. Chronic sleep deprivation, anyone? You suddenly find yourself living a life you hardly recognize — one filled with joy, challenges, and more diapers than you ever imagined. Welcome to your new normal.

nursing career for mom

It’s an adjustment, to be sure. And then, faster than you can say “maternity leave,” it’s time for you to return to work. You may not have realized how much having kids would make you question your career choices — but here you are, rethinking everything.

Rethinking Your Nursing Job after Children

Always loved your adrenaline-pumping job in the emergency room? Suddenly, just thinking about it makes you exhausted. Or your predictable clinic job with regular office hours? No longer exciting enough to pull you away from your little ones. 

For me, motherhood made me rethink my place in pediatric oncology. I couldn’t help but picture my own children when I cared for my patients, and it wore on my heart. I adored my job, but having kids necessitated a change.

The “mom life” means different things to different people. But at the end of the day, we all have to adapt to a new normal. And for many of us, that means going full chameleon on our nursing career.

Making Nursing Jobs Work for Moms

Fortunately, one of the greatest things about a career in nursing is its flexibility. No matter the schedule or environment you need as a working mom, there’s a nursing job out there that can match it. Part-time or full-time, days or nights, in-hospital or at home — these are a few basic options to consider. But to really bring your nursing career into alignment with your mom duties, you’ll need to do a more in-depth evaluation of any job.

Your Work Environment: Things to Think About

As a mom, you’ll have to consider things about your nursing job that may not have felt important before kids.

Workplace Culture

For starters, is your workplace culture family-friendly and supportive of working mothers? 

Having colleagues who can relate to you is truly a gift in this respect. You may want to consider working in an area that attracts more seasoned nurses than new grads in their early 20s. For example, need a last-minute shift switch due to a childcare issue or family emergency? In situations like these, fellow parents better understand your struggles and are often more willing to help.

If you’ve chosen to breastfeed your baby, you’ll also have to consider your new best friend: the breast pump.

Will your workplace support you on your pumping journey and ensure you get the breaks you need? There are federal laws in place to support nursing mothers and their right to pump at work. But some employers go above and beyond to meet these, and others do the bare minimum. As a nursing jobs veteran and mom, I highly recommend the former.

nursing jobs

Benefits

Benefits gain a new level of importance once you have a family, and they can also limit some of your job options. For example, if your partner carries the benefits for your family, you may have more flexibility to work part-time or per diem. If you carry the benefits, on the other hand, you may need to maintain a certain number of hours to avoid an increase in costs. 

Either way, you’ll want to ensure you have benefits that, well, benefit your family. Decent health, dental, and vision insurance are a good start, but many employers offer more. For instance, some offer daycare at discounted rates and tuition reimbursement for children of employees. You’ll also want to keep your eyes open for a benefits package that includes a solid retirement plan.

Your Schedule and Work-Life Balance

A flexible schedule is a huge advantage in a nursing career. But after kids, you might be surprised by what appeals to you — and there are boatloads of options available.

For example, some parents work a “weekend option” schedule in which about 80 percent of their shifts are on the weekend. This might cost them some family time, but it also allows them to avoid the high costs of childcare. Other parents prefer to work nights so that they’re only at work when the kids are asleep. Still, others enjoy a clinic schedule with typical office hours, so they can work when the kids are in school and have weekends free for family time.

You can always experiment to find out what you prefer. After my first child, I left nights to work in a clinic setting with regular hours.

The cost of full-time daycare was high, but eating dinner with my family every night was my highest priority. Then, after my second child, I went back to a part-time night shift schedule. Working just two nights per week allowed me to avoid childcare and spend more time with my kids — but it cost me a fair amount of sleep in the process.

nurse

I’m still working to find the right balance. There are benefits and drawbacks to any schedule — but a little effort goes a long way in finding one that fits your life.

The Elephant in the Room: Compensation

As your family grows, you’ll likely want to consider how you can best provide. After all, the cost of childcare is high. Sadly, many mothers end up leaving the workforce altogether after doing some quick math comparing their earning potential with the rising costs of childcare.

But in nursing, it doesn’t have to be this way. You’re in a unique position — one where you can make your schedule work for you instead of against you. Want to work part time, but find yourself worried about a drop in pay? Consider working a night shift or weekend option schedule to get a higher shift differential and more bang for your buck.

You could also consider working on a unit that frequently posts high-needs shifts. These are extra shifts that you can pick up on an as-needed basis. And the best part? They typically offer twice your usual pay. You can greatly increase your earning power by picking up a high-needs shift here and there, as your parenting schedule allows.

After the birth of my second child, I shifted from a full-time schedule to a part-time schedule. But I continued earning nearly a full-time salary by working nights and picking up several high-needs shifts every schedule. The ability to spend more time at home while continuing to provide for my family was a true gift!

A Fresh Start

Maybe your current nursing job is incompatible with your version of motherhood and offers little room for change.

Or perhaps you took time away from work when your children were small, and now you’re ready to jump back into your career. These scenarios call for self-advocacy and a fresh start in a new field — in which case, you’re in luck. The opportunities to adapt and reinvent yourself as a nurse are plentiful, and there’s no better time to make a career change you feel passionate about.

nursing careers

Interviewing for a New Position

Sure, you’re the one being interviewed for a new job. But calm those jitters and remember: you’re interviewing them, too. As a mom, it’s more important than ever to advocate for yourself and ensure a good fit at work. The best way to do this is by asking questions.

According to Biron Clark of Career Sidekick, employers appreciate a certain level of pickiness on the part of applicants. “Asking questions shows that you’re interested in their job and that you care about your job search and career,” Clark says. Instead of hiring a nurse who will take any old job, he maintains, “they want to hire someone who’s looking for the right fit and targeting certain things.”  

Selling Motherhood

If you think motherhood weakens your chances of getting hired, think again. Like anything, it all depends on how you present your situation.

And parenting comes with many transferable skills that you can sell to a potential employer.

For instance, it’s given me the ability to multitask like a pro, maintain grace under pressure, and wrangle different personality types.

So be positive and upbeat when discussing how your personal and work lives fit together. A little confidence goes a long way.

And remember, potential employers value open, authentic, and honest communication. But you should avoid oversharing, too. So ask away about how your potential employer supports work-life balance, but don’t share a horror story about how your last employer failed at it. Read more about balancing transparency with discretion during your job interview here.

Being a Nurse and Mom

Becoming a mom will undoubtedly lead you to reassess your priorities and reevaluate your work-life balance. But the good news? You can find a place for your nursing career within your new normal — whatever that looks like. Maybe you can adapt your current position to be more family-friendly, or perhaps you need a fresh start in a new field. Regardless, the flexibility found in nursing truly allows you to make your career work for you. 

You’ve got this — now go find your dream job!

Madeline Kelso
Madeline Kelso
Madeline Kelso is a freelance writer and registered nurse based in Baltimore, MD. With more than ten years of nursing experience in pediatric oncology, radiation oncology, and perinatal care, Madeline uses her expertise as a springboard to dive into health care’s hot topics. In her spare time, she enjoys planning epic camping adventures, experimenting with vegan baking, and wrangling her two young children.

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