Working Mama Files is an interview series designed to support and encourage working moms along the path to having a fulfilling life.
Today I am featuring one of my real life friends, Maggie Rhoden. I met Maggie at my first job, before either of us had kids, where we both started out working on an inpatient oncology unit as nurses. We connected quickly and stayed friends after Maggie changed specialties. She is so fun and laid-back and real, and I just adore being her friend. She is also my motherhood pen pal! I know you will love her!
Who lives in your house?
My husband and myself along with our 8 month old son, Rory and our 5 year old Westie, Dolly
You are actually not working at the moment, but very recently made the decision to stay at home with your son. Before this you were working as a nurse (yay!) in the neonatal ICU. What was your job like?
Challenging and dynamic. Very fast-paced for the most part. It was a large unit 120+ babies ranging from premature babies to sick and surgical patients. Usually, I would be in charge of the care for 1-3 babies depending on how sick they were. I worked 12 hour shifts 3 days a week, but there was often opportunity for overtime, if I desired. My co-workers were great and I love being a NICU nurse!
Since you were working nights for part of that time, what kind of influence do you think that had on your health – emotionally and physically?
Working nights is tough, especially in the NICU. It is just as busy as during the day shift, albeit in different ways. Sick and premature babies are born at all hours of the day and night after all. ;) There were things I did enjoy about the night shift, but overall it is not something I could ever do long-term. Sleep was a joke, and it drove me mental when I was pregnant and everyone would kindly suggest that I “stock up on sleep before baby!” Ha. I was tired because I was pregnant, tired mentally, and tired because it’s hard to sleep normally during the day! So physically, I would say that was the biggest effect- tired. Emotionally, I hated being away from my husband. I didn’t like going to sleep without him. Sometimes, depending on when he could get home and how many shifts I worked in a row, we would go DAYS without seeing each other! I think our longest stretch was 4 days… lunch bag notes and text messages were a mainstay for our communication.
Was it difficult to work with sick babies as you were going through your pregnancy and then once you had your son?
Absolutely. I was quite anxious throughout my pregnancy in a “know too much for my own good” kind of way. I know the NICU population is a small percentage in comparison to the healthy baby world, but it was not easy to constantly be reminded of things that could go wrong with my baby. Rory received many gentle love pats with the words, “Stay put” on my mind. (That is, until I reached term and then it was, “ANY DAY NOW!”) I remember when I was 24 weeks pregnant, and admitted a 24 week baby. That was a rough night. As nurses, it is often hard to detach ourselves from patients; this was almost impossible. I worried a great deal, but I do believe it helped me sympathize with the mothers and fathers of the babies for whom I cared. When I was 30 weeks pregnant, I was taking care of a 26 week infant. The baby’s mom had asked how far I was, and when I told her, she responded solemnly, “I wish I made it that far, I tried.” After that, I made absolutely certain never to complain about my minor aches or how ready I was for baby to get here, etc. while in front of parents. I cherished being pregnant and truly enjoyed it; I also became even more aware of what a special gift it is. So, you would think once I had a safe delivery of a healthy baby that there would be no more issues at work, right? Well, it was even harder! Having Rory galvanized my sensitivity to these poor, sick babies. Everyone told me that would happen, I just did not realize how strong it would be. I hugged him very tightly every morning I came home.
What led to your decision to leave your job and stay home?
Weekends and holidays…lol, but really. I was so sad to think of missing time together with my family. Ohhh I was in the thick of my own mental “mommy war.” I was on the edge and it was hard to take the plunge, but once I did the water felt great. I wanted to be with Rory and be the one who cared for him primarily. I liked the idea of being the one who could make the day-to-day decisions that would mold him into the man my husband and I hope him to become. I couldn’t be certain that someone else would make the same choices I would regarding Rory, and besides, childcare is crazy expensive. Part of the decision came down to spending money on childcare or losing a second income; honestly, the two were not far apart financially. He does something new every day and I did not want to miss anything. Apparently, It’s something I’ve always wanted since I was a little girl. As my mom says, I used to proclaim I would be a mommy when I grow up. Confession: I played with dolls until I was 13! In the end, work will always be there if I want it. Maybe not the same exact job at the same exact hospital, but I am a qualified and skilled nurse with a bachelor’s degree from a well known university, and will always be able to find employment. Work will be there, but the early years with my son won’t. I can’t get those back and I was fervently aware of that. I am also going back to school for my Master’s degree, so the plate was full and I wanted to make room somewhere. Props to all the mamas that can do it all!
Has it been difficult to adjust to your new lifestyle? Do you see yourself any differently?
It hasn’t been so hard to adjust. I love being home with Rory and have absolutely zero regret. I have time to do things for myself, Rory, and my husband that I don’t believe would happen were I working. Because I am not spread so thin, I have plenty of quality time with my son, and feel our marriage is stronger. I find also that I have more time to do things I enjoy, and simply said, this is great.
I think the hardest part of this whole journey was actually making the decision. I am thankful that I had so many supportive people in my life that helped guide me. My husband is an amazing man, and fully stood behind whatever choice I made. He was ready and willing to do his part for me to go back to work, and then he talked me through my decision to be with Rory. At first, I found myself justifying why I chose to be at home when people would ask. Almost like I needed to defend it or have a reason for it to be OK. That was short-lived, and I no longer consider the approval of others as a deciding factor…that is, for this decision or any other parenting choices. :) Work is not my identity anymore than stay-at-home mom makes me who I am. It is part, but not all. Just one of the many hats I happen to wear at the moment.
What kind of adjustments have you had to make going from a double-income family to a single?
Budgeting and sticking to it. Being more conscious of how we spend our money. I have learned to get creative when it comes to “date nights” with Cade or outings/activities with Rory. Who knew there were so many amazing and fun things to do in Houston for FREE! They are out there if you look.
Do you have any plans to start working again in the future?
Yes. I would like to be home with Rory as long as possible. I plan to complete school and hopefully have a more family friendly schedule. Hospital hours are hard for families.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering leaving their job?
You’re probably considering it because it is something you truly want to do…if you’re able, do it. Find what makes you happy and go with that. I discovered, if I am happy and true to myself, I make a better wife and mom. This makes our household happier. If being home is what will make a happy woman, go for it; if the workplace brings happiness, find a way to make that happen!
Do you have any practical tips or ideas to pass along that help you lead a more joyful, fulfilling life?
Find a supportive partner! My husband and I run like a well-oiled machine. Where I lack, he is strong and vice versa. Two weeks ago, he went out of town fishing and I certainly missed him! Throughout life, what brings me joy changes (sometimes daily), however, my husband will always bring me joy. Additionally, I rely strongly on my faith both in times of joy and darkness. Dismissing negative thoughts and purging my life of unnecessary woe and burden helps a great deal. I try not to be too hard on myself and I am encouraged that tomorrow brings a fresh start. Taking time for yourself is a must, but doing for others brings great joy.
Now a few questions for fun…
How do you like your coffee? Or are you a tea drinker?
I love both! Cade and I joke that we are hardcore now because we drink Dark Roast Coffee. We went out for breakfast one morning with family and had regular coffee and it was like drinking water. We are ruined. I take it with a bit of sugar and cream. I also enjoy tea and have ever since our honeymoon in Ireland/England. We stayed at a castle in Galway and we laid outside drinking tea and reading The Hobbit together by a river. Drinking tea while reading is forever nostalgic for me now.
What was the last good book you read?
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
What’s on your nightstand?
Well evidently, a few water stains lol. Always a glass of water and chapstick. “Sleeping glasses”- those that I wear while lying in bed watching a movie or reading. A box of tissues and some essential oils (these migrate throughout the house). A rosary my parents got for me in Lourdes, France. Usually whatever book I am reading, a few pictures from our wedding and this picture of Cade having a cup of coffee when we were in Madrid, Spain is one of my favorites. It was such a great day and I love remembering it.
Favorite social media site?
Probably Pinterest for recipes.
Can you recommend one blog you read?
Other than yours, I’m not a dedicated blog reader. :) I check in to twopedsinapod.com from time to time and I read the AAP briefs (not really a blog though lol!).
See all the posts in this series here.