An Ode to Mediocrity- Or Is It?


If you know me, you know that I have always been, & likely will always be, a perfectionist at heart. An over-achiever. A bit OCD, if you will, but not to the point of having the TRUE disorder. So it should come as no surprise to hear that I got into nursing with the goal of becoming a Nurse Practitioner. I saw it as the cheaper way to become a doctor (or rather something similar enough to a doctor) since I had a full scholarship to nursing school. And I had no problem working as an RN for several years in order to get there. Initially I thought “Ok, I’ll do 3-5 years as a bedside hospital nurse & then I’ll go back to school.” Well, five years went by & the unthinkable happened: I decided to become a mom! If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know that for many years I said I never wanted children. But somewhere around age 25 or 26 I changed my mind. Believe me when I say it wasn’t a flippant decision either. It was something that happened gradually & that I put a monumental amount of thought into- if anything TOO much thought, as I am often known to over-analyze things.

Anyway, around that same time in my life, I realized that becoming an NP just didn’t interest me that much anymore. It’s not that I didn’t/don’t think I was/am smart enough to do it- I had/have no doubt in my mind I could do it if I wanted to. Many doctors & NPs I’ve worked with over the years have told me I’d be a great NP, just as they’ve also told me I’d be a great ICU nurse- but I’ve never wanted that either, for a variety of reasons. The simple truth is I realized being an NP just wasn’t what I WANTED anymore. Now, five years later, I feel even more strongly about this issue. The longer I’ve been a nurse, the more I realize that I don’t agree with certain things that the medical system teaches/does, so being an NP would put me in way too many ethical dilemmas that I don’t want to have to face. Furthermore, as a mom of a small child, I don’t want to take call overnight & on weekends. I don’t want to come home & have a mountain of charting to do. Simply put, I don’t want a job that follows me home & dominates my life 24/7. I had enough of that experience when I briefly did nursing management & I realized that life it is NOT for me. Or at least it isn’t at this stage in my life. Obviously I can’t predict how I may feel in ten or twenty years, just as I didn’t predict I’d eventually want to become a mom (ok, deep down, I knew I’d probably change my mind on that but I fought against it for a long time, believe me).

I know plenty of women my age (& younger) who have gone back to school when they have young children, but I for one cannot even begin to fathom the stress of doing that on top of having a young child. Maybe I just find motherhood more stressful than some women do. Or maybe I just value my own happiness too much. But if there is one thing I’ve learned in a decade of nursing it’s that life is way too short to be anything but happy as much of the time as we can. As someone who struggles with anxiety & depression & OCD tendencies, the last thing I need is to overload my life with too many things going on at once. I’m in awe of those who are able to do it & seem to not just survive but actually thrive. But I know my limits. And I’m not pushing them. Plus, if nothing else, there is no age limit on when I can go back to school if I do decide to pursue that path someday. It’s not like you can’t get a master’s degree in your 40s or 50s (or older)! On the other hand, my daughter will NOT be young forever. Someday she will need me a lot less than she does now. Trust me when I say that I look forward to that more than maybe I should some days. But at the same time I refuse to give up time with her now when I know she is still very much in her formative years. To be clear, I’m not judging anyone who chooses a different path than I have. We all have different personalities & needs, as do our kids- this is just what I’ve found makes sense for ME.

As much as I love nursing, some days I actually dream about becoming a high school English (or maybe even history) teacher. I would love the chance to grapple deep subjects with young minds. But as with being an NP, there are so many things I disagree with about the modern education system. The idea of doing lesson plans makes me cringe. The idea of enforcing dress codes makes me cringe. Furthermore, I’d probably get fired for choosing books almost entirely from the various banned books lists (keep in mind the Bible is on many of those lists so it’s not as narrow of a range of books as you may think). Not to mention there is the sad fact that I’d be making considerably less money as a teacher than I do as a nurse (even working part time). And I’m not going to lie, I don’t want to take a pay cut, especially since I’d have to pay to go back to school to pursue such a career.

What I’m getting at here is that I so often find myself as odds with “the system.” I’m a great rule follower when it comes to following protocols for things like starting an IV, inserting a foley catheter, taking a BP, etc. That kind of stuff is very evidence-based, very tangible. But there are other part of our medical system that are not so evidence-based, in my opinion, but are still done because they benefit the system itself (or the various pharmaceutical companies) or they’re just “the way it’s always been done.” Anyway, on a similar token, if I were a teacher I think I’d be great at getting kids to have in depth discussions about serious life matters. But I’d probably be horrible at some of the more practical aspects of teaching, like lesson plans & grading homework.

I guess what I’m saying is there are so many things in life I think I could accomplish, but there are so many hoops I’d have to jump through, so much unnecessary red tape to battle, that I find myself for once in my life being satisfied with what some might call mediocrity. Being a part time outpatient nurse, partly because the schedule is beneficial to my husband’s career (meaning I’m more available for our daughter when he sometimes isn’t), is certainly something I would have called mediocre a decade ago. But you know what? I’m happy! I don’t mean I never feel sad or disappointed or scared or anxious. Trust me, in truth I’m naturally a bit of a melancholy person. But overall, I am very content with my life. And if that means having a bit more of a traditional role than perhaps I envisioned for myself, so be it. After all, it’s not like I’m stuck at home all day every day. It’s not like I do all the housework while my husband does none. No way! I could never stand for that, as I mentioned in my last blog post. The way I see it is I get the best of both worlds & if that means I’ve settled for mediocrity, for once in my life, I am content with that.

I’m not really sure what the point of all this was, other than to settle my own overly analytic brain. But that’s a point in & of itself, is it not? Anyway, if your life hasn’t turned out quite the way you imagined, if you’ve made different choices than you thought you would, even done things you said you’d never do, just know that you’re not alone. And as long as you’re happy with your choices, the rest of the world doesn’t matter. After all- no one else’s opinion is paying your bills or raising your children. No one else has to sleep with your conscience at night.

In conclusion, I never thought my life would lead me where it has now. Actually, maybe that’s being a bit more dramatic than is strictly necessary. But the point is, my life hasn’t followed the trajectory I would have predicted years ago, nor the trajectory many folks who knew me as a child or teenager might have predicted. But I am happy where I am, & I’m learning that the destination truly isn’t half as important as the journey along the way. I don’t say that to make excuses for bad decisions either. I say that because I’ve realized that it’s ok to change your goals, it’s ok to be something or someone different than you were in the past or than you pictured yourself becoming. If something you once thought would be mediocre (or even lame) makes you happy now, embrace it. True mediocrity, in my opinion, is refusing to be flexible, refusing to adapt to the stages of life. True mediocrity is not doing whatever makes you happiest & most fulfilled.

And based on that definition, I don’t think my life is mediocre at all.

And you never know- maybe I’ll run a book club someday & that will fulfill my fantasy of being an English/literature teacher without having to deal with “the system” & all the red tape it entails!

I Am Not Superwoman


I’m not sure how to begin this post, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to write for months now, so I guess I’ll just dive right into it.  Ever since I shared my pregnancy news, people have (naturally) been asking me if I plan to return to work full time once the baby is born.  It surprises me how many people, both men & women, seem truly shocked when I tell them I’m only coming back to work part time, hopefully one night a week.  (For those who don’t know, I’m a night shift nurse.)superwoman

There are a multitude of reasons why I’ve chosen not to return to work full time, but they all basically boil down to this one simple fact: I am not superwoman.  I realize it is the norm nowadays for women to work full time while raising young children, but I have never thought this made a lot of sense, either biologically or psychologically.  It just doesn’t seem logical to me that I would spend nine months growing & nurturing a baby only to wind up allowing a daycare (or anyone other than me & my husband) to essentially raise her.

stay at home mom daycare

Hey, there is a lot of truth in this . . .

To be fair, I am fully cognizant of the fact that I am extremely lucky to have a career & finances that allow me to work part time, but I also think our society has forgotten that so many things we think of as necessities nowadays are really options.  Part of the reason my husband & I will be financially able to live off of only one full time salary once the baby is born is because we have always been so frugal & responsible with our money.  Maybe that makes us boring, but I couldn’t possibly care less at this point in our lives.

frugality

Amen.  Being frugal has allowed us to have options which means freedom!

Trust me, over the years we have learned that some things are worth spending a little extra money to get a true quality product, especially if it’s something that could affect your health (like good shoes for the gym/hiking or work).  But at the same time we’ve found ways to cut monthly expenses by skipping out on cable TV & expensive restaurants/bars, etc.  I’m also not the type of woman who gets monthly pedicures, haircuts, or other such things.  The most I’ve ever spent on a purse is $40, & aside from gym/work shoes, I’ve never spent more than about $30 on a pair of shoes.  Nor have I ever spent more than $30 on a pair of jeans.  I buy used books & the Kroger brand of almost everything at the grocery store.  I suppose I can thank my mom for teaching me to be so frugal.  I’ve been called cheap before, but it doesn’t bother me one bit because the people who say that almost certainly have a lot less money to their name than I do.  So who’s really the cheap one?piggy bank

Anyway, I’ve wandered from the point, so let me return to explaining what I mean when I say I am not superwoman.  I work with & know plenty of women who do work full time while also raising young children, & I am continually amazed at how they manage to “do it all.”  At the same time I’m fully aware that most, if not all of them, are constantly under a great deal of stress & suffer from a fair amount of guilt over the time they are missing with their children due to work.  If nothing else, I know they suffer from a massive sleep debt & lack of any “me time,” neither of which is physically or psychologically healthy.  I’m not saying being a stay at home mom is a walk in the park.  But I’ve certainly never met a stay at home mom who regretted her choice to spend those first few years of her children’s lives at home with them.  On the other hand I meet working moms all the time who say they wish they could/had been able to be stay at home moms or to work part time while their children are/were young.  The point is maybe other women are ok living with that level of stress but I’m not.  Life is way too short to be stretched that thin.

When I was in nursing school I was confident I would be the first (or one of the first) among my class to go back to school.  I was certain I wouldn’t work more than five years as a bedside nurse before I’d be in NP school because being an NP was always my ultimate goal.  As it turns out I’ve now been a bedside nurse for just over five years, & I’m now far less certain that being an NP is my long term goal, or in any case, I’m in no hurry to reach that goal.  I used to think I’d be so jealous if I saw friends or classmates of mine returning to school before I did, but the truth is I’m not jealous at all.  I’m sure there will come a time in my life when I do wish to become an NP or to further my education in some way, but I can tell you with 100% certainty that time is not now.  If for no other reason, there is no biological timeline for higher education, but there most certainly is a biological timeline for having children, no matter how much we modern women do not like to admit it.biological clock

Just to be clear, this post is not meant to disparage women who do work full time while raising young children.  Once again, I am fully aware of how blessed I am to be in a position to even have the choice of working part time once our baby is born.  And if there is anything I’ve learned in life it is that there is not one right path for everyone.  We are obviously all different people so it is only logical that what works for one person or family won’t work for another.  anxiety

I just know that for me, especially with my anxiety issues & OCD tendencies, to try to work full time while also raising young children would be a nightmare.  As much as I do enjoy nursing, at the end of my life, whether that be at 35, 55, or 85, I know that my career will not be most important to me.  Is it hard for me to think about possibly losing traction in my career?  Sure. But not nearly as hard as thinking about missing out on those early formative years with my children.  (I say children because I do hope to have one more after this one.)  My mom always said if you got the first few years right, the rest would be easy, & I truly think she was correct about that.  To be honest, it isn’t the teenage years that scare me, it’s the toddler years.  I know most moms are sad as their kids grow up & aren’t “little” anymore, but I don’t anticipate that being a serious problem for me.  I’ve always enjoyed older kids & teenagers more, but even so, I can’t stand the thought of a daycare (or anyone else) spending more time with my children than me in the first few years of their lives.  The way I see it is both nursing & motherhood are far, far too important to do halfway, & at least for me, to try to do both full time would be to allow both to suffer.  And that is not acceptable to me.

We-Can-Do-It

Modern women have certainly proven that we can do it all, but at what cost?

So, in conclusion, yes, I have chosen to only work part time once the baby is born.  I used to think that would be a hard decision to make, but it’s actually been surprisingly easy.  I know modern society teaches women that we can “do & have it all,” & while I have no desire to return to the 1940s or 50s when women were expected to be stay at home moms (hell, even stay at home wives), I am fully aware of my own limitations.  That is why I’ll be the first to admit that I am not superwoman, & I have never been so at peace with the knowledge that I cannot do or have it all.