I make no secret about the fact that my desire has always been to be a stay-at-home mother while my children are small. I want to have the opportunity to raise them without interference from a child-development or day-care center, at least until they are ready for preschool. When I make these types of statements aloud, I see the furrowed eyebrows of my colleagues. I used to get offended, but now I think it’s pretty funny. I don’t know why people assume that, just because I am in a doctoral program and want to establish a career in research, I also want to be a full-time career woman. The reality is this: If I am in any position to be a stay-at-home mom, I will be at home with a PhD.
Women have made important strides in employment over the past 50 years. I can appreciate all the struggles they had to go through so that I have the opportunities I have today to climb the corporate ladder. I am keenly aware of present-day gender imbalances in male-dominated career fields, so I understand the difficulties other women go through. I don’t have to deal with too many gender differences as a nurse, I’m thankful to say. (I will admit that I recently became aware that male nurses may come in at a higher salary and move up the ranks quicker than female nurses, but that may be because of their desire to show they are as capable of being good nurses as women. Who knows?) But my appreciation of past and present struggles of women who work outside the home is not enough of a reason for me to give up my own dream of being a stay-at-home mom.
One of the great things about nursing, especially for a person like me, is the flexibility the nursing profession offers. Even as a full-time staff nurse, I could work two to three days per week (12-hour shifts, of course). To be a full-time employee, yet stay at home four or five days per week is a pretty good deal, if you ask me. There’s also the option to work from home. As one of my classmates stated, “If you have a computer, you’ll be fine.” There are lots of nursing jobs that allow nurses to work from home. I can teach online, for example. There, I get the best of both worlds—I can continue to gain experience in my career and still be a stay-at-home mother.
If I had to give my honest opinion, I’d say earning a PhD opens—not closes—the door to stay-at-home motherhood. Nurses with doctoral degrees have many more career options than nurses who practice at the bedside. It is also my opinion that women should not feel pressured to work full time outside of their homes just because gender inequalities are less today than in times past. Women should feel free to work outside the home, stay at home to care for their children or otherwise work at home as they please.
A mother who chooses to stay at home the first few years of her child(ren)’s life/lives is no less committed to her career than a mother who chooses to return to her place of employment following her six-week postpartum visit. As members of a profession that is comprised mostly of women, we shouldn’t judge one another for wanting to take time away from our careers to tend to our families, nor should those of us who do make that choice impose our beliefs of familial importance on those who choose to sidestep traditional maternal roles to be full-time career women. To each her own.