The Shift Working Mom
I have recently returned to the work force after spending the year caring for my newborn son and three year old daughter. I am a shift working mom and have a hate-hate relationship with child-care.
I love my job, my co-workers, the patients and their families, as well as the sense of accomplishment and the compensation my position provides. However, working in the hospital inevitably means working a 12 hour schedule with a mix of days and nights.
Basically, a child care providers worst nightmare.
Thankfully our parents live nearby and are willing to take their grandchildren for entire days and overnighters. We try not to burden them too much with care giving obligations, as we know that they have their own goals and aspirations now that they are retired. I am forever thankful for their help because without it I would have had to put my career on hold.
I am hoping to start a temporary full-time position this summer, which has its pros and cons. As a shift working mom, I needed to find a quality child care provider with extended hours.
The Child Care Conundrum
It would be an understatement to say that we have struggled to find consistent child care that works with our schedules, ever since our first child was born:
- Both daycares we started reduced their hours. The other one has a waiting list.
- There are no options for infants under the age of 16 months, especially for the hours we need.
- Home daycares are full or are only open 7-5.
While I can’t fault a child care provider for wanting their evenings to spend with their family, I have to ask myself: What does everyone else do? I can’t be the only shift working mom out there with this problem!
It is as simple as this:
- Most nurses are shift workers.
- Nursing is still a female dominated profession.
- Women have babies.
- Women are frequently the ones to arrange child care and sacrifice their jobs if there are conflicts.
Why, as a shift working mom, do I have to have this child care conundrum? Why aren’t there more supports available to families like mine, so that women can stay in the profession that they chose before having kids?
There Are More of Us Than We Know
While I can understand why I’m having so much trouble in a small town, another nurse I know who lives in a large city centre (with two, well-established hospitals) also struggles with child care. The only child care with extended hours on her side of the city recently closed down, so she now has to drive the opposite direction from the hospital where she works to drop her daughter off. This more than doubles her commute time.
In addition, because overnight child care is next to impossible, she drives an hour and half to drop her daughter off at grandma’s house in between her day and night shift rotation, and her daughter stays there for the following two days. While she is very appreciative of this bonding time with grandma, no mom in her right mind would envy her position.
I am positive that she is not alone in her daily struggle to have her child cared for so that she can look after other people’s family members in the ICU.
We Have Rights
In the 2010 human rights case Johnstone vs Canada, a ground-breaking decision was made that Canadian employers must trying to accommodate parents trying to balance work with family life. Fiona Johnstone, had asked her employer, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) for a change in her schedule to help with her care-giving responsibilities. She was quickly denied any accommodation. She then filed a discrimination complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and won her case.
…it is difficult to have regard to family without giving thought to children in the family and the relationship between parents and children. The singular most important aspect of that relationship is the parents’ care for children. It seems to me that if Parliament intended to exclude parental childcare obligations, it would have chosen language that clearly said so.
Honourable Mr. Justice Mandamin, dismissing the Attorney General’s application for judicial review in Canada v. Johnstone, January 31, 2013
According to an article about this case by The Star, Fiona had stated, “The ruling is important to me and other families who will be increasingly faced by this in the workplace,” since for more than two-thirds of Canadian families with young children, both parents work outside the home. In this day and age with raised living expenses and a hold on wage increases, having one parent stay home is more of a dream than a possibility.
This ruling proves that our rights as both employees and parents continue past employer’s requirements during maternity leave. We as parents, should be accommodated by employers when the care of your child and your work schedule does not mix.
What Can We Do About It?
This is always the most difficult but also most important question to answer. What can I do as a shift working mom to fix my child care conundrum?
If you live in a large urban centre and work in a position that has many young families and shift workers, you could try to round up other parents that are having difficulty finding child care. Once you get enough people on board, approach your management to see if there could be a potential solution, such a contract with a nearby child care provider or to start one up in-house.
Regardless of where you live, bring this up with your local government, whether through an email, letter or at a public forum. In Alberta, parents can receive up to $100/month in an extended hours child care subsidy. The more we talk about our extended child care needs with our own government, the more likely we will be heard.
Know another shift working mom in your area? Work together. Find a friend that works opposite to your schedule, and take turns minding each others children. You could save a lot of money this way and your kids will love having a new playmate.
If no other option works for you and you’re thinking of quitting or reducing your work week, ask your employer to help you find a solution. If they don’t want to hear you out… Well, perhaps they need to be reminded about your rights enforced by the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
I hope this helps and I wish you all the best!
xo, The Mama Nurse
Are you a shift working mom having a child care conundrum? Do you have a solution or live in an area that has supports available for the shift working mom? Please share your story, thoughts and suggestions in the comment section below!