Flexible working – a women’s issue

I make no secret of the fact that I find it really difficult to juggle studying, home life, child care and my partners work shifts. It seems an impossible task and none of them have any give.
I knew going into a nursing degree that it was going to be years of juggling (last year was much more manageable as I was only in 2 days a week) but this is harder than I had ever imagined.
I have since spoken to others who are student nurses or newly qualified, who are really struggling. Being bollocked by lecturers/mentors for being late/leaving early/absences due to childcare issues, seems to be the norm. 
It’s quite shocking and demoralising having a man berate you in front of a large crowd because ‘if you can’t sort out childcare you shouldn’t even bother being a nurse’ 
I am by no means expecting to be allowed to walk in whenever, but when I arrive 10 minutes late, sweating and frantic because childcare has fallen through (probably because Roman is rejected from nursery due to a high temp) I would think there would be some understanding, but there is none.
Something else that shocked me is the lies that have been spun by universities across the country to many students. Offers of support and understanding in regards to parents studying, that once you have enrolled, it becomes clear very quickly that these were empty promises. 
Before starting the course I checked, and checked again that it would be okay if I was 5 minutes late in emergencies. That where possible, I could work shifts that were opposites to Papa No + Ro’s (as most of my shifts start before childcare opens, therefore making it impossible to be in two places at the same time) I was elated that my concerns were unfounded, and they seemed very supportive and told me they strive to make it possible for mums to study. 
However, it has not been like that at all. There have been lecturers who have asked students to give standing ovations when someone is late – thank fuck it wasn’t me as I would have crumbled – and I’ve been sneered at and asked how I would ever possibly be a nurse if I have no physical support. Which is unfair. I do have support, I have a husband and a best friend who do whatever they can – but they cannot sacrifice their jobs/their studies for mine. 
I find myself in a huge pickle currently. I don’t struggle academically, and I love my course, and truly believe I will make a wonderful children’s nurse…as would so many other mothers, so why is there nothing in place to try support us through?
I posted a quote I was tagged in, on Instagram last night, “we expect women to work like they don’t have children, and raise children like they don’t work” and I had a frustrating number of responses from women who felt this described their lives.
Noah has had school assemblies, stay and play things, harvest festivals, Christmas shenanigans all since September. 
I. Have. Not. Made. It. To. One. They are all within school hours and neither of us are in a position where we would be allowed to take time off to see these performances. What happens as a result? The same parents who can make it, attend every single time, and the same children who’s parents can’t go are left feeling upset (we’ve had so many tears in this house due to this and it is tough, a lot of children in Noah’s class have stay at home mums) the mums in Noah’s class are wonderful and send me videos of him and always make sure he knows that they are there watching him too, but it’s just not the same, we both end up feeling shitty. 
BUT, that is a sacrifice that I took. I accepted that would be what happened when I went to university, I can’t have my cake and eat it. However, I have found myself become increasingly frustrated and building up resentment towards men, especially my partner. 
When I come home (he finishes late) I do dinner and baths. When the youngest has finally stopped dicking about and fallen asleep, uniforms and bag checks fall to me. Then there’s all the dates I have to remember. Christmas Jumper day, trips, Christmas parties, performances, carol services (don’t even get me started on the money that gets swindled out of parents!)  
I organise all of those things, I’ll wash up, and come 9pm, I find myself in a position where my house looks like it’s falling apart, I haven’t had time to shower, I’m knackered and a bit emotional, and I’m checking and rechecking timetables to ensure that I have covered every aspect of childcare that week. Ensuring there’s no cock ups and hopefully everybody makes it on time. Then I remember I didn’t do Noah’s homework with him and a note will be put in his bag.
This is where the resentment comes in, how many men go to bed every night with these concerns? Feeling anxious about just having to get up and out of the house on time? Because for I and others I have spoken to recently, it does seem to always fall on the woman. Completely unintentionally, I have fallen into the role of a house wife (which is absolutely great if you are happy to be one but I am the worlds worst house wife) and a studying mother. I’m trying to keep everything afloat, above the water, meanwhile I am drowning! 
Flexible working is something that should be accessible to everyone, but it is not. People have suggested that my partner should put in a flexible working request, I agree, I think he should, but at the end of the day, he knows his job, he knows his boss and he knows that the answer would be a resounding no. Not to mention it could have detrimental consequences to his progression within the company in future. And, he is the breadwinner (for now 😉) and we cannot chance ever losing that. 
I have spoken to women who have children with complex medical needs, which means they cannot go to nursery, as nurseries are not equipped. This means she solely relies on carers, if a carer cancels (which happens quite often) she is left with no choice but to be late until she can organise last minute childcare. She has recently been told that once she finishes her degree in the summer, she will never be employed by the hospitals within that trust. Their suggestion was that she moved cities. Something which is entirely impossible for her, not to mention fucking ludicrous – all because she has been late 6 times in 3 years due to childcare failures. 
I’ve lost count of the amount of times people said to me after I had Noah, ‘you can always do your education later’, “I know X who became a midwife after doing an access course”, everyone wants young parents to do something, to be something, give back to society, but when we are trying our best and struggling through degrees that people with no responsibilities find difficult, we are shunned and unsupported. 
You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. In my five year olds eyes I’m a bad mum because I miss all of his school events, in my lecturers eyes I’m a bad nurse because I have children that will always comes first (cos they’re like my legal responsibility and shit) and in my eyes I’m failing at both because sadly I am not magic, and I cannot make this work for everyone.

11 thoughts on “Flexible working – a women’s issue

  1. Brilliantly written, I feel your pain. I was a single parent of 3 & I know how hard it is to manage everything on your own. xx


  2. Love this. So proud of you for speaking up and talking about this very real problem that is despite the NHS crying out for nurses the treatment of students and qualified is not what it needs to be and is suprisingly less compassionate than other professions. Highlighting the gender inequality is a harsh reminder that society is not as evolved as we thought. I really hope something changes – fast! P.s. wish we lived closer!


  3. Firstly, I really hope you don’t feel like you’re failing at both, you’re a wonder woman in my eyes! Secondly, that quote is so true!
    I’m so lucky to be able to work from home with my little boy & sometimes it’s a challenge. He hasn’t started nursery or anything yet but I cannot imagine trying to study & do placements as well! You should be so proud of yourself 💖


  4. This is such an amazing blog! So inspiring. I am a children’s nurse – qualified for 3 years, and have so much admiration for people who trained whilst having children. I found it hard enough without the responsibility of managing a family! I now have an 8 month old son, and work solely on the bank. I pick and choose my hours around my family and it works so well! Hang on in there – it will get easier! X


  5. Makes me so sad to read your blog. Let’s look at all the things you have achieved with your family. And the kids will always be the first to wave the guilt stick. So one day at a time, you will get through this. You are not only strong and beautiful on the outside, but on the inside to. I remember some one saying that about your mum many years ago. Wish I lived nearer.



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