One of our wonderful Birth Centre Mums, and fellow Friends of the Birth Centre Committee Member, Georgina Rosos has written this beautiful article on the importance of valuing the role we play in our children's lives.
I am, in no particular order, a nurse and a mother. I have been a nurse for the best part of 12 years, whereas my almost-two-year-old frequently reminds me how new I am to parenting. It may sound odd, but I don't always see where my role as a nurse ends and where I, as a parent begins. What is clear to me though, is how we as a society consistently undervalue what I like to call the 'soft art of caring'.
It is well documented that traditionally women's work such as nursing, midwifery, teaching, child care, and mothering is undervalued, and has traditionally been described as “instinctive” rather than something that can be learned and something that is worthy as a profession (i). We see the impact on a daily basis: from the stay-at-home mum who has to face the “what do you do all day?” questions, to ridicule of fathers who take time away from careers to care for their children. We see it in the poverty of those caring full-time for a family member (ii), even though their dedication and love may save us (as a society) money by keeping people out of costly institutions. We see it in the low pay of those in both aged care (iii) and child care (iv).
One family friend was surprised when I reacted because he summarised my role as emptying bed pans. The fact that I am a professional in Intensive Care, who spends my time monitoring changes in my patient, assessing, prioritising and acting decisively to ensure the best possible outcomes for my patient's physical and emotional well-being, providing care for them and their family and liaising other skilled professionals such as the ICU doctors, medical speciality teams, social workers, physiotherapists, dieticians, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, cultural liaison officers.... You get the picture.
"What I find my self asking is, if we put words and rationales to all those seemingly mundane daily activities, would we be able to better recognise the work, effort that we put in so we can do the absolute best for our children?"
Women's liberation caused a concurrent revolution in nursing – to become recognised as a profession in it's own right. And no, increasing education standards did not mean that we care less. In order to show that we were professionals, we became more articulate about what we did and why we did it. It is this that I bring into my role as a parent. What I find my self asking is, if we put words and rationales to all those seemingly mundane daily activities, would we be able to better recognise the work, effort that we put in so we can do the absolute best for our children? So for all those who ask “what do you do all day” (implied: your house isn't even tidy), this is what I would tell them if they stuck around for long enough. So here is my part of my day as a mum, as written (as it were) as a nurse.
A day in the life.....
Firstly my day starts providing a breakfast that promotes nutrition by including protein, complex carbohydrates, fibre and essential fats. I also encourage a healthy attitude towards food and work to prevent future problems with obesity by not pressuring him to eat more that he wants. I then aid him with his elimination needs to sit on the toilet. As he likes to have a book read to him while he poos, it also aids his language skills, increases his vocabulary, and may even assist him with dispute management! Then we ensure regular hygiene by wiping bottom, washing hands, washing face and brushing teeth, which (depending on mood) may initially be met with reluctance that is generally overcome with diversional acitivity, such as “look at the soapy bubbles” or “where are your big dinosaur teeth”. I then try to ensure optimal temperature regulation by trying to convince him to wear clothes, which also doubles as a good form of exercise for both of us as I have to chase his naked bottom all around the house.
Some time at the park may be described as health promotion (wearing sun protection), and increasing gross motor skills, strength and exercise tolerance. That beetle we find on a tree initiates an age-appropriate science lesson, along with the discussion about the solar system (or why we can't see the moon and stars during the day), promoting natural curiosity and learning. Some snacks at the park help to stabilise glycaemic levels, promoting further activity, growth and metabolism, along with emotional stability.
We have the encouragement of social skills as we negotiate turns on the swing with other children. Then we also have the emotional support and counselling required as having to leave the sandpit and go back home for lunch is clearly a traumatic moment. I aid his emotional processes and allow him to work through his grief to the best of my ability, and promote skin integrity by removing him from his very sandy clothes.
He's fallen asleep in the car, and I manage to transfer him to the bed without waking him (hurrah!) promoting his rest, recuperation and growth. I then use this moment to have an uninterrupted cup of tea (double hurrah!) and plan a nutritionally optimal lunch, after which we practice fine motor coordination skills with drawing and basic counting skills by building blocks. We then promote the development of imaginary play (and future intellectual development) as he plays with his toy oven and makes me “cups of tea”. Social development and emotional attachment is further aided by the arrival home of my husband (Daddy, my Daddy!), and also allows me to throw together a meal that hopefully, will allow optimal growth and sleep-producing hormones. Well, we can but hope.
This is not to say that anything I do is out of the ordinary, only that the role of parents is not generally articulated. This is has all been somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but sometimes putting words to what we do allows us to recognise its value. The work of all mums and dads who are looking after their children the best way they know how is important beyond measure, it's never “just” being a mum or a dad. So congratulate yourself, and recognise the the importance of you. For you are a warrior in the soft art of caring, and to a little someone, you may just be their world.
About the Author
Georgina is an Intensive Care Nurse at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. These are her personal views and do not reflect those of her employer, Queensland Health. She has an interest in trauma, disaster response, research, health promotion, neurological development and response to injury, along with social and gender equity. She also practices the “soft” martial art of Aikido. She has a son, a husband and a house inhabited by many geckos. She rants on twitter as The Sword-Weilding Nurse. @GeorginaRosos
(i )BRINGING THE MEN BACK IN:: Sex Differentiation and the Devaluation of Women's Work, Gender & Society, Vol. 2, No. 1. (1 March 1988), pp. 58-81
(ii) Int. J. Geriat. Psychiatry, Vol. 14, No. 8. EUROCARE: a cross-national study of co-resident spouse carers for people with Alzheimer's disease: I—factors associated with carer burden(1 August 1999), pp. 651-661
(iii) Sustaining Low Pay in Aged Care Work, Gender, Work & Organization, Vol. 19, No. 3. (1 May 2012), pp. 254-275
(iv) Wages of Virtue: The Relative Pay of Care Work
Paula England, Michelle Budig and Nancy Folbre
Vol. 49, No. 4 (November 2002) (pp. 455-473)
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