How a Former Child Psych R.N. Mothers

Ever think about your “old life” before kids?  Of course!  Somedays I still wish I were the single R.N. living in a cushy apartment where I could sit poolside on my day off.  Those days are long gone…I refer to myself as a “former nurse” and I now have a home in the ‘burbs on a cul-de-sac, two kids, and a minivan.  How did I get here?! 

I don’t regret where I am.  Not one bit.  But I do sometimes try to make connections between my “old life” and my “now life.”  How was it that being a nurse has helped me become a better mom? 

Well for starters, I feel like a nurse as I am doling out the day’s vitamins.  In nurse world, we had several times of day that were “med times,” going into the medication room, plugging our special code into the computer that would spit out the medications for our patients.  We’d double-check against pharmacy’s records and the MD’s orders, check the patient’s arm band, and chart it all.  Now, of course I have no special code to get into the kitchen drawer where I stash my kid’s Gummy Vites…and I don’t have to check arm bands because my patient load is significantly decreased, and charting it…well, let’s just say I get to mark that off my to-do list. 

As a child psych R.N. I also got pretty darn good at creating and impletmenting B-mods (Behavior Modification Plans…Sticker Charts).  It looks like I need to start one up again for my 5-year old.  No problem.  I know just what to do.  She’s been a sassy-pants, white-liar, and demand-er ever since the day we sang, “Happy Birthday,” and it’s time to put that behavior to bed.  I will draw up a little chart in which I accentuate her postives…”I will speak in a nice voice to ask for what I need or want.”  Sticker.  “I will clean up the first time I am asked.”  Sticker.  “I will be honest.”  Sticker.   We’ll reward her with a bigger prize (30 minutes of TV) at the end of a 4-hour period, provided, of course that she has accumulated enough stickers.  Maybe at the end of the week of really good behavior, we’ll reward her with an even bigger prize…McDonalds Playland, for example. 

As a child pysch R.N. I  got good at knowing when kids need time for quiet reflection.  In fact, I think we nurses called it, “Room Time.”  Every day after lunch, kids headed to their rooms where they spent an hour to 90 minutes doing something quietly in their room.  Many chose to nap, others read, put puzzles together, or colored.  Some whined and threw a fit.  But it’s something I held onto as a mom.  We all need that time to process the events of the day, reflect, develop insight, and plan for the future.  We need that time to create an interior life. 

And finally, another important skill I learned as a child psych R.N. was the skillful art of learning how to negotiate with children.  I discovered books and saying that work really well with kids when they’ve had a bad day…”That’s not o.k., but you can….” 

Yes, my former life as a nurse has served me well.  But I have to admit, now that I am the mom of two very busy girls, I sometimes feel it’s me that needs to be plopped into the psych unit. 

By-the-way, it’s National Nurses Week, so if you know a nurse, give her a big thank you!

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