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It was 5pm. Just enough time to change and get out of the car park before the exits became crowded. She had a mission.
As she ran down the corridor, she ticked the boxes in her mind one by one. Spoke to all the patients, yup. Blood forms ready for tomorrow’s morning list. One consent outstanding, handover given to the on call reg about the patient with the bad chest. A long line of red ticks. It should have been her day off tomorrow, but the rota manager had asked her to do an extra session. She owed someone, apparently. She had learned not to labour the point.
She reached the lift, happy. The car was two minutes away now and that would give just enough time to complete her vital task – collecting her three-year-old from nursery. On time, for the first time this week.
Then it descended upon her like a fog. As she reached for her waist, the swipe card which worked the car park barriers wasn’t there. Nor was it in her bag. Instead, the image formed in her mind of a pile of discarded scrubs in theatre. In one of those pockets was her card, with her office keys attached, and all were destined for the laundry.
On the step, she yoyoed between one set of commitments and the other. She could continue her dash to the nursery, and leave the card to face the laundry. But getting a new one would mean missing an important meeting, and 10 others needed the key for the office. On the other hand, there was the face of Chris, her son’s nursery worker, pained and disappointed by yet another late arrival.
She was suddenly very angry with herself. She was the tidy one, the one who didn’t forget things, not like some other surgeons; this wasn’t just her reckoning but that of the theatre sister.
She resigned herself to the familiar feeling of desperation as her job won the battle and she turned round. Shuffling apologetically out of the way of two nurses hovering behind her, she suddenly saw her HCA from theatres running down towards her. With the badge in his hand: ‘I thought I would miss you, it was left at the desk by someone.’
She thought he knew why she cried, he said be quick, and patted on her hand clutching the badge; she blubbered a muffled thank you and rushed back through the doors.
Yes, today would be that day after all, the day she was on time. The little fella would still be busy playing with his friends and reluctant to leave them. And she would feel a little jealous that he is happy even without her and then guilty that she felt that. And she would be able to say something other than sorry to Chris, and have time to marvel at the hand paintings.
And they would drive home, she and her boy, and they would sing songs, and those times she had been able to do nothing more than bundle him up, late, tired and resentful, would be just a memory.
And of all those red ticks in her mind, all those other battles won, this was so, so much the best.
Is your childcare a daily struggle? Use the comments section below
Anita D’Souza is a consultant surgeon. She writes under a pseudonym
Thank you for this excellent article that a medic mother can really relate to.
Yes. It has been a daily frustration for 5 years of my and my children's lives. All hospitals should have on site nurseries (preferably extended hours to accommodate on call) to help working parents be efficient. Losing travel time would be a win for parents, kids and patients. This should be a priority in a modern NHS.
If you are a parent, then there is no ‘when’ for you in the title of this article. Childcare IS a daily struggle which gets even worse in the school holidays. The line about the nursery worker’s disappointment about another late arrival was very familiar to me. Usually I would try not to be gender specific when commenting on child care, however the reality is that it is harder for female doctors. Society as a whole, including medicine, still works on the basis that it is a women’s responsibility to sort out the kids.
So emotional, thank you for this piece of content! Can I share it on https://essayontime.com.au/, our readers will like it too!
Always a struggle. Missing the children and checking whatsapp for them this sunday in work on quick break. Gonna be back for bathtime!
She was suddenly terribly angry with herself. She was the tidy one, the one United Nations agency didn’t forget things, not like another surgeons; this wasn’t simply her reckoning however that of the theatre sister. www.paperwriting.co.uk/
what a familiar story for me, my tuesday and friday school pickups exactly in those lines. rushing after the evening handover in A&E and getting out from car park and getting to nurseries through the traffic pool.... everytime it is just rushing to get there.
100% my life. A great article. Also in the mornings dropping baby off at getting to work for an 8am start is quite a stretch. On site nurseries vital as suggested by others . In fact I’m surprised these aren’t the norm in the NHS.
Excellent article which describes the daily stress of juggling work as a doctor and mum/dad duties!
So true - my little boy was last man standing every single day. I’m jealous of the “ it was 5pm” statement , in general practice, as a partner, that always read, at best, 6.45pm- luckily I could find a nursery open 7.30 am to 7 pm that were fantastic even if I was a little late now and again - work then continued off site when he was in bed - again a scenario familiar to many . Add to that the conundrum of do you take the child with you to the late visit request, insisted on by a patients relative or call nursery to see if they can accommodate a late pick up and the stress is palpable daily
Very true. Except for- “who gets out of work at 5pm??”
Every day is a struggle for childcare. I relying heavily on family as a single mum. We’re it not for them I couldn’t do my job. There is little or no give in the nhs for this. If you leave even on time you are considered not to be pulling your weight. Why would any trust employ a woman who needs to leave at 5 when they can have a man for the same pay who is willing to stay longer because he has a wife who does the child pick up.
I have campaigned for onsite nurseries for more than 25 yrs ...the nhs is the biggest employer of women ( and of parents but the skew is very much to the female end for childcare). Cutting out transport time would help so much with this problem . I have mixed and matched every form of child care known . I have had rotas weeks in advance and religiously filled in the mumcalendar to cope/provide advance solutions / not miss something. Yet I still was made to seem like a disorganised parent by both nhs side and family side by the irregular nature of my job in itu/anaesthesia. Even now they are all technically adults I still fail when I have promised taxi service or my presence . They say they love me nonetheless and forgive me their childcare traumas .
Not just the times and the fines but the cost!
My children are now grown up ( thankfully). We were lucky to have an onsite nursery at the hospital where my husband worked, and that was 20y ago. I have to admit he did most of the pick ups and drop offs as he was a consultant, and I was a GP trainee, so his hours were better.