Just four years ago, my mom spent her days working at St. John’s hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. For 25 years she worked in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit attending to eight premature infants at a time. Then one day we received the news that my dad, Jeff, was offered a job in Princeton, New Jersey. It was time to start a new chapter of our lives.
The deal was that if my dad took the job opportunity, mom wouldn’t need to work. So during the first years of our new life on the East Coast, my mom assumed the title of a stay-at-home mom.
Unexpectedly, this plan took a tragic turn after the sudden death of my dad. On November 30, 2016 at the age of 48, my father passed away from sudden cardiac arrest. And just like that, my mother was left to raise our family alone.
After a year of grieving, it was time for her to go back to work. Mom says her return to work mostly about “the social aspect and health insurance.” Although she worked in the hospital all those years, she decided to work at the local daycare center to avoid the shiftwork of the hospital setting and be able to be home for dinner with our family.
On a typical day, once we are off to school, she makes her way to work. “Technically the drive to Kindercare is three minutes, but if I get stopped by the traffic light, then it can reach up to 5 minutes. My day normally starts out with parents dropping their babies off, changing diapers, and doing their first feedings.”
Three hours into working, she gets her first break. “Snack time is 10 o’clock is and I usually eat yogurt as a protein source because it takes a lot of energy to work with babies.”
There is no real “set” lunchtime for my mom. “Lunchtime is any time when there’s downtime between feedings and diaper changes. This usually occurs around 1 or 2.” For lunch, she normally eats something simple or leftovers from the night before. In her words, she eats “anything that the vultures I live with don’t eat.”
According to my mom, the second half of the day feels the longest. “To get through the second part of the day, I usually have a piece of chocolate or some almonds.” The parents usually come between four and six p.m. to pick up their children. Once all of the children have left, it is time for her to clean. “After all of the babies have been picked up, I get the great joy of cleaning and sanitizing the toys, mats, and bottle warmers,” says my mom, “This can take anywhere from five to ten minutes depending on how busy the afternoon was.” After all the essentials are cleaned and sanitized, it is time for her to head home to us.
The job of a daycare worker is not always the easiest job, but my mom proclaims that she loves the environment she gets to spend her day in and “wouldn’t trade it for anything”. She was very hesitant to go back to work after my dad died because she was scared it would be very different than her past job. But, my mom feels she “definitely made the right decision to go back to work.”
Every night during the week, my mom stays up until she makes sure our family has everything we need. Then she crawls into bed. And before you know it …
The clock reads five-thirty a.m., the sun has yet to rise and the streets are dark and silent. It’s too early for the birds to be chirping. The agonizing blare of the default apple alarm ricochets through her room, echoing throughout the house and my mom, Pam Strand, is ready to do it all again. For her family.