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A nurse’s letter to her children

To my beautiful children,

When I first entered onto this path, I knew that it was right. I also knew that there would be sacrifices. For me, for my partner, but also for my children- and you little ones are what I probably failed to consider the most at the age of 18.

Now, I wonder if you ever resent me; if you wish I had a job like the other mums?

Where is the line between what I sacrifice, and what you need to sacrifice in turn? Sacrificing school pick-ups and drop-offs, family dinners, and me cheering from the sideline when you score a goal. That wasn’t your choice.

It breaks my heart to count the times you would have wanted me somewhere- at your concert, at your presentation day, to read you your favourite book before bed. Every day is the most important day of your life, and I am sorry you have had to experience so many of them without me by your side. Trust me when I say I wish I were there, just as much as you wish I was. My memories of those days will only be the stories and tales you share with me; and it pains me to think of the times you would have questioned if my patients mean more to me than you. Never. For the times when you doubt this, I am eternally sorry.

When I am home; I know you wish I didn’t have a job that left me utterly exhausted, emotionally and physically. You are the best part of my day, everyday, and I just wish there was more of me left at the end of a shift to show you this. In the space of a single shift I may have helped other families, other husbands, and other children welcome and farewell loved ones in their lives. I have been a part of so many incredibly special moments, yet know I have missed so many of yours.

The holes in family photos, I know, I should have been there. Sometimes we would do some ‘creative calendar’ work, and move around dates and events to suit our family, but it’s not always the same. You want to open presents at the same time your friends are. I promise that every patient I cared for, I was thinking of you. Days when you were sick and all you wanted was your mum, I would cry on my way to work (and even at work), unable to get my shift covered to stay home and cradle you. My patients needed me, though I know you did too.

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You do not know the people that I spend my days with. The other nurses, the doctors, the patients- many of their lives are private. Private because I need to keep my patients medical care confidential, and private because sometimes their stories are too sad to tell. How would you process the death of another child, or of a parent? You have greater empathy than you know and because I am crying behind closed doors, you do not need to feel that pain also. It’s easier to separate ‘work’ and ‘you’ sometimes. My emotional distance is a coping mechanism, and not because I do not want to share with you. Simply, I can’t.

As you grow older, I hope that you can understand why I chose this job. Perhaps you yourself will become a nurse, and realise the power that it holds and the blessings it delivers. I am so incredibly proud of you. Living within a choice I made as a teenager, that you had no alternate but to accommodate me. I want you to know that your sadness is not unseen, and the unconditional love I feel from you, when I know I’m letting you down, is reciprocated from me to you one thousand times stronger.

I could not be prouder of the strength you show, and that my children, are ‘nurse’s children’. I just hope that one day, if not now, you will know fully that my life is you; not my job.

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