Labor Day, choosing a profession

Today is Labor Day, a day to honor working people. My husband and I are now retired but we worked and worked hard. How does someone "choose" their occupation? My husband is a carpenter and I am a nurse. I don't believe there was ever much thought about choice of occupation for my husband. It just came naturally to him. His father, grandfather, great grandfather and so forth back quite a few generations had been woodworkers, furniture makers, and/or carpenters back in Germany. He grew up and picked up the skills from his Dad? or was it in his DNA? Whatever the reason it was an occupation that seemed natural to him, he enjoyed and was good at. Bingo. For me it was different.

The females of my mom's generation generally assumed a woman may work outside the home, will get married and then retire from the working world to raise a family as the children came into the picture. I grew up in a time of change for women. As a third grader I wrote an assignment saying I wanted to be a nurse when I grew up. With my generation came the rise of feminism but still most females going to college (at least those that I grew up with) considered mainly teaching or nursing as appropriate. I don't remember any particular "calling" or anything toward nursing. Most every third grade girl wrote they wanted to be either a teacher, a mother or a nurse.

 I entered college after high school but three semesters in I had taken enough credits to technically be a junior and was therefore required to declare a major. I had no clue what I wanted. There were so many baby boomers that college graduates were working as bag boys in the Jewel. Besides I was in love and wanted to get married. I dropped out of college. My mom cried when I told her but I was determined and married the next year. Three years later we had a new baby and a new house and what we considered a large house payment. $333.00 principal and interest! Makes me laugh now but it was a big amount and tough going then so I took a job at a local hospital as a nurses aid. I chose that job strictly because I could work nights and would not have to pay a babysitter. A few months later I looked around and thought to myself; why am I working hard like a dog for $4/hr and those nurses sitting at the desk ordering me around are making twice that? A friendly older nurse told me I could get a nursing degree through my local community college. I checked it out and found out that my earlier college credits would be considered and they even had a "tot spot" which was a cheap and good child care alternative for kids age three and up. Our daughter was only two but potty trained and tall for her age. I spent some time prompting her to repeat "my name is Laura and I am three years old" holding up 3 fingers for effect. I truly had not a clue what I was getting into. My eyes were on the $8/hr prize.

I made it through the training the first year hiding the fact I was now pregnant with my next child. Things were a bit different then. Many of the instructors were not keen on mothers in the program and although it was now illegal to discriminate against you if pregnant, the instructors often found other ways to purge you from the program. I was found out but was told if I missed anything due to the pregnancy I was out, period.  Erik was due in February but he must have known because he arrived a month late waiting until spring break! After spring break I did my required surgical clinical rotation. The anesthesiologist kept pushing a laundry basket toward me. He later told me I looked rather pale and thought I perhaps was sick and ready to hurl watching the surgery, I explained that no I was fine but a little tired on my feet as I had just delivered a 10 lb baby 2 1/2 days previously!

My husband, God bless him, worked a 7 day week to pay for the schooling. I had a child, was pregnant, going to school and working nights. Dog tired, it all seemed like a blur to us but it payed off. Three weeks before graduation I was offered a position. So I didn't really have a "calling" to be a nurse, choose nursing or did I sort of fall into it? I don't think it matters. The hours worked great for someone with children, the pay was good and I enjoyed the work.  I also felt pride in my position as a registered nurse and made some lifelong friends. And, most importantly, I believe I did a good job.