In my book, A Past Worth Telling, I mention my mother who became an RN in Boston where she and my father met at a Boston University dance. One of my opening poems, “It was Complicated,” recounts the story of how both my parents lived in Western Massachusetts towns not far apart from one another: he from Palmer and she from Monson.
Our daughter is the most recent addition to a line of RNs in the family. She just passed her licensing exam and will begin her new job this week in Oncology, working nights at an Upstate NY hospital. The course work and practice in the hospitals is a much different story from the time my mother studied nursing. It is said that a picture is worth 10,000 words, and my mother’s nursing school class photo speaks volumes about nurses from a bygone era. Clothing styles then and now are as varied as the job descriptions.
I venture to say that today an RN’s job description is vastly different from my mother’s stories of RN training and subsequent work. I would say that my mother had chores which most RNs do not do today. Our daughter has different tasks and perhaps more responsibilities than was ever allowed an RN when my mother went through training. One thing I vividly recall learning from my mother was how to make hospital corners when making a bed. That seemed to be from her nurse’s training. For years, I paid close attention when I changed sheets on a bed. Then along came fitted sheets and the need for hospital corners seemed less important.
As a teen in Colorado, I recall my mother actually ironing sheets before putting them in the linen closet to make beds, one of her weekly rituals. I can’t say I ever adopted the practice of ironing sheets. My mother also placed great value in cleaning our home. That was also a different era when women by and large remained at home with their children. Today with working women a common fact of life, cleaning house, ironing, shopping for and cooking meals seem to always be done at a fast pace or delegated to someone else. My mother would mention on her visits to the East coast that if I just took one hour per day, I could clean my house better. She would suggest cleaning one drawer at a time. I don’t think she ever fully fathomed what my life as a working mother and a teacher was like. I know she meant well when she gave me these cleaning tips, but there were more important things in life to me than dust balls. My children came first, and both my husband and I tried to give them quality time after our work days. It was always a balancing act.
So, as our daughter begins her career as an RN, I wonder how she will manage it all and still find time for herself. She has all the necessary skills. I wish for her a happy life in all the roles she will have. The world is a better place because of these two strong women in my life.