MAY 2014 – What’s Wrong With Being A Nurse


Rodney Dangerfield couldn’t get any respect, and perhaps nurses are not getting their fair share either.

If you polled graduating high school females about their future aspirations, I wonder how many would cite ‘raising children’ or ‘stay home mom?’ It would then be interesting to step back 20 years or so and conduct the same poll.

I’m pretty certain that most answers would reflect career professions, with more ‘traditional’ things like marriage and child raising trailing at a distance. But why..? In my day pregnancy brought far more joy than anxiety. Girls are still girls no matter what era, so when and why did this change?

Granted times are complicated by issues like ‘gender equality,’ but I’m simultaneously amazed and dismayed at how unpopular, even offensive such apparently antiquated notions like being a homemaker have become. Suggesting that to the wrong person and you might as well suggest throwing one’s self into a volcano.

As crazy as this seems, there was a time when such things were the norm (anyone old enough to remember taking Home Economics, a.k.a. Home Ec.?) and motherhood was held in a much higher regard as a respectable ‘occupation.’ I’m not sure it is even considered an occupation anymore.

Nowadays it’s a self-limiting life-choice that will likely result in long-term regret. I didn’t say that; it’s the impression I get. And I don’t fault the legions of young women who are encouraged early on to pursue career, not domestic possibilities. I understand how factors like economics, marrying much later (if at all), and other factors influence decisions on child bearing. It’s harder to prosper on a single income with the cost of necessities escalating. But sidestepping child bearing for personal reasons must have started somewhere.

I was listening to an interview with Sheryl Sandberg, CFO of FaceBook, self-appointed icon and champion for ‘Every Woman,’ and crusader for ‘undoing the damage’ society has inflicted on women. Apparently generations of females have been systematically discouraged from a very young age to ‘underachieve;’ to set their sights lower, say, than their male counterparts. Perhaps to even—GASP!—opt for that life of ‘domestic servitude.’

As an example of this institutionalized indoctrination, she cited a hospital gift shop that carried new born medical scrubs for boys and girls. But here’s the rub: The traditional green scrubs say ‘Future Doctor’ and the pink scrubs say ‘Future Nurse.’ Ouch! Maybe that’s why this field has traditionally been female-oriented. Apparently it starts in grade school when images of female nurses first appeared.

What’s wrong with being a nurse? Are nurses underachievers who should have reached for something higher?Maybe some nurses actually want to be a nurse and not just settling for a lesser profession. Maybe women make better nurses. Besides, everyone can’t be a doctor because we do need nurses.

According to a Reader’s Digest article, nurses are the unsung heroes of the medical profession; providing critical care and often catching things that may have otherwise gone unnoticed or neglected. Frankly, nurses make a pretty good living. Nurse-practitioners do very well for themselves.

This isn’t about nurses and I’m certain Miss Sandberg wasn’t demeaning them. Her point is that there is a concerted, mass effort to instill a lack of self-confidence in females (from childhood on) in order to discourage them from believing that they can ‘have it all.’ She wasn’t discouraging motherhood per se, but it makes sense that high career ambitions don’t always allow for other non-professional demands.

I always thought that motherhood was a woman’s highest calling; a venerable, respectable and essential role. Without the loving care of loving mothers, most of us would not be here today. Where would we be without good mothers raising good members of society? My mother was always there for us: She cooked and kept us well fed, she comforted us in times of need, put us to bed and greeted us in the morning. 

She was a real stay home mom. But that’s what so many like her did. While times change, so do our attitudes and views. Is it possible that over 40 years of legalized abortion packaged as a women’s ‘right’ has influenced our views on motherhood? The message is that if pregnancy isn’t part of your plan, then invoke your rights and terminate said pregnancy.

What happens when powerful, highly successful women like Miss Sanberg suggest that other women may be where they are because they were discouraged from achieving? Maybe raising children and managing a household IS ‘having it all’ for some. Maybe there’s too much career conditioning. Maybe some people are content until someone tells them they are really not.

We all have different ambitions, believe it or not. If Miss Sanberg is correct, we do have a wrong to right because no one should be made to believe that they are less than anyone else. If she’s just rocking the boat to rally people to a feminist cause that supports her views, then shame on her.

On April 15, 1965, ‘What the World Needs Now Is Love’ was released and in May of that year it reached number 7 on the US charts. The familiar chorus chimes “What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of. What the world needs now, is love, sweet love. No, not just for some but for everyone.”

I think what the world really needs now is love: motherly love. Not things that merely pass for love, but the undying, unyielding kind of ‘maternal love’ that a mother expresses for her children. That’s what the world just might have too little of. That’s the stuff of self-giving and caring. That’s the stuff of personal fulfillment.

So, here’s to all of the mothers out there: May this special day be as filled with blessings and joy that you lovingly gave to your children, that we might someday pas on to ours. You taught us not only what love is, but how to love.

Oh, and thank you mom for ‘nursing’ me with loving care when I was too small to care for myself. You are so much more than a doctor to me ;-)   RETURN TO COMMENTARY MAIN >

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