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Marketing Mama: Work-life balance impossible during nurses’ strike

There were many hospital employees around the Twin Cities who were not on strike last week. For them, life at work and and at home, was much more stressful. 

You may have heard about the nurses’ strike at 14 hospitals in the Twin Cities last week, which included the hospital where I work. As a manager of marketing and communications, crisis communications are a part of the job. So is event planning. The last week has been like a collision of the two – an event and a crisis I needed to manage.

Of course there was a team of us across the company, and some from my department put in many more hours than I did… But the fact is that the nurses’ strike had an incredible impact on me both emotionally and physically – as well as my children.

There have been many times in my career when I’ve had to put in extra hours, work myself to exhaustion, fall apart after the fact and take a day or two to recuperate. This would happen each year when I directed an 8K race for my last job. Simply mention the words “open house” or “benefit dinner” and I know I’m in for some serious time away from my family the days surrounding the event.

In a hospital setting, those special events are a part of the job, but so are public health concerns like H1N1 and most recently the Nurses’ strike. Each of those issues needs an expert communicator to hone in on key messages, communicate them effectively in a number of mediums (web, letters, e-mail, press releases), to a number of people (community members, employees, nurses, leaders, the media). Or to put it simply, give the right message, at the right time, to the right people.

I like my job. I feel a sense of pride and satisfaction about my contributions during these types of situations. However, there is a cost to me and my children. Maintaining a work/life balance in the middle of this nurses’ strike was impossible. I couldn’t care for my young children, because my duties required me to be at work before 7 a.m. and after 5 p.m. (daycare hours). In addition to a few unusual Dad pick-ups and drop-offs at daycare instead of me, I reluctantly sent my children to their father’s home for four days during the week. Of course I knew they were well cared for, but the disruption to our normal schedule really affected my four year old. Schedules and routines are important to him because of how the divorce has upturned his life, and this change left him unsure about where he’s sleeping each night, and experiencing more of the pain and confusion about his parents breaking up. This breaks my heart.

There were personal sacrifices as well. I was supposed to run my first 5k this morning. But I couldn’t do it. I was determined to push myself and stay on track despite the stress and increased hours at work, and I pushed myself too hard and ended up getting shin splints. It is so painful that I can’t run at all and was forced to stop running. Which I guess was a relief (except for the pain) because I was so stressed about the impending strike I needed to let something go. Oh, yeah, I started making unhealthy food choices as well. So between ditching my exercise plan and eating like crap, I’ve gained 5 pounds.

This morning I picked up my kids from their Dad’s house. Did I mention daycare is closed all next week? Instead of being stressed and annoyed by this further disruption to our schedule, I’ve decided to look at it as a gift. I will have 5 full days with my children. We made a list of all the fun things we want to do: Go swimming, the train museum, see a movie, Mall of America amusement park, the zoo… It’s going to be great. Then, the kiddos will go to their Dad’s house Thursday through Sunday, and I’m going to use that time for me… which must include at least one bath, good book and shopping excursion to be successful.

And just when things are back to normal, I’m bracing myself that it will all happen again. I’m hearing rumors that another strike is being planned for an upcoming holiday weekend.

It felt like someone kicked me in the stomach the first time I heard that.

This post was originally published by Missy Berggren on the Marketing Mama.