How Being a Single Mom Makes You A Better Nurse, And Vice Versa
By Lee Nelson
Every morning, as the sun begins to rise in the Bronx, Stephanie Frazier starts her day by getting her four daughters up. After fixing their hair, cooking breakfast, and getting everyone ready for the day, they’re all out the door by 6:30am. From there, they head to the train station and part ways to their different destinations.
Stephanie is a nurse in the pediatric infusion center at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Her children are Alexis, 14; Erin, 11; Olivia, 5; and Bree, 3. All of them do their best to help out and while there have been many challenges, they’ve always been able to make things work.
“They are all in charter schools in Manhattan because I believe they are better than the public schools in New York City,” she says. “They all text or call me that they made it to school. I go to work, everybody’s happy.”
Sacrifices For Family
Though everyone is able to make it to the right school at the right time, Stephanie worries about the athletic opportunities her talented daughter, Alexis, may be missing out on.
“It’s crazy sometimes. I’m a single parent, so my 9th grader doesn’t get to do a lot of activities because she is the one that helps me the most,” she says.
As the eldest child, Alexis gets off the train each morning to walk her sisters to school, traveling six blocks before catching another train to get to her own school. When the school day is over, she takes on the responsibility of picking her sisters up and getting them safely home, since their mom finishes work too late to do that herself.
Stephanie works from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but on a good day , she’s able to leave by 5:15. She wishes their schedules could be different or that she could find some help for her children to allow them the freedom to do things after school.
“This isn’t about me. I don’t care about the struggle. I know nothing lasts forever,” she says. “The kids are getting older now. And from year to year, you can feel the difference, and I have less to struggle with.”
Many people are able to enlist the aid of family members. Unfortunately, Stephanie’s own mother and sisters are fully occupied with the demands of their own lives.
“I have people around, but they are all busy, too,” she says.
That wasn’t always the case though.
When Alexis and Erin were younger, their daily lives included their father and a house in New Jersey.
“It was a totally different world. We lived there for eight years. But after divorcing Olivia’s dad, it prompted me to move back to New York City,” says Stephanie.
The older girls hate New York City and would love to move some place more like their previous neighborhood. “But until Bree is in school, we can’t,” she says.
A New Career Brings A New Perspective
Before becoming a nurse, Stephanie worked as a paramedic. Back then, her relationship with her patients was very different.
“You picked up a patient, treated them for 20 to 30 minutes or however long it took to get them to the hospital, then you’d say, ‘take care.’ You never knew what happened to them,” she said.
When she became a nurse, it was a hard adjustment seeing patients for longer periods of time.
“At first, I didn’t know how to care about them. The EMS culture is to not be overly concerned about the patients and what happens to them after you drop them off. You just work on them quickly to save them and then go on to the next call,” she says.
But caring for patients as a nurse has changed that. Now that Stephanie is working in an outpatient clinic setting, she sees the same patients all the time.
“They become special to me. I treat the kids at work like they are my kids.”
Her own children have been sick and in the hospital too, so she understands how much it means for parents to see that their nurses care about their children as much as they do.
“I know how parents don’t want to leave the bedside even to just go the bathroom. I would hate to think that if my kids were in the hospital that they were mistreated or got the wrong dosage of medication,” she says.
Stephanie feels that being a nurse has made her a better mother too. Much of this she attributes to her current job, where she works with sick or injured children.
“Everybody takes things for granted when they don’t have sick children. There are so many illnesses and so many types of disease and cancers. Most people don’t see this. But I do every day. And it makes me grateful to realize that no matter what is going on in my life and the struggles I go through, it’s not that bad. It could be worse,” she says.
Much worse, actually, and Stephanie has seen it all. Along with shaken babies, she has worked with children who have been hit by cars, fallen out of buildings, experienced complications from genetic abnormalities, and some have even been set on on fire by their own parents.
A New Normal
Seeing these things has understandably made the single mom very protective of her daughters. When the girls are at home alone, they know never to answer the door, and Stephanie is in constant communication with them.
“I’m never gone too long. I don’t date too much, either,” she says. “But my kids are very humbled by our experience – of us being alone and all of us working hard for each other. They know how to work hard and appreciate all that they have. They are not spoiled by any means.”
One thing that helps them keep everything in perspective is traveling together and getting a sense of what the world has to offer.
“Wherever we go, it’s all of us. It’s all or none. We went to Mexico for the summer, and went to Puerto Rico. We are randomly going to Maryland for Halloween,” she says.
Everyone has an opinion of what an ideal family should be, and that usually includes both a mother and a father. Nurses like Stephanie make us realize that happy families don’t always look like that, and that working with and for each other is what’s important.
Lee Nelson of the Chicago area writes for national and regional magazines, websites, and business journals. Her work has recently appeared in Realtor.org, Nurse.org, Yahoo! Homes, ChicagoStyle Weddings, and a bi-weekly blog in Unigo.com.