A New Year

At the end of last year I left a job in a charity and returned permanently to practice nursing - again! And since then - I think because I do have a habit of accumulating various nursing roles - I've been asked about my work quite a lot. But one question that seems to be on repeat is one that I don't remember being asked years ago when my children were little. It's this one - 'So how many days a week are you working then?'. I find myself explaining and justifying my choices to not always work a full week. I've even found myself asking other women this in case, perhaps, I'm not matching up. It has recently occurred to me that, as far as I'm aware, this is not a question a man is asked regularly. It has led to me considering why this is such a point of interest. And I have come to the conclusion that women can't win. If we work full time, we are seen as neglecting our family but if we choose to do, say three days a week, we run the risk of being seen as lazy in the workplace. It also seems to me that whichever road you choose, you will feel guilty. As a mum, my career has been littered with guilt at leaving my children, at not being able to make every school event and sometimes having to send grandparents in my place. And as a nurse, I have felt, at times, guilty that perhaps I'm not pulling my weight as much as some of my colleagues. One of the reasons I left the charity was that, alongside my other roles, I was usually working a full week and quite often some of the weekend too. And without going into the whole nurses' pay campaign (which I have a tendency of focusing on!) I didn't feel that I was reaping the rewards for the time and effort I was putting in.

2023 started and ended with loss for my family. This made it a more reflective year than most. And so, as we start this new one, I have decided to ignore whatever people may think of my working patterns. If the last few years have taught me anything, it's that teenagers need their parents just as much as when they were little. And possibly, I would argue, more. I don't want to be unavailable for them when they face unexpected challenges because I am running ragged between surgeries, a charity, a school and yoga teaching. I recently read an article about women who are giving up work completely to be at home for their teens, and while I'm not planning on doing that, I do feel it's important not to throw them into a world with little support at home. 

It turns out, for logistical reasons, my practice nursing is allowing me to be quite flexible with my hours. I hadn't expected this but it has been a welcome surprise. I have decided to do what is right for my family. No two are the same and for me, working tirelessly isn't what I need to do. And I mustn't forget that I do still have this chronic lung disease lurking in the background. It's not just about my children either. I'm going to take the opportunity to go away with my parents and finish the book I'm writing with my dad. And who knows, I may even find the time for a little book tour with him when we're done. 

And most of all, I have decided to do all of this without feeling guilty.


  1. I am assuming that you are the Emma Gracie who recently put a petition up to extend invited breast screening beyond 70. If not, apologies and please ignore. I don't do any social media, hence this way of communicating.
    I am a retired breast cancer doctor, nearly 70! who worked in breast screening as well as in breast cancer treatment.
    I was wondering if you understood the reason why invited screening stopped at 70? It is because beyond this age there is no benefit in terms of saving lives. Finding the cancer earlier by screening in this age group simply doesn't change the prognosis. You might say that this doesn't matter, but actually being given a diagnosis of breast cancer two years earlier than it would have been found anyway, with no difference in prognosis is not 2 years of good quality of life! This is not even taking into account the number of small breast cancers found which would never have become apparent in the woman's lifetime.


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