Updating Old Expectations 

Nancy: Baby changes priorities


Nancy was a pediatric nurse, who after her six years with a large urban hospital was promoted into an administrative job. She had an appealing, attractive personality and a talent for motivating those who worked around her. Her employees spoke highly of her, finding her knowledgeable and personable. Nancy generally liked her job, although the demands of keeping up with more paperwork, constantly changing regulations, and supervising a large staff were beginning to pressure her. She missed clinical work, and occasionally dreamed of spending more time with patients, but the nine- and ten-hour work days left little possibility of that.

When Nancy became pregnant with her first child, she planned on taking a four month maternity leave. She arranged to return to her job at the end of this period, and her boss was relieved that she'd be back. As the date got closer and closer, Nancy realized how much the time with her infant son meant to her. Suddenly, that full-time administrative position looked like a drain that she'd never escape. She concluded that her time was just too precious. She phoned her boss and gave him the bad news: she was resigning.

But even this choice didn't settle the matter because it didn't fit with Nancy's image of herself. She found herself both restless and depressed. She sought therapy and was able to sort out her professional and personal goals. She wanted to work part-time; she wanted to enjoy being a mother; she wanted to work in patient care; she wanted to live at a reasonable pace. Nancy was willing to assume some managerial responsibilities, and as a result, she was able to negotiate a half-time position at the hospital with a mix of administrative and clinical duties. She got to control more of her time, and her depressed mood lifted.

For further reading, you might try The Overworked American by Juliet Schor, or The Hurried Child by David Elkind.

You can also investigate with this link other ideas about stress management.


• These accounts are composites as well as fictionalized and disguised to protect everyone's identity.

• They are based on real life incidents.