Female EMS workers juggle their career and motherhood - Satara Williams The Sun Staff
February 7, 2011
Imagine working a 24-hour shift motivated only by a three-day break.
Now, add household duties on top of caring for a child and you've just created the reality that three women employed at Cypress Creek EMS face everyday.
"It's really hard because I'm actually a single mom," Gillian Gennaro, an EMT in-charge paramedic and mother of a 10-year-old son, said. "I do have my mom now that helps me out with him but before it was really hard. I had other family and I was waking up at 5:30 to drop him off to make it to work on time. We work 24-hour shifts and it's making arrangements again for him in the night. So in the morning it's hard because we get up and it's like ‘how do I get him ready for school'?"
Since she traded in her job in the corporate world a year ago to become an EMT basic, Kimberly Colley has not been able to see her children and husband in the same fashion as she did before.
By the time she gets off from work in the morning, she misses her 15-year-old daughter who has already left for class and is allotted approximately 15 minutes with her son before he heads to his elementary school.
Nowadays, instead of relying on face-to-face interaction, the mother of two corresponds with her loved ones with electronic devices.
"The worst thing is being a mom and being away from my family for the 24 hours," Colley said. "It's really hard. We all live by cell phones and e-mail to keep in communication with each other."
In addition to being a mother to an 11-year-old daughter and twin nine-year-old girls, EMT intermediate Christy Traynor is also a student enrolled in an EMT program.
The single mother has almost 18 years of EMS experience under her belt. However, even she finds her load daunting at times, she said.
"The challenge is the fact that I've been going through school," Traynor said. "Paramedic school is time consuming so I haven't been around the girls a lot but of course they've been with either their dad or my mom. So that's been the most challenging of it all."
Because their work schedules are not from set hours of nine to five, the three women are forced to forgo certain opportunities.
There's a chance that their child's assignment, which needs to be signed by the next school day, will not meet the deadline or that they'll be unable to attend a number of celebratory affairs.
However, when asked what they considered to be the ultimate sacrifice, all three women shared the same response: the lack of time with their children.
"That's the biggest challenge because even when we go home from a 24-hour shift it's hard to do stuff with them because you're so exhausted and you need sleep," Gennaro said.
One of the many assumptions surrounding gender is that women, unlike men, can not separate their role in the home from work.
Yet, the characteristics associated with motherhood, such as being nurturing, caring and compassionate, are regarded by some as an asset in the EMS field.
"Being a mom, I have that interaction at home so I'm able to help the (other) moms," Colley said. "The other day we picked up a patient who wasn't feeling well and she had a two-year-old and a four-year-old.
"I had no hesitation running over to her kids to make sure that they had snacks and coloring books to take with them to the hospital because I knew mom was going to be there for a few hours and I needed to make sure she wasn't going to stress on top of not feeling well."
With their constant struggle to manage the second shift, many are wondering why the women have chosen to pursue such a career.
Even though a fixed schedule may seem appealing, some are willing to undergo the strains in order to provide emergency medical services to those in need.
"To be honest, I don't think I could go back to a regular job anymore," Gennaro said. "It's kind of nice to work 24-hours and then you're off three days so you have that flexibility in your schedule. Not to mention the things that we can do. It's really nice when you can help somebody."
Oftentimes regarded as a male-dominated occupation, the female EMS workers are not only contesting the belief that mothers don't belong outside the home, but also the notion that women can't perform as well as men in the workforce.
In actuality, being a female in this particular field gives the women an advantage over their male counterparts, according to Colley.
"I think that the girly touch is a huge add-on factor to the strength and the stoic nature that men have," she said. "So we can hit on that compassionate side a little bit quicker than men typically would as soon as they were to get out on the scene."
The idea of managing a 24-hour shift with a household and family may seem difficult but the ability to accomplish it all just might make the load worth tackling.
"It's an awesome experience to be able to take care of your kids and your job," Traynor said. "It's just an awesome feeling to be able to have both."
To say a woman's attempt to manage work and home is a daily task would be an understatement at its best.
But no matter how strenuous balancing a career and a family may seem, the female trio is living proof that it can be done.
"I may have to make some sacrifices along the way but in the long run it's what's best for my son," Gennaro said. "It's definitely doable but (other women) have to want it and be ready for the consequences.
"But your child always comes first. That's the bottom line. You still have to do what you have to do but you remember that your child comes before all."