July 5, 2018

Married To A Travel Nurse: My Life As A Stay-At-Home-Dad

Married To A Travel Nurse: My Life As A Stay-At-Home-Dad

By Nicholas Garcia

I have been a stay-at-home-dad for two years. That’s two years of not clocking in, two years of not rushing out the door sans breakfast to make it to work on time, and of not having to make important deadlines. Sounds great right? But of course, as most adult decisions go, you must consider both the positives and the negatives. It also means that’s two years of no paychecks, of listing  “unemployed” on my resume, and of no 401K matching by my employer. These were things Britt and I strongly considered before we made the decision to begin our travel nursing adventure. Luckily enough, travel nursing has allowed our family to spend much more quality time together while still meeting our financial goals.  Of all the “big boy” decisions I have had to make in my short adult life, the decision to quit a steady job and be a stay-at-home-dad has without a doubt been the best decision I have ever made.

Breaking from Tradition

The concept of staying at home full time to take care of my daughter was definitely foreign to me. I come from a very traditional Cuban family. The expectation is that the man must work to provide for his family, while the woman manages housework and children. So when the time came to discuss this with my family, I was met with some pretty quizzical expressions. My parents were pretty open to the idea, just a little concerned with my gap in employment when we decide to settle back down. On the other hand, my grandparents needed more convincing. It was from them that I got a lot of “but why aren’t you working” and “the man is supposed to work” type of conversations. It wasn’t like I was needing their blessing by any means, but it’s always good to get some positive feedback after you make a life-changing decision. Last year Britt had two consecutive contracts in California, so my extended family was able to see firsthand what a blessing this has been for us. Even though it took them some time to warm up to the idea, now they have a better sense of how blessed we are with this rare opportunity. We have concluded that you must follow your heart and do what makes you happy even if that means throwing tradition to the curb. 

What do we do all day?

One of the most frequent questions I get from everyone is, “what do you and Izzy do when Britt works?”. The real question should be, “what don’t we do?”. On Britt’s first assignment in Albuquerque, we rented a 250 sq. ft casita. In addition, she was rotating between a day and night shift schedule. This meant Izzy and I had to be out of the casita when she worked night shift, so she could sleep during the day. I was up for the challenge! We got memberships at the University of New Mexico’s Recreation Center and took advantage of their gym and pool. They were gracious enough to allow me to bring Izzy to the gym because of summer break. We were there so much that the students knew her and would frequently come to play with in her stroller while I was working out.  It helped a lot that our rental was across the street from the campus. We also took advantage of the many parks that Albuquerque had to offer. Parks are a fantastic way to get out of the house, enjoy the outdoors and not spend money. I would load up the stroller with a cooler full of food, a blanket and walk to the park for the day. I have adapted this a little each time we have gone somewhere new, but with the same basic concept. 

In Little Rock, we rode bikes a lot and were walking distance to downtown. Then in California, we spent a lot of time at the beach and with family. Washington was full of camping, hiking, and parks. I have found it beneficial to check local city websites for a list of various events offered, which are often free or inexpensive. I also like to make time during the day for education. Although Izzy isn’t in school yet, we often spend time on preschool workbooks, reading, and writing. Aside from that, I think that the traveling has given our daughter the opportunity to learn so much about diverse cultures, places and easily adapt to change. Ultimately, finding things to occupy our time has been really easy.

Being the husband of a travel nurse                              

Being a stay at home dad is one thing, but nothing really prepared me for being the husband of Pediatric Intensive Care travel nurse. Let me preface this by saying, I would never, ever, EVER, choose to work in the healthcare profession. I can't stand hospitals, I do not like the site of blood, and most of all, I hate hearing heartbreaking stories of children’s injuries or illnesses. Before we began traveling, she understood that I couldn’t handle being an outlet for her to vent about work issues. Luckily, she had many fellow coworkers with which she could talk to and discuss any work situations with. That completely changed after we started traveling. Typically, travel nurses don’t know anybody at the hospital/unit where they will be working, and it’s not like they get this long drawn out training process to bond with others during their orientation. I decided once Britt started her first assignment, I would need to step up and be a source of support. I needed to be someone she could vent to about the very things I wasn’t comfortable with before we started traveling. Nursing is very emotionally and physically draining, so it is my responsibility to fill the role of being her emotional support person. 

While Britt’s primary focus is on her work at the hospital, I manage the many other components that come along with being a travel nurse. I’m like a full-service travel nurse personal assistant, which is probably my favorite part of the travel nurse experience. I love comparing the pay packages with potential cities and finding out where we can get the biggest bang for our buck. We always opt to find our own housing so that we can stretch the housing stipend further. Once we narrow it down to a couple of cities, I begin researching various neighborhoods that meet our criteria of safety, family-friendly, and restaurants/bars within walking distance (Google Maps is my go-to for this part of my research). I’ll spend hours searching Airbnb, HomeAway, and the various Facebook Travel Nurse Housing pages and reaching out to any that catch my eye. Once she has a hospital in mind, I contact nurses that have previously worked there to get an insiders scoop of their experience. My goal is to make the actual work her priority and I handle the rest.

Life-changing experience

My life has been forever changed and I would have never imagined this would be how I was living my life. This experience has taught me to be more patient when things get out of whack and to appreciate all the little blessings that I use to take for granted. I have been fortunate to have time with my daughter that many fathers don’t get. Honestly, I am not looking forward to the day when that changes and I return to the workforce. I get to travel the country with my wife and daughter by my side, making memories that will last a lifetime. It is hard at times, but well worth the sacrifice. 

No one said this would be easy and there are days where it truly isn’t, but ultimately this experience if what you make of it. The biggest issue I have with all of this is guilt that our future children won’t have the same opportunities Izzy did. We will have to play it down quite a bit to make it seem less amazing than it really has been. I often see posts from travel bloggers and other public figures on social media with captions stating that even though their photos make their lives look like a fairytale, the reality is their life isn’t perfect. I’m going to make a very BOLD statement as it pertains to my family and say that these past 2 years have indeed been something out of a fairytale for us. The memories we have made, experiences we’ve shared and things we have seen have been nothing short of perfection. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for our remaining time as a travel nurse family.

Next Up: Interview: Muslim Nurse Reflects On Working During Ramadan

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