Work Life Balance: Being a Parent and an RT

 Published: April 27, 2023

By: Debbie Bunch


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RTs with young kids at home know how hard it is to juggle work with parenting. How do they do it? Four AARC members with kids 12 and under explain what it takes to keep all the balls in the air — and how their employers help in the process.

An educator role makes it easier

Kathy Pellant, MSRC, RRT, RPSGT, is director of clinical education and an instructor in the respiratory therapy program at Radford University Carilion in Roanoke, VA. She has three children — two in their 20s and an eight-year-old daughter who enjoys cheerleading and church activities such as the children’s choir, bells, and the youth group.

Her daughter attends an after-school program three days a week and rides the bus home from school the other two. Her husband, who works from home, is there to meet her on one of them and Pellant takes the other, giving him free-reign to be on the many Teams meetings he has in the afternoon.

“From a financial standpoint, we both need to work,” said Pellant.

Being in education has made it easier. “I feel I have a flexible work/life balance, even though I work five days a week,” she said. “My program director and fellow faculty are very supportive. If I have a need to stay home — sick child, car issue, etc. — I can work from home and Zoom my classes.”

She says this degree of flexibility has been invaluable at times, such as when her daughter had COVID during the days when everyone had to stay home for two weeks. “My program director even offered to cover my classes for me,” she said.

For Pellant, it more than makes up for the lower salary she makes as an educator. “I feel I have a much better work/life balance than I did before, a supportive team — and I truly love my job,” she said.

Part-time works for her

With a very active 17-month-old daughter at home and few options for quality day care in her area, Mallory Wilson, RRT, has opted to go part-time at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital in Richmond, VA, covering areas ranging from the cardiac and surgical ICUs to the emergency room and more.

“Thankfully, where I work, since I am part-time, they allow me to work almost any day that I want to,” she explained. Her husband is a firefighter/paramedic who works 24 hour shifts with 48 hours off, so she usually works the day before his shift begins to ensure one of them is always home to shepherd their energetic toddler through her busy day.

“This way we do not need help with child care — unless he gets held over for mandatory overtime,” she said. “To make things even better, when I have needed child care at the last second and have nobody else to help, my clinical coordinator, Jessica Weirup, has actually offered to watch my daughter.”

Wilson says Weirup was her preceptor when she was a student and they have become close friends over the years. They also live near each other, which helps immensely. She’s actually turned down other jobs offering an increase in pay to maintain what she calls a “this great work environment.”

Having the schedule she has now allows her to be home with her daughter a fair amount of the time and know that she’s safe when she is at work.

Amazing managers make a difference

A single mom with three kids — 12-year old twin boys Emory and Lagan, and a nine-year-old daughter Alana — Amber McVeigh, MSc, BSRC, RRT, RRT-NPS, AE-C, is beyond busy all of the time.

“The boys are rolling into the teenage years and transitioning from their innocence to adulthood,” she said. “Alana is my bright bouncing bubble that never stops. They are all very busy with appointments and activities, but it all gets done.”

She has typically relied on after school care at a local daycare to watch her kids while she works as the neonatal and pediatric respiratory clinical educator at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, NC, but costs — $500 per month per child — recently became unrealistic. Fortunately, her mom and dad are retired, live close, and have stepped up to fill the gaps.

“My mom helps a lot so I can go into work early and is flexible based on the kids and work needs,” she said. Her manager is flexible too. “My current role is my dream job,” said McVeigh. In fact, she accepted the position seven years ago in large part because it would give her the flexible schedule she needed to be available for her kids when they needed her to be.

McVeigh credits it all to her managers and their willingness to create work/life balance. “My manager then was amazing, and after he retired my new manager is just as great and understanding,” she said. She can even take work home if she needs to, and now that her kids are getting older, they actually enjoy seeing what she does for a living and don’t mind if she has to work from home on occasion.

“They even have a little place to sit and relax next to me at my desk at home,” she said

Remote work is perfect for now

Ruthie Marker, MSRC, RRT, RRT-NPS, AE-C, LSSYB, has what some might call a dream job for parents with young kids as well. “I currently work in a few contract capacities,” she explained. “First, with the Allergy & Asthma Network as a telemedicine asthma coach. Also, I work with a private research company on various projects, one currently with focus on an app development for asthma education, and the other as a policy writer for implementing changes in a school system.”

She is able to do most of the work from home, and that’s a major boon considering she has a five year old, an 11-month-old, and one on the way this coming August. “My oldest goes to a private preschool 9 am-12 noon Monday through Friday,” said Marker. “My 11-month-old stays home.” She has a sitter who comes in to help occasionally, but mostly she makes it work on her own.

“I work my meetings and tasks around the children’s schedule,” she said. Like most people working from home these days, she has a lot of virtual meetings, but her employers know she has kids at home and if she has to turn her video off or mute herself during a meeting to address something with one of them, they understand.

“Both employers have been very flexible and accommodating so that I can continue to provide for my family and contribute to respective projects,” she said.

Tips for employers

What do these RTs believe employers need to do to help working parents achieve a better work/life balance? In their own words —

I was always taught to leave home at home and work at work, but for working parents it is not that easy. I think it comes from the top down and starts with not making someone feel bad/guilty for needing to call in, leave early, or come in late due to an issue at home. Also, compensate when someone is working over to complete work assignments, if not with extra pay, then possibly with a paid day off. Lastly, do not make “going above and beyond” the criteria for meeting expectations of the job — it is too much pressure and offers no appreciation/compensation. — Kathy Pellant

I think that I would like to see a little more understanding when it comes to on-call needs in regards to staff with children. Again, I have been very fortunate with having a great clinical coordinator who honestly takes call a lot herself so that those of us with kids aren’t on call all of the time. — Mallory Wilson

The last hospital I worked at had onsite daycare that was based on your income (not your family income, just the employee’s). When I had a break during my 13-14-hour day, I could go see them, drop off breastmilk, and just do a check-in. The kids loved it and so did I. Also, their pediatrician’s office was in a different part of the building, so if they got sick, I could take an extended break, walk the kids over and see if they really needed to go home or take them back to the daycare if they were just feeling bad. Since they were so young it was amazing. I really wish more hospitals offered this. It reduced the number of days I needed to miss work and I was available to work as long as I could take the kids to the daycare. — Amber McVeigh

For me it would be flexibility in work hours, understanding that business hours are different but if there are tasks or projects that can be done in the evenings or on the weekends, to allow that. — Ruthie Marker

Email with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Debbie Bunch

Debbie Bunch is an AARC contributor who writes feature articles, news stories, and other content for Newsroom, the AARC website, and associated emailed newsletters. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, photography, and spending time with her children and grandchildren. Connect with Debbie by email or on AARConnect or LinkedIn.

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