How Parenting is Basically Like Being a Lab Tech
The following information may come as a surprise. Lots of stay-at-home parents and work-at-home parents have a skeleton in their proverbial closet.
What’s their secret?
Just like most people, they used to have jobs outside of their house. *gasp*. But wait, there’s more! There was a time they weren’t even parents.
It’s completely shocking, I know. I understand if you need a minute to process that revelation.
Not Long Ago, I Too Was Working for “The Man”
Just two years ago, I too was one of those people. I put in nine years as a medical technologist – read “lab geek” – in a clinical laboratory.
Now, I don’t know what you know about lab people. Unlike nursing staff, we lab folk tend to run in smaller circles. Oh sure, we might draw blood from patients while they are eating breakfast, or tend to them when they pass out from having said blood drawing or get yelled at profusely simply because the doctor ordered a blood draw, but ultimately we aren’t really in “direct” patient care.
We are, however, directly caring for all of your body fluid specimens.
(Seriously though, the nursing staff has my sincerest sympathy. I could not deal with adult puke and poop on a regular basis on the receiving end. I prefer it in a little sterile container that I can pop under a fume hood. Just saying.)
As a lab professional, it’s our job to handle all your bloodwork, urine specimens, and sputum samples with the utmost care. We get to process them, analyze them, and usually know what’s wrong with you before your doctor does.
Lab people know A LOT of stuff. Their heads are literally full of useless clinical knowledge. Ok, totally not useless. But still, FULL. Sometimes we know just enough to scare the hell out of ourselves and increase our anxiety.
When I left, I thought I’d left behind my lab days – at least for a long while – turns out, being a stay at home mom is almost exactly like working in a clinical lab.
How is working in a lab anything at all like being a stay at home parent?
I’m so glad you asked. I just happen to be ready to break it down for you.
1 – Work Days are Long and Monotonous
LAB – Sure – crazy things happen occasionally. Elderly men ask you to run away with them. Drunk guys stand up and start brawling with police while your needle is still in their arm.
On the whole, lab work is a lot of doing a lot of the same thing over and over. Blood, pee, poo, blood, pee, poo, on repeat, all day.
HOME -Sure – Crazy things happen occasionally. Tiny men ask if they can marry you someday. Brawls break out over broken Lego masterpieces. Children present you with handfuls of poop.
Parenting all day is a lot of the same thing over and over – yell, clean, make food, yell, clean, make food, on repeat, all day.
Which is more challenging? – Lab days were long and monotonous, but home days are NEVERENDING. Home wins by a mile. At least my charges are adorable.
2 – Lots and lots of body fluids
LAB – It goes without saying that med techs are dealing with body fluids. Constantly.
Blood has to be put in the proper preservative, centrifuged, and always dealt with as though it may infect you.
Urine specimens to find out how your kidneys are currently functioning.
Fecal specimens to check for infections and colorectal cancer.
Sputum specimens to find out if you have pneumonia.
HOME – It also goes without saying that parents are dealing with body fluids. Constantly.
Blood, because no one can get along and everyone is always falling down or running into things. Because boys.
Pee, because no one can even pretend they are aiming for the middle of the bowl anymore. I’ve cleaned up enough pee to know they just aren’t even trying.
Poop, thanks to untold numbers of diaper changes and a kid who has a horrible, terrible, no-good, very bad habit of grabbing handfuls of the stuff and squishing it around.
Spit, because boys and spit-up from the babe.
Dirt, which really isn’t a body fluid, but based on the sheer amount of it being dealt with every day it needed to make an appearance here.
Which is more challenging?
Some of those lab samples turned my stomach, not going to lie, but as mentioned above, at least they were usually packaged in nice little sterile containers. Specimens at my house are packaged much less neatly. They might come in cuter packages, but I get a lot more on my clothes and other various body parts these days. Home definitely wins the battle of the body fluids.
3 – Being On Call
LAB – Working in health care, and working at a smaller facility where you kind of have to be able to do EVERYTHING (many med techs are called generalists because they have to be the jack of all trade type) also means that if you aren’t staffed 24/7, someone is on call at night to come in and run patient work at a moment’s notice.
Whether you just crawled into bed or have been sleeping for three hours, the end result is the same. IT SUCKS.
HOME – It will surprise virtually no parent that you are literally on call 24/7 for your kids. Whether you just crawled into bed or have only been sleeping for three hours, you will always go to your kids to find out what’s wrong and how you can help.
Which is more challenging?
This is a hard one. Getting up in the middle of the night, even in the dead of freaking winter, and driving to work is horrible. BUT – it was usually only about one night a week.
Getting up in the middle of the night for three months on end because your 18-month-old decided that screaming at 2 in the morning was more fun than sleeping is a total life derailer. Home wins. Hands downs.
Both Jobs Have a LOT in Common – But Parenting is Harder
As you can see, being a lab tech is not really that much different than being a stay-at-home-parent.
I would even argue that this gig I have now is easily one of the toughest things I’ve ever had the honor of doing.
Kids. They know how to wear us out, push every possible button, and grind us down to our last blessed nerve.
For many parents, going to work is a BREAK from the chaos, noise, and stress of being with their kids ALL DAY. Because let’s face it, when you are with your little darlings all day long, there is no 9-5. No breaks. No sick days. I haven’t been away from the nursing 4-month old for longer than an hour. That’s just life in this season, and it’s okay to admit that it’s really tough.
All that being said – I adore staying home with my kids, and would not have it any other way. In spite of the challenges of living on one income and spending all day with my crazy, fun-loving, wildly-animated boys, it is a dream come true and an overwhelming blessing!
PS – The next time you get your blood drawn by a med tech or a phlebotomist, make sure you say thank you!
PPS – Don’t make jokes about mosquitoes or vampires.
PPPS – Please like this and share it, and join my email subscribers if you haven’t already! (I’m feeling a little bossy today, sorry!) XOXO.