Renee Kinder

It’s 10:42 p.m. when I finally pull into the driveway. A six-and-a-half-hour drive home from a site visit in northern Michigan. So northern, in fact, that I passed an exit to Canada.

My in-laws’ car is not in the driveway. I take a deep breath. This means that my husband is home alone trying his best to manage our five children … Lord only knows what kind of a scene I am getting ready to walk into.

As I walk in I am greeted by my sweet golden retriever and my 2-year old daughter, Emmy, who is holding her 6-week-old bunny rabbit. She gives me the rundown: “Isaac is in Mommy’s bed, Joseph is upstairs, Hershey and Biddle (our 2 dachshunds) are in the basement, and I can’t find Bubby and Sissy.”

Next, my husband gives me an update of his daily accomplishments with a smile, “I changed a diaper today, took out the trash, and even vacuumed.”

“Good job, Sweetie,” I reply.

Working and managing a family has always been our norm. Five children in a span of seven years and my longest maternity “leave” was eight days, at which point I was itching to get back to work. Even despite the looks of disdain when I skipped back into the skilled nursing facility where I was serving as the treating speech-language pathologist.

“Didn’t you just have a baby? What in the world are you doing here?”

“I am here to work. Any new admits? It has been over a week.”

The skilled nursing industry has been kind to me. Many therapists experience this same level of flexibility and gravitate to the industry for increased freedom and options for variable work schedules.

Just read any job posting for the therapy industry in long-term care and you will find options for part-time, weekend, PRN, coverage options to travel between facilities. The choices are endless.

Variable work categories also allow for increased flexibility and functionality for rehab patients. Having weekend coverage, for example, allows for increased intensity of care for the short-term rehab patient. Evening coverage allows for physical and occupational therapy services that include reverse activities of daily living and dysphagia treatments that can occur during supper.

In addition to the flexibility the industry offers, I have learned that children can learn to adjust to the demands of having two working parents. I still have folks that say to me, “You have how many kids? I am guessing there is no way you work,” but they started saying this after my second.

Our children have learned that my husband’s bosses and mine have distinct ring tones and when they hear them, they are to silence, no matter our location. They can even estimate the time a call will last based on the ring they hear and the caller on the other end. “Daddy is talking to Ms. Barb. This could be a while,” my daughter announced to the family recently, right before we were all ready to sing “Happy Birthday” to her and blow out her candles.

Daddy said we had to wait for him to eat cake. But he did not say that we had to wait to sing and blow out candles, which we proceeded to do, many times over, until he was able to join us.

I have experienced uninvited little guests during my conference calls at home, and siblings releasing the younger children outdoors “on accident”.

I have resorted to placing a sign on my front door that says “do not ring” every day at 2:30 pm so that the neighborhood children who get off of the bus in front of our home do not interrupt my work day. A sign, which of course, now says, “Do not ring OR knock”.

The secretary at my children’s school has learned to simply expect a subject line email from me five minutes before dismissal that states, “Kinders need ED” (i.e. extended day).

And, yes, I have been ready to board a flight when I receive a text from the lead teacher of Extended Day that states, “Is anyone picking up Joseph today?” because they are ready to close and somehow Dad left one of the kids at school.

With all of these mishaps I have also had to opportunity to attend every Greek play, Medieval Feast, Pre-school Jubilee, African program, and Mother’s Day breakfast alongside my children due to options for flexible scheduling as a SNF therapist and clinical educator.

My patients have also played in integral role in keeping me grounded and focused on life’s priorities.

If I have learned anything from my patients in skilled nursing facilities, it is that sometimes life and therapy will just have to wait, especially if it is for Bingo, Bible study, the “Price is Right,” University of Kentucky basketball, or, most importantly, family visits.

So, yes, I work, and volunteer for various organizations, and I always will. While also knowing that one of my sweet children will without fail sneak downstairs after their bedtime to cuddle up and most importantly shut my computer screen and remind me, “Mommy, work’s all done.”

Renee Kinder, MS, CCC-SLP, RAC-CT currently serves as Director of Clinical Education for Encore Rehabilitation and acts as Gerontology Professional Development Manager for the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA).