I was supposed to pick my kids up for a Spring Break staycation on Friday, April 4. I had taken 10 days off work. For months, we’ve been planning and looking forward to 10 days of uninterrupted time together. Gardening and cooking and baking and playing board games and snuggling and watching movies.
Instead, Friday night I talked to my kids on the phone while they sobbed that they missed me. “Mom,” they said through tears, “We don’t know when we’re going to see you again.”
Instead of 10 days with my kids, I’m now alone, separated from them indefinitely because a judge agreed with my ex-husband that my job as a nurse puts my kids at risk, and granted an emergency order barring me from seeing my own children.
I want to share this so that you understand that your civil rights could be stripped away just as easily as mine. This is especially true for frontline workers — Police Officers, Nurses, Respiratory therapists, Doctors, Firefighters, Paramedics, sanitation workers, grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, anyone who is working to keep people alive and afloat in this pandemic. This ruling could potentially affect our essential workers. If we are forced to choose between seeing our families or continuing to serve the public, where does that leave our communities?
As a nurse for the past 23 years I am proud of my profession. As nurses we diligently, and without question or hesitation, care for those whether sick, injured, or dying. As parents we are equally diligent in caring for our families and our children. We are the people at the bedside caring, holding your hand while you cry, treating your pain, encouraging you to keep going, supporting your family, educating, saving lives and fighting pandemics. What many outside of this profession don’t see is that even though our life is surrounded by the pain and suffering of others, we manage to maintain professionalism and continue working because there is always someone else in need. Caring for the public is both a desire and a calling – however, we all have a calling to our families first and foremost.
Nursing may be a career but it is a passion and duty that lives deep within a person. Recently, I have been forced during a time my services are in great need, to choose between my duty to care for others as a nurse or my duty as a mother to my three amazing children. No one should ever be put in such a position, regardless of the circumstances.
On Thursday, March 26th, 2020 my ex-husband and his attorney sought an emergency ruling to restrict myself from any visitation with our children during the COVID-19 crisis. The emergency order alleged that I was a danger to our children because I am a nurse, and that I should not have any visitation with our children until the crisis has been averted. At this point, there is no end in sight and no set date to when I can see my children again. I believe no healthcare worker should be discriminated against. I myself work in the recovery room, helping surgical patients and not COVID-19 patients. However, because of the generalized fear and misinformation provided, I have lost the ability to be a mom and care for my children. A ruling was entered in his favor by a Pierce County Washington Commissioner. I now have been denied the right to see my children until the COVID-19 has been controlled because I am a nurse, however long that will be.
My ex-husband, a Lieutenant Commander in the US Navy, provided a written statement to the court where it is stated that he has access to information about the COVID-19 virus that the general public has no access to (including myself as a healthcare professional), and used unverifiable information to help bolster his argument. With no ability to corroborate the supposed information, why are decisions being made out of pure fear and without professional insight?
“Nursing may be a career but it is a passion and duty that lives deep within a person. Recently, I have been forced during a time my services are in great need, to choose between my duty to care for others as a nurse or my duty as a mother to my three amazing children. No one should ever be put in such a position, regardless of the circumstances.”
The Commissioner attempted to provide substance to her decision by commenting on the distance between homes as it related to Governor Inslee’s Stay at Home Order; however, her ruling is a complete contradiction to what was signed into law by the governor. Governor Inslee’s order states this does not affect custody/visitation and parenting plans should be followed as ordered. The commissioner was made aware that the trip would include travel to his home and straight back to mine without stops. Despite my assurance, the commissioner made it clear that this would not alter her decision. Why is a Pierce County Commissioner superseding the Governor’s wishes?
I believe an Ontario Superior Court of Justice (trial court) in Canada said it best, “that ruling that that children should never leave their primary parent residence — even to visit their other parent — is inconsistent with a comprehensive analysis of the best interests of the child. In troubling and disorienting times, children need the love, guidance and emotional support of both parents, now more than ever. If there has not been exposure, recent travel, or personal illness, parents have no business keeping their child from the other parent amid the Coronavirus and lawyers have no business empowering that behavior.”
In my experience, health care workers are taking all precautions to not only avoid getting sick, but to prevent the spread of this virus. From the very beginning, I’ve taken this seriously. I change out of my scrubs before I leave work, and my work shoes never come into my house. I am careful to scrub down thoroughly the moment I come home. My groceries, prescriptions and anything else that comes into the house gets wiped down thoroughly. It is appalling to me that the commissioner could use the fact that I’m serving my community against me and make this ruling.
It is obvious that rulings such as these show that the legal system is capable of making decisions that are detrimental and completely unjust. This particular ruling encourages parent alienation and discrimination because of one’s profession. That because of your profession you should be separated and blocked from being a parent? You can care for other’s loved ones but not our own? We need to stand up against this immediately and not allow this to set a precedent. We must prevent our work as nurses on the frontlines, others in the health care industry and first responders from being used as a factor in considering custody and visitation and put an end to this discrimination and destroying families.