Mothers in Nuclear Share Their Stories

18 Oct, 2011

[Approximate Read Time: 10 minutes]

There are many intelligent, caring and dedicated mothers in the nuclear industry. In order to share their experience about the nuclear world, NA-YGN has managed to capture the perspectives of four of these women. Their stories are humorous and insightful, and provide proof that you can be a nuclear professional while having a home life at the same time. Hope you enjoy the stories.

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Nursing Mothers in the Nuclear Industry

By: Kristin Murray Zaitz, Vice President, NA-YGN

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Breasts are not usually mentioned in polite conversation in the nuclear industry. And since I’m writing about breastfeeding, this isn’t the only time I’m going to mention them in this article—go ahead and get your giggles out now.

Before I dive into the unique challenges of being a nursing mother in the nuclear industry, let me take a moment to explain the importance of breastfeeding and its challenges for working mothers. Infants under 4-6 months of age get their nutrition entirely from breastmilk or formula for those families who choose not to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is the healthiest option for both mothers and babies, and employers also benefit from the corresponding reduction in health care costs and decreased absenteeism. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least the first twelve months of life, and there are laws protecting nursing mothers in the United States and Canada.

Even with all of the benefits of breastfeeding, it is still difficult for a working mother to continue nursing her infant after she returns to the workplace. For those who are unfamiliar with the plight of the working and nursing mother, it is truly a labor of love. In order for a nursing mother to maintain her milk supply and comfort, she must pump breastmilk every 2-4 hours. This gets even more complicated if, like me, your workplace happens to be a nuclear power plant.

Issue #1: Getting a breastpump through security. Need I say more? The situation was usually comical, but one special day stands out in my mind. After what seemed like the hundredth time passing my breastpump through security, a well-meaning guard asked me to open the “mechanism.” The breastpump itself is sealed for sanitation and functional purposes, so opening the “mechanism” was a tall order. After a few minutes of trying to explain this to him, he was saved by a coworker who took over the search and muttered an apology to me without ever raising his eyes. Embarrassing, yes. Unexpected, not really.

Issue #2: Washing breastpump components in the break room. The nuclear industry doesn’t pose anything unique about the need to wash breastpump components after their use, but my predominantly male engineering office made it a little bit more interesting. I stopped counting the number of times I was asked, “What are you making for lunch?” or “What’s that for?” At first I would explain, but then after seeing the typical reaction, I resorted to, “You don’t want to ask that question, trust me.”

Issue #3: Workplace conditions. Not many jobs require one to don anti-contamination clothing and spend hours at a time in a radioactive field. Every time I needed to do an inspection in a radiologically controlled area, it was a race against the clock. By the time the pre-job brief was done and I gained access to the area, it was almost always time to exit the area and pump again. This was frustrating, but I learned excellent time management skills.

Issue #4: Refueling outages. Power plants are extremely inconsiderate of one’s personal time. When my son was six months old, I had to work to support a 35-day-long refueling outage. That’s not so bad in itself, except my shift was 13 hours long, and I only got two days off during the entire thing. Even though I had to be away from him for so long, I felt much better knowing that I was providing him with the most nutritious and beneficial food possible.

Issue #5: Location. Nuclear power plants are usually isolated, so it’s not easy to just stop on by and nurse a baby during a break from work. I live 40 minutes away from my workplace, and that’s fairly common in this industry. The isolation was challenging, but it just made it more rewarding to come home at the end of the day. After he was about eight months old, my son would greet me with an ecstatic “Mama!!!” and reach for me while using his sign language to say “MILK!”

Issue #6: Facilities for pumping. When I returned from maternity leave, there was not a good setup or precedent for accommodation of nursing mothers. Pumping breastmilk requires access to a clean, private room with a lockable door and 15 minutes of solitude to accomplish the task. The first day back on the job I was nearly frantic by hour three when the private room that had been promised (and required by law) was not available. Not available? What was I supposed to do, wait and pump another day? Fortunately the situation was remedied and I was soon given access to a private room. Just say the word “breast” enough and people will spring into action to avoid the embarrassment of you mentioning it anymore. At least that’s what worked for me.

Somehow through all of this, my son and I made it through his first year without the need to supplement his diet with formula. I know that he would have been fine if nursing didn’t work out, but I feel deeply blessed that we were able to continue breastfeeding after my return to work. And while a nuclear power plant may not be headlined in the next working mother’s survey of family-friendly workplaces, the challenges were not insurmountable.

So what’s my advice to other nursing mothers in the nuclear industry? You can do it! And keep a sense of humor, you’ll need it.


Does Mickey Go In The Front? Or the Back?

By: Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides, Past President, NA-YGN

Parenting via Skype isn’t a chapter in “What to Expect”. This is a new parenting phenomenon that I would be happy to ghost-write for that popular parenting book series.

My first opportunity to parent via Skype occurred almost two years ago. Both my husband and I are required to travel moderately for our nuclear careers. It just so happens that we both had overnight business trips on the same day when my daughter was one year old.

Being a two nuke family, we had an advance plan for how to manage child care. My cousin offered to babysit on a work night. Our nanny would stay late until he arrived at the house after work and would be ready early the next morning so he could go to work.

Things seemed to work out perfectly. My cousin was a 20 something recent college grad, so as long as he skipped happy hour, he didn’t have any evening responsibilities. He had babysat my daughter before and lived nearby.

Things seemed great. Both my husband and I went our separate ways at the airport and my nanny and cousin had our daughter covered for a 24 hour period.

I decided to call and check-in with my cousin before I set out for dinner that evening. He told me he had been at the house for about an hour and had already fed my daughter dinner. We chatted for a few minutes, but we ended the call when my cousin had to change my daughter’s diaper.

I was about to walk out of my hotel room to head to dinner when my cousin called back. He didn’t know which way the diaper went on. This was hilarious to me. I asked him how he managed to babysit before without changing a diaper and he responded that he usually had his girlfriend with him. After I stopped laughing, I told him how to put on the diaper.

Once again, I was just about to walk out the door of my hotel room to head to dinner when my cousin called back. He didn’t think the diaper looked right and asked me if Mickey went in the front or in the back? This question threw me, because the diapers I had purchased had Disney characters on the front and the back. I couldn’t remember where Mickey was on the diaper.

You’d think this would be something that could be resolved on the phone, but it wasn’t. I had to log into my work computer to Skype with my daughter and cousin. If at all possible, I would suggest you never attempted to teach someone how to virtually put a diaper on a baby. Even though this method of communication worked, it was not ideal. I could see the diaper and reassure my cousin that everything was placed properly, but I could show him how to make sure the diaper was snug, but not too tight. My daughter survived and didn’t seem disturbed by the situation.

My advice to nuclear mothers who travel would be to ensure you have access to Skype. You never know when your child is going to need a little love and care, even when you are half way across the country.


Juggling Pregnancy & Motherhood in Nuclear Power

By: Ariadna Clark, NA-YGN Member

How do you feel about reading the words “pregnancy”, “motherhood” and “nuclear” in the same sentence? Did it make you cringe a little? Did you raise your eyebrows and think “yikes…!”? Well… that’s me: a woman (Puerto Rican for that matter!), a mother and… oh yes, an engineer at a Nuclear Power Plant.

Since I was very little, I always dreamed of having a family and a career. Following my dreams, I went to college, studied my butt off to graduate with a Mechanical Engineering degree, and left my tropical Puerto Rico to come to the United States to begin my career as a Systems Engineer in a nuclear power plant. That is how I met nuclear power. While working at the power plant, I also managed to meet the love of my life and got married. My husband is also an engineer at the power plant and he currently works in the Operations department as a Shift Manager.

After more than a couple of happy years of DINK (Dual Income No Kids), my husband and I decided to start a family. To be honest with you, I had no idea how this would work. A career in nuclear power can be exhausting by itself, and try to imagine how it is when BOTH parents are “nukes”! Basically, after almost seven years of being a professional nuclear worker, I had no idea how I was going to manage both. My hands without a baby were full enough.

Another thing that made me nervous about the “Baby + Nuclear Experience” was that I did not know a single female that had “recently” (for the purpose of this blog “recently” is defined as within 7 years) gone through this experience in the industry. I did not have anybody that I could relate to or anybody to ask for advice, opinions or insight. But that wasn’t going to stop me; I was about to figure this out by myself. Better said, WE (me, my husband and our careers) were going to figure out how to do this!

Well… in January of 2009 I found out I was pregnant. Needless to say, my husband and I were ecstatic. At the time, I was a Supervisor in the I&C (Instrumentation & Controls) department. In case you are not too familiar with it, “Maintenance Supervisor” in a nuclear industry is equal to long hours, frequent calls in the middle of the night, and a non-stop kind of job. A couple of weeks after I formally announced my pregnancy to my manager at the time, I was placed in a different job position, a more “desk friendly” job. I became the PM (Predefined Maintenance) Coordinator at my plant. I confess that this new job was a little bit like a “career sacrifice” in my eyes, but my pregnancy needed something like this… something that will provide me the environment and the flexibility that I needed at the time, while giving me the opportunity to greatly contribute to my organization.

In September of that year we had our son, Marco. He has changed my life and made it a million times more meaningful. I have to admit that the “desk friendly” job was a savior in many instances, however, after two years of performing that “desk friendly” function, I was aching to return to my more technical roots. Just a few months ago, I interviewed and received an offer to be a Work Week Manager at my site. This position is much more my style… it’s demanding, complicated, stressful and extremely rewarding. Just the way I like it! (haha- yes, you can call me CRAZY, others think the same too!!!) It also provides me the opportunity to grow and develop my career.

Two things that help me juggle motherhood and nuclear are ORGANIZATION and LOOKING AHEAD. Sounds easy, right? Remember that my husband works shifts, so he has a different schedule every single week. For this reason, I always carry with me my husband’s shift rotation schedule and try to schedule projects, special assignments and personal appointments around that. I quickly found out how being creative is crucial in my situation. For example, my husband and I were doing “baby turnover” in the main parking lot last year during a refueling outage. I negotiated with the daycare that my son attends to have earlier opening hours that support my work hours. When I accepted the Work Week Manager position I worked out with a peer to swap work weeks to ensure my assigned work weeks will line up with the one week in my husband’s shift rotation that fully supports my schedule! But don’t think that I’m the only one working double duty here; my husband works his butt off too. He’s the chef of the house (thank God because I don’t cook) and he also helps me out with Marco and the house chores. My husband’s help and support is essential to our success.

As I move forward trying to balance motherhood and my career I ask myself: Can I do this? How can I do this? How far can I go in my career while having a baby? Can I have a baby AND a career in nuclear power, with the demands both entail? I have recently found out that I am not the only mother or mother-to-be that is asking herself these same questions.

Unfortunately, I do not have all the answers for these questions YET. All I know is that so far it is working for me. I cannot tell you the key for your success, because there is not a single right answer. But I can certainly tell you that IT IS POSSIBLE.

I am not going to sugar coat it, nor going to tell you what you may want to hear…It is not easy, but it is extremely rewarding, no doubt. Both family and career are full of demands all of the time, and I don’t always know how I will fulfill those demands. I am looking ahead all the time, thinking through how I am going to manage this, planning down to the details, and setting the wheels in motion. And guess what? Just when you think it works perfectly, something will get in the way. This is why I learned I have to be open-minded and flexible. This is when creativity comes to bear!

Would I do it all over again? Absolutely! My son is almost 2 years old now and I am proud as I see him developing as a person and I continue to grow in my career. As I look around in the “nuclear world” I see more and more women that are trying the “Baby + Nuclear Experience”. It is nice to know that I can be there to help them thru the process, provide advice if they need it, and help them to visualize that YES, IT IS POSSIBLE….nuclear women can be MOMs!!


Nuclear Engineer, Three Children and the Wonders of Having a Work-From-Home Husband

By: Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Past-President, NA-YGN

A few months ago I was flying home from a business trip, anxious to see my kids after a few days away. I spoke with my husband during the first layover of a 3-leg trip, fully expecting to have some delay. Everything was going well on the home front, and my flights even appeared to be on time. I turned on my phone during my second layover to find an MMS message from my husband. Shock set in when I realized that it was a photo of a fluorescent green cast … on my 3-year-old’s arm. What could possibly have happened in the last 3 hours as I flew across the country???

As it turns out, my son had actually broken his arm about 6 days prior (he fell off the bed while playing), and my husband had assured him that he was fine. Whining and complaining is normal for a 3-year-old, right? The regular wrestling matches with his brother still continued during the 6-day window, occasionally broken up by whining. Well, Dad finally gave in and took him to see a doctor when his baby sister managed to make him cry for 20 minutes just by touching his arm… Such is the life in a family when Dad is the primary care giver, I suppose. No softies here!

We all know that being a mom in a challenging technical field isn’t easy. My name is Shannon Bragg-Sitton, and I have a doctorate in nuclear engineering. I currently work in the Space Nuclear Systems and Technology Division at the Idaho National Laboratory, but I have enjoyed a diverse career thus far, having recently left a coveted tenure-track position at Texas A&M University in order to gain a bit of my sanity back via more reasonable work hours. My husband, Michael, and I have been married for 14 years (wow!) and have three kids – Caleb, 5; Ryan, 3; and Avery, 1.

Things have been busy for the past few years as we have juggled careers and raised a young family. Until a couple years ago I was balancing on the brink of insanity and was well into the effects of severe sleep deprivation. Michael was working as a consultant in information technology, meaning that he was on travel at least half the time. I found myself with two kids that had to go to two different daycare centers (finding infant care can be tough!) and a new job that demanded much more than the 40 hours per week advertised, basically functioning as a single mom half the time. The teary-eyed drop-offs in the mornings were never fun; when a fever spiked, I scrambled to find someone to teach my class so I could resume full-time Mom duty. Thankfully, my kids have been reasonably healthy and I only had to beg a colleague to cover my class a couple times.

The evenings weren’t much easier as I raced to pick up the boys, feed all of us, and get the boys to bed before my patience gave way. It was then that we began to consider a new approach: What if one of us were to stay home with the boys? We had discussed the benefits of homeschooling in the future, so why not start the stay-at-home culture early? I wasn’t interested in leaving my career after all those years in school, nor do I believe that I have the patience necessary to effectively teach my own children (without tears from all of us, that is). But Michael was excited to leave IT behind to begin a new venture in property management and take on the role of a stay-at-home dad and primary home school teacher.

We are now a couple of years into this decision, and we couldn’t be happier in the choice. We’ve even had to move to zone defense now that we’ve added a daughter to the equation, but things seem to work for us. If you have a strong, supportive husband willing to stay home with the kids, count yourself as a lucky woman. Buck the cultural norm. It’s great for the kids, and it can be great for Mom and Dad too.

Last weekend I received a flyer for a MOPS – Moms of Preschoolers – meeting. I passed it to my husband, suggesting that it was only called “MOPS” because “DOPS” just didn’t sound as good. Surely Dads are also welcome to come, right? Yeah… he didn’t believe me either. Such is the case for a counter-cultural family with a work-from-home, primary-care-giving, and homeschool teacher Dad. Odd looks from the Moms at the park are a common occurrence, and I’m sure that many wonder if the “flipped” roles were selected by choice. Finding a comfortable social circle hasn’t been easy, but my husband has been pretty resilient and we’ve found a decent support network of other homeschool families (even though Mom is the one home teaching the kids!).

I admit that what works so well for us wouldn’t work for everyone, but it can be a great option if it’s available. This isn’t your June Cleaver household where all the laundry is done, the house sparkles and a hot dinner is on the table each night. Far from it. In fact, with the kids home during the day, there tends to be a lot more toys strewn about (that may have attributed to that broken arm, but that hasn’t been proven!), but I’ll take the trade-off for happier kids and happier parents. Who cares about having a spic-n-span house when you can say that?

Being a working mom is a balancing act. You have to start by setting your priorities—family first, in my opinion—and sticking to them. Our extended family didn’t respond enthusiastically when we first talked about our plan of becoming a one-income household with my husband holding down the home front. But they now see how much it has benefitted the kids and the family as a whole. All moms will eventually find the equation that works best for them. Being a good mom does not mean that you have to sacrifice your career and upward mobility, but it may mean that you need to modify your approach from time to time. I wish you all the energy you will need as you find the right balance for your family!

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29 Comments

  1. Duncan Robinson
    October 18, 2011

    Great blog! I love it. Thanks for sharing your stories moms – it’s refreshing to hear a point of view that isn’t advertised much in the average hallway conversation. You have my utmost respect for what you do every day to raise families and keep the lights on at the same time.

  2. Anne Shatara
    October 18, 2011

    Thanks Ladies!! Great stories! I appreciate you sharing. Being a mom is full of challenges – being a mom in our field adds an interesting twist!

  3. Pamela
    October 18, 2011

    I greatly appreciate these stories. I’m 9 months into the baby + nuclear plant career ride and the encouragement is much needed.

  4. October 19, 2011

    These stories were great, thank you for sharing.

  5. Nora
    October 19, 2011

    Great stories, great advice and great sharing. Thank you all for making us all reflect and laugh!

  6. Beth
    October 19, 2011

    As someone who left the nuclear industry partially because of the tough hours and commitment, I applaud these ladies for doing such a great job in a intensive work environment! Rock on!

  7. Amy
    October 20, 2011

    I am a manager at a nuclear facility and I am due to deliver in February. I too am very lucky to have a husband who has committed to giving up his small business and being a stay at home dad. I know it will be an odd transition for him (he admits to 50% excitement and 50% fear), but it is definitely what is best for our family. I make a point of telling my management chain and co-workers that my husband will be staying home and I will be coming back to work. I see a lot of releif in their faces when they hear that he will be a stay at home dad because nuclear is very demanding and juggling work and home life gets very complicated when both parents work. We all know it can be done, but knowing that he will cover the bases when work keeps me late puts my mind at ease.

    I too will be breastfeeding and doing the breast pump adventure at a nuclear facility. I will definitely be focused on keeping a sense of humor about it! I’ll need it!

    Thanks for these articles!

  8. NMN
    October 20, 2011

    While I applaud these Mothers in the Nuclear field, one question remains in my mind: WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN IN FUKUSHIMA JAPAN? Do you not think they should be evacuated because of the high levels of Radiation? At this rate, children in all regions of Japan live on a land of radioactivity, radiation-tainted food and are breathing air of radioactivity. At this point, Japan is destroyed. So WHY not at the very least, Evacuate the Japanese children?
    A very concerned American MOTHER

  9. Mike
    October 20, 2011

    NMN,

    I think it is important to keep a questioning attitude, however it is equally as important to gauge the actual facts. Japan is not destroyed in fact far from it. When talking about radiation it is important to understand the dose in terms of what is actually relative. Below is a quote in from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) about the 20 km (12 mile) evacuation zone around Fukushima and how the dose at the border is less than you would receive naturally in one year.

    “Recent air sampling at the site border has shown no detection of iodine-131, caesium-134 or caesium-137 and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) noted the maximum dose rates from newly released radioactivity of 1.7 millisieverts per year at the site border. This decreases substantially with distance.

    For comparison, the global average radiation dose per year from all sources is 2.4 millisieverts per year.

    - http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS_Study_coming_on_Fukushima_evacuation_zone_0408111.html (August 2011)

  10. NMN
    October 20, 2011

    Mike, thank you for your reply. I’ve been watching the news from Japan with a very close eye and have seen first hand how the Government and TEPCO have handled this. There have been so many lies since 3/11, I have chosen to get my info from other sources.
    The Japanese people no longer have a trust in their Government so they have taken to taking their own radiation readings and what they are finding is quite disturbing. Children and the unborn are especially susceptible to radiation because of their rapid cell division during physical growth. DNA will be effected as radiation permanently mutates the gene pool and genetically weakens it. So again, it boils down to THE JAPANESE CHILDREN and what should be done to help them. It truly breaks my heart to sit by and watch all of this happening.
    As long as Fukushima remains critical, so does the radiation issue. So the evacuation of the children, whose lives will be changed forever, will remain a major concern to me until something is done to help them. They are innocent and need our help more than ever NOW.
    Thanks again.
    NMN

  11. October 20, 2011

    NMN,

    The earthquake and tsunami this March were devastating to the people in Japan. I can completely understand your concern for the people and children of that country.

    Many nuclear reactors in Japan have been severely damaged due to these natural disasters. You have every right to question the safety of the domestic reactors and nuclear operators have the responsibility to answer your questions.

    Let me start by saying that no one in Japan has become ill or has been killed due to the nuclear reactors.

    Many have been evacuated by the Japanese government to ensure they stay safe and healthy until they can return to their homes. The Japanese government and many international organizations are monitoring food and water supplies to ensure no one is harmed due to radiation.

    The situation in Japan is not ideal, but the children are safe. The U.S. Nuclear Fleet has conducted numerous safety assessments since March to ensure we could respond to a similar event. They continue to gather information and learn from this event.

    Please continue to send any questions you may have. NA-YGN is happy to answer anything we can.

    Thank you,
    Elizabeth

  12. Pam
    October 21, 2011

    Yes, indeed I do cringe at the the words, breast, mother and nuclear placed together. If our children are to have any chance at having grandchildren to dote on, it’s going to be because us mothers take a stand to ruining our precious planet. As a mother my eyes are wide open to what’s at stake here if we continue nuclear, please bother to read the rest of the news before romanticizing being for the slow death of your child.

  13. Ion Jean
    October 21, 2011

    One day when you all grow wise like Arnie Gundersen, some of you will turn your backs on this hellacious, toxic industry. You will realize you’ve been told the Big Lie, you’ve been sold a Myth with your college tuition…and you earn your living from a demon power that kills all biological life on the planet.

    Have any of you nuclear mothers come across the fallout data from the 1950s and 60s as recorded by our nation’s Public Health Service?? Those of us who were babies then were spoonfed radioactive iodine, strontium, cesium, etc. for years as our baby bodies developed and the cancer rates skyrocketed. You can educate yourselves at nuclearcrimes.org

    Have you seen the jellyfish babies of Rongelap? Or the deformed children of Chernobyl? Then realize mostly all the nuke plants in this country are broke down, breaking down, or retrofitted beyond all sensible properties of physics and we live one one big nuclear ticking timebomb just like the people of Japan.

    Nuclear power is too dirty, too costly and too dangerous. WE WILL STOP THIS MADNESS IN YOUR LIFETIMES…so please join the rest of the good citizens of this nation OR STEP ASIDE

  14. Ion Jean
    October 21, 2011

    One day when you all grow wise like Arnie Gundersen, some of you will turn your backs on this hellacious, toxic industry. You will realize you’ve been told the Big Lie, you’ve been sold a Myth with your college tuition…and you earn your living from a demon power that kills all biological life on the planet.

    Many of you here may be too young, but have any of you nuclear mothers come across the fallout data from the 1950s and 60s as recorded by our nation’s Public Health Service?? Those of us who were babies then were spoonfed radioactive iodine, strontium, cesium, etc. for years as our baby bodies developed and the cancer rates skyrocketed. You can educate yourselves at nuclearcrimes.org

    Have you seen the jellyfish babies of Rongelap? Or the deformed children of Chernobyl? Then realize mostly all the nuke plants you work at, or live near in this country are broke down, breaking down, or retrofitted beyond all sensible properties of physics and we live on one one big nuclear ticking timebomb just like the people of Japan.

    God bless all your babies as you nurse amidst the fallout. I thank God I’ve always lived more than 50 miles from one of those “death cannons” cause we’ve all got enough toxins in our breast milk just from heavy metals and toxic plastics, pharms, pesticides, fluoride (another gift from your “clean” industry, Ha!)

    Nuclear power is too dirty, too costly and too dangerous. WE WILL STOP THIS MADNESS IN YOUR LIFETIMES…so please join the rest of the good citizens of this nation OR STEP ASIDE.

    The mother of a healthy breastfed child

  15. October 21, 2011

    NMN,

    When it comes to watching the news, fear sells. Some of the headlines were terrifying indeed, but needlessly so.

    For example, if people knew that radiation levels inside most stone buildings like schools, hospitals, government offices, etc were naturally higher than most of Japan, and even some parts of the evacuation zone around Fukushima, then they would say “well, I guess it’s not that bad” and turn off the TV (concrete, marble, and granite are all radioactive).

    If people knew that the antinuclear Congressman giving an interview in the US Capital Building was standing in a radioactive field several times stronger than standing in most parts of nuclear power plants as he called for the closure of said plants, then they would turn the TV off. In short, if people really knew the facts of radiation, then they would not be glued to the TV in fear for their children’s safety.

    Also, if people knew that there are many locations around the world where the geology naturally produces radon gas such that radiation levels are higher than the Chernobyl exclusion zone and that the people living there are in perfect health then they wouldn’t be as afraid.

    There are much better independent sources of information about radiation available to you where the financial or political health of the organization is not tied to how fearful you are.

  16. Carrington Dillon
    October 21, 2011

    Great job, ladies. It is nice to see that you are all achieving amazing things and leading productive lives for the benefit of society, all while raising wonderful families that you undoubtedly Love and care for.

    The nuclear energy industry and Motherhood both require perfection, and the truth is that none of you would be so committed to a career if you were knowingly putting your own families in danger. The nuclear energy industry’s Number 1 commitment is ensuring public safety, and you all personify that. Thank you.

    I hope to hear from more of the thousands of nuclear MOMs all over North America as this blog series continues.

  17. Ginger
    October 24, 2011

    As a “nuclear mom” of three, I thank you for telling your stories. I’m glad I’m not the only one who couldn’t make it through security with my “device”.

    I also wanted to take a moment to say that I’m proud to work in this industry. As I tuck my kids into bed each night, I’m happy that I have a career that provides for my family and provides a valuable service to my community. Keep up the good work Moms!

  18. Jenn
    October 24, 2011

    I enjoyed reading the stories from mothers finding balance that fits their families. My husband and I have 2 young sons and are working out ways to sequence our life so that we can both be involved in the careers we like so much and the children we love.

    I’m proud to be in such good company as these Mothers in Nuclear.

  19. Michael Stuart
    October 25, 2011

    Although I’ve never had to deal with the intricacies of the transport and use of a breast pump, it does not diminish my admiration for the dedicated nuclear mothers who have faced this unique challenge. I’ll also add that Fathers-in-Nuclear have their own challenges, especially those who envy the nurturing bond that is uniquely shared between mother and child. Many days after working 12-hour shifts, I went home to continue my “second shift” into the evening and giving mom a break, while putting that previously-pumped milk to good use.

    My daughters are 12 and 8 now, and that time seems so brief in hindsight. Thank you for sharing your stories, as they bring back fond memories to me, and all-too-soon will be fond memories for those that have shared them.

  20. Theresa Motko
    October 26, 2011

    Thank you so much for sharing….I can totally relate and it’s comforting to know I’m not alone, being a bfing mother in the nuke industry who survived the RFO’s while nursing, and both my husband and I work at the same plant, it can be exausting but it is totally rewarding. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face and I hope it helps others in the same situation.

  21. Bobby Ashworth
    November 03, 2011

    Great Stories! This would also make a great panel discussion at a future conference/meeting (maybe more generally on work/life balance).

  22. Lianne
    November 08, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your stories.

    My children are now 8 and 9. When I was hired at my plant, it was (and still is) a mandatory requirement to inform if you are breastfeeding. In hindsight, this should not have deterred me from weaning my son.

    Perhaps had I know of the support available at the time, it would have swayed my decision.

    I was somewhat surprised to find out that Kristin was performing radiological work while breastfeeding. In Canada, donning radiaoactive protective equipment would most likely not be allowed for a breastfeeding mother, given that this would indicate the possibility of working in radioactive fields.

  23. Melissa
    November 19, 2011

    Thank you for all the great posts!! I am due soon with my first, and it has already been a challenge working in the nuclear field. Its amazing how many guys who have kids still act like your an alien when you get a baby belly on you. I enjoy the words of encouragement

  24. BobinPgh
    December 14, 2011

    This has been awhile since I read all this, but the question that really needs to be asked is: You are all intelligent women with interesting careers in a challenging industry. Since you are enviromentally aware, why are you all having kids at all? If you really care about the environment, the last thing a person needs to do is have children! The worst meat-eating, SUV driving, toxic chemical using man does not do the damage that child greedy couples do by adding to 7 Billion people already on Earth. Don’t you “moms” think of this before you have kids?

  25. March 18, 2012

    If there is no problem why is there an exclusion area surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility? The area surrounding Fukushima Daiichi Japan, 12 mile radius, is “hot” from Cesium contamination. The contamination extends to the northwest of the plant site some 25 miles.

    A pregnant woman working at a nuclear plant should not be allowed to continue work at the nuclear plant. A corporation who allows women to work while pregnant is negligent. The women who are working at the nuclear plant are negligent. There is conclusive evidence that radiation causes cellular mutations. Do you ever wonder why physicians discourage the use of radiographs during pregnancy unless it is absolutely necessary? The alleged statements from women included within seem to be more propaganda than fact.

    I am a retired health care administrator and health care professional who has provided radiation safety training to employees as well as required female employees who are pregnant to NOT work in radiation exposure areas.

  26. March 19, 2012

    Ms. Morgan,

    I share your concern for the citizens of Japan. It has been a year since the earthquake and tsunami and they are still rebuilding their lives and communities. This work has been made more difficult since they are dealing with a contamination zone near the Fukushima-Diachii plants.

    The Japanese government has ensured that citizens received information about the potential radiation exposure caused by Fukuhsima. Citizens are kept away from contamination and to this day no one has died or become sick due to the accident.

    I would like to clear up one assumption made in your post. These mothers are working in industrial facilities that have radioactive materials, not in work areas that are contaminated with radiation. There is a huge difference between what individuals are exposed to at an operating nuclear facility and what they could be exposed to during the recovery efforts in Japan.

    The testimonials provided on this blog are from real mothers who work in nuclear science and technology careers in the United States. These are some of the brightest women I have ever met and they are all dedicated to keeping their communities and the environment safe. I disagree with your assertion that women should not be allowed to work in nuclear careers. I am personally glad that our nation allows women to work in nuclear facilities. This means our country has the best and brightest ensuring nuclear facilities are operated safely and securely.

    Thank you,
    Elizabeth

  27. N Allen
    March 19, 2012

    Elizabeth,
    I am shocked that you advocate for women to work at an operating nuclear facility. All nuke plants leak radiation and the growing fetus absorbs that radiation much more quickly in to its small and rapidly dividing cells. Why on earth would any woman risk injury to her child by working at a nuclear plant?

  28. November 02, 2013

    I too loved the article, and found myself identifying with many of the things mentioned. I’m an I&C tech in a nuclear plant and have had 2 kids in the last 5 years. Although this nuclear industry does present a lot of challenges, lest anyone be scared off let me add one thing: one great advantage of our industry as it stands, is that many of your coworkers have been parents themselves. Many are grandparents now. As such, I find that if one can put aside the embarrassment one feels about discussing such personal subjects as “lactation”, one will find a most emphatic and caring group. On the other hand a though skin is a must. One of the jokes I heard while pregnant: “how do you make a baby crawl in a circle? Staple a foot to the floor”…I mean, really guys? Lol.

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