Creativity and Priorities

How 3 Tech Moms Are Doing It All

By Emily Singler

How 3 Tech Moms Are Doing It All

One of the most talked about topics among working professionals today is work-life balance. For veterinary professionals who give so much of themselves and who have such a demanding workload placed upon them, it can be hard to understand how anyone would have the time or energy to add being a parent into the mix. Yet, our field is full of working parents who find a way to make it happen and to thrive, both personally and professionally.

Veterinary support professionals, including veterinary technicians, assistants, client service representatives, and hospital managers, give their all to their patients and clients, and then some of them go home and give their all to their families. Here, three working mothers share their insights as to how they have navigated pregnancy and working in small animal veterinary practice.

Christinne Huggins

Christinne Huggins is a veterinary technician in Florida and a mom of one. She remembers that when she announced her pregnancy at work, her manager seemed more excited than she was! She felt very supported by her co-workers. She continued with most of her job duties apart from surgical and anesthesia duties, taking radiographs, and lifting dogs over 50 pounds. When she started noticing some swelling toward the end of her pregnancy, she transitioned to more managerial responsibilities that did not require her to be on her feet as much. She worked on inventory and food orders while sitting at a desk and then came back out on the floor as needed to draw blood, run lab work, and place IV catheters.

When thinking back to her maternity leave, she doesn’t remember exactly how much time to which she would have been entitled. “I do remember,” she remarked, “that it wasn’t long enough for me.” She wanted to stay home with her son for at least one year, so she resigned before going on leave. She ended up staying home with her son until he was four years old. Partly, she said, this was a financial decision. It didn’t make sense for her to work just to pay for childcare, and there was not a family member available to care for her son while she worked.


Since Christinne’s current schedule has her working three days a week, she tries to pick up shifts on other days if another employee needs time off.


When her son started prekindergarten, Christinne went back to work part-time, but for a different practice. She reached out to a veterinarian for whom she had worked previously and was hired on the spot for a position as a veterinary technician. When negotiating her new schedule, she made sure to be clear that she would only work as her son’s school schedule would allow. “I am very lucky to be off when he is out of school,” she pointed out.

She also works with the expectation that she will stay home if her son is sick and cannot go to school. Additionally, she feels empowered to ask for time off if there is a field trip or other special school event that she doesn’t want to miss. Since her current schedule has her working three days a week, she tries to pick up shifts on other days if another employee needs time off.

She still reported that calling out of work when her son is sick can be “tricky.” While she receives no negative feedback from her employer or manager, she finds that some coworkers don’t seem to be able to empathize with her. She’ll receive comments such as, “I just didn’t work when my kids were that little.”

When asked about the challenges and benefits to being a working mom, Christinne identified balance as being her primary challenge. She sometimes worries, as many working mothers do, that she doesn’t get enough done either at home or at work. She does, however, feel that working part time brings her balance and peace, which she struggled to find during the years she stayed home with her son. When reflecting on her current role, she shared that “being able to do something I am passionate about and get away from the mundane, everyday household and motherly duties does wonders for my mental health. Because of that, I can be a better mother.”

Nicole Tumbry

Nicole Tumbry is an ICU veterinary technician in Texas and a mom of two. She has also worked in veterinary medicine as a client services representative, a kennel technician, and in human resources. Her ICU schedule, however, works best for her to “tuck the babies into bed,” so that’s where she has decided to stay. She recalled that during her two pregnancies, most of her coworkers did not have children to care for. As a result, they didn’t understand what it was like to “have a career that you pour so much passion into and then go home and have to take care of your family.” She experienced some resentment from co-workers for needing to leave work on time to get home to her children and for asking for more holidays off.

During her pregnancies, she stated she was “strong-willed” and “headstrong” and that she refused any help. This included offers to lift things for her, to help her get up off the floor, and to walk dogs for her. She does report that she got “stronger and tougher” during her pregnancies, but she understands now that she should have accepted the help that was offered. She described being worried about appearing to be weak, since she had seen other pregnant women work right up until their due date. She also felt that her patients needed her.


Nicole experienced two miscarriages, one of which happened while she 12 weeks pregnant and working in the clinic.


During one of her pregnancies, she had a role working in radiation oncology. She felt “intimidated” because she didn’t understand very much about the technology. She did ask a lot of questions, and she found that her employer was great about answering any questions. Because her patients were typically sedated or anesthetized, she was able to stand behind a lead barrier to avoid any exposure. She did participate in taking diagnostic radiographs during her pregnancies, but with a second radiation monitoring badge worn at the level of her belly to monitor any potential exposure to her baby.

Her two pregnancies were different in terms of how she approached announcing them at work. To conceive initially, Nicole underwent fertility treatments. She experienced two miscarriages, one of which happened while she was 12 weeks pregnant and working in the clinic. Most of her coworkers had no idea that she was pregnant. As she processed what had happened, she found it helpful to hear others’ stories, including those of some of her co-workers. Since many miscarriages are not always discussed openly, she did not realize how many of those around her had experienced something similar.

During her second pregnancy, she decided to tell everyone right away. She let them know about the possibility of another miscarriage and what that might look like. She felt that the whole team bonded with her and supported her throughout that experience. In fact, when she gave birth to her second child, she had a home birth attended by 15 people, including some of her co-workers.

While her work environment was mostly supportive, she did have a few negative experiences. She was criticized by one individual for complaining about her 12-week unpaid maternity leave. Once, when she needed to pump breastmilk after returning to work, she was met with resistance when she asked to use a co-worker’s office to have some privacy. She was also dismayed to learn that her health insurance did not cover the pelvic floor therapy that she needed.

As a working mom, she faces challenges surrounding missing out and guilt. She described herself as a “PTO mom” and a “homeroom mom.” As such, she wants to go on field trips and be present for all the events at school. But inevitably, sometimes she misses things because she must work. On the other hand, she now works fewer holidays so that she can spend that time with her children. She feels the guilt of juggling several plates at a time.

To help combat this pervasive working mother guilt, Nicole has some great strategies. She tries to remind herself of her strengths: “I am involved, I am present, I am here, I am supportive.” She also touts the importance of taking 10 minutes a day alone with each child with no distractions to talk and play with them. This allows her to be present and to connect with each of them. Like Christinne, Nicole has also adjusted her schedule and her hours to better accommodate her desire to spend time with her children. Whereas she previously would work 60 hours a week and many holidays, she went down to 20 hours a week for a while, and now has come up to full time at 32 hours a week, still with not as many holidays as previously. She and her partner have been able to arrange their schedules so that one of them is always home and available for the kids, meaning they have never needed another childcare provider. The downside to this, of course, is the lack of time together as a couple.

When asked if being a mom has made her better at her job, she feels that she is less emotionally triggered by social interactions at work since she has become a mom. She is able to remain very calm, and she treats other adults as she treats her children: as “emotional human beings” in need of acknowledgment.

Sarah Erber, LVT

Sarah Erber is a licensed veterinary technician, an assistant hospital manager, and a single mom of one. She has also worked as an animal care assistant, a kennel technician, and an overnight ICU technician. She found announcing her pregnancy at work to be easy. Her manager and coworkers were supportive and responsive. She avoided taking radiographs and assisting with CT scans, and she did not lift anything over 25 pounds. She was able to take time off as needed to attend doctors’ appointments and was met with no resistance.

Sarah took seven weeks of maternity leave, which was unpaid except for whatever saved up vacation and sick time she had. She did not qualify for short-term disability coverage since she had not had the policy for a full year before needing to use it. She reported that her employer now provides short-term disability coverage for all employees and provides four weeks of paid leave.


The challenges Sarah faces as a working mom center around getting out of work on time so that she can see her son.


When it was time to return to work, she remembers feeling sad. She didn’t want to take her baby to daycare, and she wished she could spend every minute with him. However, she felt supported by all her coworkers, and she was able to return to the same role she had held previously.

The challenges Sarah faces as a working mom center around getting out of work on time so that she can see her son. She reported needing to carefully set boundaries and then forcing herself to stick to them. “It is okay to say no,” she advised. She also negotiated a schedule change to accommodate her son’s schedule and went from working four days a week to working five shorter days. This allows her to align her schedule more with her son’s school hours.

Sarah was able to find an in-home daycare near her workplace. For the first year and a half, she went to see her son and breastfeed him on her lunch break. This helped her break up the day and spend fewer hours without seeing him. When asked about having to call out of work when her son is sick, she remarked that it was not a cause of stress for her. “It is the reality of having kids that attend daycare or school,” she explained. “They will get sick. I am a single mother, and I just do it. I am in great communication with my employer.”

Sarah feels that being a mom has made her very “compassionate” and “protective” over her team, especially other first-time moms. She now knows their struggles and wants to help them succeed. Working in veterinary medicine has also taken away any squeamishness she might have otherwise had when dealing with vomit, diarrhea, and other bodily fluids that children so often share with their parents. She also has a much better sense of when an illness or injury requires urgent care versus waiting to see the pediatrician the next day.

These three women (and many others) have found what works for them and their families. What’s more, each role they have—as a mother and as a veterinary professional—has informed and enhanced the other. These working moms have found creative solutions to make the work they love fit into their lives while still being able to prioritize their own needs and the needs of their children. It is certainly not easy, and there is much work to be done to better support working moms and working parents in general. Hopefully, our profession will continue to learn from working parents as we find creative solutions to improve the quality of life for all members of the team.

Emily Singler, VMD, is a 2001 graduate of Penn State University and a 2005 graduate of University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. She currently works as a veterinary writer and consultant and enjoys writing for both pet owners and veterinary professionals. She has her own blog,, and is currently working on a book for veterinary team members who are navigating pregnancy and postpartum life.

Photo credits: Dean Mitchell/iStock via Getty Images Plus, Photo courtesy of Christinne Huggins, Photo courtesy of Nicole Tumbry, Courtney Hale/E+ via Getty Images, Photo courtesy of Sarah Erber



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