Krystal Graves doesn’t stick to a strict schedule. When she sees something that needs to be done, she does it. When Graves saw that her nursing position in the intensive care unit wasn’t working for her family, she made a change. Now she enjoys more time with her husband, a football coach and physical education teacher at Waco High School, and their children, Rylee and Bryce. When Graves isn’t with her family or patients, she indulges in her guilty pleasure: watching reality TV shows.
WACOAN: Have you always wanted to be a nurse?
Graves: I have — it’s like the profession chose me. I watched medical shows when I was 7 or 8 years old. One time my brother and I were at a park, and he fell off the swing and broke his arm. I made him a splint out of toys. I didn’t know his arm was broken, but I wanted to help because he was hurting.
WACOAN: Where do you work?
Graves: I was a nurse at [Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center] for 12 years. I worked in the ICU for nine and a half years. Now I work at Waco Cardiology Cath Lab. I started about a month and a half ago.
WACOAN: What motivated you to change positions?
Graves: [The ICU] was very stressful. I learned a lot, but it was time to move on. Now I have more time with my family. At the hospital I was scheduled 12 hour [shifts], but that could turn into 14 or 15 hours. It was only three days a week, but those three days took a toll on me the rest of the week. It was draining emotionally and physically.
WACOAN: What is your work schedule like now?
Graves: Now I work Monday through Friday. I usually work eight to 10 hours. The work is much different. It’s less running around, and the workload is lighter. In the ICU, the patients are critical, so there’s a lot of monitoring and reassessing. With the patients I have now, I monitor and reassess them. But it’s for a shorter amount of time, and the patients are less critical.
WACOAN: How do you help patients in this new role?
Graves: The patients are receiving heart catheterizations. The procedure lasts for about an hour, and then recovery lasts for three hours. I prepare them before the surgery, and when they come out, I monitor them and make sure they’re stable enough to go home.
WACOAN: From your experience, what is the most challenging part of being a nurse?
Graves: When things aren’t going well for the patients. I’ve grieved with so many patients and families, especially when I worked in the ICU. That takes a toll on you. But it’s also rewarding when you can share a good outcome.
WACOAN: What qualities does a good nurse need to have?
Graves: Compassion. I don’t think you can learn that — you have to have it. For those who get weeded out of a nursing program, I feel like the compassion may not have been there. It just has to be in you.
There’s a different level of compassion when you’re a nurse.
WACOAN: Do you have to stay calm on the job?
Graves: Sometimes. But sometimes you have to be loud and speak up to be an advocate for the patient.
WACOAN: How do you stay energized throughout the day?
Graves: I started drinking coffee after I had kids. Before that it came naturally. Kids are energy suckers. When I get home and I’m still, I crash. I have to stay up and moving. I’m always moving. I have a Garmin watch [that counts my steps]. I walk less now that I’m not at the hospital. When I was at the hospital, I’d get 12,000 steps a day.
WACOAN: In this new position, what does your daily schedule look like?
Graves: I get up about 5 or 5:30 a.m., depending on when I’m scheduled to be at work. If I need to be at work before 7 a.m., then my husband will get the kids ready. If it’s after 7 a.m., I’ll get them up and out the door.
WACOAN: How old are your kids?
Graves: Rylee is 3 years old, and Bryce is 17 months old. They go to Central Faith [Child Development Center at Central United Methodist Church].
WACOAN: What do your mornings look like?
Graves: It’s extremely hard to get everyone out the door on time. My daughter never wants to wake up. Bryce is my alarm clock. [The kids] don’t go to bed early, and that’s an issue. I get myself dressed first, and then I move on to them. They eat breakfast at day care, so we just have to get everyone up, clean and dressed. Even that is a challenge. Bryce has a lot of curly hair, so that has to be dealt with. Rylee combs her hair at night, but I still have to touch it up in the morning. Then my hair gets thrown in a ponytail, which is fine.
WACOAN: And when you have to be at work early —
Graves: It’s all on my husband. He has to get them up and dressed. He does well because I lay out the clothes the night before. Their backpacks are packed and at the door.
WACOAN: Have you always prepared their things the night before?
Graves: Yes. It wasn’t a rule — I just started doing it. I’m the one who picks out the cute outfits. Rylee wants her outfit to match her hair bow. My husband doesn’t know those things, so I do it.
WACOAN: Tell me more about your husband.
Graves: He’s a coach at Waco High School. We met at Waco High and started dating the summer before our senior year. We got married when we finished college.
WACOAN: What does Ryan coach?
Graves: He’s the offensive coordinator for the football team. Football is his second wife.
WACOAN: What’s football season like for your husband?
Graves: He begins at the end of July, when two-a-days start. He’s gone from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. When school starts, he may be gone until 8 or 9 p.m. When Bryce was born, it was the first week of two-a-days. So that was challenging, but we made it work. I held it down for our family.
WACOAN: What about game nights?
Graves: Friday nights are all on me. We go to all the games, and the children love it. We go to out of town games. We get in the car and boogie down the road.
WACOAN: What’s it like being a coach’s wife?
Graves: I enjoy football and going to all the games. I enjoy cheering him on.
WACOAN: What’s it like in your house when Waco High School loses a game?
Graves: If he loses, it’s a bad weekend for the house. He tries to get over it, but it’s not easy. I’ll tell the kids to hug him and make him laugh. We try to cheer him up.
WACOAN: How do you and your husband stay organized?
Graves: I’m a fly-by-the-seat girl. I see what needs to be done and just do it. My husband is more of a scheduler, so he helps keep us on track. I tell him what needs to be done with the kids. My mother-in-law is a part of our schedule. We keep her updated so she knows when to pick up the kids.
WACOAN: Your mother-in-law helps out?
Graves: She’s a great help. We call her the real MVP.
When I was at the hospital, I was scheduled to work 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but sometimes I wouldn’t get off work until 8 or 8:30 p.m. [Ryan] would initiate a nighttime schedule, but that was hard during football season. So my mother-in-law would help and pick up dinner for them.
WACOAN: But you get home from work earlier now?
Graves: Now I’m home between 4 and 6 p.m. I can get dinner made or thrown together.
WACOAN: What do you usually make?
Graves: I make simple things like spaghetti or chicken and rice. I use the Allrecipes app on my phone to find recipes.
WACOAN: Do you have picky eaters?
Graves: My kids have always been good eaters, even when they’re sick. I have to go to the grocery store every other day because Bryce is a milk monster. He loves milk.
WACOAN: What are your kids like?
Graves: Rylee is sassy, but super smart. She’s such a beautiful kid. I thought Rylee would be my cuddle buddy, but she’s a daddy’s girl. She loves to be loved on.
Bryce was laid-back, but he’s starting to get a little rough on me. He is such a boy. He likes to throw balls and throw them at you.
WACOAN: Do you think Bryce will play sports?
Graves: My husband was worried about that, but [Bryce] is a natural. Bryce was born during football season last year, so I didn’t take him to all the games. Now he goes to all the games and watches the scoreboard. He yells like he’s heard it all before. I’m sure he heard it in the womb.
WACOAN: Between jobs and kids, how do you and your husband make time for each other?
Graves: When I only worked at the hospital three days a week, we would meet for lunch. We have date nights on the weekend. Since we’ve been married, we have done a yearly getaway for our anniversary. That was before and after the kids.
WACOAN: Where was your last vacation?
Graves: Cancun, [Mexico]. Ryan is planning our next trip now. He manages our budget so we can enjoy the fruits of our labor.
WACOAN: How do you and your husband balance each other?
Graves: Where I’m weak, he picks up the slack. And vice versa.
WACOAN: How do you and your husband work as team?
Graves: If there’s something that I feel like he should have done differently, or he thinks I should have done differently, we’ll discuss it. For the most part, we agree. He always encourages me and compliments me. He tells me I’m a wonderful mother, and I do the same for him.
WACOAN: Has having kids changed your relationship with your husband?
Graves: It’s made a change. We see each other as a mother and father to our children, which has made our love stronger.
WACOAN: How has motherhood changed you?
Graves: It’s not about me anymore. It was never all about me, but now I really put myself on the back burner. It’s all about the children and seeing them do well and flourish.
WACOAN: What do you and Ryan try to teach your children?
Graves: Be nice and courteous and love one another. They have to take care of each other. I teach them to pray and be thankful.
WACOAN: What do your children teach you?
Graves: They teach me patience. They teach me to take a breath and how to love.
WACOAN: How do you make time for yourself?
Graves: I may have a little time in the shower. [Laughs.] I like to listen to music. My guilty pleasure is watching scripted reality shows.
WACOAN: Does your husband watch them with you?
Graves: No, he hates them. That’s my thing. He’ll take the kids and let me do that. I went to the movies by myself a month or two ago.
WACOAN: You’re constantly moving at your job and at home with your kids. How do you recharge?
Graves: Sleep. I’m getting more sleep now that Bryce is getting older. He still doesn’t sleep through the night — he’ll wake up wanting milk. It’s been hard because when Rylee was finally sleeping through the night, I was late in the pregnancy with Bryce, so I wasn’t sleeping well. I haven’t slept well in about three years. But I manage.
WACOAN: What does your family enjoy doing together?
Graves: We take a lot of trips. Ryan goes to a lot of coaching clinics, and if they fall on the weekend, we’ll tag along. We try to find kid-friendly things to do. The last time we went, we found an aquarium to visit.
WACOAN: What does your typical Saturday morning look like?
Graves: Bryce wakes up at 7 a.m. We’ll get up and eat breakfast. We may stay in our pajamas or get dressed. I go to the grocery store on the weekends, so the kids tag along. They like to go, and it’s good to get them out of the house. If they stay inside, they’ll start bouncing off the walls.
WACOAN: You said you don’t usually make a schedule. Do you prefer it that way?
Graves: Yes, because we’re not going to stick to a schedule. We’re not going to get anywhere on time. We really struggle to be on time for church [at Clay Street Christian Church]. We want everyone to look presentable to go to church. It’d be different if we were going to the grocery store.
WACOAN: How would you define balance for you and your family?
Graves: Everyone is happy, clothed and fed. The house is semi-kept. The kids help me pick up, but they pull everything out again. I want them to be kids and play with their toys.
WACOAN: So as long as everyone is happy, clothed and fed —
Graves: We’re good in my book. That may not work for everyone, but that’s what works for us.
A balanced life also means maintaining a positive mindset.
WACOAN: Do you have any advice for working moms?
Graves: You can do it! You just have to do what works for you and your family. See what your family needs and how your children respond to the situation.