The other day I was unpacking a box and I found a certificate from a presentation I had co-presented at a GLACUHO Regional Housing Conference in 2008. It was called, “Superwoman: Being a Live in Mom and/or Partner.” At the time I was a new mom and wife and a residence hall director. There was a surge of energy and excitement that came with holding so many roles but also the realization that I could not be Superwoman. Something had to give. This is when I began to dig my heels in the sand when it came to priorities and boundaries with regard to how I spent my time.
At the time I was living on campus with a family and let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart. I remember the 3:00am fire alarm during one cold Illinois winter. I sat there in the warm car with my baby girl while we waited for the building to be cleared by the fire department. I also remember the time when my husband called to check on me because I had been gone for “too long” during a duty incident. As I stood there between two emergency personnel staff, not knowing what it was on the other side of the door, I told him with assurance to go back to bed. I also remember the time when I was stressing out about requesting the day off for my child’s birthday party because it was the same day as the RA selection process.
At that time I did not know of many moms or parents who were living in with children and it felt lonely and isolating. I also did not see many moms in positions above mine that I could aspire to, thus leading me to believe that I would not move up all because I chose to be a mom. But over the last 15 years, there are so many more parents in student affairs and changes in the workplace–although more is needed. There’s even a Facebook group, Student Affairs Moms (SAMs), created by a fellow student affairs mom, with thousands of members. It has been a place of support for myself and so many others.
Now I want to be clear, I am not saying that every place is family friendly nor family responsive but there appears to be more visibility in the field. I am so grateful for this because representation matters! There are the occasional people I have spoken with who are angry that someone cannot hang out at 7:00 pm. 2-3 times a week for an after hours get together, but overwhelmingly, I have been pleasantly surprised at the acceptance of folx having a life outside of work. There is a greater appreciation that life may include taking care of other humans.
Three kiddos later, and some serious conversations with myself, I know that my family has to be my priority. The places I work and the humans I work with, need to understand that I am a mom and I fiercely love my kiddos. More often than not, family will always be more important than anything else. Part of this is about boundaries, priorities, and finding others who you can look to for support or career aspirations. There are also some really positive aspects of living on campus and/or working on campus as a parent.
So, what are some of the perks from my perspective?
- My kiddos have had an amazing vocabulary given the college folx they spent time with each day.
- They have gone to some pretty cool events, taken cooking classes, explored multiple libraries, seen dinosaur fossils, made lots of tye-dyed shirts, and served as judges for RA programming competitions.
- They are interested in obtaining a college degree. They have a sense for the type of college they would like to attend. Large? Small? Urban? Rural? 2 year? 4 year? You name it! As a first generation college student, it has been pretty neat to see my children gain first hand experience with what resources are available for support. They will ask better and different questions than I did.
- They have had exposure to different cultures, food, and humans.
So, what are some of the perks from their perspective?
- Eating in the dining hall.
- Hanging out with college students.
- Getting a feel for a college campus.
- Bragging that their mom works at a university.
There certainly are pros and cons of living-in with children and or a partner, and it is important to be open about what those are so you can make the best decision for yourself or your current or future family. Are you a parent or partner who has some really cool things or perhaps advice that you could share? Do it! I am very happy that I have been able to be open about my priorities as a mom.
Holding a position in residence life and housing can be intense. When you add on taking care of humans that depend on you 24/7, it get even more intense. You have to find the balance. Know that you do not have to be a superhero, just find a workplace that allows you to have a life where you can prioritize what matters most. College students will always be the same age but our own little humans will not. That is not a guilt statement, that’s truth and power!