Parenting in Parent & Family Programs

I’ve been pondering what I can share for the blog that will be a little different, and insightful, and fun. So here goes. I’m writing about what I live every day (in more ways than one): parenting. The following is a list of eight things I’ve learned over the past eight years since I’ve been gifted with parenthood. Not a parent? It’s okay. I hope you find something with which you can relate since all of us are trying to create balance in our lives.

  1. Focus on work-life integration rather than work-life balance. I’ve learned to focus on work-family integration because I can’t turn either one off completely (work or family life). Balancing implies that things are in compartments, with work sitting on one end of the scale and life/family sitting on the other. Do they need to be opposites? Not at all. Balance also feels unattainable because one facet always requires more than the other; the scales tip each way constantly. Instead, I’m working toward integration… on blending… like blending colors together in a work of art. My work life and my family life do not come in compartments, and one can’t be “turned off” in order to do the other. Plus, we are multifaceted people, and each part of who I am speaks to the other. The other benefit of work-family integration is that our son is exposed to both of our careers, along with the joys and “oys” of the work we do. Conversely, work is exposed to our son—he loves coming to the office and interacting with my colleagues. He also tells them some things (he has a lot to say).

  2. Re-charge. Re-energize. Re-motivate. I do this in many ways, but I have realized that it is critically important to take care of yourself first. Fill your cup! Like the flight attendant tells everyone during pre-flight instruction: “Secure your oxygen mask to your face before securing an oxygen mask to your child’s face.” If you don’t have anything for yourself, then you have nothing to give to anyone else. Find a practice of something that fulfills you. 

  3. Gender roles and parenting roles are so 1950’s, and they do not work for my family. As a same-gender headed household, we defy gender roles and we work hard to help our son do the same. I try to carry this into my professional life, which can be a challenge when a parent calls the office, explains how they are handling something and then justifies it with “It’s a mom/dad thing.” Or the parent gives me the dreaded line, “You know how women/men are!” Most often I bite my tongue, but when I feel like poking the bear I’ll say, “Hmm… no, I don’t know how women/men are. What do you mean by that?”

  4. Being a father makes me a better professional because I worry less about the little things. Parenthood helps me put life in perspective in wonderfully unique ways. One of the most cathartic changes is that I no longer sweat the small stuff. As I ask my son when he is getting frustrated about something, “Is this a little problem, a medium-sized problem, or a big problem?” We should ask ourselves the same questions about work-related issues.

  5. When my son needs me, I am there (and I want to be there). This may mean that I am out of the office for a few hours or for a few days because of an emergency, doctor appointment, illness, issue at school, and the list goes on. I have a more generous leave policy than does my spouse, so I am often the one who is away from work when necessary. Yes, sometimes this makes things difficult and can be frustrating. It means a later night than I’d like of working from home, or it means adjusting my schedule to go into the office early in the morning or staying later in the afternoon/evening. Which leads me to a point I’d like to make about leave: whether or not you have children, you have leave benefits for a reason. Use your leave. I am very fortunate to work in an incredibly supportive environment, but I’ve heard some terrible stories about what professionals in other places have experienced. No one should ever be made to feel guilty for using leave.

  6. Parenting is hard work. Hard. Work. Like many of you, I have worked some crazy, long days and weeks in student affairs over the past 20 years of my career… staff trainings, marathon orientation sessions, crises… you name it. But parenting creates a whole new level of stress and exhaustion. And fun! I get it… this is what I signed up for in being a parent. But answering questions about bodily functions, mending hurt feelings, explaining Pi, listening to the latest Shawn Mendes song over and over (and over) again, and slaying monsters that live under the bed—and all in one day—is not easy.

  7. Kim Crawford is my BFF. Okay, maybe we’re not “besties,” but that glass of wine on a rough day is what pulls me back from the brink. And by "brink" I mean the PTA meetings. Ugh. I’ll take the university’s Parent Advisory Council meetings over the elementary school PTA meetings any day of the week.

  8. I parent from the margins as a gay father. This world of parenting wasn’t built for me. It isn’t reflective of families like mine. We are “out” everywhere we go, whether or not we want to be. Two men and a child? Gay parents. Sure, things are getting better but we have a long way to go on so many levels. This is one of the reasons we work hard at UMD to make sure every person who supports our students knows they are part of our Terp Family. We want every parent and supportive family member to know they are welcome at the University of Maryland and they have an important role to play in supporting their student. This is why, in 2016, the Office of Parent and Family Affairs created a Statement of Inclusion to reflect the values espoused by the office in recognizing the many people who provide support to students. Knowing that not all students receive support from a parent, we wanted to develop a strong statement that reflects an inclusive approach to developing services, programs, and resources for parents and family members. You can review our Statement of Inclusion here.

Now it’s your turn. Let’s have a conversation. What has parenthood taught you?


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