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stories of parenting at the University

What I’ve Learned at OLV!

February 27th, 2012

Working at Our Little Village|Library during my Junior year has given me great experience in working with children and even some skills for being a future teacher. While I’m not a parent (but I plan to be in the future) there are so many lessons I can apply to own parenting philosophy and to my caretaking role now. Someone who has dramatically assisted in this process is Kristi King, our site coordinator, a parent of 3, and an amazing mentor! Kristi is especially good at guiding and teaching us how to be better childcare providers. Rather than just getting angry or frustrated, she gives us alternatives on how to go about different situations, sometimes in disguised ways. One Tuesday afternoon shift in particular made for a great teaching moment from Kristi, who showed me that sometimes having 8 kids in our small drop off childcare center can be a blessing in disguise!

That busy Tuesday in January was unlike any other Tuesday shift I had ever worked. Normally our weekday shifts are calm, only having 4-5 children, if that! On this Tuesday, the kids kept coming, which was awesome at first, but it began to be over whelming! 3 babies, 3 toddlers/preschoolers, and 2 primary aged children all arrived and began playing with different toys, and of course, playing very loudly. My co-worker and I each had a crying baby in one arm and were attempting to play with children using our other hand. Though this was no new scenario to either me or my co-worker, we still had our hands full! Kristi arrived early for her shift and observed the chaotic scene. Without hesitation she stepped into our disorder, grabbed some fun books, gathered up the 5 children and began to read to them. I was amazed and thankful! They were all sitting quietly, listening to her every word, and were engaged in the book! No more yelling, toys flying, or children fighting. My co-worker and I had a chance to calm the last crying baby and clean up the room while organizing our thoughts. I realized then that this could be a powerful tool in how we manage the childcare center when we have 8 kids and might be in the process of pulling our hair out. Kristi didn’t even have to say anything to us, because her actions spoke louder than any of her words would have been.

This past Sunday, OLV reached full capacity twice! In the midst of the craziness, I turned to my co-worker and said “In 10 minutes we are going to have story time!” And together, we gathered the 8 kids, read to them and had them work on different crafts TOGETHER! They were quiet and engaged, just like they were with Kristi! I learned that sometimes, quietly showing someone what to do can be better than just telling them, and that if you have a lot of kids in a tiny space…story time is amazing! Thanks Kristi!

Faculty are Human Too

January 27th, 2012

by Charles Howard, University Chaplain, University of Pennsylvania

In 2009 our Baccalaureate speaker­—Dr. Kirk Byron Jones, author of the popular book Rest in the Storm—spoke to our graduating class on the subject “Daring to rest.”1 His remarks were geared towards young women and men preparing to enter into a myriad of professional fields and graduate study, daring them to balance their hard work with “hard rest.”

And yet, his words should not only be heeded by students and young professionals. Those who have taught and teach these students may also benefit from a gentle reminder to pause, rest, and take care of themselves.

The life of a professor, while bringing much honor and a great many joys, can also be very stressful and challenging.  Teaching and doing research places high demands on professors in ways that many may not realize. The hours of course preparation, writing lesson plans, long days and nights in the lab doing one’s own research on top of supervising research assistants, grading papers, meeting with advisees, writing articles and book projects, lecturing, committee meetings, and off campus projects and collaborations can all contribute to some very challenging days. For many academics, the day-to-day is in addition to the stress of being up for tenure or waiting for grant applications—not to mention the realities of navigating our personal lives including relationships with partners, raising children, care for aging parents, health concerns, and more.

Admittedly, I am hesitant in asking professors to take time for rest and self care. One might argue that the reason you are serving as a professor at a place like Penn is because of all of the hard work that you have done over the course of your career.  Further, the work that you are doing is important.  Your long hours are leading to breakthroughs in research, lives saved, academic fields furthered, beautiful literature and art produced, better prepared professionals, and another generation of brilliant scholars. We expect and count on you to work hard.

Yet along with working hard, here is a challenge to also take care of yourselves.  At Penn we have some of the brightest minds in the world, but you are also human.  So please take care of yourselves.

Firstly, I want you to be here—for a long time.  I love shaking the hands of recently retired professors who worked at the University for 30 or 40 years.  None of these great citizens of the University have ever told me that they wished they had worked more hours in the day. Rather they described how they balanced hard work with rich conversation over lunch at the University Club, trips around the world for both research and pleasure, enjoyable time with colleagues who became good friends, regular appointments swimming at the gym or playing tennis. Take care of yourself so that you can be here!

In addition, another reason to pay attention to self care is to model a work-life balance for your students. Professors whom students look up to hold a great deal of influence in their lives.  Perhaps many of you have drawn from the examples of your past advisers, mentors, and professors as you pursue your own academic career. Your students are watching you as well.  Let’s strive to provide for them positive examples of healthy living and balance as they prepare for their future careers.

Finally, self care will only improve your work. The connections between a “good night’s sleep” and productivity at work are much documented. Yet, self care is more than sleep. Self care looks different for each of us.  For some it is exercising (we have amazing facilities and classes here through PennRec). For others, it is the pursuit of hobbies and interests like reading, dancing, music, dining out, theater, or spending time in nature. Still for others this is cultivating their inner life through religion and spirituality, meditating, or just finding quiet time with loved ones.

Self care is also seeking help when we’re feeling stressed, anxious, or down. Our University’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available 24 hours a day to talk confidentially about both professional and personal challenges that anyone on our faculty or staff may have.  Certainly our office as well as the campus cultural centers and hubs on campus are available (The Women’s Center, Makuu Black Cultural Center, The LGBT Center, La Casa Latina, The Greenfield Intercultural Center, and The Pan-Asian American Cultural House). Maybe it’s a trusted colleague who is the best person to talk to. Whoever it is, during those moments of overwhelming frustration, or anxiety, you don’t have to endure them alone.

There is much about Penn that is amazing and at the very top of that list is our world-class faculty. There is no Penn without you. You all take care of Penn so well, make sure that you also take care of yourselves.

When the Work-Life Balance Train Derails

December 2nd, 2011

By a professional faculty mom of a 16 year old son

I think all of us wish to balance our lives and intellectually we strive to do that. Where the train always drove off the track for me was around the holidays. We celebrate Christmas in my family, so the “holiday season” stretches from late October through New Year’s. Chalk it up to emotion, too much sugar or too little sleep, the derailment happens for many of us. Here’s what my life looked like “before”….

Full time professional. Extensive business travel. Lots of local family. Daughter. Wife. Sister. Friend. Community Volunteer. Mother. Hand-made Halloween costumes. Large, elaborate Thanksgiving dinners. Carefully chosen holiday gifts for each family member, including extended family. Elaborate holiday baking and delivery of baked goods to friends, neighbors, doctors, dentist, dog groomer, etc. Hand-made holiday wreaths. Personally selected and decorated holiday tree. Holiday letter and hand written cards to list of about 75-100. Community holiday events….lots of them. Holiday parties….lots of them. Hosting family for either Christmas or Christmas Eve, complete with large meal, clean house and overnight guests. Careful choreographing of holiday celebrations so that each set of parents and each sibling was accommodated. I hated the holidays.

And then it happened. I really did not see it coming. I sat sobbing from exhaustion with my baby on my lap in late December, realizing that if I didn’t get a hold of myself all he would remember about the holiday season was that his mother was circling the drain for two months each year.

So after banishing caffeine and sugar and taking a good brisk nap, I asked myself some hard questions. What would you subject your very best friend to? Is exhausted and cranky a normal state of being? What gives YOU joy? And here’s what the holidays look like now….

Full time professional. Lots of local family. Daughter. Wife. Sister. Friend. Community Volunteer. Mother. Halloween costume support, not leadership. Boundaries around Thanksgiving and time spent with people who GIVE energy, not drain it. Charitable contributions in honor of adult gift recipients that are meaningful to them; books and pajamas to the littles in my life. A day spent in the kitchen baking with my mom and my sister because I love it (and because we ROCK the kitchen!). A tree selected and decorated by my family. A few cards….maybe after New Year’s….and more meaningful connections throughout the year. Holiday parties only if they bring me (or my immediate family) joy. Chinese food on Christmas Eve (who knew you could DO that!). Holiday celebrations planned around love and not accommodation. Holiday music played long and loudly. I am joyful.

Guess what? The world did not stop spinning. Nobody got mad. My husband, son and I enjoy the holidays immensely. Will it work for you? I don’t know….but try it. Give yourself permission to NOT do everything. Your family, friends and colleagues will love you for it.

Affording the High Cost of Child Care

November 17th, 2011

by a Classified staff mom of a college student son and a 4th grade daughter

Has anyone seen today’s article in the GT?  Childcare rates have increased with the state regulations and yet the wages have not.  How are we to choose between our child’s welfare and making a living?  When will society start putting our families wellbeing ahead of making a living wage?  In some ways Oregon has, but at what cost?  We protect our children, provide good teachers, teach them virtues and yet we struggle to provide for our family.  Why as a single working parent, do I have to choose between feeding my family and paying the electric bill or providing quality child care?  It should not have to be this way in our country, in our state or in our neighborhoods.  I appreciate my child care provider and was thankful for each person who provided the quality care to my children, however they were not in state organized facilities due to the cost.  I mean how I am to afford spending over half my wage on these state regulated organizations?  I might as well not work and stayed home, which I feel a lot of families are choosing today.  One can only afford to pay for some of the state regulated child care centers if you were in a highly professional position or had two incomes.  I hope the future of our families are not jeopardized by the choices our state and federal governments think they are making on our families behalf.  I would like to see them make the choices we have had to make in regards to our children; nutrition/warmth or quality childcare.  What do you think they will choose?

not here, not on my watch, not in my house.

November 10th, 2011

by a Professional Faculty mom of a 2 year old daughter

I sit at my desk this morning both in shocked and troubled by the Penn State tragedy.  I choose to use the word tragedy because as both a mother and educator, this is unacceptable and tragic.  I am a self-proclaimed college football fanatic and I understand the value and contribution Joe Paterno has made to not only football but to Penn State as well, after all one of their libraries is Paterno Library.  However, there is no excuse for what he did, or in this case did NOT do.  Bystander intervention is a huge issue we face, there are so many instances where had someone just spoken up or stepped in there would have been less harm done.  Especially in this case, where multiple people knew, suspected or just felt something was wrong and still chose to look the other way.

As a mother, it is scary enough to know that these disgusting people already exist and are a part of our society, but to know that no one is willing to say “not here, not on my watch, not in my house,” is even scarier.

Actually—It makes me angry!  As parents, we need back up, we need people (especially other parents) on our side, who are willing to care (even if just for moment) if our kids is safe.  This isn’t a fantasy and I don’t feel it is much to ask.  As an educator, it feels like 20 steps back.  We are constantly asking our students to watch out for each other and intervene when necessary.  We have whole programs dedicated to by-stander intervention, especially as it pertains to sexual abuse and assault.

If a President of a major university and the Head football coach (who carries just as much weight…probably more) can’t stand up for what is right, then how can we ask an 18-20 year old to do the same?

I applaud the Board of Trustees for sending a message that this is unacceptable behavior and that it will not be tolerated, my only concern is that our judicial system is not set up the same way for these types of crimes.  The perpetrator will get prosecuted and Paterno and Spanier will take their slap on the wrist (while still maintaining their lifestyle) and at most will have to re-locate because of the “supporters” out front. In 6 months life will go on, and the magnitude of what happened will subside, but the rubble will remain.  What is left is a once-solid football program that is scarred, a student body that may be somewhat divided, and 8+ survivors who have to live with it all—All because someone didn’t say “not here, not on my watch, not in my house.”

Care.com and new way to date night!

October 7th, 2011

by a professional faculty mom of 2 year old daughter, 4 year old son

My husband and I rarely have date nights. For one thing, we’re both so busy that neither of us thinks about it ahead of time until we’re in the moment that says “oh good god, get us out of this house!!!” For another thing, it’s a financial commitment. A date night for parents ALWAYS runs in the ballpark of $100. The receipt? At a minimum a babysitter costs $20, dinner is $30, and a movie is another $20. See how that adds up fast? Lastly, finding a sitter can be tough. I work at OSU but I live in Albany, so if I get a student to come to my house, I feel compelled to pay for their travel time too. Cha-ching. And searching for local sitters on craigslist is just… less than ideal.

Last week I saw that Howard Behar, former CEO of Starbucks was giving a free lecture on campus (It’s Not About The Coffee) and I thought it looked interesting. My husband was interested in going as well, but, as usual, the lecture was the next night. Could we get a sitter? Mais oui!! OSU just last month signed a contract with care.com so all students and employees get free access to their site at care.com/osu. I jumped on, posted my job for the next evening, said how much I wanted to pay. VOILA! Within the hour I had 4 responses to my job! I reviewed the sitters’ profiles, made sure their background checks cleared, and, (and this was really the icing on the cake,) I GOT TO LISTEN TO RECORDED REFERENCE INTERVIEWS! Care.com hires moms to call the references and records the interviews for parents to hear. I picked a sitter, we talked on the phone, she came over, it was cake. Delicious, calorie-free cake that cleans your kitchen.

Since the lecture was free, and we ate with the kids before we left, the whole night was only the cost of the sitter: $25. $25 bought us two hours of sanity, some mental stimulation, and a clean kitchen. Money well spent. We will certainly be taking many more date nights like this is the future.

Summer’s Over

September 8th, 2011

By a professional faculty dad of a 8 year old son and 5 year old daughter.


Summer’s Over.

First week of school. Kindergarten and third grade. Back to soccer schedules, swimming lessons, and the busy-ness of fall.

But hold on just a second.  This isn’t about them.  It’s about me!  Summer’s over for me, too, you know. I didn’t have to take the kids to school every morning for a whole 10 weeks, for crying out loud!

During the school year, my wife leaves for work before the kids get out of bed.  But she has summers off. Which means that I have summers off from being a solo dad.

I didn’t have to get them out of bed, make them breakfast, or tie their shoes.  I didn’t care if beds were made, teeth were brushed, or homework was done.  It was heavenly!  I was … independent!

I was able to ride my bike to my office at OSU.  Three to five times a week!  It’s a 12 mile round trip and building exercise right into my daily routine was great!  A big step for me, I giant step for parent-kind.  The exercise boost did wonders for me; I have never felt better.

But summer came crashing to a halt this week, and I am super dad once again.  I guess I’ll have to find another way to keep the old blood pressure down.

And something peculiar has happened to my kids:  They are getting out of bed all on their own. They are getting themselves dressed and doing all those things that I used to do for them.  Are they becoming independent?  Strange how that happens. I guess sometimes a break does the body good in many ways.


September 1st, 2011

submitted by a professional faculty mom of a 16 year old son:

My son got a cell phone for his 13th birthday. In reality, it was more for my convenience and peace of mind than his. He was starting to get himself around town on the bus, go places without us on occasion and it was a lesson in responsibility. We had LONG conversations about appropriate use, being responsible about the use of his minutes, keeping it turned off and stashed in his locker when at school, etc. It also enabled him to be in close touch with grandparents, aunts and uncles and friends…..a rite of passage. Texting was added to his plan at age 15. Again, it served my purposes as much as his. He could text me when he got home from school and if I was in a meeting, I could text back “do your homework” and check that off my ‘things to be concerned about’ list. He would sometimes text me to come get him before an event was over and he was ready to come home. He has been great about utilizing both the phone and texting options as we had intended.

At various points along the way we had many conversations about how what you put on email, the internet and text messages can exist forever, and sometimes in really uncomfortable way. We talked about how what you say electronically represents yourself, your family, your school and your friends. We talked about the Monica Lewinsky emails and we used the analogy of putting whatever you said on a billboard alongside I-5 because that’s how many people would see it. To be honest, I was kind of patting myself on the back about how things were going and how responsible he was.

I get up first in our household and one morning I did my son the favor of plugging in his phone because the battery was nearly dead. When I did, I saw that he had 8 unread texts from “Megan”. I don’t know Megan. I gave in to my curiosity. What I read curled my very straight hair. I am no puritan, but what I read made me want to run upstairs and snatch him out of bed by his hair. Visions of that I-5 billboard danced in my head. Instead, I went out for a long walk and calmed down and decided to sit with his new found activity for a while. Sexting? MY kid? REALLY!!?? Teenage girls can be kind of predatory, but it takes two to tango, right? I was faced with the dilemma of deciding what to do and not wanting to alienate him or send him underground. Oh….and the icing on the cake? The girl’s mother went to school with my husband. They have been friends for a very, very long time.

In the end, I carried the situation around for several days. When I could speak without screeching I told him I wanted to talk to him about his texting with Megan. His face was a mixture of relief and embarrassment and fear. Real fear. His words came pouring out….”Oh my gosh, Mom, I barely know her, I don’t know what to do so I just keep responding, if I don’t respond she just texts me again.” I reminded him that the things he had said were pretty raunchy. He apologized, squirmed with embarrassment and asked me what to do. My response? “Text her and tell her your mother read your texts and this stops now. Right now. Tell her to take your number out of your phone. Take her number out of yours. For God’s sake, hope that her mother hasn’t read it. And tell her that if it happens again your mother will kick your ass and tell her mom.”

All of this happened six months ago. I admit, I occasionally check his texts. I even asked him about Megan recently. He squirmed a little and said she never spoke to him again. We talk about freely, as we always have. He has a girlfriend. She thinks sexting is stupid. Finally, someone with some credibility!!

I’m glad I make this look easy.

August 15th, 2011

Written by a Graduate Student Mom of 4 year old daughter, 18 month old son

The other day I was speaking to one of my professors. He informed me that his wife had just had their first baby. I congratulated him on the new addition to the family. We commenced with the typical talk that comes with new babies (boy or girl, how old, how big, etc). Then I mentioned that it must be nice for all of this to be happening during summer. That it makes for an easier transition back to work. His response was something to the effect of, “Yeah it’s hard sometimes, but I figure if you can do it with such ease then I have no room to complain.”
The reason for the emphasis on you is that my professor knows I have two kids under the age of five and one of them is chronically ill. Going to school with kids is hard enough. It is even harder with a chronically ill child. Sending emails from day surgery waiting rooms asking for extensions on homework. Explaining that you know you just missed a week of class because your son was in the hospital, but now your daughter is sick and has to stay home. Fortunately for me I have been blessed with professors like the one I was speaking to. Professors and TAs who are understanding and appreciative of my hard work. Who are flexible with time, tests and assignments. They are invested in my success and I appreciate that. A lot.
Still I stood there wondering, “How on earth do I make this look easy?” My response to this professor was simply, “Oh…well thanks!” What I should have said was, “Well I’m glad I make it look easy, but this shit is hard! The only reason I make it appear easy is because of the support I have around me; the support of my friends and family as well as the support of the OSU community.”
I would like to extend a big thank you to those professors and TAs who understand that my family status and son’s condition do not affect how well I understand Eigen values or IM/LS curves. Thank you to those who understand that I am trying to build a better future for myself and my family and that it presents unique challenges which simply need a little flexibility and understanding.

Following Through

August 10th, 2011

By a classified staff mom of  a daughter (8), a son (6) and a daughter (3):

My 8 and 6 year old are starting to participate in activities.  Activities as in: ballet, baseball, basketball, swimming lessons, piano lessons and the list goes on.  I do try and limit them to one activity per season/term.  Sometimes there is overlap that happens, particularly for my daughter who has been participating in ballet that goes all school year long.  I am always challenged with trying to keep myself sane in getting them to their activities, but also providing them with many opportunities.

I will start by saying that, I don’t really care if my kids are ever “standouts” in any one particular activity, but what I do hope is that they have opportunities.  Opportunities to be a “standout”. Opportunities to be good at many activities.  Opportunities to be good at one activity.  Opportunities to learn, grow, change, practice, feel success and defeat, enjoy, love, dislike.  Opportunities to experience.  I do enjoy watching my kids participate in activities and love cheering them on.  It is rewarding for me as a mom, to see them be successful (or hopefully at least try their best) at the activities they participate in whether it comes natural or they have to practice and work at it.

One of the challenges along the way has been commitment (my word) or following through (the kid word).  They choose to participate in an activity, but then for various reasons, don’t want to participate any more.  This happens after I have already paid for the activity and they have started participating.  As I said before, I don’t really care if they are “standouts” or good at many activities, but I do feel it is my obligation to teach them to be committed…to follow through.  If you sign up for an activity then you follow through with the activity for the duration of time that it lasts, typically one season.  If you never want to participate again, that is fine.  At least you tried it and followed through.  Then I begin to wonder though…am I pushing them away from that activity forever, because I made them finish what they started and what they said they wanted to participate in?  (I never sign them up for an activity unless they say they want to participate in the first place.)  Will my daughter ever try basketball again after I continued to take her to practice and games when she didn’t want to go?  I never made her play in a game, but I told her that she was part of the team and that she had to at least go and watch her teammates and cheer them on.  She was not even thrilled about that.  Or will she never participate, because she doesn’t think she is good at it?  Or maybe she just doesn’t like it?  I don’t really know.  I guess time will tell.  A similar situation happened with my son and swimming lessons.  And now it is piano lessons and my daughter.  (She apparently didn’t realize there would be “homework”.)  J

For me it is a challenging dilemma.  I want them to learn about commitment and following through.  I don’t want them to think that they can just sign up for activities and then quit whenever they want…whether they don’t like it or they think it is too hard or they think they aren’t good enough or whatever the case may be.  On the other hand, I don’t want them to dislike something just because their mom made them continue to participate at some level when they didn’t want to at all.  I can just hear my daughter in middle school…”I don’t play basketball, because my mom forced me to play in 1st grade.  She made me go to all the practices and games, even though I didn’t want to.  Now I don’t like basketball at all.”  I struggle with knowing what I should do.  Which way is the best?  Will there be long term affects either way?  Or will it matter at all in the long term?

  • What is this?

    Here in the basement of Kerr, in the office of Childcare & Family Resources, we hear stories. Weird, heartwarming, horrific, sad, and stories so funny they draw in a crowd. We think you need to hear these stories. You need to know of the single undergraduate student with two kids. You need to hear about the tenure track dad expecting his first baby, the classified staff couple that can’t afford childcare on two incomes, the professional faculty whose partner was just laid off. How she just potty trained Jr. while working full time. How he negotiated more leave. How the professor extended her deadline. How she manages to pump and still type emails. How he brought his baby to class.

    So we invite you, parents of OSU, to come here and share your stories: the good, the bad, and the crazy. What you do is amazing, and the whole campus needs to know about it.