I’ve been a parent for six years now (longer if I count pet-parenting), almost as long as I’ve been in my current role at OSU. In some instances, the two roles feel at odds with each other as I experience a tension between working and being available to my kids. Certainly the 18 months of working from home blurred those lines considerably for me. But recently I’ve been trying to draw my roles as a parent and as a professional together in conversation. My orientation to listening and helping has changed as I consider how I relate to my very independent three-year old. She helps me see that I am quick to jump in and “help,” and most of the time that’s not what she wanted or asked for. It’s made me pause and clarify, “Do you want help?” and “What do you want that help to look like?” – a move that I am trying to flex more in other spaces as I check in with others about if and how they want me to engage.
I’ve asked a few colleagues to join me in thinking about how lessons learned from parenting impact who we are and how we approach our work.
Raina Martinez (Educational Opportunities Program)
“I have been a parent for 15 years now and one thing I have learned about being a parent that I can translate to my work counseling students is adapted from Maria Montessori, an educator from the turn of the 19th Century. Each experience is a time to learn. Not all experiences are going to be awesome or causes for celebration, quite the opposite, but we take away from these experiences learning, understanding and, hopefully, sometimes, grace, forgiveness and empathy. I can’t and shouldn’t stand in the way of experiences, lessons or progress; nor should I insert myself in any of these. Rather, I need to stand aside, guide and point out blocks along the way; but I must let them drive.”
Gabs James (College of Science)
“My kids inspired my master’s degree research, which is about celebrating gender expansiveness. Through supporting their gender journeys and discovering my own, I have brought these insights with me to the work I do with undergrads. We are all on a journey. Sometimes those journeys intersect, sometimes they need support, or encouragement to a roadside attraction. What’s been rad about parenting while being a graduate student and full-time student services professional has been the realization that we are co-creators of these journeys, not the architects of them. So, in a sense being a parent informs my work, and being a practitioner informs my parenting.”
Anne-Marie Deitering (OSU Libraries & Press)
“We became parents by adoption – one day everything was hypothetical and the next day we were parenting an almost-teenager. Now, the stereotypical narrative around parenting new teenagers is that parents go from the person with all of the answers to the person who just doesn’t get it. Of course, stereotypes can’t capture the whole of any experience (even when they contain some truth) and for our family, this one really didn’t. Adopting an older child means parenting someone who might not trust you enough to be honest with you. It can take a while before they will express themselves when they are worried or afraid, and it can take even longer for them to feel safe enough to full-on disagree with you. That lesson — that trust needs to be earned and that negative feedback based on trust is a gift – helps me every day in my work as a teacher, as a mentor and as a manager.”
Teresita Alvarez-Cortez (Office of Institutional Diversity)
“My daughter has helped me understand so much of the operating knowledge I take for granted. She often asks what things mean or why something happens the way it does. Most things I assume as common knowledge, like the fact you have to actually pay for the cool toy you want and not just walk out of a store 😊 But some knowledge is more subtle, like the fact that we need to take turns talking in a conversation. These are norms and expectations that are not always clearly “taught.” I think about this a lot when I am working with teams, especially as I help onboard new employees to a team. I ask myself: “What are the norms or expectations of our work environment that are unspoken or unclear?” Then, I try my best to be clear with my colleagues about how those cultural norms operate so they are able to successfully navigate our work environment.”
As a final note, I want to celebrate that knowledge can move in both directions. These roles in our lives are mutually complementary – growth in one area supports growth in another. It invites the question: what assets do parents bring to the work place? What assets do student parents bring to campus?