Talking Stick - May/June 2017 - 61
and William Smith Colleges; Torry
Brouillard-Bruce, senior director of
student housing and residential education at the University of the Pacific in
Stockton, California; and Kristie Jerde,
assistant director of residence life outreach and assessment at North Dakota
State University in Fargo.
Talking Stick: How do you see parenting play out in the work place?
That is, how do you see parents
being treated in the student life
and housing environment?
Chris Stone-Sewalish: So much of
this is based on the values of not just a
department, but a division and institution. I think it's a fallacy to believe
that only other professionals with kids
understand, or can be truly accommodating to, the lifestyle of having
children. This is also rooted in the idea
that all parents, and all family situations, are unique and have their own
set of norms. While I don't like talking
about "fit" as much, I do believe that
it's important to be at a place that
appreciates, or at least respects, your
values. Parenting is a part of that. I've
heard parents say they think those
with children are treated unfairly, and
I've heard the converse, that those with
children are given special treatment.
That has much less to do with children
and much more to do with how a team
communicates and works together.
Shelle Basilio-Murray: Being a new
parent, I feel a tremendous amount
of support from colleagues in terms
of finding the right balance of work
and family time. I think those with
children lean on each other for support
in the workplace.
Brandon B. Barile: How I see parents
being treated and how I feel my par-
enthood is being perceived are often
two different things. I don't see any
discrimination against or mistreatment of parents; in fact, I remember
in my interview being told how parentfriendly my work environment would
be for me.
But there seems to be a normative
factor I'm playing up against when I
try to balance my home life and work
life. I'm a director, and I'd like to attend
more events, but I also know my kid
(and partner) would like me to spend
a lot more time at home. I'm one of
only three professionals on my staff
who have kids, and only two of us have
young children. There has always been
an expectation that I respond as quickly
as possible to messages or needs (and I
guiltily decide that "as possible" means
within a few hours of getting a message, which means I'm often on my
laptop or phone while at home).
When a majority of my team (and
student affairs colleagues as well)
don't have children, there tends to be a
routine like "let's meet in the evening"
or "we're going out as a team at X
time, want to come?" when X time is
extremely inconvenient for me; and,
even if I wanted to, arranging childcare
(if, say, my partner wanted to come) on
a whim is extremely difficult. It's sad,
but I think sometimes being a parent
can exclude you from what is often a
very team-oriented environment.
Torry Brouillard-Bruce: Being a new
parent, this assessment of how being a
parent plays out in the work place is all
still kind of new. I have come to notice
some things that I assumed to be true,
but now that I have a kid it has been
confirmed, at least in my experience. If
you are in a workplace dynamic where
there are staff with kids and staff without, the natural tendency is to deflect
after-hours work to those without kids.
As more people have children, that
will result in piling more work on staff
Kristie Jerde: I believe it depends
on the nature of your position. As an
assistant director who deals more with
the operation side of housing during
the year, I have felt very supported.
Most of our team members have children, so they understand the demands
TS: What kind of pressure do
parents feel, and how do they deal
Stone-Sewalish: So much of being
in a job that's about people is providing for others. And in any kind of
parenting or mentorship role that's
something that's just kind of inherent.
Personally, my pressure is perhaps
more self-imposed. I want to do great
work for my team, peers, supervisor, and institution, while also being
the best parent and partner I can be.
This pressure ebbs and flows with the
year - that's what makes the res life
lifestyle an interesting one through the
lens of parenting. It's hard to admit
you're not always at your best in every
area. Sometimes the consequences
are greater in other areas at different
points in the year. We need to be honest with ourselves and those around us
when we see or feel that pressure coming. We also need the self-awareness to
Basilio-Murray: I think parents often
feel pulled in a million directions.
Every day we are making choices about
how to spend our time. Do I miss an
important meeting or send my child to
daycare with a fever? I believe that as
parents we put an incredible amount
of pressure on ourselves to be the best
MAY + JUNE 2017