“Required Coursework for Student Affairs: Parenting 101” by Cindy Kane

I was never a “kid person.” We all know these people. These are people who made money babysitting in high school, always knew what to say to kids to make them giggle and dreamed of a big family. I did always hope I would be a mom, but never really quite understood what made those little people tick. As much as I despise parenting analogies related to student affairs work, I will also confess that I got a bit of the “parenting fix” from helping my fantastic students every day.

“Oh, but things will change when you have kids.”

I’m sure there are a number of women out there who have heard that unsolicited advice from many wise and experienced people as much as I used to in earlier phases of my career. Today, I’m a parent to a little boy who is almost seven. He just lights up my life and he is definitely the force behind most everything I do.

Before I was married and before I became a parent, I remember thinking about having children as a decision that would require me to choose a priority for my work or a priority for my family and that choosing one meant that the other would be guaranteed to suffer. Just flip the channel and you could also then hear “you can have it all, but just not at once.”   Who do you believe? Can this all work in student affairs? Many have written of the “mommy wars” and the rift between women about the decision to work full time or make raising children the full time job. There’s also a certain radio commercial I hear regularly that asks me if “I’m concerned that someone else is raising my children while I’m at work.” (insert daily expletives here and nearly miss driving off the road).

You will never hear my husband talk about anyone judging his career choices and he’s a model dad when he makes a point of getting home in time to have dinner with us. He also doesn’t experience what happens when you’re at the birthday party with the group of moms that all volunteer in the classroom.  “Oh, you work…”  I don’t know that men stand around judging each other’s life choices.

I’ve made the decision to stick with a pretty overwhelming job in student activities even after becoming a parent. This choice is one that meets some criticism (hoping it’s a good guess that my mom isn’t reading this) and there are even more critics who think I am nuts for pursuing my doctorate. I decided to start the doctorate, although going at a slow pace, because of my interest in investing in my own future. I stay in the job, even if at a frantic pace, for much broader reasons.

My response to these critics is simple. Being in student affairs makes me a better parent. Parenting also makes me a better leader in student affairs, too!

  • Parenting has taught me the true meaning of the word “emergency” and how to apply that to student affairs.
  • Student affairs has taught me that there’s a way to offer both challenge and support to my students and that the same goes for my son.
  • Parenting has taught me a new definition of “busy” and student affairs has prepared me well to meet that challenge.
  • Student affairs has taught me about the definition of “inclusive,” and it has helped me to teach my son to be someone who will open his mind and heart to those he encounters from different backgrounds.
  • Parenting has taught me that there are only a certain number of hours in a day and that you have to choose the fewest number of #1 priorities. There’s no way to manage the student affairs workload without this same level of focus.

I know that I’m also in a place where I need to model a level of mastery of these roles for my staff and for my students. When we interact face-to-face about this topic I want them to know that the work/rest of life balance equation isn’t something to be solved. The work/rest of life negotiation process can be one that is a challenging but rewarding journey.  It’s all about your individual formula and has a lot of influence from your partner, your career, your coworkers/friends, your family, and your personal goals for yourself.

Sometimes choosing the right path means heeding the advice of the wise “board of advisors” in your life.  Other times, it means heading your own way. You are the only one who can write your own rules for what “balance” means.

I’m not saying I have it figured out by any means, but I’m compelled to tell you that trying to embrace all of the gifts this combination in life can offer is a pretty amazing combination of awesome.

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7 Comments

Filed under general, Parent/Family Issues, women, Work/Life Negotiation

7 responses to ““Required Coursework for Student Affairs: Parenting 101” by Cindy Kane

  1. Jennifer Keegin

    Wonderful! You definitely are hitting at the heart of what I go through everyday. I loved your list of things you’ve learned from Student Affairs that you apply to parenting a vice versa. Perfect!! Great piece.

  2. Laurie Berry

    Well written, Cindy! You captured what makes many of us better professionals. I have learned to negotiate my time based on many competing interests.

  3. Fabulous post! I can very much relate, even as the mother of a one-year-old. It’s a wonderful place to be in life where you both love going to work and love going home.

    I also see a PhD in my not-so-distant future, and it’s important to me to hold on to that dream so that I can be a role model for my daughter in pursuing both personal and professional goals.

  4. Love this! Several years ago our office set a target for itself: Everything we do must be good enough for our own kids and grandkids. It was an “aha” moment for us. In fact, some of our efforts didn’t make the mark. For our own kids, we would want more one-on-one conversations, smaller programs (rather than “bigger is better”), free books for our book discussions, etc. And these are some of the changes we’ve made. Our families are in our minds all the time, and this has really enhanced our work. Thanks for the great blog post!

  5. Cindy – This is a great post. Even though I don’t have children, I always hear myself saying, I’ll be less involved when I have kids, or how will I stay involved if I do have kids…this post gives me the clarity to understand that there are priorities in life, and as long as you know yours and those of your family, you really can have the best of both worlds. and yes, I did just quote a Hannah Montana song..must be all the time I spend with my friends’ kids and my own cousins! Thanks for sharing! You’re my inspiration!

  6. Great article! I actually often have this debate with my own mother. I am a newly Student Affairs professional…just started graduate school! Great balance of rational and emotional perspectives of being a parent and a professional. Thanks!

  7. Pingback: Required Coursework for Student Affairs: Parenting 101 (via WISA – KC) | Twenty-Two

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