My parental status doesn’t matter…or does it?

I recently read a blog post about a female entrepreneur who also happened to be a stay-at-home-mom. She put a great deal of energy into her business and wound up with physical representations of stress that landed her in her doctor’s office. Her doctor told her she was trying to hard to be a good mom on top of running her own business. She comes back at him with the idea that something like that would never be said to a man; ‘You’re trying to hard to be a good dad in addition to running your own business.’

I was in complete agreement with this post until the reactions I received from a recent Facebook post. I had posted about how well I done academically this past semester as a full-time student who works full-time and also, some how, found the time to write and pass my PhD preliminary exam as well. That is a lot to accomplish in three and half months and I am quite proud of my perseverance. There were a few people who posted about me also being a mother.

At first, I had the same reaction the woman who ran her own business did when her doctor commented on her parental status. If my husband had posted the same comment on his Facebook page, would people comment on the fact that he is a father as well? I doubt it. Even though him being a good father is just as important to him as me being a good mother is to me, why did my parental status matter? Who cares that I am mother? What does that have to do with the price of eggs?

Later, it hit me. While it is true my husband would not have gotten the same comments about his parental status as I did, the fact that people know I am mother is not a bad thing. It is hard work to balance a full-time job, a full academic load, and a high energy three and half year old boy. However, it is possible. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to make it all fit. You will not let distractions and excuses get in the way.  My parental status in combination with my successes show other mothers what is possible. It can be done. You can be a good mother while working full time and pursuing higher level degree. I am the proof.

Because I am the proof that it can be done, I need to be OK with being a mom, no matter what goal or dream I am chasing down next.

Until next time…

Planning for times when enough is enough

In the work of student affairs there are times when high levels of student crisis and followup seem to dominate the vast majority of hours in our work day as well as after-hours attention. There are key times during the year when we can anticipate a spike in this type of workload (near mid-terms or finals) and then there are times where it just simply hits the fan.

It’s important to have a plan in place for your well being during these times. Thinking through and developing a plan during ‘down times’ will help you be able to put your plan into action when you approach your limits.

A few questions to consider as you put your plan into place:

1. Identify your pinch hitters. Who in your work setting can you call on to help you get through the heavy and intense workloads that come with high student crisis and follow up? Write down their names, strengths, and contact information. Keep this list short. Having this list will help you to be able to quickly identify who to ask for help in whatever area you need help.

2. Identify aspects of your workload that can be delegated or put on hold. Sometimes, you just need a couple of days to solely focus on students in crisis and the associated follow up. Not all of your work needs to be done right now. The world will go on if you need to put a couple of things on hold for a few days. Periodically make a list of few items that can be easily placed on the back burner for a moment. On that list, write down with whom you need to connect to put these projects on hold for a few days. Knowing what can be put on pause and who needs to know you have pushed the pause button will better help you manage your workload.

3. Identify who can help your team. Often times, it’s not just you going through these times. Your team is helping ensure student follow up and care is happening as it should along side you. Write down a few names of people you can call on to assist your staff. I recommend writing down a few names at the same level of your staff as they understand finer details of that level often better than you or your peers do. Next to their names, also include strengths and contact information. Having this information on hand will help you to quickly ask others to step in for your staff before they reach the burn out.

4. Identify time for you. When student crisis and intense follow up situations take several days to complete, be sure to take a moment to allow yourself a time out. Then, take the time out! Contact the people you have already identified if needed to cover your workload while you step out to take care of you, even if for a moment.

5. Prep your team for these moments. Have them write down a plan. Then, during these high times, remind them of their plan and give them the permission they might need to put the plan into place.

While we might not always be able to anticipate times of high student crisis and follow, we can still plan on how to accomplish the work that needs to be done and avoid hitting our breaking point.

It’s important to remember your self care is your responsibility.  There are environments and levels where a supervisor doesn’t or no longer checks in with you as they did when you were a new professional. If you don’t develop these skills, you will continually burn yourself out and then you will not be able to serve students well.

What strategies have you put into place? How do you manage times of intense student crisis and follow up on top of your everyday workload?