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From Crayons to Coffee Cups Balancing family life with work

     Call it work-life balance, work-life coexistence or simply life, but balancing responsibilities can be stressful in an active world. People have vastly different views on what it takes to maintain a healthy work-life balance, and many don’t even agree that the term “balance” itself is useful. As Hillary Clinton says, “Don’t confuse having a career with having a life.” The media often presents us with the picture of the hard-working husband and the stay-at-home wife. Felicity Huffman’s portrayal of the neurotic control-freak Lynette Scavo on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” manages to be a rare example that subverts this trope to a fair degree; she works her career in the corporate world and manages to raise her children at the same time. This inspired me to seek out some real life humans here at Eastern University who represent successful faculty and staff that raise families and still manage to put food on the table. So, armed with pencil and notebook in hand, I went undercover as an intrepid Drew Barrymore-esque reporter to uncover just how they do it, and why they love what they do.

     Right off the bat, I discovered that quite a few professors, staff and faculty were simply just too busy to even have time to sit down and answer my questions. An understandable reaction, but this is just what I am looking for. Sometimes, there are those who are just so devoted to their work that they throw themselves into work and then go home to be there for their children. Despite this, I manage to snag three hard-working people in my net. I start with Lizette Peck, who is the testing coordinator for the Cushing Center for Academic Support, located on the third floor of Walton. Ms. Peck has four children, two girls and two boys, and she explains that she loves raising her children. Just having the pleasure of spending time as a family is one of her greatest delights. When asked how she does it, Peck explains that her family uses Google Calendar for the family’s whole schedule–a different color for each person, and they share a Google Doc for day-to-day stuff.

     “My husband teaches middle school, so he is home before me to get the kids to after-school activities and prepare dinner,” she explains.

     Tasks such as grocery shopping are done on weekends. And luckily, she explains, “[My] kids were taught how to do their own laundry early.” When asked what she loves most about her job here at Eastern, she states, “Helping students succeed and become the best that they can be,” a fine sentiment that I think rings true for all faculty and staff here at Eastern University.

     Sometimes, raising children and working is not always easy. As history professor Chris Butynskyi explains, “The reality is that it never feels like a balance, but sacrifice and trade. One cannot be really good at both equally. It is a myth created by a society that convinces parents that both need to work in order to maintain production, efficiency, progress, etc.” He states, “I have to sacrifice time and energy all the time to do one or the other. When I do try to lend time to my work, I find that I must do it at the expense of time with my kids.” He provides a very wise response in regards to what he loves most about his kids, saying that “I joke. The best part of raising children is having a front-row seat to their development. I get to watch them struggle, succeed, fail, play, discern and mature. We cannot keep all of the moments of their lives in our memories, but what we do piece together is worthwhile.” Those last words are very sentient in nature.

     Finally, I speak with Benjamin Howard, director of Student Life and a new father to a beautiful baby girl. Howard explains that he is still learning the process of being a new parent, but that he “[will] fully learn as the semester progresses and hits a more predictable routine.” He explains that “it’s all so new, and with a newborn it seems like every day is different.” His daughter is just learning now how to smile, something Howard believes to be beautiful and worth celebrating. In terms of his job, Howard loves interacting with students, commenting, “I enjoy it when students stop by to talk about life or even theology.”

     I am delighted to see the amount of care Eastern has for its students. Lizette, Christopher and Benjamin are just three examples, but I feel every parent who works at Eastern is attempting to strike the right balance between time spent on their career and time spent nurturing a family. This is not without hard work and sacrifice, however. Each interviewee explains that there are some things that they hope could change in the near future, such as more flexible work hours and better family leave policies. Perhaps, in the future, we may see things change.

     You are not Superman and Wonder Woman, and you can’t do everything, but you spend what time you have on this earth doing as much as you can.

     Sources: Interviews With Chris Butynskyi, Benjamin Howard, Lizette Peck

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