The Women in Housing series is a month-long project featuring the voices, stories, and experiences of women who currently or formerly work in housing and residence life. Today's post was written by Dr. Anne Stark, Ph.D.
My journey into housing is not far off the traditional path. I became a resident assistant in undergrad, realized you could do this work for a living, gave my degree a shot for a year before heading off to graduate school and beginning my career in housing and residence life. I have always liked what I do have been pretty good at it, for the most part. That changed for me about five years ago.
In March 2011, I was eight months pregnant and determined not to let this baby define my life. He would come, life would be a bit different, I’d get back to work, and all would reset itself. Or so I thought.
He did come. Two weeks late via an eviction notice… and had to be forcefully removed. It would have been a bag and tag scenario except you can’t really do that -- amniotic fluid and all.
Life was a lot of bits different! Severely sleep deprived and determined to make it all look easy, I returned to work with a strong façade. Naturally, I dropped a few balls upon my return. I had been out for two months and had forgotten a thing or two. There was one last mistake that sealed the deal for me. I was done. Staying at home was going to be my new career. It wasn’t easy. It was incredibly difficult!
And I walked away. I was the only parent in my peer group at work and felt very alone in my struggle. My struggle to adjust to my new normal. My struggle to return to work performing at the high level I was accustomed on much less sleep and fewer available hours in the day. My struggle to identify as a mother – it took me six weeks to kiss my baby boy. Not everyone is cut out for motherhood… even when you are holding that little miracle in your arms. My struggle to return my body to its athletic build. My struggle to reconnect with my husband. So I walked away.
I spent five months at home with my little guy. I thought it would be easier. Staying home is no joke! There are no sick days or mental health days or vacation days. You have no control over your schedule and your “boss” is incredibly demanding in that he expects you to stop whatever you are doing to feed him, change his diaper, change his clothes, clean up his vomit. Holy crap!
As I spent more days at home, I began to miss my work. I missed interacting with incredible humans and their brilliant brains. I missed building relationships with students. After five months, I called my previous director and thankfully there was a position open.
I no longer like what I do. I am no longer good at what I do. My time at home taught me that I love what I do! My time at home taught me that I am great at what I do. My time at home has made me a better working mom and wife. I have a purpose that is bigger than me. I have an insatiable drive for continuous improvement and learning.
Without my struggle into motherhood, I don’t know that I could confidently tell that I am working in the profession I feel I was born to serve.
I share this story to let new mothers know the struggle is very real. It will never be easier. You are not alone! And it can be amazing! The new Facebook group, S.A.M.S. (Student Affairs MomS) is an amazing resource for those who identify as mothers and currently or have worked in student affairs.
I love my little Monster and am grateful for him and the struggle every day!
Anne is the director of residence life and education at the University of Central Florida. She is an avid runner who embraces both her inner child and her actual child. She believes her work with first generation students in residence life helps to change family trees for generations!