I am fortunate to have had two residential periods at Eddies. I arrived at St Edmund’s for the first time in 2001 from a rural New Hampshire town in the United States (U.S.) to study Education. I was a single graduate student with one very clear goal in mind; finish the degree. Little did I know that Eddies would furnish me with more than a degree, including a life partner, the then CR President, Peter Brereton. As Women’s Officer from 2002-2003 an issue I spent significant time working on was supporting mothers at Eddies.
Eddies was much smaller then. I saw support for families with young children as another important way the CR could embrace the diversity that makes it so special. Welfare Officer, Ayeesha Lall, and I took on this initiative with tremendous support from Dr Judith Bunbury and Dr Helen Mason, hosting family play dates in the CR and taking time to visit with families in an effort to understand what their needs were and how to support them. While I was passionate about this work, I had no idea at the time how important support for families with young children at the college really was.
In 2010 I returned to Eddies as a Visiting Scholar. This time I had more than one pressing goal. I was there to collect data for a research project under the leadership of Dr Lani Florian. I was also 5 months pregnant with twins. My new set of goals included; deliver babies, keep babies alive and collect data. Friends and family in the United States were concerned about our decision to be so far away from a support network and medical care that we knew well. As it turns out, Eddies was an excellent place for us to begin our adventures in parenting. Prior to delivering our children, I learned quite a lot about child birth from a delightful group of Vet students who entertained me with the similarities and differences of human childbirth and the birth of lambs and calves. Once the babies were born, there were endless arms belonging to students, fellows and staff alike, all quite eager to hold crying infants. Judith Bunbury showed up most Thursdays at 5 PM (the time of day when babies are especially fussy) to scoop up a baby (in her most impressive moments she managed to scoop up two). Adulis Beyenne was often found minding the Porter’s Lodge with our daughter asleep on her shoulder. And, Debbie Sabric tended to have our son snuggled into the sleeves of her gown at college events.
It was during this first year of parenting at Eddies that Lani Florian shared a piece of essential advice with me. I worried that I would not be able to produce the work I was there to do. How could I accomplish the necessary results with an average of 2 hours of sleep a night? I confessed to Lani that I thought I would have to terminate my project. She asked me if that was what I really wanted to do. Of course it was not at all what I wanted to do. Lani advised me to come back to work when I was ready and told me that in her experience, working mothers produce excellent results. I found this statement hard to believe at the time but my deep respect for her left me open to the possibility that she might be right. I have now had the title of ‘working mother’ for 8 years. As the Vice President for Academics with Endeavor Schools, I support 43 schools across 11 U.S. states. I am passionate about my work and I cherish being with my own children. The ‘balance’ is not always straightforward but Lani was right. I work differently as a mother and that difference is an asset to the schools I serve. Likewise, my time at work has positive outcomes for the children in my home. Women like Lani, Judith and Helen also emboldened me to seek out employers, like my current supervisor, Ricardo Compo, who value the contributions of working mothers on their teams. I am fortunate to have had Eddies women in my life when I became a mother. They provided support and modelling that helped me to live into my motherhood and into my scholarship without compromise.
And let’s be honest, having a college orchard as a back garden, Father Michael Robson lead your christening and a trolley of biscuits that magically appears every day is a nifty way to begin one’s life.