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Michelle Tichy and Alexisandria
Michelle Tichy (Education) and her daughter Alexisandria
Love is patient, love is kind
By Michelle Tichy, Assistant Professor of Education

Integrating full-time parenting and full-time work means finding balance in the moment

After my daughter’s birth, I had the love and support of my entire family for the way I was parenting, and thought nothing of bringing her with me as I returned to work and school.

When Alexisandria was born, I was still writing my dissertation at the University of Minnesota. I had been learning to balance work and life in a meaningful fashion. I made the choice to “attachment parent” my daughter, a philosophy that promotes the nurturing of strong connections between parents and their children. I returned to the university with my newborn baby in tow. I was confident in my ability to balance full­-time parenting with being a full-­time doctoral candidate and a part­-time multicultural counselor.

During those first days I had my ups and downs, learning to juggle an infant while working on the computer or answering the telephone. I was blessed with some wonderful undergraduate students who loved babies and enjoyed taking Alexisandria on brief breaks from my office. I found a smooth flow in my day­-to-­day work; I enjoyed having my baby in my arms while I was working on projects. I was able to compile all my data and to begin outlining the first draft of my dissertation while nursing my little girl.

Alexisandria rarely cried and as long as I was holding her we had amazingly smooth sailing during the six hours a week we spent in class. Meetings in my department were similarly affirming experiences, with my advisor and peers supportive and caring to my daughter and myself. However, when I started a new workshop on cross­disciplinary research, the professor was painfully clear about her belief that bringing a newborn to her classroom was disrespectful to herself and the other adults. The implication was that a mother with a baby would undermine the serious nature of the workshop, and thus I was unwelcome in that intellectual environment.
Web extra
Read an essay by Jeff Kratz ’92 for a story of a father's love. >>MORE

My work world was complicated, too. I had seen the office of multicultural affairs as a very friendly and supportive work environment. My whole perception shifted when we had a full office meeting. One senior colleague began making comments under her breath regarding her inability to concentrate with “those horrible little noises.” Finally she asked me to leave, because she could not concentrate “with the sounds of cooing and gurgling.”

By the time my daughter was six months old I had awoken to the fact that my being an empowered mother and a doctoral candidate was highly threatening to the status quo at one university, and in many ways to the broader community. The road I have taken has often made those who are comfortable feel uneasy.

I spent a great deal of time trying to find like-minded women; this was a bigger challenge then I had expected. I found support through La Leche League and attachment parenting groups, where I met passionate, progressive women, most of whom had the ability to be stay-at-home mothers. I found validation through two wonderful magazines, Brain Child and Mothering. That two magazines were the closest things to a community I was able to find was disheartening on many levels, yet I was and still am extremely grateful that these resources exist.

I sought out conversations with women of all ages and stages regarding their ideas on mothering. These conversations helped me claim my voice as a woman who has chosen to become a mother while continuing her active presence in the broader world. I choose not to spend my time dedicated to my work while my daughter is in the care of others. I choose not to be the stay-at-home or “sequencing” mother. These are valid and important choices for women, just not the roles for me. I am finding my balance on a daily basis and striving to be the best woman and mother that I can be in the moment.

Since my daughter’s birth, I have completed and defended my dissertation. I successfully sought a position at a smaller liberal arts college where I could maintain balance in my life: it was a position that came with the perk of an on­-site center where my daughter could attend preschool.

I continue to bring Alexisandria with me to all of my conferences, although now she spends her time playing with a babysitter or other children while I am presenting. She now frequents my office less because she is a blossoming kindergartener and enjoys her after­-school programs as well. I do not pretend to know what will work for anyone else, but I am glad that I have been able to find a way to parent that is grounded in the deepest love I know.

Tichy’s research interests include early childhood education, moral development, social interdependence and holistic learning. This article draws on material presented at the National Women’s Studies Association and Association for Research on Mothering conferences.

Spring 2010 magazine

Web extraLook here for web-only content that expands on topics presented in the current St. Norbert College Magazine (PDF).

Text Extra Too 'Old School’ for our own good?
President Tom Kunkel challenges colleges and universities to embrace new ways of delivering higher education.

Text Extra A new face in the cafe
Steve Pyne (Dining Services), who has Down syndrome, was profiled in this recent article in the student newspaper, the St. Norbert Times.

Audio La Perichole
St. Norbert College Magazine dropped in on a rehearsal for this three-act operetta production, to be staged on campus.

Video More than a photo
A gallery of images from a trip that connected a child in Kenya with his sponsors in the United States.

Text Extra A father’s love
Jeff Kratz ’92 offers a unique perspective on a father’s love.

Audio Words from life
The poetry of Ken Zahorski (English, Emeritus) deals with fathers and sons, phases of life and familiar figures remembered across the years.

Video World view
Gratzia Villarroel (Political Science) speaks with Dean Michael Marsden on international issues and educational opportunities.

Audio Man of property
Joe Jones ’12 sits down with Mike Dauplaise ’84 to discuss an education in entrepreneurism and the launch of Jones’ third business. He is 21 years old.

Text Extra Dick Bennett on Gary Grzesk
The basketball legend remembers his years presiding over the storied defensive career of Grzesk, current coach to the Green Knight men.

Story ideas? Your ideas for future magazine stories are most welcome. Write to the editor with any suggestions or comments.

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