It’s okay that it’s hard

I have written very little on this blog about my work in higher eduction and academic advising. I think this is mostly because I fear being honest in such a public forum. In my personal and professional experiences, I have found that really, really honest people such as myself are usually labeled as negative, or nay-sayers, or resistant to change, or blockers. Or, I think people are going to ask, “why do you do what you do if you don’t like it?” Or, they have actually said that to me.

I am reading Glennon Melton’s book, Carry On, Warrior. I cannot put it down. Yesterday, I read this gem:

“I love having written. And I love having parented. My favorite part of each day is when the kids are put to bed and Craig and I sink into the couch to watch some quality TV, like Wife Swap and congratulate each other on a job well done. Or a job done, at least.

Every time I write something like this, readers suggest that I’m being negative. I have received this particular message four or five times: G, if you can’t handle the three you have, why do you want a fourth? That one always stings, and I don’t think it’s quite fair. Parenting is hard. Just like lots of important jobs are hard. Why is that the second a mother admits that it’s hard, people feel the need to suggest that maybe she’s not doing it right? Or that she certainly shouldn’t add more to her load. Maybe the fact that it’s so hard means she IS doing right, in her own way, and she happens to be honest.”

(Melton, 2013, p. 113)

BAM! YES! I totally and completely agree with everything she writes about parenthood in this passage. And, all I have to do is substitute “student affairs” or “higher education” or “academic advising” or “being a working parent” for “parenting” and it describes most of what I have been feeling as a professional.

I don’t particularly get my students right now. They are frustrating to me. I think it is completely inappropriate that they come to appointments with me totally unprepared.”Tell me about your program” they say. So, I smile, launch into my spiel and do my job. But on the inside, I am saying to myself, “That’s not a question. Please come back when you are really ready for this meeting.”

Or, they are so prepared that all they do is recite the website back to me and then ask me if the content of the website is true. Seriously? Like I have the time, energy, or forethought to make stuff up on our website because I want to trick you and make more work for myself. I am not quite sure what all that is about. I am constantly evaluating and thinking about that. Generational differences? I have unrealistic expectations of student behavior? All of the above? None of the above?

I think right now my job is hard because I am not saying everything I think. I am not being honest. I am biting my tongue so hard I am surprised it hasn’t fallen off. Somehow in this profession, honest got translated as mean and being developmental means treating students like Faberge eggs. And, my frustration is that in student affairs I perceive that there is pressure to looooooooove what you do, all the time, all day every day.
Via Twitter and Facebook and professional organizations, I am constantly barraged with messages that professional frustration equates to unprofessionalism or lack of fit. I wonder if I am alone in this? I wonder if my colleagues- especially my fellow working-parent, mid-career, dual-career couple colleagues- feel the same way?

I would love to hear from you. What are your experiences with your job? Are you frustrated? It’s okay if you are. It’s okay if you aren’t. Are you allowing yourself to feel that way? Why or why not? Reading about another mother’s experience gave me space to confess that right now, it’s hard. It’s okay that it’s hard. It wasn’t always this way. It won’t stay this way.

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