Mason Staffers Discuss Parenting

Posted: April 5, 2010 at 1:01 am, Last Updated: April 2, 2010 at 1:54 pm

By Rashad Mulla

On March 17, a small group of Mason faculty and staff members gathered in a Johnson Center meeting room to talk about school systems, commuting, school aftercare and other child-related issues.

The meeting was the first Parent Support Group event held on campus. Event co-organizer, Heather Aleknavage, office manager of the Office of Sponsored Programs, also runs the Working Mom’s Support Group, established in February 2003. The Working Mom’s group meets twice a month during the semester and once a month in the summer.

Aleknavage has two children of her own – a son, 8, and a daughter, 3 – and she says the meetings are a good forum to share issues that may be common to other working Mason parents.

“I found it was good to talk to seasoned parents about time management, schools, summer camp and other issues,” she says. “You multitask at work, and then you come home and help everybody in your house too. It’s about finding the right balance.”

Meeting dates are announced on Today@Mason, and Aleknavage expects the Parent Support Group to continue. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 20, in the Johnson Center’s meeting room D.

While the Working Mom’s group has endured through the years, no such group existed for fathers. Two men attended the March 17 meeting, and Aleknavage hopes more will join.

Josh Cantor, director of Parking and Transportation and the father of three boys, ages 9, 7 and 2, says it’s important to be involved in the meetings.

“It’s with this working group cross-section that you get the most feedback and do the most things to help people,” he says. “There’s wisdom to share with others, and there are also new things to learn from people who have older kids.”

Parent Support Group co-organizer Janet Walker, work life and communications coordinator for Human Resources and Payroll and a mother of two – she has a son, 25, and a daughter, 20 – attends these meetings to share experiences with the younger staffers and to learn more about being a mother… and a mother-in-law. Her son just got engaged.

“The beauty of having older kids is that you can still remember when they were young,” she says. “I can relate to a lot of the things that moms and dads talk about because I have been through so much of it.”

She adds, “And I am living proof that you get through and come out the other side still standing.”

The Parent Support Group is another way Mason supports a balanced work life for its employees, along with options such as flexible hours and teleworking.

Write to gazette at gazette@gmu.edu