From the Residence Hall to the Family Room


I spent thousands of dollars, hours of time and a third of my life pursuing a career in higher education. So after I had my second baby and gave all that up to stay home with my children, I reflected on that former life. My career may have changed drastically, but the education and experiences I’ve had have better prepared me for my current role as mommy. In fact, here are four lessons I learned on campus that are still applicable at home:

1. Stick to the rules and have a tough skin. I hate to make people mad; dealing with that was difficult as an associate dean and it still is as a mom. But I’ve learned it’s important to stick to the rules that have been set, even if they’re somewhat arbitrary. I may not know why hall open hours end at 11 p.m., but that’s the rule and I need to enforce it. And while I hated reading frustrated opinion articles in the school newspaper, it helped me to not take criticism so personally. That came in handy when the dinner I spent an hour preparing was thrown on the floor.

2. It’s important to find high-quality products, even when on a tight budget. Working with residence halls made me an expert on deferred maintenance, which is a fancy way of describing putting off projects until there’s more money. Unfortunately, money seems to always be tight (both for Christian colleges and for families), so it’s important to find quality products that won’t break in a year. I did a lot of research on residence hall furniture to find products that could handle the wear-and-tear of college students. Now I’m still looking for ways to get the most bang for my buck—shopping consignment stores for kids’ clothes and switching to bulk grocery retailers for most of our food, but knowing when to splurge on the good paper towels.

3. Confront sin, discipline out of love, and give grace. Confronting sin can be difficult, but when you have the ultimate good in mind for your child, you do what you have to do. It’s always important, however, to show love in the midst of that confrontation. When I was in a discipline meeting with a student who’d broken school rules, she might see my eyes well up with tears. When my daughter was born, there were times when my son was extra naughty, and while we didn’t let him get away with things, I also recognized when he needed extra attention and affection.

4. "Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us" (I Thessalonians 2:8). This was my life verse while working in student development, and it also applies to my current role. I love my kids so much that I want to share my life with them. I quit my job to stay home with them, I spend almost every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment with them, and their lives are my life. I do this because I want to invest in them, develop them, and help them grow to be the godly adults I pray they will be.

As I learned from my career, there is no substitute for true life-on-life relational ministry. So my kids will see me when I’m crying and having a bad day, they will watch me put something back because we don’t have the money right now, they will observe me reading my Bible, they will hear me laughing as we play hide-and-seek, and they will snuggle next to me while watching Curious George.

Would I have done all these things as a mom, even if I didn’t have a master’s degree and a dozen years of higher education experience? Probably. But my training and experience as a college professional definitely helped shape me into who I am today. I’m a better person because of that background—and I’m a better mommy too.

Emily Ford’s experience in college student affairs included two years as RD in Hospers Hall and a decade as an RD and associate dean of students at Covenant College. Recipient of a master’s degree from Geneva College, she now stays at home in Rossville, Ga., watching over Asher (6) and Kennedy (3) while also working for Kenco Fleet Services.

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