Baylor babies teach profs to juggle demands

Dan and Sarah Walden both juggle teaching at Baylor with taking care of their 1-year-old son Liam. The Waldens say that they stick to a strict routine when it comes to caring for Liam. Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
Dan and Sarah Walden both juggle teaching at Baylor with taking care of their 1-year-old son Liam. The Waldens say that they stick to a strict routine when it comes to caring for Liam.
Travis Taylor | Lariat Photo Editor
By Ada Zhang
Staff Writer

At work, they grade papers and administer tests. At home, they change diapers and feed babies.

Many Baylor professors are not only teaching, but also raising young children. Academic couples at Baylor said they work together so they can achieve success in the workplace and at home.

According a Social Science and Medicine academic article, family life in developed countries is unique in that both parents are bread-winners. With both parents working, it becomes necessary for parents to coordinate schedules to appease one another and the needs of their children.

Dr. Sarah Walden, assistant professor in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, is married to Dr. Dan Walden, assistant professor of English. Both are full-time professors. Their son, Liam Walden, just turned one.

“The great thing about an academic faculty job is you have flexible hours,” Walden said.

Walden said she and her husband follow a consistent morning routine to get themselves ready for work and Liam ready for daycare.

“So in the morning, I get up and get ready,” Walden said. “Dan wakes up Liam and changes the diaper and brings him to me for his first bottle. Dan gets ready while I feed Liam his first bottle. We play with Liam for 15 minutes. I feed him cereal and fruit while Dan makes daycare bottles. Then Dan gets him dressed for daycare while I get packed up for work. Then at that point we take him to daycare.”

Walden said she and her husband teach from 8 a.m until 3 p.m,., at which time they pick Liam up from daycare. Liam is usually in bed by 6 p.m., Walden said.

Walden said one of the challenges of being both a mom and a professor is compartmentalizing her time.

“Trying to finish all your work in a business day is hard,” she said. “The great thing about it is that I have designated certain times of day to do certain things. Three to six is all baby time. It’s hard at first because you’re at school missing your baby, but once you get into the rhythm, you say, ‘These are the times of the day I do these things.’”

Walden said the roles of educator and mother are complementary to each another. Each contributes to the other, making her better at both, she said.

Walden said she openly talks about Liam to show students they don’t have to choose between motherhood and a career.

“You can be fulfilled in multiple ways,” Walden said. “You don’t have to choose one over the other. I find work and motherhood to be fulfilling, and they don’t conflict.”

Walden’s co-workers are supportive and understanding, she said, because many of them have kids of their own. They are even thinking about planning an event where their kids can play with one another, she said.

Like Walden, Dr. Michael-John DePalma, assistant professor of rhetoric and composition in the Professional Writing program, is also a full-time professor with a young child. He is married to Courtney DePalma, the Honors Residential College program director. Their daughter, Lily, is 18 months old.

While DePalma and his wife are at work, Lily’s grandmother takes care of her. DePalma said his mother and mother-in-law alternate taking care of Lily every six weeks. DePalma’s sister-in-law helps as well, he said.

Whether it’s feeding or taking walks with Lily, DePalma said him and his wife do not delegate care-taking duties; they do things together.

“I think of ways to make Courtney’s life easier and she does same for me,” DePalma said. “If one person is busier than the other person, then we will work together. For most part, we try to experience everything together. That wouldn’t be possible without the support of extended family.”

Like Walden, DePalma said he tries to be efficient at work so that at home, he can be engaged and present with Lily.
Being a father to Lily has influenced his teaching in a positive way, DePalma said.

“Even though there’s more coordinating, she’s allowed me to be more balanced,” he said. “So much of my time and thoughts and energy is focused on her that I think I’m less apt to maybe obsess about things that I might have before. It’s allowed me to keep things in perspective in a way that’s been healthy.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Sarah Walden was mistakenly referred to as adjunct faculty when she is an assistant professor. We apologize for this mistake.