Advice

Reflections on Fatherhood: Love, Grace, + Balance

By Cameron Rhodes, NU Scholar and Member of the Mind and Body Wellness Student Organization

Mind and Body Wellness meets the fourth Thursday of every month and has online workouts on M, W, F of each week. Please email clubs@nu.edu for zoom info. For zoom monthly meetings, please logon: Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88463054505?pwd=cUpxN2ZVeXo1SjFZUStwUFJYWUNQZz09 Meeting ID: 884 6305 4505
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Cam Rhodes, NU Scholar, with Grant Robert Rhodes

As soon as I was old enough to understand what being a father meant sometime during my teenage years, I have looked forward to the day that I would receive the title of dad. That day came a short (or long depending on the previous night) two months ago when my son, Grant Robert Rhodes was born on the morning of June 27th, 2021.

Life from that point forward would be forever different than it was just a few hours before. There are a few things that I hope to accomplish in this blog post, by laying them out here will help me to keep this piece from being 20 pages long. I will describe a bit of my background as a kid growing up and what helped to shape my views of parenthood. Second, I will discuss the experience of pregnancy from my point of view, preparing for Grant, and how we are navigating new challenges presented every day. Last, I will share what it is like having our first child in the middle of a pandemic, while working full time in a small family business, while grinding through nursing school. I am not the first, nor will I be the last to have a story with this plot, but I hope to share a little bit about my unique experience with you.

Cam and his wife Katie welcome their son

 I was lucky as a kid who grew up in a small town surrounded by men that led with a passion to serve God, their families, community, and the next generation via coaching, teaching, and/or volunteering. As the 9 months of anxious anticipation passed, I took the time to reflect on the most impactful and memorable experiences that I had growing up as it related to the principles of parenthood.

I quickly realized that a reoccurring theme had begun to distinguish itself amongst my favorite memories that involved the men in my life, the display of unconditional love.

In the moment, as a child I obviously didn’t understand the implications of being treating as a son by all the men in my life, but it did help shape the way that I see my role as a man in society. It has helped me to construct a foundation of principles that I can model my behavior around to pay it forward to the next generation. It takes intentionality to break down the barriers of the well-established masculine culture that makes it easy to say, “toughen up” but difficult to express, “I love you.” While I give credit to the men I was surrounded by during my childhood, I can already hear the words coming out of their mouths, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). A refreshing reminder for me that these men were led by the creator of unconditional love, and that’s where my focus needs to be.

It takes intentionality to break down the barriers that makes it easy to say
“Toughen up” but difficult to say“I love you.”

Grant has brought so much joy to our family in the short time that he has been a part of it which began the day we found out my wife was pregnant. It was an answered prayer that we had been waiting for eagerly for close to 8 months.

Conception didn’t come easy for us, which took an emotional toll because we worked so hard to live a healthy lifestyle thinking that was the ticket for a baby.

There were many months of failure which led to mounting frustration coupled with the stress of maintaining grades and both of us working full time jobs. We learned how critical clear and consistent communication and grace for one another was (a theme that continues to hold supreme importance in parenthood). On a morning around the time of Thanksgiving, I was in the office working on a grant proposal and our big dogs came barging in to greet me when I noticed they had some new bandanas on. The tears started flowing as soon as I read the words on the bandana, “My parents are getting me a human.” The day had finally come that God had chosen for us to become parents. Looking back the timing Grant was conceived was perfect (His timing is always perfect).

As Katie began making both the physical and emotional transformation into motherhood, I quickly realized what a miraculous marvel childbearing is getting to experience it all secondhand. It just so happened that we had our obstetrics and pediatrics courses just a few short months before Grant would arrive. What an incredible opportunity it was to get to dive deeply into the physiological processes that occur in pregnancy and early childhood development while living it at the same time.

Parenthood and school work and work-work. All in one!

Sleep is a very coveted physiological process in our household as it is a foundational pillar of optimizing health. When Grant was born, sleep was no longer the main priority at night time, it was caring for the needs of our newborn child. Those first 3 weeks were really difficult; if I don’t get quality rest, I am far from my best. This led to a period of forced adaptation where I had to learn to perform under sleep deprivation – school wasn’t pausing, I couldn’t take time off work (only 3 people in our business), and in between I had to make the time to get some form of physical exercise in for my wellbeing.

The most difficult thing about parenting for me has been that my responsibilities have been added to and restructured, but the expectations stay exactly the same.

Cam multitasking

Thankfully, Grant has picked up on our nighttime routine and after just 6 weeks began sleeping in consistent 5 hour stretches at nighttime (Fun fact: did you know your baby’s circadian sleep/wake routine gets initiated in the womb?). Two weeks ago, our employee got sick with Covid19 which meant my dad and I would have to split his job duties while he was out. It was a stressful and tiring time for our family, but good communication and grace got us through (our employee is back and healthy!).

Now that things have settled back down, Grant comes to the office to hang with dad and grandpa once a week! It is a coveted day each week as we get to share time bonding while mom gets a day to completely care for herself.

Grant enjoys some time in the office with parents, grandparents, and great grandparents!

Parenting has been the most “learn on the fly” that I have experienced in my 30 years on this earth. Everyone has parenting advice based on their unique experience (which I love whenever someone drops me some wisdom), but no child and no situation will ever be identical.

Katie and I have different physiological response mechanisms when it comes to the needs of our child, which extenuates the importance of communication and grace.

We are still navigating and working to improve awareness regarding these differences, and we are confident that over time our teamwork improves our child’s development.

As I get closer to finishing my time in nursing school, I look back on the most stressful moments over the past two years and thank God for every one of them. This part of my journey is sharpening some tools that help me to be a better man, husband, dad, student, employee, volunteer, and community member.  

Fatherhood has made Cam a better man, husband, dad, student, employee, volunteer, and community member. What has your parenting journey taught you?
Advice

Returning to School as an Adult

By Julie Kraft, Vice President of Educators United

There are moments in life that make such an impact, they change the trajectory of your life forever. For me, that moment happened at a typical family dinner with my mom, my three siblings and our spouses. The conversation we had left such an impression that I think about it all the time. Growing up we always talked about our dreams for the future, we shared our deepest hopes and desires. That night, we were reminiscing on our childhood dreams and comparing them with where we ended up. We were all successful in our own ways, but none of us had the careers we dreamed of having.

I had an established career in the financial industry. My husband and I had just had our first child, we built a home and a stable life together. Life was good. At least, that was my perspective and I held fast to the idea that I did not need to go back to school. I came up with every excuse I could think of.

Then it happened. My little brother challenged me. He slapped me in the face with wisdom I never even knew he possessed.

He said, “Julie, you have worked ten years in a job you don’t even like. Imagine how well you would do in a career you love. You still have 30 years to work before you retire. Do you want to spend it doing what you’re doing now, or do you want to pursue your passion and have the best 30 years of your life?”

It left me speechless. He was right. That is all it took. My decision was made. I was IN.

The four of us made a pact, right then, right there. We were all going to make new goals to go back to school. We would study together and support each other through all of it.

I began researching colleges right away. When I found National University, I knew it was the right fit for my lifestyle. My chosen program offered online classes with a four-week platform. The flexible schedules meant I could complete the course work around my work schedule and home life. The expedited classes would enable me to finish my degree quickly.

I spent the next two years working full time, going to school full time, and taking care of my family (Check out my blog post “Overcoming Anxiety: Self-Care, Sleep, SilverCloud” to hear more about how I balanced all this). I woke up at 5am daily to study, worked my job from 8am – 4:30pm and completed assignments in the afternoon or after my daughter went to bed. I focused on the end goal and kept moving along. One day and one class at a time, I would get there. And I DID.

I received my Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, graduating as an NU Scholar with the Magna Cum Laude designation.

I am a first-generation college graduate. The pride and accomplishment I have from reaching this goal outweighs all the work it took to get there. My siblings are currently working toward their goals, as well. It all started with a conversation and a pact we made to strive for our dreams.

I am currently working on getting credentialed and obtaining a Master’s degree. My brother’s words have echoed in my mind at every turn. I learned new ways of managing stress, effectively managing my time, and prioritizing my goals. I learned so much about myself throughout this process and I am so happy with who I have become… a first-generation graduate, a role model for my daughter, the Vice President of a student organization, and an aspiring teacher.

If you have read this far, maybe you are considering furthering your education, changing careers or maybe you feel stuck (like I did not long ago). I encourage you to take the leap. It may be scary and intimidating, but trust me, it is worth it. Throw the excuses aside and take the leap, it may be the best thing you’ll ever do for yourself… it was for me.

Advice

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day! After a long and difficult year, many of us are finding July 4th to be an especially meaningful opportunity to reflect on what independence means to us.

For Jacqueline Moreno, President of the Mind-Body Wellness Student Organization at National University, Independence Day is all about the balance between freedom and respect:

For Sonia Soto – from the Student Veteran Organization– in NU’s Strategic Communications program, Independence Day means:

And for Tania Bogart – President of Educator’s United Student Organization, military spouse, mother, student, and cancer survivor – Independence Day holds many meanings:

“For many, Independence day represents freedoms and rights that are put forth for the American people, and in many ways, acknowledging the privileges that we have as a great nation often puts into perspective how lucky we truly are. As a military spouse, Independence day represents my husband fighting for these freedoms and making sacrifices every day. As a mother, it represents the ability to give my children a bright future with any possibility that they put their minds to. As a student, this day represents the ability to receive a degree as a woman, something many others in the world are unable to do. And as a cancer survivor, this day represents the ability to receive world-class medical care. We have so much to be thankful for as a nation. Being able to celebrate health, happiness, prosperity, and freedom is something that I value and I am proud to be an American.”

For members of our San Diego Community, The Big Bay Boom fireworks at the San Diego Bay are currently scheduled to take place. Be sure to listen in on the musical simulcast at 101.5 KGB! Or watch from the comfort and safety of your own home here:

For those not looking to go out, some of our favorite socially distant options include:

  • Watch Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog-Eating Contest – Live on ESPN. Cheer on your favorite competitive eater while enjoying some grilled favorites of your own! Although this year’s contest is being held at an undisclosed location, you can bring the Coney Island spirit with this classic Coney Island Hot Dog recipe.
  • Tour one of our beautiful National Parks. The National Park Service offers diverse live streams of many national parks, from waterfalls and geysers to bears and birds.
  • Immerse yourself in history with the National Archives. Great for kids – click here to download the accompanying activity kit. The National Archive is offering a full day of educational activities, complete with actors portraying historical figures like Thomas Jefferson, Martha Washington, and Ned Hector (a Black soldier who fought for the Continental Army). The highlight of the day will be a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence. Registration is free, with optional donations to support the great work of the National Archives Foundation.