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The Profession and Parenting: Strategies for Making it Work - Kimberly Peer

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Kimberly Peer, EdD, ATC, FNATA

As an Athletic Trainer (AT), it can be a challenge to balance work and family life due to the long hours and irregular schedules. In this series, we present stories about ATs who successfully juggle their professional and personal lives, and we feature real stories from AT parents who “make it work.”

Kimberly Peer, EdD, ATC, FNATA is a professor, as well as the program coordinator for the Master of Athletic Training program at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. In addition, Peer serves as the cognate coordinator for the new EdD in Interprofessional Leadership (ATTR Cognate). She has been with Kent State University since 1999. Peer took the time to share how she makes everything work in a recent Q&A.

Can you tell us a little bit about your home life?

I live on 6.5 acres on the edge of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Richfield, Ohio, with my partner, two teenage boys (sophomores), two dogs, a cat and four chickens. We moved here about two years ago and enjoy the beautiful setting in the woods.

Describe a typical day.

I wake early at 5 a.m. to get breakfast and lunches ready for the kids. We leave to take them to school around 7:15 a.m. and then I usually head to campus. Like many, I’ve been working from home due to the pandemic, with the exception of two days a week. My position involves teaching classes, meeting with students, grading and a lot of administrative work (meetings, scheduling, reports, data analytics). At around 2:45 p.m., I pick up one of my sons from school and we have been “driving” after school for him to get his hours for drivers training. I try to get a workout in (XC skiing, bike, hike) sometime between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. when I then need to get my other son from wrestling. We often have appointments at 5 p.m. (such as physical therapy or doctor) so it is important for us to tag-team transportation of the kids. After our appointments and practices, we have a family dinner around 6:30 p.m. This is very important to us as a family. It is important to just connect for that time without any interference. We really try to protect that time.

After dinner, the boys do homework and we catch up around the house or outside, or do yoga and then we all connect again around 8:30 p.m. for “forced family fun” (this is what we call it for teenagers where we watch a show or just talk or play with the animals or something else before we wind down). We head to bed between 9:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. allowing us time to debrief the day without the kids around and to unwind after what is normally a busy, full day. Weekends are filled with kids’ sporting events, as well as catching up around the house and with work. These days are not as tightly scheduled. We try to preserve our weekends to have time to break away from being scheduled every minute during the week. We almost always attend church each Sunday as a family to recenter for the week.

What are some strategies you use to make your professional and personal life work/balance?

I am probably the worst person to ask about this. I am Type-A so it is very difficult for me. One thing I try to do (and have done since the boys were young) is to not bring out my computer after dinner, until they are in bed. It sets time aside without my work creeping into our lives because it can consume you 24/7 if you let it. It is harder now with access to email on phones (that probably just aged me) but I really try to set that time aside. As the kids age, that time is usually for me to do yoga or whatever around the house, but it allows me to break away. If I have a big project or pending deadline, I’ll break the computer back out after the kids are in bed. However, I try not to do that too often. I also took up knitting about five years ago which helps me “stay busy” if we are watching a show or something because I have a hard time doing passive activities. It allows me to be “present” and calms my mind. We also try to get away during summer and spring breaks for a full reconnect. These are more and more important as the kids grow up and we covet these times. Obviously, there are days when none of the strategies work and I just try to put it into perspective and find balance the next day.

How do you approach daily opportunities that arise as an AT and at home?

I truly believe that you have to “give back” and stay engaged in the education side of the profession through national, regional and state service. I have learned to “organize” my time better. I have a schedule (to-do list) that has all of my tasks broken into categories (administration, class, grants, committees and so on) and I put six tasks daily into the “daily to-do” spot. I do not go to bed until those are done. Once I read in a book that large to-do lists are overwhelming and if you pull a set number of items into a “daily” spot it’s more manageable. This process has worked for me quite well as I do have to write everything down. I’ve become very strategic at prioritizing what HAS to be done each day and what can wait. I really like this strategy — and as I said before — if not done when kids are home for dinner — it waits until they go to bed. The older I get, the more I am selective in what I take on because the kids are only home for a few more years. I try to shut work down for a bit each day to be fully present for them. Doing this is so important with teenagers or they can be consumed with technology, if allowed to do so. We have limited time together during the day — but we try to make the most of that time.

What is your greatest achievement as an AT?

I’ve been truly blessed in my career to have such amazing mentors and I honestly believe that the relationships I’ve built over the years are a great achievement. I’ve also been very fortunate to have been recognized with the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), Ohio Athletic Trainers’ Association and BOC awards all of which I consider great achievements. However, the most emotional achievement I received was the NATA Outstanding Educator Award. It was incredibly emotional to have been nominated for and awarded this particular award because I’ve dedicated my career to teaching and learning. We always wonder if we are doing it well or making an impact. Receiving this award validated that the work I’ve been dedicated to for the majority of my professional career is recognized and valued. To be considered in the company of those who received this award before me is quite humbling. Many of those outstanding educators shaped my career and are outstanding mentors! It was a really amazing moment in my professional career!

What is the best part of your day?

By far, the time right before we all head to bed is the best. It is a time where we are all unwinding, laughing and just being together. Our pets are usually involved in the shenanigans and we are all just “together” for a bit before we close out the day. It’s usually where I look around the room and say to myself “You did okay today” — they are healthy, they are happy, they are safe … that might sound strange but as a parent, you always wonder if you are doing it right or good enough … or at least I do. This hour before we all close out our day generally gives me peace.

What advice would you give a fellow AT who might be struggling to balance their career and parenting?

Figure out a way to “be present” with your family. They need you and you need them. Work is very important but your family deserves you too! For me, it means I work early in the morning and often late in the evening and sometimes I say “it can wait until tomorrow.” Also, find time for just you! I enjoy my first cup of coffee in quiet before the family gets up — it requires me to get up a little earlier, but that time helps me frame my day in quiet (which is hard to find.) I also find it important to schedule “you” time. Schedule your hike, your yoga, whatever … we need to schedule ourselves too. Lastly, I’d say “Be kind to yourself” — a friend once said that “if you had an 80% day, that’s great” — as parents and employees, we try to be 100% all the time, it just isn’t feasible. So be kind to yourself!

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