Full-time mom, full-time professor

Mikaela Wegner — Co-Editor 

Since 2018, about 13 individuals representing various Sioux Center businesses rallied together several times every year to discuss local housing and daycare obstacles. Dordt University was one of these parties. 

Though Dordt is an institution aimed towards young adults, faculty members have actively participated in this conversation for the last four years. While Dordt is not directly affected by toddlers, the people who constitute it are. 

Tara Boer, Associate Professor of Social Work at Dordt, began as an adjunct in the fall of 2011, transitioned to a full-time role in 2015, and has worked with criminal justice and social work departments since. Before teaching, Boer worked with delinquent teenage boys and sexually abused kids where she lived with her husband in Florida. 

Married for 16 years, Boer now has four children all under ten-years-old. 

“My husband is an equal player in our marriage,” Boer said. “He does everything I do, and more. I always say, ‘Marriage isn’t 50/50. Sometimes you give 60 and they give 40. Sometimes they give 80 and you give 20.’” 

Boer worked for about seven years before having her first daughter. Though she “never even once thought about staying home full time with her,” Boer also said if she had to give up her career, she would. 

Being a working mom demands women learn to balance individual careers, teaching children both academics and societal norms, as well as maintaining adult relationships – all at the same time. It can get messy. But these three complex factors require sharing weight, otherwise a mother faces quick burnout not just in being an employee, but in everything. 

One of the biggest struggles for Boer in balancing her career and being a mother is having unreliable, or non-existent, local childcare. 

“The only pressure and stress I’ve really felt was not having childcare,” Boer said. “That’s something that has really been a problem for most of northwest Iowa, but I feel like it falls on the weight of working women more so.” 

Finding child care is a challenge reaching beyond Boer’s family. Sioux Center’s child care supply is “scarce,” according to U.S. Child Care Deserts research. Assistant City Manager Dennis Dokter went as far as to say Sioux Center is a “child care desert” itself, according to a Sioux Center Civic alert in February 2022. A child care desert means a community does not have adequate child care accessibility. 

Boer’s work is heavy. As a mental health professional primarily working alongside children and families, Boer has worked clients through abuse, violence, neglect and trauma. 

“You can maybe project some of those fears onto what could happen to your own family,” Boer said. “Sleepovers for example. I’ve heard a lot of stories of kids being harmed at pretty quote-on-quote innocent sleepovers … [But] I want to be a normal mom by allowing them to do all the things you want kids to do.” 

While Boer’s work-life and home-life can bleed into each other, she has “never once regretted” going to work after becoming a mother. She said her calling is in both. 

“There’s certainly a lot of strong messages that come from the world about what women should be doing,” Boer said. “I think that it’s important that women pay attention to what voices they’re listening to – first [being] the voice of the Lord.” 

Boer hopes to see women “challenge that narrative” of not feeling equipped for the formal workplace. While Boer embraces her role as mother, she also believes in “shared communal responsibility to take care of the other.” Rather than seeing women step out of passionate careers, she wants to see support systems in the community rise. 

“I hate when women are kind of relegated to lower roles simply because they know they have to be a mom,” Boer said. “My kid last year was taught by someone who just had a baby. Well, what would I do without her? I recognize that she’s kind of raising my kid right now. And if her kid comes to Dordt, I’ll take care of her kid.” 

But, Boer said some women are “called” to do one or the other, something she said can be even more difficult than making room for both. 

“When I see women staying home with their kids I say, “God bless you,” because I don’t know if I could do it mentally,” Boer said. “I just know I’m not wired that way. But do I look down on them? Absolutely not. That is actually probably a harder job.” 

After years of meetings with local businesses, last spring The Sioux Center City Council applied for and received an $88,000 grant from the State of Iowa Future Ready Program, dedicated to creating in-home childcare locally. From that, the team created Kamp Wonder. 

A city-owned property at the south end of Central Park transformed into Kamp Wonder Daycare using the grant, Sept. 1 2022 marking the first day of services. But by Aug. 3, Kamp Wonder already had a waitlist. 

“If Dordt would support a childcare facility here for their employees where we would get first pick, I would guess that would be such a blessing for us as we recruit,” Boer said. 

Deb Bomgaars, Professor of Nursing and Director of the Nursing Program at Dordt, also asked what potential a Dordt daycare may have. 

Bomgaars’ three children are now grown up. But after splitting from an abusive marriage while her children were all under eight years old, Bomgaars had to become a full-time nurse and full-time mom at the same time. She would have chosen both careers again though. 

“I love what I do,” Bomgaars said. Still, the difficulties Bomgaars faced in her career as a nurse leaked into the expectations she had of herself as a mother. 

She struggled with guilt for leaving her children during work hours, and for taking time to sleep over breaks instead of playing with them. Understanding “quality time with your kids versus quantity time” hung on as a difficult lesson for Bomgaars. 

Unfavorable hours, especially as a new nurse just graduated, gave Bomgaars little flexibility when she had her first child. 

“You can’t abandon your patients,” Bomgaars said. “So, if your child has a game after school but you have to work … you can’t take an hour and go.” 

At the end of the day, like Boer, finding childcare proved most difficult for Bomgaars as an early mother. While Bomgaars’ mother helped with babysitting, paying college students remained the only other option. At the time, Bomgaars lived within walking distance of Northwestern College. 

“I had four roommates that would take turns babysitting,” Bomgaars said. “One ended up doing most of it, and actually my oldest son was the ring bearer at her wedding.” 

But college students left during breaks and summers, leaving Bomgaars on her own. Not to mention the students that wouldn’t follow through. 

“One year, I hired somebody two months in advance, then the week before she was supposed to start she called and said she wasn’t going to do it,” Bomgaars said. “That was fun.” 

It’s interesting to wonder how different both Bomgaars’ and Boers’ lives as young mothers may have been had there been childcare provided through their hired institution. In 2018, Dordt created a lactation room for breastfeeding mothers on campus. Applicable persons, ranging from professors to conference visitors to student mothers, can access the private room with a FOB key provided by Sue Droog, the Executive Director of Human Resources and Organizational Development at Dordt. 

Both Bomgaars and Boer praised Dordt for its flexibility alongside working mothers and the experiences they’ve had as professors on campus. That being said, they look forward to seeing future progressions of childcare for future staff. 

“There’s a lot that gives,” Boer said. “Sometimes, like right now, if you’d walk into my house this morning was a disaster. There’s clothes lying on the floor, cereal bowls out, and stuff everywhere. And some mornings it’s perfect. You just kinda got to be okay with not being okay all the time.” 

Contributed photo 

Leave a Comment or Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s