Meeting Halfway

Julie Boone ElliottJulie Boone Elliott, a consummate professional who counsels students on career planning, did the unimaginable for her: she broke down in tears of pain and frustration in her supervisor’s office.

Why? She was trying to do it all: be a fully engaged mother of two small daughters, a wife and partner — and full-time director of Career Planning & Resources at Scripps College.

“Way too many times my kids were the last to be picked up from day care,” she said. “It broke my heart. And even when I sat on the floor playing with them, my mind was going ‘get back to work.’ I thought, ‘Why did I bring these kids into the world if this is all they’re getting?”

She couldn’t have broken down in a better place: the office of a single mother of three girls, Debra Wood. “She is a friend and a mentor,” said Julie. “She gave me a safe place to share my feelings.”

Wood, the vice president and dean of students, told her: “You need to think about what you want.”

Julie had thought that after her second daughter was born, she could continue on as director and cut back to three-quarter’s time at work. But it is important for the College to have a full-time director. “And half time wasn’t on my radar,” said Julie.

After much soul-searching, the conversation with Wood did lead to a half-time position as special projects manager. (A new director, Vicki Klopsch, was hired, and came on board in April 2009.)

Her new schedule allows Julie time to volunteer in older daughter Grace’s classroom, and have one-on-one time with her in the early afternoon, before picking up younger daughter Annie at daycare.

Her relationship with her husband, Heath, also benefitted. In the past, “from 8-10, I was online; there was little chatting time, or time for much else.”

Heath, a development officer at Harvey Mudd College, is a deeply involved father. The family eats together every day, with Heath doing the cooking. Then, he bathes the children, and Julie cleans the kitchen. They both read to the girls before bedtime, switching between girls every night.

Julie finds her “new life” allows her to be fully present in both realms — work and home. “I learned I do not want to be a full-time stay-at-home mother. I love my work, I love Scripps — I love my family. Now, I feel I’m getting the best of both worlds.”

Julie believes it is good for students to see her as a role model. As a graduate of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, she pursued an MED in student personnel services at the University of South Carolina. “I didn’t think about managing work and children then. By the time I figured out I wanted a career in student affairs, that became my sole focus. I’m helping students know there are lots of opportunities, chances, in life.”

And, in the office of Career Planning & Research, she shows Scripps women there is more than one way to balance marriage and family and a career.

 

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