June 15, 2023
Fathers push the limits searching for balance, family and education
Purdue Global dads, professor share thoughts for Father’s Day
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – When Jeffery Bonnewell of Greensburg, Indiana, crossed the stage to receive his degree from Purdue Global on May 6, he knew his parents; wife, Courtney; and son, Mason, were in the crowd cheering him on.
The accomplishment of the day isn’t just that Bonnewell graduated and a family gathering happened. The graduation and celebration were years in the making.
After high school, Bonnewell had gone directly into the workforce. He has worked in manufacturing since 2017. Yet he knew that to get a promotion, he would need a bachelor’s degree.
“Being a full-time student, a full-time father and a full-time employee are a lot of full-time jobs to juggle all at once,” Bonnewell said. “The responsibilities were on me.”
He attended community college while working but dropped out to focus on supporting his family. If he could go back in time, he would tell himself to go to school and complete the degree.
“This is my comeback,” Bonnewell said, surrounded by other graduates and their families following commencement. “My son has already said he wants to go to Purdue when he gets older.”
Mason knew his dad was working toward his degree, as the elder Bonnewell would let him listen and watch the lectures. Bonnewell credits good time management, organizational skills and family support as keys to juggling all the responsibilities, especially as he works on earning his master’s degree.
“I would tell him, ‘Daddy’s in class right now. I’ll play with you as soon as I’m done.’ Or, ‘Daddy’s working on homework. I’ll play with you as soon as I’m done,’” he said. “I made sure to follow through on those promises. Mason understands this is a big achievement for me and our family.”
Accomplishing a goal
Like Bonnewell, Brock Turner understands the importance of following through on promises to children.
Turner, a health and human sciences educator for Purdue Extension – Tippecanoe County from Lafayette, Indiana, completed his three Purdue Global degrees while raising his two boys, Bryce, 7, and Leo, 4.
“Between work, being a dad and classwork – you focus spending time more on those areas than in the other areas of life,” said Turner, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in health and wellness (2019), a Master of Science in health education (’21), and a Master of Public Health (’21). “We were doing the things we needed to do to accomplish what we had set out to do.”
A key to his success was establishing new routines as a parent and as a returning student.
“There were times I had to type up things that were due at midnight. Sometimes they just wanted to sit and listen to the lecture to be next to Dad,” Turner said of his children. “I had to stop writing a paper to read a bedtime story, make sure I would set an alarm to roll out of bed and not fall asleep with them, and get back to work.”
Going back to school with young children was his comeback. He had tried different programs, but once he found Purdue Global, he discovered it had many positives, some of which have opened doors – including helping him land his new role at Purdue Extension and leadership positions on university committees.
Bryce and Leo sat with him as they watched the virtual graduation ceremony for his master’s in health education. They were excited when they saw his face on the screen.
“A chance to be a good role model for them was the motivation I needed,” Turner said. “I hope I have inspired them.”
He has used his education and schoolwork to help Bryce.
“I’ve told him it’s about dedicating time. Sometimes it is hard, and it’s OK to have a setback. You just have to work through it,” Turner said. “If I can do it, you can do it.”
Setting boundaries and spending time with family
Purdue Global is Purdue’s online university for working adults. Of the nearly 35,000 students, 51% have a child or other dependents.
Danielle Hadeed de Silva, a psychologist and faculty member in Purdue Global’s College of Social and Behavioral Sciences who lives in South Florida, says fathers and father figures face three major challenges today: time management, finding work-life-school balance and addressing mental health issues.
“It is important for dads to set boundaries with their family. And also, to schedule time with them, to do family things,” Hadeed de Silva said. “During that time, dads need to be as fully present as possible, meaning they should put their smartphones away and engage with their family.”
Another aspect of self-care: seeking mental health services when needed, she added.
“There is such a stigma associated with seeking help. This idea of toxic masculinity still lingers within our society, so men feel like they cannot seek out services, which is to their detriment. There are so many services available out there, and nowadays, through telehealth, you don’t even need to leave your home in order to receive counseling. Your privacy is even more protected,” she said.
Pursuing academic goals is a tremendous way to tell children that hard work can lead to achieved goals and dreams.
“They are modeling what they want for their own children to set goals for themselves, to strive to achieve those goals, even when it’s hard, because it is very challenging to try to balance everything,” Hadeed de Silva said. “If their kids see their fathers working hard and achieving those goals, the kids believe that they can do it as well.”
If a father figure feels like he is slipping in an area such as family, work or school, she said, it is OK to talk with others and stop to reset.
“It’s important for us to not only celebrate our fathers, our grandfathers, our uncles … but also to think about how the role of fatherhood plays into some of the stress that they are facing while they try to balance work, family life and school,” Hadeed de Silva said.
Writer/Media contact: Matthew Oates, 765-496-6160, firstname.lastname@example.org; @mo_oates
Source: Jeffery Bonnewell, Brock Turner, Danielle Hadeed de Silva