Established in October 2019, NUParents is a new faculty and staff affinity group for working parents at Northeastern University. With about 90 members and growing, NUParents welcomes any full-time, benefits eligible Northeastern faculty and staff who are parents, expecting parents, or caregivers for a child. The founders of NUParents recognize that all working parents at Northeastern need support, no matter their job title or responsibilities – and that is what drives this group: “We are all parents in need of advice and support,” states Alison Nogueira, Senior Co-op Coordinator & Director of Co-op in the College of Engineering and one of the founding members of NUParents, “and NUParents is a safe space to talk about the challenges associated with parenting.”
The idea for this group began in 2011 when four women decided to gather for lunch occasionally and discuss parenthood. This gained interest over time, growing to 65 mothers across Northeastern colleges and departments, and doing the moniker NU MOMS. The group provided working parents more than simply time to connect over lunch. Nogueira found that the group was instrumental in her transition back to work after her parental leave: “Toward the end of my parental leave, the idea of returning to work was daunting,” Nogueira recalls. “My husband left the house each day at 4:30am, so I was on my own in the morning. How would I manage nursing my daughter in the morning, getting my daughter and my 4 year old son dressed, getting myself ready, dropping my son off at one school, adding in another daycare drop off to my commute, while still functioning at the level at which I did before becoming a parent? One of the things that kept me going was the group of other parents that I knew I was returning to at work. They would completely understand how overwhelmed the first few weeks back at work would be and would provide me with support. Working parents are real-life superheroes!”
Esther Cohen, Business Manager for Bioengineering, remembers joining NU MOMS and the strides they made to improve the lives of working parents at Northeastern. “[In] April 2017 the NU MOMS drafted a petition to create a better Parental Leave Policy at Northeastern,” Cohen explains. “We showed data from other local universities. We noticed that Northeastern was losing amazing women because of lack of flexibility in schedule from their managers and the financial obligations of childcare.” After gathering 300 signatures and meeting with HRM, NU MOMS saw the results of their efforts, Northeastern’s fantastic Parental Leave Policy. NU MOMS continued to be a place where faculty and staff met for lunch to discuss the opportunities and challenges that come with being a working parent. In 2019, Cohen reached out to the Office of Institutional Diversity & Inclusion about possibly becoming a recognized affinity group and NUParents was born.
Members of NUParents have the chance to connect, network, and have a support system in an open, inclusive, judgment-free environment. The group’s overall goals include providing professional development opportunities through events, speakers, mentoring, and other resources, and creating networks for ongoing dialogue on issues impacting professional and career development and policy change. As the membership expands and diversifies, they hope to create subgroups within NUParents to provide resources and networking within similar phases of parenting. “The core value of this group has always been to provide a listening ear and experience-based advice to other parents,” says Nogueira. “There can be a lot of stress and pressure on working parents. It can be overwhelming and exhausting, and it is immensely helpful to know that there are others going through exactly what you are going through.”
The group hosts informal brown-bag get-togethers two to three times per semester at various times to accommodate the members’ schedules. As the group grows, it plans to hold one to two professional and personal development workshops each academic year. Topic and speaker suggestions are welcomed and encouraged. NUParents also plans to launch a book club, in which members may read a selected book and participate in discussions based on the book’s concepts and/or parenting strategies.