Durham woman named working mother of the year

Posted May 13, 2009
Updated June 1, 2009

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— Working Mother magazine has named a Durham woman as one of its "Working Mothers of the Year."

Alexis Franzese is a teaching and research assistant for psychology at Duke University.

Magazine officials said they chose Franzese as one of the featured mothers because she was able to balance her work along with going to graduate school and raising a family.

"When Alexis discovered there was no parental leave policy for grad students at her school, she researched policies around the country and drafted a program; she then networked to get it passed," magazine officials wrote.

"Now in pursuit of her second PhD while also volunteering at her local VA hospital, she knows how tricky it can be to find quality time with your family. Thanks to her, other grad students will have an easier time doing just that," the article said.

WRAL recently interviewed Franzese by e-mail. The transcript follows:

WRAL: What was it like to be selected?

Franzese: I felt very honored and very humbled to be selected. There are so many amazing moms who care for their children while also contributing in important ways to their professions and communities.

WRAL: How were you nominated?

Franzese: My husband Tom nominated me for the award.

WRAL: What is your secret to balancing work and family?

Franzese: I think that there is a lot of public discussion about what is ‘right’ for kids- what is 'best,' but less discussion about what is right for parents when it comes to parenting decisions and childcare choices. This, I believe, has the potential to create tension and guilt for parents. I think that decision-making that respects the needs of the child and the needs of the parent(s) has the greatest likelihood of fostering a situation which is good for the whole family. Personally, I desire both work and family to feel balanced in my life, and so have made decisions that respect these dual needs. Balance is really flexibility and the freedom to attend to what you feel you need to attend to when you need to attend to it.

WRAL: Also, if you could tell us about why you pushed for family leave for grad students at Duke.

Franzese: At the time I was pregnant, there was no parental leave policy for graduate students on campus.  At the time that I broached the Graduate School about this they had been considering the topic, and so I happened to  be there and available to contribute to its development- a case of being in the right place at the right time.  I think a policy like the policy Duke has formalized is important for a number of reasons.  First, it provides a protocol for a student to follow when he or she is in this situation- no longer is the student left to negotiate this situation in isolation, the university supports them and has a policy on their behalf. Second, the policy facilitates students’ continued success in their academic role while also supporting them in their new role as parent. I applaud the Office of Graduate Student Affairs and the Graduate School at Duke for creating this policy, and I thank them wholeheartedly for the opportunity to contribute to its development.


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