Going to school is hard. Working part-time simultaneously is even harder. Add those two up and include a newborn baby — that’s a lot to handle.
Danielle Shafer, Hardy Hall residence director, had all these responsibilities to juggle when she gave birth to her and her husband Dustin’s first child, Ellis David Shafer, on Friday, January 22nd at 3:19 p.m..
“I was confident that I was having a boy,” Danielle said. “Call it intuition.”
The Shafers decided to not find out their baby’s gender until birth — the way Danielle’s parents did — as a way to surprise themselves and their family. They said their inspiration for the first name of Ellis came from the movie “Mud.”
“The movie doesn’t hold any significance,” Danielle said. “I [just] heard the name and really liked it.”
Danielle and Dustin’s life has changed drastically since the addition of baby Ellis.
“[The] biggest change is coordinating when each of us needs to watch the baby,” Dustin said.
Danielle said that, while her responsibilities as an RD are still the same, the way she navigates them is different.
“Since [Ellis] was born, I’ve met with my RAs in my apartment, we have team time there…and they took some responsibilities for me,” Danielle said. “I’ve brought Ellis to meetings with me. The time I can give is different.”
Danielle said instead of working in her office, she was able to stay in her apartment and take care of Ellis while she worked, responded to emails and had meetings.
“I’m grateful for the flexibility that’s been offered to me,” she said.
She is also working on her Master’s degree in higher education, and resumed online classes a week after Ellis was born.
“That was hard,” she said. “I had to do homework and I just wanted to spend time with him.”
She has currently gone back to work in her office and said her RAs help to babysit.
“I trust them, and they have an interest in [taking care of] Ellis,” Danielle said. “They’ll be there four to five hours, and if they need anything, I’m just a few steps down the hall.”
Sophomore Claire Bowles, resident assistant on Hardy 3rd, said it felt weird being an RA and not having Danielle around while she was on baby leave, but she was able to turn to returning RAs and Wright Hall residence director Andy Vaught for advice.
“[Andy] let us know that he was available whenever we needed and could go to him with any questions that we would have originally asked Danielle,” Bowles said.
Bowles said she hasn’t had time to babysit Ellis yet, but has gotten to hold him during team time and one-on-ones with Danielle. She said she enjoys seeing the love between mother, father and son.
“It’s just really fun to watch [Danielle] and Ellis interact,” Bowles said. “You can just tell how much her and Dustin love him — it’s beautiful.”
Dustin and Danielle agreed that the transition to parenthood has “felt pretty natural” and there hasn’t been much of a difference in their personal lives.
“Our social life has carried on as normal,” Dustin said. “We [just] don’t stay out as late to set a decent schedule.”
Because Danielle and Dustin live in an all-female residence hall, they said they have been woken up to laughter from the parking lot or footsteps above them, but it doesn’t bother them or awaken baby Ellis, who can even sleep through the sound of a hairdryer.
“Once he is asleep, he is out,” Danielle said.
In the upcoming few years, Danielle said the size of the one-bedroom apartment might become an issue as Ellis gets older and needs his own room. Professionally, she said when she finishes her Master’s degree, she wants to be a full-time RD.
The best part of having a newborn child?
“The mornings, when he’s so smiley,” Dustin said. “Watching him grow — it’s great.”