Jalisa and her son in matching outfits
As a hospitality management major at Tuskegee University, Jalisa Greene thought she had her future career all figured out: after college, she would work as a restaurant manager and one day open her own restaurant.
For a while, that vision seemed likely to come true—Jalisa did become a restaurant manager and worked in the industry for several years. Then, when Jalisa welcomed her son into the world in 2016, her priorities shifted. “As a new mom, I was ready to make a change,” she says. “Restaurant life comes with crazy, sporadic, and long hours. I didn’t want daycare to raise my son, so I knew I needed a new path.”
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for Jalisa to discover a career opportunity that provided the work-life balance she craved: admissions counselor at 2U. “When I found 2U, it felt like the right job at the right moment for me,” she says. “Working in the education space allows me to still connect with people and create impact, which I had loved doing in the restaurant industry. I was confident that I could build strong relationships with students, just like I had with restaurant customers. That has definitely proven true during my time here at 2U.”
In 2U, Jalisa has also found an organization that enables her to do what she loves outside of work—being present for every moment in her son’s life. As the global vice chair for parents for PCNet, 2U’s new Business Resource Network (BRN) for parents and caregivers, Jalisa is passionate about empowering other working parents to find balance and advocate for themselves. Here, she shares more about her experience working at 2U while raising her young son, along with some of the most important lessons she’s learned as a caregiver. Her advice for other working parents is profound.
Hi, Jalisa! In addition to your role as an admission counselor supporting the Morehouse Online program powered by 2U, you also juggle another job as a single mom to a five-year-old son. How would you describe your journey as a working parent so far—and how do you find balance between these two important roles?
The best description of my journey is peaceful chaos! We have a very consistent routine at home, so when the alarm goes off each morning, my son already knows what’s next. It’s peaceful because I strive to keep our space positive. But it’s also chaos, because being five years old is a rough job! Despite my organization, life happens and pivots are required to maintain order.
I’m a major scheduler and supremely intentional when it comes to my time. The balance comes from scheduling free time, too. We often get lost in checklists and getting everything done, but having fun is just as essential. My son and I have a minimum of two dates per week—one is usually dinner, and the other is a fun activity where we can just be ourselves. Laughter is required!
Mother and son smiling together outside
Love that perspective on making room for fun! So, Jalisa, what challenges have you personally overcome as a working parent—and what “superpower” have you discovered for yourself in pushing through them?
There was a time when I kept quiet and had an “I’ll do it myself” attitude. That changed when I started working remotely during the pandemic with my son home from daycare, climbing up my back during meetings or singing as loudly as possible while I was trying to concentrate. My superpower was realizing that it’s okay to say “no” at work and take some time for yourself! I’d love to be able to do everything for everybody, but that doesn't leave time for me. If I’m not giving myself my best, I’m definitely not producing anything else at a high level, either.
I'm sure many working parents can relate! It can be so challenging to prioritize making time for yourself. On that note, what changes do you think are needed in the workplace to help parents receive the support and understanding they need?
Many parents have a bad habit of internalizing their needs. Unfortunately, that bleeds into the workplace through behaviors like not using benefits, not taking time off, and working around the clock to overcompensate for perceived shortcomings. There’s a feeling of not being enough, and not always feeling seen or heard. I think one of the biggest changes that would be helpful is more training. We could all use extra practice with empathy and emotional intelligence! It’s important that people in leadership positions pay close attention to how they can support their teams and actively recognize when someone is “off their game.” Often, leaders don’t initiate critical conversations until someone is underperforming. There should be more temperature checks along the way to ensure needs are being met.
That’s such an important reminder. It clearly took lots of reflection to reach where you are today. What’s the greatest lesson you’ve learned so far as a working parent at 2U?
To affirm myself! I start my days with tea and affirmations, and my son also does affirmations. I seek out a community that does the same, too. It’s essential to surround yourself with like-minded people that can see you for who you are, where you are, in each moment. On bad days, it’s imperative to acknowledge how well my son and I are doing!
Jalisa's son goofing around while she's working
Small affirmations really can make a big difference. What a great routine! Let’s switch gears and chat about PCNet. As global vice chair for parents, why are you personally passionate about PCNet’s mission? And what are you most excited about with the launch of PCNet and your new role?
Being able to help others affirm themselves in the workplace! PCNet is a space that uplifts all of us—a space where you don’t have to explain yourself, because someone is always there who shares your experience. Having that community at 2U is so important to me. I want parents to be able to physically or virtually high-five their parent colleagues because they’re doing well and taking better care of themselves. It’s essential to provide resources that ensure parents are truly supported and empowered in the workplace.
You put that perfectly. On the theme of community, what are some of the best ways that non-parent/caregiver allies—at 2U or anywhere—can support working parents and caregivers in their professional relationships?
Communicate and give grace. There are so many misconceptions about how parents interact in the workplace and what’s important to them, but we’re all human and communication is the best way to know exactly who you’re working with. If we’re still showing up every day, know that it’s from a desire to be present and actually be part of the team. Everyone won’t want to only talk about their kids all day— many parents look forward to the adult interaction (and mini kid break) work provides them! The grace kicks in when parenting bleeds into the workday. There are going to be times when we have to step away. Giving grace is appreciated, because not only are we prioritizing those we care for, but we still want to finish our projects and not let our colleagues down.
Very well said. It’s been wonderful hearing your story, Jalisa. As a final question, what advice would you give other parents and caregivers interested in joining 2U?
This is a beautiful place to work! I’ve been blessed with some amazing leaders who have been extremely supportive in all that life has thrown at me since I’ve been working here. Remember that resources are always available—you just have to seek them out. This is a place where you can speak up, knowing that someone is taking notes and will actually follow through. PCNet is one of the many ways that 2U provides an additional arm of support, acknowledging that we do indeed have a community and allowing us the space to come together.
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