Parenting and Working Balance Beautifully at the YMCA

Working parents need flexibility. At the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, working doesn’t conflict with parenting. We asked two Y employees to share their own stories.

Every working parent eventually experiences conflict between family needs and work needs — like when school is unexpectedly canceled, or a late meeting means missing a school play. Is there really such a thing as work-life balance?

At YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit, employees say working and parenting go hand in hand. We caught up with two working parents who have benefited from being part of a workplace that cares.

Career for a ‘present’ dad

As a kid, Tom Bender loved playing basketball at his local Y in Saginaw. Years later, when Bender was looking for a career after getting an education in sports administration, he reached out to the YMCA. He started as a membership specialist at the Livonia Family YMCA.

In time, Bender established a career within the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit — and he became a father.

Today, Bender has two children and serves as Executive Director for Community Youth Sports at the YMCA. “I feel such a strong connection to the Y,” he says. Part of that comes from knowing he can be present for his children as they grow up — something he didn’t experience as a kid because his father worked long hours.

“He was a good father and he provided, but definitely that left a mark on me,” he says. Balance between working and parenting means a lot to him. “You can’t put a price on that flexibility when you have two young kids and get to see them grow up. It’s huge for me.”

And, as his children are growing, they benefit from being connected to the YMCA. “Both my son and daughter came to the day care here up to when they went to kindergarten. And summer day camp was an extension of that. Now they attend summer camp and go to Camp Ohiyesa for a week in the summer to experience nature. They really love that,” Bender says.

Parents who are looking for meaningful work should spend time at their local YMCA, he suggests. “Work out in the facility, and you may recognize it is a place you want to be. Spend time there. That’s step one,” he says.

Meaningful work

When Carmen Brown left her job as a flight attendant, she knew she wanted to work for a nonprofit. Her son was 3 when she started working at the Birmingham Family YMCA as part-time program coordinator for afterschool programs.

“My son was a Y camp kid. He was outside when I was inside working,” Brown recalls, appreciating the savings on the cost of child care during the summer months.

working-at-the-ymca-carmen-brown-and-son-smiling
Carmen Brown and son. Photo credit: Carmen Brown / YMCA

Now her son is 16 and got a “gentle nudge” by Brown to take the six-week lifeguard certification training at the Y. “He knew he had to be certified, then apply to be a lifeguard. That certification means he got the job on his own, not because his mom works here. He’s proud of his own work,” she says.

Becoming a part-time Y employee while she was still “moming” was a great choice — and today Brown serves as Senior Program Director with Metro Youth YMCA, which is located within the Boll Family Y in Detroit.

“I started with K-8, and now I work with high school youth, along the track of my own child’s age development. It’s such a joy,” Brown says. The Y’s flexibility made it possible for Brown to be a present single parent for her son — and make a difference in the lives of the kids she serves. It also helped her grow professionally.

“My work needs to be purposeful,” she says. “The more it felt good, the more I connected with the job title. I might not have been able to find my voice in the corporate world as quickly as I did here.”

Learn more about careers at the YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit. Visit ymcadetroit.org.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.

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