Spring 2001
Volume 5 Number 3

Love Times Five by Steve Crocco
Parenting One Step at at Time 
by Deadra Johns
Wither Thou Goest by Ross Wagner
Supporting Parents Helps Children Thrive 
by Nancy Duff
The Art of Shaping a Family By Leslie and Chip Dobbs-Allsopp
Complementary Calls by Jacqueline Lapsley 
Center for Children is Growing 

Supporting Parents Helps Children Thrive

by Nancy Duff

Although my husband and I are old enough to have kids in college (we’re old enough to have grandkids, for that matter), our children attend elementary and middle school. Of course, like most people whose lives seem to be following an independent path, we didn’t realize that by postponing marriage and children we were part of a national trend. It just seemed to us that we didn’t meet “the right” person until we were in our thirties and that we “weren’t ready” for children until a few years after that. (I turned 38 shortly after our daughter was born and was 40 by the time I gave birth to our son.) Whatever the pros and cons of being “slightly” older parents, David and I are grateful that we didn’t miss out on having kids altogether. Not everyone is called to be a parent, and no one should suffer criticism for choosing not to have children, but for us parenthood has been an unsurpassed blessing.

Nancy Duff and her son, Adam Mertz(age 9), her daughter, McKinley Mertz (age 12), and her husband David Mertz, associate pastor of the Rossmoor Retirement Community when not parenting, are all smiles during a family vacation at DisneyWorld.

When I began teaching at Princeton Seminary in 1990, our daughter, McKinley, was a one-year-old. I will never forget that after telling Tom Gillespie that I was expecting a second baby, he granted my request for a reduced teaching and committee load for the following year without a moment’s hesitation. I will never forget that Barbara Gillespie, whom I did not know well, gave us a handmade baby quilt when Adam was born in the summer of 1991. Their generosity in sharing in the joy of our expanding family has been reflected in the PTS community many times over in the ten and a half years I have taught here. From the registrar, who scheduled my classes to accommodate my childcare needs when McKinley and Adam were preschoolers, to faculty members who did not complain when I left committee meetings early to pick up children from daycare, to students and staff who have befriended my children and followed their progress over the years, the PTS community has made the difficult task of juggling motherhood and seminary teaching not only a bit easier, but all the more enjoyable and rewarding. 

Year of the Child Hymn 

1. Help us to show your love, O Christ,
To children in our care, 
And reach beyond till every child
Is held in love and prayer. 
For, through neglect, abuse and sin,
Some children suffer pain. 
They never learn to live and seek
A rainbow through the rain.

2. When children need a helping hand 
To lift or to inspire,
May we, your church, be present there 
To give what they require.
For love, our God has made us all, 
God's children everywhere, 
To live in joyful harmony, 
To be the best we dare. 

3. May we learn well what children teach:
An open mind and heart,
An energizing zest for life,
A willingness to start.
Grant us the grace to be child-like,
Approaching all our days
With eager, playful, lively joy,
In loving, hope-filled praise.

4. (Sung by children)
Now we will sing our praise of Christ,
Born many years ago,
A child who grew both wise and strong,
God's love for us to show.
In stories told to people then,
Remembered still today,
Christ shows in every deed and word
What we should do and say. 

Words: Jane Parker Huber
Tune: Ellacombe (used in hymn #288 in 
The Presbyterian Hymnal)


Having already asked for and received so much from the Seminary community, I was very nervous when I wrote Tom Gillespie a letter a few years after Adam was born, telling him that David and I were seeking to adopt a third child. Surely the Seminary had accommodated us as a family beyond all reasonable expectations, and asking for further support as we sought to take on additional parental responsibilities would be perceived as simply asking for too much. But my nervousness proved unwarranted when I received a letter from Tom the next day, which began, “Thank you for sharing your wonderful news with me,” and inviting me to talk to him when the time came about a temporary adjustment in my teaching load. As it turns out, the adoption fell through, and we continue to be a happy family of four. But it is comforting to know that we would have received as much support for a third child as we have for our first two.

Of course, not everyone in the workplace is as fortunate as we have been. And even when attitudes in the workplace are as generous as they have been for us here, juggling work and family responsibilities can be overwhelming. The excellent childcare we found (and paid for) when our children were preschoolers gave us a hint of what it will cost to have two children in college! Snow days and sick days can ruin the best-laid plans for childcare; spring breaks, early dismissals, and holidays create nightmares for coordinating work and family schedules. My hope for Princeton Theological Seminary and for every workplace across the country is that the goodwill and grace that has been extended to us will develop into public policies that will make it possible for every mother and father to be a responsible parent while fulfilling responsibilities at work. In this year of celebration of children, let’s work to make the next national trend one that will support parents (whether young or “slightly” older) and that will help their children to thrive.

Nancy Duff is an associate professor of theological ethics at Princeton Seminary. She and her husband, David Mertz, are mom and dad to McKinley and Adam.

© Copyright 2001 Princeton Theological Seminary
The URL for this page is http://www.ptsem.edu/read/inspire/5.3/feature_2/supporting-parents.htm
[email protected] | last updated 05/21/01

In This Issue


A World of Students: Valuable Exchanges
Welcome Them in My Name
Fighting for Children and Parents


From the President's desk
Letters to the Editor
Outstanding in the Field
Class Notes
End Things
Student Life
On & Off Campus
Alumni/ae Update
Investing in Ministry
inSpire Staff
InSpire Archives