A true Simpson Experience


by Sara Cowden

Being a single mom is a lot of work – multiplied by three children under the age of four.

Sharon Jensen, assistant professor of education, became a mother for the first time in August 2001 when the adoption of then three year old, Makenna, was legalized.

Since that time, Jensen has brought two more children into her home as foster children. As the two other children are of foster status, she is not able to tell their names or ages.

“Some people think I rescued them, but really they rescued me,” said Jensen. “The kids have made me a better person.”

Jensen can attest to the work three children demand, but also to the pleasures.

Jensen decided to get involved in foster parenting and adoption after looking through a catalog of central Iowan children in need of safe homes.

“I was licensed for the process in July of 2001 and they (Children and Families of Iowa) called me the next week,” said Jensen. “They told me they had a little girl they’d like me to meet. When I met Makenna I just knew.”

Still, Jensen had to be approved through social workers and go through training for care of a special needs child. Makenna was born drug affected and was taken from her birth mother at the age of 10 months.

Jensen attends a foster parent support group and both of them attend counseling sessions weekly.

Jensen said she and their counselor agreed Makenna was ready for a sibling when she made the decision to bring another child into the home in June 2002. The third child was placed with Jensen in January 2003.

“People talk about the Simpson community, I’ve found they really aren’t kidding,” said Jensen. “My church family, colleagues and neighbors have all been wonderful in helping out.”

She has a schedule where each week night a friend comes over to help get the children ready for bed; a number of these friends are Simpson faculty members.

Pat Singer department chair of biology and environmental sciences is one such helper.

“Tuesday nights are my nights with the kids,” said Singer. “They are already fed by the time I arrive, so I play with them while Sharon gets the babies ready for bed.”

Singer said she understands how hectic it can be working full-time and raising children.

“Parenting is a very important job and making sure children get a lot of attention is important,” said Singer. “However, there are purely selfish reasons for wanting to help Sharon. I love kids and for me, spending time with them is a wonderful diversion from what I do every day.”

Due to the rapid growth of her family, Jensen no longer does overloads and will consider taking her summers off to spend time with her children.

“Being a mom has made me realize just how busy a person can be,” said Jensen. “I have a lot of empathy for non-traditional students with kids. I don’t know how they can do it on their own.”

Not only does she have a new found respect for non-traditional students with families, but also a new focus as a professor of education.

“As I will be sending Makenna off to kindergarten next year, I really think about who will be teaching her,” said Jensen. “I want good quality teachers out there.”

According to Singer, a lot of the same qualities that make Jensen a good educator make her a great mother.

“Sharon is remarkably patient, gentle and empathetic,” said Singer. “They (the children) are lucky to have Sharon as a mom because Sharon has taken on motherhood as a way of living rather than as a task that needs to get done. She puts her whole self into taking care of them and helping them develop delightful social skills and a sense of curiosity. Sharon doesn’t play mother, she is mother and that will make a world of difference for those three children.”