Babes in the Houses

Combining Kids and Life at Harvard

There are some people at Harvard who look forward to eating dining hall hash browns. There are some who visit their favorite Harvard museums every weekend just to see the fossils. There are some who take full advantage of their houses' sunny courtyards on bright fall and spring afternoons.

Where can you find these cheery, energetic people? Look down--they're the infants, toddlers and grammar-schoolers of resident tutors, senior tutors and house masters.

"At Lowell House, we actually have a lot of kids at the moment on the way or here," says Barbara E. Petzen, resident tutor in Lowell, who is eight months pregnant with a son, Liam. "Having watched some of the kids grow up in the house, I just think it's the best environment for having kids."

All the resident tutors and masters interviewed for this article agreed with Petzen: The Harvard houses provide intellectual and social stimulation for their children as well as an enduring sense of community.

And the benefits are not limited to parents and kids in the houses. For many students, cooing at the babies in the dining halls or saying hello as older children barrel through halls on their tricycles is one of the best parts of house life--although students say they're glad to send the kids back to their parents at the end of the day.

Cultivating Community

Parents praise life in the houses for the strong sense of community it creates.

"This is an incredibly vibrant intellectual community and a personally warm community, too," says Vincent L. Cryns '83, a tutor in Mather House who raises 16-month-old Avery, "a very cute son," with Julia A. DeMaria. "It's a safe community too, with all the security and whatnot. It's a great place for Avery."

Last year, Avery participated in a play group with the children of other tutors and junior faculty members. One of the babies was Mather infant Sofia Gomez-Doyle.

"Sofia and Avery are about two weeks apart," Cryns says. When both DeMaria and Sofia's mother, Christina Gomez, were pregnant, Cryns said, "We went through this pregnancy together, and we did Lamaze [classes] together, so that's really nice."

The sense of community Sofia brings extends to Matherite Kareem Ghalib '96, who lived next door to Gomez and her husband, Jerry P. Doyle, in DeWolfe his sophomore year.

"[Christina] was pregnant during sophomore year--she was getting pretty big, and when we got back for junior year, all of the sudden there was Sofia," Ghalib says.

Doyle and Gomez now live in Ghalib's former DeWolfe suite, he said, and it has an entirely different feel from when he lived there.

"So now my room is a baby room," Ghalib says. "It's got this little mini desk and little building blocks. It's much nicer than my room was before."

Ghalib said having children around reminds him of family life outside Harvard.