Bailey experiences new role as temporary single mother


Dean of Students Cassy Bailey walks into the student senate room carrying a bag of toys with her 9-year-old daughter, Emma, trailing behind and her 6-year-old son, Jacob, leading the way, eager to greet me.

Cassy’s wearing sweats and tennis shoes, Emma in pink, Jacob in red – their favorite colors. I’m not used to seeing her this way, a working mother of two. I’m used to Dean Bailey in professional attire working at her desk or meeting with students.

She calls me Miss Courtney.

The children do too.

Jacob reaches out to shake my hand, Emma too – an indication that they’ve been raised on a college campus. First in Arkansas, now Kansas.

Cassy served as Dean of Students at Hendrix College from July 2005 to October 2007, her husband Erik teaches third grade in Little Rock, Ark.

But it’s different this time.

When Cassy accepted the position in November, she and her two children left her husband at home.

“I’m a single mom now. It’s been an experience,” Cassy said. “We knew taking the job it would be a challenge. When you say it’s going to be eight months, it’s different than doing it.”

Jacob agrees. He misses his dad. He misses supporting the Arkansas Razorbacks.

“Momma’s not really a sports person,” Jacob said. “But my dad is really into sports. I have to play sports on my own now.”

Emma misses her dad too. She misses playing games with him on family game night; she misses giving him hugs.

“It’s sad sometimes. Not being able to go home and see him is the hardest part for me,” she said. “I miss jumping around him while he lays on the trampoline.”

They don’t even have a trampoline right now. The family lives in a townhouse in Baldwin City, while Erik remains behind.

“We are selling our house,” Cassy said. “We weren’t able to bring the kids’ furniture.”

Erik kept the dog, and the children took the cat, Matilda.

“It’s not really nice,” Cassy said, laughing.

Emma and Jacob laugh too.

“The cat drives us crazy,” Jacob said. “She kind of bit me.”

“She bit me too,” Cassy said.

“She scratched me,” Emma said, giggling.

They laugh again, this time uncontrollably. Cassy leaned forward, breathing hard, Emma covered her mouth, and Jacob kicked me under the table.

“Don’t kick Miss Courtney,” Cassy told him.

I don’t mind.

He looked under the table, checking his feet. Emma did too.

She has on new tennis shoes – pink, of course. Her feet are getting bigger, her hair, which she wants to donate to Locks of Love, is getting longer. Jacob is losing more teeth – all things their father has missed in the last four months.

“It’s not specific things I miss,” Cassy said. “It’s some of the milestones like Emma’s shoes or Jacob’s teeth. It’s him I miss.”

She misses her best friend.

The family stays in touch, though, talking on the phone, meeting once a month – usually in Baldwin City and once in Tulsa, Okla.

“We put him on speaker so we can talk during dinner,” Cassy said.

Erik misses them too.

“It’s hard being away from all three of them. I miss them greatly,” Erik said. “I’m thankful to be able to talk to them on the phone.”

But Baldwin City is home to Erik. He grew up here; his parents Barb and Walt Bailey still live here. To him, this is an opportunity to be close to home, to his parents, to the university he graduated from.

“Baldwin is my hometown. I grew up in Baldwin. I went to kindergarten through college there,” Erik said. “I have lots of friends and family who live there.”

Erik’s father, Walt Bailey, special assistant to the president for development of the arts, doesn’t mind having his grandchildren closer to him and his wife, Barb.

“It’s, of course, very exciting to have the family here,” Walt said. “We look forward very much to Erik joining them.”

Erik plans to move to Baldwin at the end of the academic school year – Feb. 19 marked the halfway point for the family. Only four more months to go.

Until Erik moves, Cassy said her in-laws are helping her take care of Jake and Emma whenever a conflict arises.

“We try not to tax them too much,” she said. “We have become accustomed to routine because there’s only one parent.”

Even still, Walt doesn’t mind having his grandchildren around.

“Jacob was in one of the community recreation basketball leagues, and we attended games,” Walt said. “I’ve played kickball with Jacob in the front yard. We built a snowman one day.”

Jacob enjoys the time with his grandparents too.

“It feels like we feel comfortable staying with them,” he said.

Cassy pulls an envelope out and licks it. It’s a thank you card to a greek house she ate dinner at a few nights ago. Jacob and Emma stayed at their grandparents that night.

“I’m always interested in having good people in the community,” Walt said. “I knew Cassy would be a good contributor to the Baker community.”

But contributions require time, time Cassy doesn’t have a lot of between taking care of the children and her job.

“The fun part of being on a teeter-totter is that sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re down,” Cassy said about her life. “What’s difficult for me is feeling like I can never give 100 percent to anything.”

Any extra time she does have goes to her family though.

“The kids have been great. They have to be really patient with me,” Cassy said. “It’s not a job that when I walk out of the door, I leave. I wouldn’t want a job like that.”

They’re used to it, Cassy jokes looking at her children. “Baker is a lot different than Hendrix.”

I ask Jacob and Emma which college they prefer.

“Baker,” Emma said.

“BU,” Jacob said. “Big orange.”