Barbara Oplinger’s love and time at FarmHouse international fraternity has spanned decades. From being a FarmHouse sweetheart with her husband Roger, to supporting her son, Luke, as a member of the fraternity, to now in her seventh year as K-State’s chapter house mom, “Mom Op” has dedicated many hours to the organization and made a lasting impact on hundreds of chapter members.
“When the guys first approached me about being a house mom a number of years ago, I asked my husband and then I asked my kids about it,” Oplinger said. “My youngest daughter said, ‘Oh mom, that’s great for you. You’ve always wanted to be a mom for more kids, and just think, you won’t have to pay their tuition.'”
For the K-State alumna, the house mom position fit well into her love of being a mom, as she has five children of her own, and her desire to give back to the organization.
“I did sacrifice a career for a number of years to be a full-time mom, because I think that is an important career,” she said. “But, I never really thought about being a house mom as a career. I still don’t look at is as a career. I look at it as being able to give back, because they gave so much to the men in my life.”
There is no “typical” day at their house on College Heights, Oplinger said. The chapter members handle most of the house chores, a goal of the chapter.
“One thing that I appreciate about FarmHouse is that it is run by the men, not by the house mom,” she said. “That’s one of the goals – that they will leave the fraternity house with the skills to run a house, (including to) cook and clean and (do) yard work and business manage. The guys do all of that here.”
Oplinger said she enjoys supporting the boys, from attending their intramural games to providing advice or guidance to helping decorate for holidays.
“I go to their ball games and their parties,” she said. “The closet in my room has lots of resources they might need last minute so they don’t have to go to Wal-Mart. It’s always about 11 o’clock when they need something.”
When her husband, who is a farmer, is out of town working, Oplinger spends the night at FarmHouse. Overall, her last seven years have been a positive experience, she said.
“My husband says they spoil me something terrible, because they take being a FarmHouse man very literal,” she said.
House Director of the Year
During Greek Week earlier this spring, Oplinger was nominated for and won the House Director of the Year award for fraternity chapters at K-State. Separate awards are given to sorority house moms.
“Everything she does encapsulates our fraternity’s mission,” said Ryan Schmidt, junior in agribusiness and FarmHouse member. “She’s always willing to give her time and efforts, whether it is cooking for us or taking us somewhere. She is always willing to sacrifice.”
Oplinger plays an active and important role in the fraternity, said Colin Hitz, sophomore in architectural engineering.
“She is energetic,” Hitz said. “She always wants to be involved.”
Sometimes, she is there for something as simple, but important, as asking for advice, Schmidt said.
“For me, to just be able to go into her room and talk about my own life or FarmHouse (is important),” Schmidt said. “Obviously, when you are older, you are more wise, but also to have a woman’s perspective on certain topics, whether they are going on in my own life or something like what I should get my mom for Mother’s Day. There’s an advantage to living with this many guys, but there is also an advantage to having that advice from a woman, as well.”
Enjoys seeing growth
Over her time at FarmHouse, Oplinger said she has most enjoyed watching the students grow.
“Seeing the growth and development in the guys from the time they get here to the time they leave (is rewarding),” she said. “I’m really fortunate, because I get to know a lot of alumni. A lot of the members of FarmHouse become the movers and shakers wherever they go.”
She also respects and appreciates how the members treat not only her, but women in general, she said.
“One of the things that is touching to me is we have a mom’s weekend, and it’s so sweet to see how they treat their moms,” she said. “When I was growing up, my mom would always say, ‘Pay attention to how the guys treat their moms, because it shows the respect they have.’ That’s what these guys show, not just to me as their house mom or their own mom, but they are also showing that courtesy to other women. That is very impressive to me.”
Oplinger said she doesn’t have plans to end her time as FarmHouse fraternity house mom anytime soon, and isn’t looking forward to that day when it does eventually come.
“It’s going to be a sad day when the day comes for me to leave,” she said. “I think that’s true for a lot of the women, whether it’s a cook position or a home mom position. It’s a hard position to leave.”