Dr. Lisa Gonzales
Mother, Leader, Administrator - You Can Do It
A new mentee of mine on LinkedIn engaged me in a conversation the other day. A principal with a four year old at home, her concern was balance.
"How do I do it?" she asked.
Ah.....such a great question. And I can't say I have all the answers because we, as moms, sort of figure it out as we go. What research of current administrative staffing data will show is that more than half of public school principals are women and for the most part, with the retirements of so many baby boomers and a teacher shortage, more women are heading into site leadership at a younger age. Couple that with many women waiting until later in their careers/lives to have children, and its pretty common for principals and assistant principals to have wee ones at home.
As a third year principal, I delivered healthy twin girls (thank you to being older and fertility treatment). Before I returned to work as a principal, I agreed to move into an assistant principal position for a year. I had NO idea what that balance of motherhood with two infants and a full time job might entail, but it made sense at the time....and it lasted for two weeks before I was moved back to a different site as a principal.
And I still tried to figure out the balance....sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully.
Federal data shows that the average principal works, on average, 58.6 hours per week. Ouch! That balance of work and family is ever more important with data like that.
So what advice did I share? (again...full disclosure...I try but do not have all the answers)
- try to scan emails if you feel you have to be connected in the evening or on weekends but don't feel a need to respond to them unless there is an emergency
- if you are in a challenging climate where you know emails might upset you on a weekend, turn email off - no sense in bringing into your home and family time a level of stress that can be postponed until Monday
- set clear expectations with your staff, such as texting you in an emergency while encouraging them all to focus on family time as well
- talk in staff meetings about the importance of family time and seek their support for a healthy climate for all staff
- be honest and open if you are leaving work to go to an event for your children, like an important basketball game or the county track meet but make a point of sharing that you were there late a different night that week
- encourage staff to leave for those same types of events
- calendar big family events and share them with colleagues - encourage them to do the same!
- talk about work and find ways to bring them with you to events so they can better understand what you do
- schedule the special alone time with your children so they have your full and undivided attention
- let your children be your strongest supporters and loudest cheerleaders
- use technology to check in and support them when you have late meetings/events (I've used Facetime and Google Duo frequently to check in and map out on a whiteboard in my office how to solve an algebra problem)
Often times we bring our lives into our work, but that's the special sauce that we, as women, bring to the workplace. We share that "mom perspective" in meetings with parents and think through how we would want our own children talked to when we have to discipline or guide students.
Being a mom and a leader? I recommend it highly.
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