This post is just over a year in the making. It's the culmination of thoughts and conversations with friends and colleagues. While it is not limited to education, this week's #ASCDTopics Twitter conversations on "Women in Leadership" inspired me to finally sit down and write it.
Stop lying - women can't have it all. Yes, I am admitting it, and more of us need to. I have held multiple positions in educational leadership, including assistant principal, director of teaching and learning, director of professional development, and board member. I attended an Ivy League graduate school. I own my own company. I am a national presenter and have received leadership awards. I have consulted with districts in multiple states, and recently, internationally. I just signed a book contract. Oh yea, and I have three children under the age of ten. And I am honestly proclaiming, once and for all, you can't have it all.
Myth 1 - Support Systems: A woman's ability to take on leadership positions is related to, but not determined by, her support systems. I have an amazing husband of 10+ years and parents that live less than 30 minutes away. I haven't touched a load of laundry since we were married, and we have a shared understanding about collaborative Google calendars and task lists. My husband is the first to call me out when I am not where Google says I'm supposed to be. Despite this, we still send our kids to school without lunches. We're late to events. Our messy house is just begging to be the new HGTV special. Support systems matter, but they don't make or break one's leadership potential.
Myth 2 - Women Support One Another: When women embark on leadership roles, we would like to think that we belong to a common sisterhood that nudges one another up the professional ladder. Truth be told, we're often the first ones to question one another's choices. Mommy wars are just one glimmer of how we judge one another both inwardly and outwardly. When my daughter was three-weeks-old, I had the opportunity to present across the country at a national conference as well as run for my local board of education. My doctor and I had discussed my decision for months, including the best ways for me to keep up my energy and stay healthy. Despite this, the judgment I received - mostly from other women - took me completely by surprise. They questioned how I would bond and breast-feed my baby, and how I would prepare my home to be away for travel and meetings. These questions have continued to find their way into conversations with friends and family as I travel for business - sometimes close, sometimes far. My husband and I often joke with one another that he is my children's father as much as I am their mother. Yet, seldom do people question or offer support when a man travels for business. If women are going to support one another's leadership journey, we may need to keep our mouths shut as often as we speak up.
Myth 3 - Balance: Balance is my 7-letter curse word. Any women who says she has balance is not being truthful with you (or herself). Something always has to give. If I spend extra time playing with the kids, I am probably ordering take-out. If I go to the gym, I am most likely missing a deadline (FYI - the gym staff no longer know my name). If I attend a networking event, I am usually missing a kid's game or concert. I have walked out of meetings. I have skipped parades and back to school nights. I mute the conference call line when my child is screaming, and I send in store-bought cookies for the class party. Leadership as a woman is a series of give and take, push and pull. Please don't confuse this navigation of "back and forth" with "balance." You will always be letting something go.
The art of leadership is learning to let the right things go at the right times and owning these decisions.
Enough: My wish for all women, whether you seek a leadership role or not, is that you have enough... enough challenge to keep you energized, enough voice to make you feel empowered, enough time to pursue your passion, enough space to fill your heart with love, and enough direction to find your purpose. It's not about having it all; it's about having enough.