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“I don’t know how you do it all,” said one of my board members at an evening meeting on a Monday night. She was a new mom, a bit younger than me, watching me return to work from my second child. I was surprised to hear this, because at no point did it feel like I was doing it all. I had just made a mad dash for home to see my kids once that day for a quick half hour, saying goodnight, because I knew I wasn’t going to be home before they were asleep again.

“I don’t,” I responded bluntly. I told her my husband wasn’t working, so the bulk of those long days fell on him. We were lucky to be able to pull it off, and I was grateful every day for the chance to rely on him so heavily. I am still amazed at his ability to keep our house moving.

Our kids are ten and seven years old now. In a moment of ill-advised weakness this past fall, I scheduled my daughter for an acting class on the same night as my son’s piano lesson. Clearly I wasn’t thinking straight—neither class is anywhere near one another, and this arrangement depended on both my husband and I being ready to drive more than an hour round trip, in opposite directions, at the same time.

Little did I know how busy those six weeks were going to be in every other aspect of our lives, including many work commitments during most of those classes and lessons. I didn’t make it to to one of my son’s lessons for more than a month, and I completely missed my daughter’s final acting performance, because I was out of town for work. It wasn’t my best moment as a parent.

But honestly, my kids hardly noticed. Mostly because they, and we, are surrounded by a truly amazing community of people. Their grandma stepped in to take on some driving, even when it was extremely last-minute. Our friends and neighbors came over and watched our kids for two nights so my husband and I could spend some time away together. My husband recorded my daughter’s performance on his phone, and we all watched it together the next night.

I hope that when they grow up, they remember that it wasn’t possible for their parents to do it all. Their parents did their best and had a great community around them who stepped in often. Sometimes it was stressful, and sometimes it was confusing; sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. And I hope they remember that sometimes we learned from our mistakes and refused to schedule so many things at the same time… or at least I hope that I remember this.

And to moms who are struggling, I hope you might find your people who can help this way too. I hope that no one thinks the world and all of these responsibilities of children rests on your shoulders, even if it might feel that way at times. Ask for help, let go of what can be let go of, give hugs when you can. Life just works better with a giant helping of grace and community, and I pray that blessing for you.

On the other side of things, perhaps there are a few things Christian school leaders can also do to encourage more women and people of color to become leaders who don’t have to seem like they are ‘doing it all.’ Some actions we can take:

  1. Hold fewer board meetings. The board meeting schedule is an extension of how the board sees its responsibility. Whichever theory of governance is true for your board, does the schedule serve as an accurate reflection of that? I have noticed a trend toward fewer board meetings per year, and I applaud that direction!
  2. Explore shared leadership models. Shared leadership is another trend I am grateful to see. On our own team, we make a conscious effort to balance out expectations for travel in a way that honors each of our family commitments. Shared leadership roles make it possible for us to step in for each other as needed.
  3. Set clear, realistic expectations. This requires intentional effort with the executive committee or full board. Is the expectation for all administrators to attend every event? Or is the goal for such an expectation really to get some face time with parents? Instead of expecting the administrator to attend all concerts, for example, they can greet the community and then step away to be with their own family. The board must set and honor healthy expectations.

Creating pathways for diverse leaders doesn’t come naturally, but our schools, and our students, deserve role models who can demonstrate leadership which balances all the pieces of their lives—without having to look like we are ‘doing it all.’

Author Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski

Elizabeth Lucas Dombrowski is the executive director of All Belong, a nonprofit that partners with Christ-centered schools and churches across North America to support inclusive education for students of all abilities. Elizabeth has served at All Belong, formerly known as CLC Network, since 2012 with a background in fundraising and nonprofit administration. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Valparaiso University and master’s degree from Grand Valley State University.

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