When I was child, I always wanted to juggle like the showstoppers in the circus and on television. I mastered juggling two balls (not that impressive, I know) but when the third ball entered the mix, I couldn’t control it, and I looked like a clown in the worst sense of the word. As school leaders, we have to juggle all the time. We have our professional and personal roles, and sometimes we sacrifice one for the other, and that’s when everything starts crashing down.
It is important that we look at the three “P” roles in our lives—principal, parent, and partner—and make sure we do everything we can to ensure each gets the time and attention that it needs and deserves. I have learned over the past few years that this is easier said than done.
Last year, a mentor of mine said something that rocked me to the core. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Remember Roger, you are not married to your job.” After hearing those words, shame began to build up as I started to really think about the time I commit to work compared to the time with my wife. I would spend all day at work and when I came home, work was all I would think about. I would sit there and think of all I had to do, look at my calendar, and check emails while I sat on the couch, three feet away from my wife while failing to check on her. Around the same time, more shame filled my heart when my seven-year-old daughter looked at me and said, “Daddy, am I important [as your job] too?” I was guilty of spending more time raising my professional status than raising my children.
After truly evaluating myself, I knew something had to change with the way I was balancing my roles. This was difficult at first because I didn’t want to be less of a leader to my building and was afraid of what would happen if I decreased the time I spent on that role. Surprisingly, making these changes made me a better leader because I had more joy and peace from my relationships and positive interactions with my family.
Below are a few changes that I made to bring balance to the two most important “P” roles in my life—parent and partner. Change is hard, but your family is worth it. At the end of the day, it is your family sitting around the dinner table and snuggling with you on the couch, not your job. Put these two roles first, and success in your other roles is sure to follow.
When you come home for work, stop and give all of your attention to your family. Let your partner and your children tell you all about their days. Show them that what they are saying is the most important thing. Trust me, there will be stories about what happened on the playground and on the drive home from work that you can do without hearing, but by listening you are letting your family know you care about every part of their lives and that you honor their feelings.
When you get home, hug your family and “hang up” your phone. Take your phone to the charger or get a little box that electronics go in for a specific time period. I actually took a small square Amazon box and wrote “No Phones 4:00–7:00 p.m.,” and that is where we place our electronics when we get home. Nothing says you are important like a cell phone in a box.
Individual Date Nights
You need to make time for your partner and children. Make sure at a minimum you take your spouse on a date twice a month. This is a great way to really connect and grow as you talk without interrupting children. Along with taking your partner on a date, plan individual dates with your children as well. Take your daughter to the movies, your son to the park. Make time for each member of your family so they know they are your top priority.
Over the summer and at least once during the school year, take your family on a getaway. It doesn’t have to be expensive; just getting away from it all lets you focus on the things that matter most—your family.
Do Chores Together
On the weekends, clean together. Let your partner know that you value them by grabbing a toilet bowl brush and a vacuum and clean the house together while you make your relationship sparkle and shine.
Are you giving your partner and parent roles the attention that they need? What are some things in your professional role that are keeping you from your personal roles? Which of those things can you stop juggling and have someone else juggle? Which of the above examples can you start implementing in your life today?
Roger Gurganus is an assistant principal at Brownstown Middle School, a grade 6–7 building in Brownstown, MI. He has a passion for children and education and strives to ensure that every student is connected and feels part of the positive communities he creates. Follow his educational and leadership journey on Twitter (@RogerGurganusII), Instagram (@RogerGurganusII), YouTube (@BMSWARRIORS67), and his blog (https://raiseyouranchor.blogspot.com).