After nine years in the classroom, Lyn Hilt transitioned to the principal’s office. I met Lyn when she was in the crux of her principalship. Her blog, The Principal’s Post, was a regular companion for me, when I struggled to understand my own administrators. So…you can imagine my surprise when five years into being my go-to principal, she left her Post. It seemed that along with her career success, Lyn had also been blessed with the title of “Mom.”
As one who is deeply steeped in the Mystique, I respected, but still struggled to understand Lyn’s decision to transition from elementary school principal to part-time instructional technology integrator. I asked Lyn for this interview because I think that her decision to focus more on her family was brave and bold. I also believe the the work/family balance weighs particularly heavy on new mothers.
What was the reaction of your school, friends, and family when you decided to move away from being a principal?
Those closest to me were not surprised. Five years into it, my professional confidants knew that the principalship was draining me, baby or no baby. To be honest, I was looking for a different role and other opportunities before we found out I was pregnant. I think many of my students were surprised, simply because they’re small children and probably don’t understand the complex decisions a working woman needs to make. Many of the younger kiddos still ask me if I’m their principal when they see me in the building! I received many words of encouragement from co-workers, parents, and community members after I announced I’d be taking leave for the remainder of the year after my son was born. The remarks of many women reassured me I made the right decision: “Enjoy this time,” “It goes so fast,” “It’s so nice you’re able to stay home with him!” It was the right decision for me and our family.
Did your decision surprise you?
Not for a second. As long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mommy. It has always been my wish to stay home and raise my kid(s). I likely would have made the same decision had I been in a different position or occupation. Thankfully my husband was supportive of this decision and we were able to adjust to life on one income during my leave. I realize not all women have that option.
It seems like what you wanted to get out of life changed. How has your definition of happiness and success changed?
I struggle sometimes (and, admittedly, I’m a tad bit jealous) when I see my colleagues in the Twitterverse traveling here, there, and everywhere, presenting at conferences, finding the time to network with others, when obviously it’s no longer easy for me to pick up and go, nor do I want to be away from home for extended periods of time. I know I probably lost some opportunities to present or be involved in various “connected ed” endeavors, but right now, my duties as Mom are infinitely more important.
What advice would you give to women who have high careers aspirations who are struggling to reconcile those with having a family?
It’s sad, but true: everyone will judge you, no matter which path you choose, no matter how wonderfully you think you’ve balanced everything. So mentally prepare for that. You’ll never feel like you’re good enough in any capacity. Women are so hard on themselves! Your friends and family will offer advice. Working women think, “It must be nice to stay home all day,” and stay-at-home moms think, “I wonder if the kids even know what their working mother looks like?”
Know yourself and your strengths and limits. Don’t be afraid to work with your employer to design opportunities that can help you best serve the company/organization. I would not have been doing my school or my child any favors had I returned full-time to the principalship. I know there are plenty of principals with young children, but I knew I would crumble under the intense demands of administration, constant at-home work time, early and late hours, etc. I would have been miserable, and it would have made my family miserable.
Don’t rule out working from home, but seriously consider if you have the dedication to work from home successfully. It’s extremely demanding, more so than I ever anticipated. A few months after my son was born, I had some at-home work commitments that I completed during nap times and after bed at night. It was exhausting. The home/work lines blurred constantly. Again, some women perfect this role. Just listen to yourself and what you know will work best for you and your family.
So, in August I returned to work, but my instructional technology coaching assignment is part-time. I love the freedom this schedule provides and the fact that I have many interrupted days at home with my son. When I’m in schools, I enjoy working with teachers and students and can focus on my work. When I return home, I can dole out hugs and kisses and snuggles and focus on any take-home work (minimal amounts of it compared to my administrative role) after bedtime. I try to spend a healthy amount of time at home disconnected.
In what ways has being a parent changed or confirmed your pedagogical understanding and practices?
As a principal, my philosophy was very much “kids first.” I spent a lot of time with students who didn’t “fit the mold,” who needed adult support and guidance to help them learn how to make more positive choices, and who needed a lot more love in their lives. I’m not sure my philosophies have changed much since becoming a parent, because I always felt as though it was our role as principals and teachers to protect and help grow our students as if they were our own children. I hope very much my son’s future school community embraces those same ideals.
You can find more of Lyn on Twitter and on her blog Learning in Technicolor