CEO/President, Mother, and Spouse

Balancing the roles.

May 31, 2017

Disclaimer: I haven’t figured it all out. Being a college president is a 24-hour, all-consuming job. The role is probably most like a hospital CEO position, with all its dimensions and responsibilities for people and the institution. One of the best articles that I read recently on the multiple facets of the job came from Deloitte University Press and it was titled Pathways to the University Presidency. While it focused on how people get to the top job, it also highlighted the major responsibilities of a college president. It is not a cruise control job! Luckily, before fastening my belt in the driver’s seat, I had an opportunity to evaluate whether this was what I wanted. I still chose the presidency. It is a fulfilling job.

I have yet to meet a college president who is working on “work/life balance.” A few years ago, the Massachusetts ACE Network hosted Suffolk University Professor Jodi Detjen, co-author of the book The Orange Line™ - A Woman's Guide to Integrating Career, Family and Life, who shared some great advice on how to approach and achieve integration in these three realms. It is not easy for men or women. A significant challenge for most of us women, however, is the societal expectation for motherhood, let alone our own sense of guilt.

I will confess that this year I missed just about everything in my kids’ lives. My husband, aka CEO of Everything, I tried to spare having my activities consume his life too, as often happens with the spouse. The first year of a college presidency is brutal. We made this sacrifice as a family. As we approach the second year and I get more settled, I am building all of my kids’ vacations into my calendar, scheduling regular time with hubby, and planning as much as can be anticipated of my professional schedule. If it is not on the schedule, it simply does not happen, though being on the schedule does not guarantee that it doesn’t get bumped. I will be relying on hubby and my closest girlfriends to be my accountability partners to whom I will report.

Another person for whom the first year is just as overwhelming is the assistant to the president. Scheduling alone is a full-time job and is ever-changing in the first year! The initial year is about physically moving in, creating equilibrium, getting to know the organization and the external community—assuming that there are no enrollment, financial, or other pressures needing a clear strategy, immediate execution and (heaven forbid!) immediate success. The role of the assistant in the president’s success cannot be overstated. They too need some TLC!

While I failed on many metrics in the personal realm this year, I did succeed with my goal to work more from home than at the office in the evenings and weekends. Even when I was not emotionally present as I worked, I was physically present at home more often this year. I could hear them play the piano or “watch” a movie together while responding to emails. Many times, though, I turned into a hermit when I got home. The job requires nearly non-stop interaction with others, so I coveted alone time.

On a few occasions, I had high tea with my daughter and many of her dolls. We call each other  lady while we sip on our teas. There will be more teas and scones this year! I also enjoyed a few board games with my family, which I realized, if I do on a Sunday makes me way happier at work the following Monday. Not scientific or a causal relationship, but a strong correlation. I also cooked a few meals this year for the munchkins. Alright, maybe I didn’t earn a total 0; I may have been a solid 25 over 100. I will take that. With the kids and hubby, I will do better year two.

In the end, the key is not to beat ourselves up as women. It is to have reasonable expectations of ourselves, celebrate the small accomplishments, endeavor to do better and actually doing better. Here’s to a more successful year two!



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