Prioritizing Family Over Work
It's not uncommon to know a married couple where both spouses are teachers. Dual educators know how challenging it can be to navigating family with a teaching career. In this episode we discuss how prioritizing family and dreams impacted one couples' decisions to leave the classroom.
A Couple Decides to Leave Teaching
Thank you for joining us today on The Great Teacher Resignation our two guests for today. They connected with us when our podcast debuted. And they're both former teachers. Adam McLean has 14 years of experience teaching music from pre K through graduate school. He now works full time as an instructional specialist for the Jackson Laboratory, supporting online and digital education. Ashley McLean is a former Montessori educator who spent 12 years teaching pre K and kindergarten before leaving her job to take up the mantle of stay at home parent. She is currently focused on her Etsy shop, Acadia Goddess Arts. So she continued to stay at home. Welcome to the show. Thank you.
Thank you. Great to be here.
And we thank you so much for listening you both some of the first few people to really like send us very touching messages. And yeah, I definitely didn't know that you guys were married. You're like sending these heartfelt messages. And I was like, Oh, they're a couple that's even cooler.
Yeah, well, that I didn't, I didn't know that he had sent you a message. But he had told me about your podcast. And I actually, I will be completely honest, I was really nervous about listening at first because it was like, is it gonna bring up all of these feelings that I had about leaving, but then I listened to it. And I was like, Oh, my gosh, this is it's just it makes me feel validated. And it makes me feel like I'm not alone. And that was really great. And I really appreciate what you're doing. So thank you.
Our focus today is on prioritizing family. We talk about how our career change has made it a lot more flexible for us to be there for our families. So we're really interested in hearing your story about why prioritizing a family as dual educators didn't work perhaps?
Misconceptions that Teaching is the Perfect Family Career
Yeah, it's a great question. And I'll just start off by saying that we both started our teaching careers before we were parent, we were together, but we hadn't become parents yet. And, you know, we thought by both of us being teachers, it would actually help us prioritize our family. Because, you know, I was working at a school that allowed eventually, when both kids were born, to come to the school with me, and they got their quality education, and it was great. And I thought, Oh, this is great. I can prioritize my family by being with them. I drove them to and from school, you know, because I was there with them. And we had vacations off. And you know, Adam had vacations off as well. But ultimately, just it became a lot.
I think that even though we had, you know, ostensibly write the same schedule, right? And all this time together for school vacations. In reality, it was really more complicated than that. Because we would have after school meetings, parent teacher conferences, professional development, school concerts for me, man, it was like a puzzle, right? Trying to constantly coordinate our after school schedules. Or if we're if Ashley had an in service day or something. And the kids were, you know, kids were who were going to her school, were at home, trying to figure out, you know, that whole childcare situation was really tricky, and having to figure out who was going to stay home with the kids if they were sick, trading sick days. Yeah, that that was really challenging to work out. We were trying to fit in work, you know, at any moment that we could while we read, you know, swim lessons with the kids on the playground at dance class. Yeah, it just it got to a point where it was not only kind of mentally unsustainable, but just like practically, right, unsustainable.
I like your puzzle analogy.
It sure felt like that.
More like a Rubik's cube.
Honestly, like, it brings back a lot of anxiety. Talking about that. Yeah, like cringing thinking about those days. You really highlighted something that I think a lot of dual working parents face, which is the balancing act of family and prioritizing children. Teaching seems very flexible. But it's because you think, Oh, I can drop my kids off. I can pick them up. We have a similar schedule, but it's really inflexible. You can't just leave school in the middle of the day to pick up your child if they're sick and bring them home. There's a lot of work that goes into getting someone to cover your class for the rest of the day. But I think when you have both spouses are both partners that Have inflexible jobs. It makes parenting very, very difficult. And I can relate a lot to that. Because as a teacher, I felt like my job was not flexible. And then my husband is in the military and his job is even less flexible than being a teacher. How did you fix what wasn't working?
What Happens When You Feel Like You're Not the Best Parent Anymore?
During our teaching? We Adam and I were discussing this yesterday, we thought it was important to mention that we really made time to be with our kids, when we were with our kids. So like, we would always snuggle them at bedtime, we'd make sure we would read a book, you know, something to make them feel like we were there, you know, not off somewhere else in our minds, thinking about whatever it was that we needed to plan when the pandemic hit is when it really threw everything into perspective for us, because we were both teaching remotely. Our kids were both learning remotely. And it was not easy. It was extremely stressful. And I know for myself, it really made me feel like I wasn't doing a great job parenting also wasn't, I didn't feel like I was doing a great job teaching either because I was managing so many different things. And it felt different than managing all the things in the classroom. You know, because I wasn't with my children the whole time in the classroom. I could. That was my where my headspace was. And when I'm at home, that's where my headspace is. So when everything was all together in one place, it felt very chaotic. And it everything kind of bubbled over until we made the very difficult decision for me. Uh, well, we started off with me, and I said, I'm not going to go back next year, I am going to homeschool the kids, you know, at least for the next year. And that was probably the most difficult decision I've ever had to make. You know, I love my children, my own children dearly. But I also really love my school children, you know, and I loved my job. And I was good at it. And I was really getting into a flow of like presenting at conferences and writing articles and blog posts. And it just, it felt more important to me to be there for my children during this particular time. I wanted them to look back on this pandemic and think mom really made me a priority, didn't push us to the side.
What were those emotions, like when you were making those decisions?
Well, they were big emotions. So for me, everything was just heightened. So I cried a lot, trying to think about whether I wanted to make the decision to leave. And once I decided to do it, I cried. And I felt frustrated too, because I really couldn't make both things work felt like I'd spent more than 10 years working on this career. But also at the time, our older son turned 10. And I was like I've only ever been teacher, mom. So I realized that I really have only ever been, they call me miss mommy sometimes, you know, like, it's a joke. But for real, like, that's what it felt like is that I never really given the parenting thing alone a try. But then once I finally made the decision, and I made the phone call, and my head of school talked me down a little bit, she didn't have any hard feelings, you know. And that made me feel relief, like huge relief, because I was so dedicated to my job that when I made the decision to leave, I thought everyone was going to be so mad at me that I was leaving. And I felt like I was letting people down. But I also knew deep inside that I was letting my children up.
I really connect with you a lot in your story, Ashley, so for our listeners who are thinking that might be the step for them, I want them to know that my experience was also very well received by my administration. And I think, you know, as educators, we all love children. That's what we wanted to teach. And and so when you're when you're nervous, and you're scared, and we don't want to let people down. We're all human beings, and we want our, our employees and our teachers to do what's best for them and their family. And it's really hard to come to that decision. But trust that if that's what you, you know, is right for you. I'm so glad to hear that you were supported by your school. So I'm glad you're able to make that that transition. And now you're focused on something different. So you made your transition first. And then Adam, what did that look like for you? Did you get to see what Ashley experienced you also transitioned out of the formal classroom, even though you're still supporting education?
Moving Towards Lifestyle and Career Goals
Yeah, that's right. So Ashley made that transition, like a full year before I did. And the last school year that I worked as a full time teacher was 2020 to 2021. And that year actually ended up being a fully virtual year at that time. I was starting to think about you know what, what is the next step because it was becoming clear like we really also wanted to transition geographically. We were living in the greater Boston area and we wanted to transition up here to Maine where we are now. So one impetus for me transitioning into the private sector was just to find other job possibilities that would allow us to live in the place that we we dreamed of living in, I think the pandemic, you know, like Ashley said, which put a lot of things in perspective for us, it also put into perspective that it was really important for us to live in a place that we really felt at home, and that we really loved coming home to that just wasn't the case for where, where we had, you know, our teaching career. So I started kind of expanding the kind of job that I was looking for, for the instructional specialists position that I'm in now kind of emerged. You know, I actually have found that it's been a really good fit for me.
That's really great to hear that you've been able to translate so much of what you did as an educator into the new role that you're doing. And I think for our listeners who are thinking about going into a different career that's related like that, like instructional design, I think, I hope that will give them the confidence to know that they have the tools. And once you can be a little bit scary to think, Okay, I'm gonna go do something totally new. Am I going to be good at it? Am I really going to know how to do this? Am I gonna be an imposter, like, what you know what is happening? And so I'm glad to hear that you, you were able to jump into this new field. Sounds like you're doing a great job at your organization, and you've translated a lot of your education experience over I want to hear from both of you two years down the road, how do you feel about where you are now?
I feel so good. Like, and when I say good, it's like, I've never been happier in my life, you know, that I am home, and I am able to take care of the kids I take them to and from school because I don't homeschool them anymore. They go to a local private school that's like a place based outdoor community. It's wonderful. And like, they're happy, which makes me happy. And we live in a beautiful place like Adam was saying, you know, we we like to come home here. You know, we live on an island. So like, if we're driving off the island, for some reason, we always feel relief when we come home, you know, and like I do miss teaching, sometimes, maybe one day I'll go back, right. But I feel right now that I'm able to do all the things that I could never do while we were both full time teachers. That doesn't mean I'm not working. I always often say this to that being a stay at home parent, it's so many jobs. And you know, I'm still exhausted at the end of the day, but it's a different kind of exhausted, I'm not drained from taking care of 20 other children, and then my own two children, and then myself and Adam and our house and our cats and feel so relieved that I can take care of myself, which is not something I've ever really been good at, I do not take good care of myself. I think that a lot of teachers feel that way. Because we have all prioritized our children and our classrooms and our jobs, because we want to do a good job to help these children grow up to be like these well rounded people. And I think for too long, and not just me, so many people neglected their self care. And I think that was one of the reasons why I felt like I really needed to make a transition because I was not taking care of myself at all. And it was really affecting everybody. And I think Adam can speak to this too. But I think everyone else is happy, so.
Life After Teaching Means Less Compromise
There's less compromise. At least that's how I, after the transition, my family has so much less compromise. If I was dedicating time to my family or my child, I was compromising things in the classroom, but I had to I had to leave to go to appointments with my daughter, it meant setting up a day of learning that wasn't going to be as effective if I was in the classroom, because we all know the primary teacher is going to be the most effective educator in that room. And same as a parent, the the primary parents are going to be the most effective and influential people in that child's life. So there was always a compromise. And there was so much internal conflict with that. And after the move. Like you it was relief. There was no more compromise. There was a time when in my career when I didn't have a child. And I asked a fellow teacher, you know, how do you balance teacher life and parent life? And the teacher looked at me and she said, there's no balance.
Well they were speaking the truth.
She was she was I was like ready to hear some positive motivational speech from her. And she was like, there's none. And I was like, Oh, God.
Yeah, I've been asked that question too. Not recently, but when I was teaching, you know, people who would have just had babies would say, how do you do it? Especially with two and I'm like, I don't I mean, I don't know how I do this. I'm not sure and looking back on it. I definitely don't know how I got everything done, and everyone is still in one piece
In one piece, yeah.
I think to the point of the conversation Jody and I left pre pandemic. And you both left during or as a result kind of, of what opened up. Because of the pandemic, you realized you had time, a lot of us we our lives slowed down in different ways. And so things became, we questioned things. We questioned what we were doing, where we were living, how we were spending our time. So many people, not just the four of us, but so many people did. And so that's really, that's really how and why we started this podcast was to talk to teachers who decided to make a change, but for whatever reason, and it's been so great hearing your stories. Adam, I didn't get a chance to go back to you about two years later, how you feel.
Yeah. So I really agree with everything that Ashley saying there's actually a lot more flexibility in our lives in a way that, you know, we never had before. And our older son was saying to me, maybe a few months ago, he was saying, like, you know, I feel like ever since you've been in your new job, like, you just seem a lot less wound up. I really feel that as well. Like, I'm still tired at the end of the day, and at the end of the week, and I'm ready for you know, the weekend. But I don't come home like emotionally strung out like I did before. You know, I'm happy with how things feel a lot more balanced. Now.
He literally said that today on our hike.
Yeah, it's because you have to binge everything like Ali was saying, you know, even though the summers are off, and honestly, like half the teachers I know worked in the summer anyways, you had to binge time together. And whether it was like a week, a week off or a holiday or summer or the weekend.
A lot of binging. And the other thing that I think we've all touched on is your your brain never really shuts off when you're a teacher. You're always thinking about the next lesson, the next project the next test and so even if you're not staying till six o'clock that night, or seven o'clock or whatever time, you're still thinking about that, and I've just really appreciated both of your insights. Thank you so much for being guests on the show. And if you want to learn more about them or if you want to visit Ashley's Etsy shop, we're going to link the URLs through our social media, so please be sure to check that out.