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History teacher Alyssa Novick at Ashbury College in Ottawa. (Dave Chan for The Globe and Mail)
History teacher Alyssa Novick at Ashbury College in Ottawa. (Dave Chan for The Globe and Mail)

Work-life Balance

Part 3: Hoping to get sick in order to rest Add to ...

Work-life balance issues affect people in myriad ways. Here, 11 Canadians tell their stories. Part 3 of a six-part series.

EMMA OWEN, VANCOUVER

Executive Assistant. Married. One child.

How do I manage? I'll let you know when I figure it out.

My husband does help out a lot, but I'd like him to cook me dinner once in a while (and, no, take-out doesn't count). I arrive at the train station 15 minutes early every day. This is my "me" time. I sit in my car, drink my coffee and listen to a local radio station's morning show. I look forward to this every weekday morning. How sad is that?

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Going back to work after having my son, Rhys, was the hardest.

Don't get me wrong, I loved getting out of the house, talking with grown-ups about grown-up things and earning a real paycheque. But it was really tough because I have to leave before Rhys gets up. From the time I went back to just a month or so ago, it was all about Daddy. Really, all about Daddy. Whenever he fell and cried, he wanted Daddy. If he was sick and needed cuddles, he wanted Daddy. If we were out and he wanted to be carried, he wanted Daddy.

It was tough and it hurt.

SUSAN WITTEVEEN, TORONTO

Managing director of a bank. Married. Three kids.

In my life right now, I have a "village" of support. I have my mother-in-law. I have a dedicated assistant; I expect her to read my mind and she is really getting quite good at it. And I have my nanny Pia.

Pia and I have been raising my kids together for five years. She works about 12 hours day - 6:50 a.m. to around 7 p.m. - plus often overtime during the week. We try not to have her on weekends to give her a break from us. We try.

I always say to people when they decide to hire a nanny: Be honest with respect to your needs. Are you hiring a nanny for the "kids" or do you need a nanny for the "household" (code for the mommy and daddy need nannying too)?

Pia helps close the wide gaps in my domestic interest and abilities. She seldom complains and when she does gives us a blast - we really, really deserve it.

I consciously chose to spend money on what matters most, so we have a nanny instead of sending the kids to private schools.

The hard truth is that the juggle doesn't always work. I am a multitasker. That's out of vogue right now. But that is what I do. I have been known to mix "business with pleasure" and as a result have had my kids too close during important conference calls and have inadvertently yelled into the phone, "Don't wrestle her like that ... she's a baby and you are choking her to death!"

But I'm glad I work outside the home, even if during the outrageously busy times at the office, or when all three kids get sick at the same time, I question that choice.

EDWARD LYONS, WINNIPEG

Radiologist. Married. Two children, two grandchildren.

I'm from a generation of baby boomers where your work was a commitment. Today, for better or for worse, the younger people coming into careers want to be involved. The difference is a breakfast of bacon and eggs: The chicken is involved; the pig is committed.

Younger people don't want to be committed - they want a balance. When you're interviewing them, they clearly define their work life is 9 to 5. But the time other than that is their time. Whether it's family time or their personal time, that's their time.

It's trite to say you get out of it what you put into it. But those people who aren't interested in doing anything but going to work for eight hours and going home and doing their own thing, at the end of the day, I'm not sure how much they will have enjoyed their profession. Or how much they will have contributed.

I look at my father, who was an obstetrician. One of my most vivid memories is seeing him come home from three nights in a row delivering babies, and then get showered and go back to work. His commitment was a magnitude larger.

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