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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 ...

I think that my kids sometimes get frustrated. Perhaps I wasn't always there for them. Yes, that hurts. And they're right.

STELLA YIU, OTTAWA AND TORONTO

ER doctor/teacher. Married. No kids.

It's all shift work. So we don't have standard holidays like everybody else. We also don't have weekends like everybody else. It's hectic, but it's not crazy.

I had to move for family reasons. I came from Hong Kong when I was a teenager and I'm very lucky that my parents are healthy. I have a very understanding spouse. There are no guilt trips. Whether I'm in this city doing a shift or that city doing a shift, I'm just working. It's lovely - they've always been on board.

We haven't decided whether to have kids yet. It's a big mystery to me how my colleagues do it. I don't know how they make it work.

Most people plan for a redundancy. If the nanny calls in sick, there's a kid next door who can babysit. But it breaks down when there are things you can't control: Traffic. Illness. Something you can't do anything about. That's when the acute stress comes about.

JULIE MATLIN, MONTREAL

Web communities manager and blogger. Married. Two kids.

I'm not sure the balance is actually working.

Two weeks ago I was wishing I'd get a cold, just a 24 hour virus, so I could get some forced rest. I knew if I just took a sick day I'd end up organizing the storage room. I got my wish on Tuesday. Full fever. Be careful what you ask for.

We have to make a lot of hard decisions. For instance, we thought about sending my son to a Jewish private pre-school, but can't because they close at 5 p.m., whereas his daycare is open till 6 p.m. I skipped one of the most religious holidays this year because I took advantage of the fact the entire family would be in synagogue and I could sleep in peace. That makes me sad.

JOHN CHOW, VANCOUVER

Internet entrepreneur. Married. One child.

I used to own a print shop, and that was crazy. I worked 12-14 hour days, just all the time. Now I work about two hours a day. I posted a video on my website called "The Dot Com Lifestyle." It's of me and my daughter in a park in Vancouver on a Wednesday afternoon. We're the only people there. I've gotten so many e-mails from people about that, about how inspired people were by it. People are caught in the money-time conflict. They have money but they don't have time. You have to figure out how to have both.

JULIEN PAPON, TORONTO

Entrepreneur. Married. One child.

There are all those moments when I am with my family - playing with my daughter, talking with my wife - and my mind is elsewhere. And this is all the time. The ability to disconnect from the professional environment and entirely focus on other things is a key asset. I know that I need to better myself in that regard. I miss out on the little moments that life offers, not necessarily because I am physically absent, but because my mind is churning out some new thoughts, opportunities, risks.

MADELEINE REDFERN, IQALUIT

Runs the Qikiqtani Truth Commission. One child.

My daughter has always been very independent. When she was born I owned a baby store in Ottawa and I actually cared for her in the store from the age of six months on. I had made the decision that I wanted to work, but I wasn't prepared to hand her over to a caregiver or daycare. I wanted to be part of her daily life. People would say, "Oh my god, I can't believe she's at the store with you all day." Thinking that was somehow inappropriate parenting. But she had a blast. It was way more engaging than if she had just stayed home with me as a mother and housewife. It worked for us.

Really the time that was most overwhelming was when I clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada. I was already used to working hard and being diligent and disciplined. But it was exhausting. I worked 15 hours-plus a day, seven days a week, week in, week out, for a period of almost 10 months when my daughter was 17. I'm not a procrastinator by nature. If I was, I would be completely overwhelmed and unable to handle how much I do.

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