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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 ...

JOHN GRAHAM, GOOSE BAY, LABRADOR

Social work and health consultant. Married. Four children.

About 15 years ago I was recently divorced, so I was single-parenting two active boys. I was commuting to and from work. I was running an office for the department of social services, picking up kids after school, getting them to soccer. Life was not in balance at all.

I remember the day I decided I had to stop. I was going to a meeting to discuss new child welfare legislation for the province. My son was under the desk at home saying "I'm not going to the babysitter!" I picked him up with my left hand and with my right hand I put on his boots while he was still dangling. I got into the car and thought, "There's something wrong here."

Now I work at home, and it's paid off big time for us as a family.

HUSSAIN GUISTI, WINNIPEG

Runs a charity. Married. Three kids.

My wife is a full-time surgeon, so all the family chores are on me. When she comes out of a very busy day, I want her to relax.

She does the cooking and we have help with the cleaning, but the rest of the stuff - the groceries, taking the kids to school, buying stuff for them,- that's all up to me. When it comes to buying clothes we'll go together because she will complain. I'm not good at buying girls clothes. But every day in the morning, I wake up with the girls and do their hair and take them to school. Well, actually, she does their hair at night and I just smooth it out the next morning.

I have my kids registered in basketball and cooking and kickboxing and art. You have to multitask. They come home from school and their dinner's ready, they do their homework and it's right to the community centre for their activities. Then they come home, pray, brush your teeth, go to bed. We haven't had a TV in four and a half years. We used to have one but I spent too much time watching sports and it cut down on family time. I'm surprised how people have time to watch soap operas or to ask me "Have you seen Two and a Half Men or NCSI?" No!

When you have two professionals working full time, I think the strain of that is the main reason for the high divorce rate. So I think one person should step back and devote more time to the family. I'm more with okay with being the one to do it. Why not? I do things I love. I love running my charity. A man has to have a sense of achievement.

ALYSSA NOVICK, OTTAWA

Private school teacher. Separated. Two teens.

By the time I get to my office at 8:05 a.m. I feel like I have been up and "on" for hours. But there is no respite. I teach, I mark, I prep, I cover study halls, I am on duty.

After school I have students waiting to see me and I am supposed to be on the tennis courts helping to coach. My older son has musical rehearsal. My younger son has football practice. Football is five days a week with a game on the weekend. Musical rehearsal is also five days with a full day rehearsal on Saturdays. I do all the driving back and forth.

Monday nights, ironically, I have to leave the house at 6 p.m. for a stress reduction workshop. I weigh my choices: Will it be more or less stressful to run out of the house at supper time, with homework not done? I decide to go.

I am not good at delineating work from the rest of my life. First, my kids go to the same school so it gets muddled up in that respect. Then I am close with a few of the teachers and we socialize outside of school and yammer on about it. And, I am bad for answering e-mails whenever I get them, which since I acquired a BlackBerry, is all the time.

But I am lucky because I teach and that gives me more flexibility than a lot of parents. I don't take that for granted.

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

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