Balancing the responsibilities of parenting with a fast-paced corporate career is a challenge many Canadians face. This is how one of those Canadians, Paula Deakin, an insurance broker at Billyard Insurance Group and a mom of one, makes it work.
Deakin started her career in insurance nearly 10 years ago and now works in the sales department, so she never has a ‘typical’ day.
“Sometimes I’ll have to wake up two hours early just to plan my day, but I generally try to do that the prior evening,” she says. “I’m lucky that my work environment is very understanding about my home situation and allows flexible scheduling. I’m often able to work from home in the mornings or evenings, which allows me to drop [my daughter] off at school, pick her up, and attend her special school events. After dinner — basically from 5 p.m. till bedtime — is our family time. We play, laugh, read, and just try to spend quality time together. No phones or other interruptions are allowed!”
Every Wednesday night, Deakin makes time to volunteer with the local Girl Guides with her daughter, Caitlyn. It is a weekly ritual for them to spend time together, develop friendships with other girls and moms, and be involved in the community. Deakin explains that her commitment to Girl Guides stems from a deeper desire to teach her daughter about female empowerment.
“I want my daughter to know that she is always included in my life no matter how busy I am with work. I believe that the most important work you’ll ever do will be within the walls of your own home. More than that, I want to teach Caitlyn that she can do anything she sets her mind to and that self love is important. I set out each day to be a good example to her.”
There may not be a lot of options when it comes to things employers can do to support working parents, but flexible scheduling is at the top of the list. Deakin suggests that encouraging parents to stop into the workplace with their kids once in a while or scheduling an occasional family-friendly work event could be ways to show support for employees’ work-life balance.
“Introducing your family to your work helps build relationships between you and your colleagues. It also makes your children feel included,” explains Deakin. “I am fortunate to work with a great employer who encourages all of the above and to have colleagues who love it when Caitlyn visits the office (she often brings Timbits). Caitlyn often brags to others about visiting Mom’s work and about how she loves Hank the office dog and the Apollo basketball net!”
With or without employer support, being a parent and working full time are commitments that require endless trial and error in order to reach a comfortable balance. Deakin has learned that it’s important to have a flexible mindset, especially when it comes to your daily schedule. Things don’t always go according to your meticulously thought-out plan, so you must adapt to the changes and move on. She recommends doing an end-of-week review to reflect on any mistakes and figure out how to improve the next week. For her, personal reflection also helps her avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Deaken spends most of her time being a mom, wife, and insurance broker, but she knows the importance of just letting herself be ‘Paula’ every once in a while. She tries to make room for self-care as much as she can by going to the gym or on lunch-time walks to clear her mind, planning breakfast meetings around her community, chatting with girlfriends, and going on date nights with her partner. Sometimes, simply indulging in her favourite Netflix series is what she needs to recharge her batteries.
To working parents who may be struggling, there’s a whole slew of advice Deakin wants to impart. “You don’t have to go through it alone; build a support system with neighbours and friends and talk to them to see what strategies work for them. Things are easier if you can help each other out when needed.
“Also, know what is truly important for you and set goals around that–but prioritize them based on what you can physically and mentally manage. You’ll have to learn to say ‘no’ sometimes and learn not feel guilty about it. But probably the most important thing is to not be too hard on yourself. Take each day as it comes and know that you’re doing your best. ”