Times Colonist: Motherhood, career a juggling act


Charla Huber, Times Colonist, June 30 (with quotes from Interim CEO / Managing Director Jill Atkey)

My eight-year-old daughter asked me what a reputation was. I explained it’s how people describe how you behave in just a few words.

“Your reputation is being a hard worker and a bit inappropriate,” she replied.

It really made me proud that hard-working was the first word she could think to describe me. The inappropriate thing, maybe a little less proud, but true.

It’s a true honour to be her mother and I love my career; to do both well is a constant juggling act.

I am pretty open about being a full-time single parent. It’s solely up to me to provide for my daughter, and I dream about home ownership one day and helping pay for her post-secondary education.

My daughter has spent time at my work on evenings, weekends and snow days, and watched me work on the computer at home to ensure I am meeting deadlines.

Recently, I ran into Jill Atkey, acting CEO of the B.C. Non-Profit Housing Association at the Victoria Convention Centre. She had brought her kids to Victoria, to turn her business trip into an extended family weekend.

We started talking about motherhood and career. Atkey told me she takes two cookies from every meeting she attends to bring home to her kids.

“To them, cookies from meetings are fun and fascinating,” Atkey said. “I hope to get them excited for their careers, even if right now it’s through cookies.”

Even with the travel, meetings and demands of her position, Atkey follows a strict rule of not pulling out her work computer until her children are in bed, but she does admit to checking emails on her phone.

Atkey works long hours and travels frequently, but she’s always looking for ways to surprise her kids.

“There was a sports day at their school and I stopped in on the way to a meeting,” she said. “They didn’t even know I was coming. Luckily I’ve always had flexible and understanding employers.”

Like me, Atkey has brought her children to her office and explained the work she does. “We were listening to the radio in the kitchen and my son heard a story about modular housing and he said ‘Hey, are they talking about your work?’ ” Atkey said. “When kids see their parents working, it really normalizes it.”

Carmen Driechel travels across the province for her work with a provincial utility company. She is a mother of two boys and has been known to bring a betta fish in a Mason jar on business trips.

“I have a dynamic job that’s always different and I travel quite a bit,” Driechel said. “I love how dynamic it is and how flexible. I can book my trips on weeks when I don’t have my kids with me, and if I conference comes up I am grateful to have friends and flexible family to help watch them.”

Like Atkey, Driechel has an employer who has the flexibility for her to attend school events and attend field trips with her sons.

No matter what occupation we choose, there will always be a balancing act.

Physician Jennifer Tranmer also works varied and unpredictable hours, but makes sure the time with her kids counts.

“They don’t need ‘things’ or ‘activities’ or to do everything else that everyone else seems to be doing, they just need love. Keep it simple,” said Tranmer. “Keep you and your family healthy — make tough choices to prioritize this.”

Even after a 12-hour shift, one mom I know who is a corrections officer heads out for an evening run after her kids are in bed. When she gets home, she’s in the kitchen to meal-prep for the following day.

Due to the nature of her work, her employer doesn’t have the same flexibility as others. Her schedule consists of 12-hour days with a mix of nights, days and holidays.

“It’s hard to manage, but it’s helpful that my husband works Monday to Friday 9-5,” she said.

(Working in a prison has more risks that other places of employment, which is one of the reasons she’s asked to have her name withheld from my column.)

“I deal with all walks of life at work, and then I go home and deal with the trials and tribulations of that.”

Charla Huber works in communications and Indigenous Relations for M’akola Group of Societies.


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