Sunday, 5 January 2014

Anna Dewar Gully, Age 32. Mom of 1. Strategist/Strategic Writer in the charitable Sector

Here are my responses to the questionnaire -- more to follow as your responses start to roll in -- just trying to figure out how best to format these posts -- so ideas and comments welcome!

Q2: Tell us a little about yourself, your children, and your occupation.

I am a hardworking, entrepreneurial and creative woman. I work for one of Toronto's largest charities in the office of the Charity's President, where I work on organizational strategy and governance as well as communications for the President. This is a new role and prior to joining the organization I was in public policy and government relations in the health sector both in Canada and previously in the UK. I have also just started this blog and do other writing projects professionally.

I have one daughter who is 2&1/2 she is bright, mischevious, and challenging in the best possible way. She is a wonderful kid.

Q3: Most days, would you describe your working mother life as...

somewhat balanced, with frequent total disaster moments

Q4: Can you describe how you feel about the expectations placed you as a working mother by loved ones, colleagues, friends, and society more broadly?

I often feel like I have to talk myself down from "resentment mountain", I feel like the expectations for modern mothers are just kind of crazy -- you're expected to be working relentlessly with 24 hour contact via email and blackberry, but also be into the sort of crafting and mothering pursuits that my grandmother mastered in less complex times, and also do back and forth trips to expensive childcare arrangements, etc. etc. I get really mad sometimes that while we praise engaged fathers -- and no doubt they are wonderful and in my life essential -- engagement is only at the bottom of a long list of expectations for working mothers and sometimes I feel the stress of being expected to do everything well and also keep cheerful is a little overwhelming.

Q5: How much time do you spend on yourself per week?

• 2-5 hours per week -- I've just started doing yoga at lunch time which has made me feel so much better.

Q6: Please answer one or more of the following questions in the comment box below...
a. What is the hardest lesson you have had to learn about managing motherhood and your career simultaneously?
b. Can you provide an example of when you last felt overwhelmed, out-of-control, or resentful of the multiple stressors you experience as a working mom and how did you deal with it?
c. Please provide an example of a time when you felt unable or unwilling to meet the expectations of people in your work or home life due to the difficulty of balancing both of your roles.

a. As a long standing over performer at work, I needed to learn to be comfortable with expressing to my work my priorities at home. This is still a major work in progress for me and still feels far from comfortable...I've had a number of moments where I got the balance wrong in favour of work -- these are stories unto themselves -- and it felt truly awful. b. On my holiday over christmas -- just read my first blog post. c. I had to bring my daughter to an overnight work event because my husband was overseas. It involved hiring an (as then) unknown nanny for 2 days and shleping her and my daughter up to a strange place hours away in the early hours of the morning and for an overnight stay. She experienced night terrors while we were there which was awful, and I felt terrible that I hadn't just instisted that it was too difficult for her and I to go. I had convinced myself if I didn't go that my work reputation would take a major hit -- and maybe it would have but I realized it didn't really matter as much as my kid and my sanity.

Q7: What is your primary childcare situation and how is it working for you?

My daughter is in a child care 5 days a week from 8:00 until 5pm and it is wonderful. This is our third childcare arrangement. The first was great initially and then was awful when management changed, the second was a home daycare and it was not flexible enough for us and did not provide my daughter with the engagement she needed. Transitions of childcare were immensly stressful.I hope not to have to change her set up again until she is in school.

Q8: Do you have a village helping you raise your child? If yes, who is in your village and how often do you rely on their help.

My village is mostly in the form of moral support from friends and family. My parents are in town but they both work. They are wonderful about offering to babysit once or twice a month and my daughter loves it. But more than that really isn't possible. They are still managing their own working lives and have caring responsibilities for my elderly grandmother. My in-laws are in the UK and only get to see my daughter once a year for a couple of weeks. I need to add to my village a reliable local babysitter -- had one briefly and then she moved away. That's my village.

Q9: Please answer one or more of the following questions in the space provided below...
a. Have you ever encountered a major conflict between your working life and your mothering life? If yes how did you manage it and what was the outcome?
b. What do you experience as your biggest source of stress or more difficult challenge as a working mother and what keeps you sane(ish)?
c. Have you adjusted your ambition in any way to accommodate for the demands of motherhood and conversely, have you adjusted expectations for yourself as a mother to accommodate the demands of your career?

a. the most significant conflict I had between work and life was when I was pregnant -- it is a long story and I will blog about it one day when I'm brave enough to share it. Today is not that day.
b. The biggest stress is being a big picture person who has to -- in my role as mother and administrator of our home --also be responsible for managing all of the details at home in addition to those at work. I also constantly feel like I'm not doing enough with or for my daughter -- I've missed the sign up for swimming lessons like three times, my husband -- nowhere near enough date nights, and for myself because if I was I wouldn't feel like a crazy person so frequently. c. I've become a different kind of ambitious since having my daughter -- my ambitions is still as strong as ever to do something great with my life career-wise and to make some kind of major imprint -- but now I want to do it primarily working from home, with a heck of a lot of flexibility, and the capacity to turn off once in a while, I can't imagine how I'd cope if I had more on my career plate than I do today.

My Tips...

1 -- yoga is like a drug for working mothers and you should take it whenever you can.
2 -- keep asking yourself critical questions about why you put such unreasonable expectations on yourself even if you don't come up with satisfactory answers.
3 -- I try to keep in mind something that my Dad once said to me when I was job hunting in my early 20s -- don't freak out about every little decision -- it's just one decision -- there will be others (lots of others).
4 -- learn how to say no and ask for help...still working on this every single day

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