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How I’m keeping up my balancing act.

Michele Young-Crook, CEO and mother of three, shares her advice.

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From the moment I gave birth to my first child, I knew I was in for a lifetime of making sure she felt and knew that I loved her and that I would be there no matter what. Well, what I didn’t consider at the age of 23, was that one day I was going to be a CEO with a travel schedule that wouldn’t necessarily permit me physically being there every time she needed me.

For the first nine years after having my daughter (and newest addition, a son), I was always there, probably more than she wanted. I never missed a dance class or soccer game, and when one of them was sick I was the one sleeping on the floor of their room to make sure they were alright, and had a sense of comfort knowing that Mommy will always physically be there.

For the past two years, and now a total of three little ones, I have been living out of hotels and suitcases. The first year of this transition from a staff member to an executive role was nothing short of an emotional shock. I was missing gymnastics, dance recitals and school performances. I wasn’t there when one had a nightmare or woke up with a fever. I felt like I was failing in the role of motherhood but thriving in my role with National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association. 

When I became CEO in May of 2019, I knew I was going to be even busier and that I was going to see even less of my beautiful children. It hit me hard. I went into a mental state of guilt and as such, started parenting out of guilt. I had trouble saying no to them and I sometimes let them do whatever they wanted, like staying up too late or eating candy before dinner. 

After counseling and looking for advice from women I looked up to, I realized I needed to change my mindset and develop a new normal. By doing that, I have managed to balance motherhood and CEO life. Remember though — when you’re balancing, you sometimes tilt to one side over the other, so when I feel that tilt I make sure to recentre myself.

 

Redefine your family routine. 

Kids thrive with routine, and so when I was home, I would always wake up with them and get them ready for school. Now, no matter what time zone I am in, I have them FaceTime me when they wake up and show me what they’re going to wear that day. After they’re loaded up in the car, they call me on the car system to tell me what they dreamt about. Something as small as that made such a difference in their attitude toward my work and their grumpy mornings. I then thought I could do a bit more and started FaceTiming when they were going to bed. The two small ones would read me a book and the big one would tell me about all the latest drama and how she was feeling in that moment. This has become our normal, and such small adjustments to my schedule gave me a renewed sense of trust in my motherhood skills. 

 

Give your undivided attention. 

When I was home, I felt that I wasn’t working “hard enough” because when I travel, I am in work mode 22 hours a day. Two hours are Mom mode. Being present at home when I was there became much more effective and because of this, when my kids were around, I am in full Mom mode; my laptop stays closed, I don’t open emails from my phone, and I don’t take any work calls. I make the most of the time we do have each day by giving my undivided attention during our time together. I began to implement this by working only when they were at school and before they woke up, that way it was easier to be a mom when they were with me. In addition, I try my best to resist taking an unscheduled break by scrolling through social media sites. By giving my work my full attention while there, it frees up time that can be spent with my family in the evening.

 

Learn how to say ‘No’ — and what to say ‘Yes’ to. 

If you have a type ‘A’ personality like me, you probably over commit to everyone. You are on boards, committees or volunteering for a school while trying to keep a perfectly clean house. However, an overworked mom or an employee is not a productive one. So I learned to say ‘No’ to people, both professionally and personally. This was important so that I didn’t take on more than I could chew and lose out on time with my kids. Obviously, you don’t need to turn down every invite for a work event or a friend’s party, but you do want to avoid putting so much on your already full plate that you don’t get quality time with your family. 

I do tend to say ‘Yes’ to things that will allow me to bring my family along. Instead of a night out on the town, I will go to a friend’s house where my family can come with me. At our home, we try to only use a babysitter when our youngest is already asleep. Since the evening time together is already so limited, we try not to cut into it whenever possible.

 

Make yourself part of the balance equation.

Now don’t get me wrong, family and work are not the only things that matter. I found allocating time for myself helped greatly with my mental wellbeing. It also assisted with the development of more patience for work and family issues when they arose. Taking the time to relax and recharge can help you succeed in both areas of your life. 

What “you time” looks like for you won’t necessarily look the same to me. Visualize things you like to do and that help you recharge. For me, it might be scheduling a massage or reading a book in the bath. Other times, it may just be getting out of the house and running some errands without bringing my whole family along. If you’re a single mom, take your friends or family members up on their offers to watch your kids. As much as moms are superheroes, even they need help sometimes, otherwise the Justice League would not exist. 

Successfully juggling the roles of a career and parenting is daunting even under the best conditions. But once you’ve eliminated the things that are unproductively eating up your time, and learn to be present in the moment, then not only will your work and family roles become more enjoyable, they will thrive. 

 

Michele Young-Crook has been a part of the National Aboriginal Trust Officers Association (NATOA) since its inception in 2006 — climbing the ranks from volunteer to CEO. Anishinaabe/Bear Clan herself, Michele is driven by her deep connection to her Indigenous culture. You can learn more about Michele and find more of her writing on her Perspectives page.