The secret to work-life balance as a parent

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: Jan 22, 2016

The hotly-contested topic of work-life balance continues to fascinate me, in part because I’m likely one of the few out there who thinks IT IS POSSIBLE.  I speak from experience and over the last decade or so have discussed the topic with various newsmakers (see video interviews below) to learn about how they do it.

Getting a glimpse recently into the life of Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Katherine McKenna, on this very topic is incredibly refreshing quite honestly, and LONG OVERDUE.

I’ve always believed work-life balance is possible with ONE important caveat. You have to be able to prioritize, and maintain a rigorous focus on those priorities.

For Minister McKenna, shutting down at 5:30 pm every day to spend the next 3 hours or so at home is a priority. Heaven or earth likely cannot be moved to change that sacred time.

Having worked shifts, weekends, stat holidays, evenings,  in the competitive, often-all-consuming world of television news and then sports for more than a decade — while having , growing and raising a family — was ONLY possible because of priorities my husband and I had outlined and to which we continue to maintain a razor-like focus.

One of our priorities has always been and continues to be — to eat dinner together as a family. Despite those ever-changing shifts, my husbands’ previous work travels (almost a month in Australia when I was 8 ¾ months pregnant with our second instantly comes to mind!) —- we can count, probably on two hands the number of times we have NOT been able to eat dinner together, wtih our three children.  A priority.   Immovable from the daily calendar.

A happy side-benefit of this particular priority for us has been the growing body of evidence that points to the importance of family mealtimes on the nutritional, emotional, psycho-social and other aspects of a child’s life.  We can attest to this and we have never had it any other way.

Prioritizing often means saying yes to a few things and saying NO to many others. And you have to be at peace with that.  Not always easy for any of us, but the reward — while sometimes hard to see initially — is so well worth it.

Yes, your career may have to take a different course, you may have to turn down opportunities, it’s possible you’ll likely have to reinvent yourself several times — that’s what staying the course of priorities will entail.

In a world with a ton of white noise, the opportunity to get pulled in a million directions, to lose yourself, to completely forget what is inherently and ultimately important, setting and maintaining priorities — in my opinion — is the driver for establishing work-life balance.

In 2016, there are, thankfully, a few more companies who also now believe that a ‘happy employee is a productive employee’.  Telecommuting, part-time/freelance work, job sharing, technology have enabled many people to attain some kind of balance in their lives.  So much more can and should be done.

When I read, as I often do, that so-and-so has decided to step down, move on, retire, quit — to spend more time with family — an eye-roll usually still follows with the question — ‘did your family just become more important to you’?

Oprah once said it, quite succinctly, I thought:  “Women can have it all, just not at the same time.”

A ‘well-balanced’ mother or father is likely a more positive parent — because they prioritized it.



PODCAST: Work/Life balance with actress Cynthia Dale


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