Archive for February, 2013

The 36-Hour Day

with Amy Urquhart

I’m Amy and I’ve spent the last three years trying to strike that perfect balance between being a wife, mom and professional career woman. I’ve decided that I’ll never perfect the art of “having it all”, but this blog is a chronicle of my attempts to continue to do so. I’m a blogger (my personal blog about Canadian home life is Hearts into Home), gardener, college instructor, wife to Graham and mom to Nate. If you’re also a working mom who finds there just aren’t enough hours in the day, I hope you’ll enjoy this column!

Read her blog at Hearts into Home.

Considering Marissa Mayers’ Memo

Categories: Career, The Juggle

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This week the major topic of conversation in my Twitter stream is CEO Marissa Mayer’s assertion that employees at Yahoo! would no longer be welcome to work remotely due to the fact that the practice is bad for productivity. The general consensus among those I follow ranges from outrage to disappointment.

As a person who once worked a full-time permanent position as a Content Editor from the comfort of my own home office, I have an opinion about Ms. Mayer’s decision: I think it’s silly. It’s silly to say that employees who are often more productive at home should now spend money out of pocket on travel expenses to get to work. It’s silly to assume that being present in a cubicle will make an employee more productive. And it’s silly to assume that an employee will be more engaged in his or her work simply due to physical proximity to colleagues and management.

I’d argue that working from home makes employees more engaged with their work. Photo credit: Monster College.

For the past two and a half years I’ve been teaching communications classes online while teaching various general education credits during the day in the classroom on campus. The debate over the merits of work-at-home employment arrangements was a timely one for me because I was presented last week with a choice: I would have to choose between teaching classes in person, on campus and teaching online. This, due to a rule that is still foggy to me, and is never very clearly explained by my employer.

In any event, I had to weigh up the choice. Would it be best for me to continue to drive to the college at my expense for gas, parking and commuting time, or would it be better to stay in the comfort of home, where I could schedule my time to interact with my students according to my own schedule? I think Marissa Mayers would say, without hesitation, that I should choose the option that would take me on campus regularly, where my students would benefit from the “speed and quality” of my presence at school. I think my online students would argue with her; I’m in contact with them on a daily basis and thanks to technology, as constantly available to them during business hours as I am to the students I meet in person.

In the end, I decided that I prefer my online teaching job. It allows me to do my work without spending any extra money to go to work, and I can really put my professional strengths such as communication, technology and time management to good use. There will be no more need to rush home from campus in another city in time to pick Nate up from daycare. There will be no more need to wake Nate up and get him to daycare early in the morning on those days I have an early class. The ability to juggle my home and family life with my professional aspirations makes me more appreciative, more engaged with the work I do from home.

I wonder what Marissa Mayers would say to that?

Do you agree or disagree with Ms. Mayers’ decision that employees are more productive when they work in the office? If you worked from home at Yahoo!, would you find a new work arrangement that would allow you to continue to work remotely, or would you head back to office life in a cubicle?

Shift Work for Beginners

Categories: Career, The Juggle

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When Graham and I had only been married for a few years, I took a job at a brand new arena in a city about a half hour away from our home. The arena was just opening up and my job was to be the Assistant Manager of Suites and Catering. If you’ve been part of any brand new enterprise, you’ll know that opening a venue like an arena for the first time is no small feat; getting all of the private boxes or suites ready for the guests who were paying top dollar to occupy them during concerts or hockey games was a hefty job.

Doing that job required some long, late hours at work. Graham was very understanding when I would text him at midnight telling him to go to bed, that I wouldn’t be home for a few hours. I distinctly recall arriving home after a particularly long night at the site around four o’clock in the morning. I was barely in bed and asleep before it was time for Graham to get up for the day and head to work.

Several years, many jobs and one kid later, we are now experiencing the phenomenon of the night shift once again. Graham was offered some work during the night shift at his job site and decided to give it a try, since it would be for short term and also because the pay would include a premium.

Image source: Alday Consulting Services

Last night was the first night we ventured into the world of shift work. Nate went to bed around 8:00 and that left me wondering what to do with myself when the usual time for my bedtime came along.
I tweeted, “It’s throwing me off completely! Shift starts midnight. Do I just go to bed? Do I wait up? What’s the etiquette?

While it may seem ridiculous to consider etiquette when it comes to one’s spouse’s work schedule, I was baffled. It felt rude to just go to bed but I didn’t want to stay up until he left the house after 11:00. In the end, I watched old episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 until I dozed off and he came to kiss me good night and left for the night. I slept horribly…waking up repeatedly to check and see that yes, he was not asleep beside me (although it was certainly a more quiet night than I was used to).

The whole experience got me thinking about families who deal with shift work. I put the word out this morning, asking my Twitter followers to tell me what their favourite thing is about shift work, and asking what their least favourite thing about shift work is, too.

Some of the responses I received included:


“Favorite part? Maybe the bed to myself.”

“He definitely doesn’t sleep well because of the transition, and it is difficult to let him sleep well because the kids are noisy.”


“Fav is that during the days he’s home (even though he’s sleeping) I could put a toddler down for a nap and leave with the older kid if I wanted to.”

“Least is that he doesn’t get proper sleep.”

I didn’t hear from any women who actually work night shifts, but I’d love to hear from them and how this affects their family life.

Do you deal with shift work in your family? What is your favourite thing about working at night? What is your least favourite aspect of working shift work?

Three Awesome Apps for Busy Working Moms

Categories: Career, The Juggle, Working? Living?

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Is there a working mother alive who doesn’t feel like something is missing if her smart phone isn’t nearby? If there is, I’d like to meet her, and ask her how she manages to stay connected to her job and her family without the use of the technical tools I’ve come to rely on so much to do business and be available to my family. Of course, I realize that it’s physically possible to get through the day without my iPhone at my side, without Facebook to connect me to my network of colleagues and customers, but it would be a challenge!

I use my phone not only to make calls, but to make sure that my daycare provider is able to get in touch if necessary if something happens with my son. I use my phone to answer e-mails from students and clients who get in touch with me throughout the day. Judging from the responses of other working moms I’ve talked to about smart phone use, this is pretty much par for the course.

There are some other apps, though, that I’ve come to rely on almost every day for staying organized and running a business and household.

Motivated Moms. Motivated Moms is “a yearly chore calendar”, and it has been a lifesaver for me on occasion. When the house is just too cluttered, too dusty, too messy, I start using this app to help me get the house back on track. Every day there is check list of household chores that need to be done and I just check them off as I go. After about a week of using the app, I’ve made my way through the house and feel much better about things. If I had the time, I’d love to use this 365 days a year but a mom has to sleep, right? Motivated Moms isn’t a free app, but it’s one I feel is worth buying.

Track My Mileage. Now that I run my own small business, it’s important to keep track of the mileage on my truck to make sure that I can claim the right amount for our taxes next year. I started doing this task in a notebook but I was really bad at it. I forgot all the time in the beginning, until I got an app installed on my phone to take care of this. The best part is, you can e-mail yourself the tracked data as an Excel document for business bookkeeping purposes. I’m using the free version of this app.


ArtKive. Once in a while, Nate brings home something special that he’s made at daycare. I’m totally the kind of mom who would keep every piece of artwork he creates throughout his entire school career. The collection has started and he’s not even in school yet! Then I discovered ArtKive. According to the Apple App Store, “Never again feel guilty about throwing away artwork your kids bring home. Get rid of the clutter and start to enjoy your child’s work.” This description gets it just right…all I have to do is take a picture of Nate’s creation and I have a copy saved for good! I can also send the picture to a select network of family members if I want to.

What are the apps you can’t live without as you go about the business of working and caring for your family?

Potty Training a Daycare Kid

Categories: Parenting

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I have dreaded potty training for a long time, now. In fact, I avoid writing and tweeting about the experience because every time I express some sort of frustration about the process, I’m met with disheartening responses that commiserate at best and discourage at worst. Moms hate potty training, it seems. (I realize this is a sentence that feels a little bit like saying the sky is blue or that water is wet.)

One of the reasons I’ve dreaded potty training is that Nate is a daycare kid, which means that for the majority of his waking hours, the task of encouraging him to use the potty falls on someone else’s shoulders. I’ve felt a lot of self-applied pressure to get him trained using some sort of miracle three-day method that would eliminate the need for Nate’s daycare provider to bear any responsibility for helping him learn to use the toilet (or, heaven forbid, for cleaning up the result of any accidents he might have in her care).

Over the weekend we took a real stab at getting Nate to use the toilet and with some success. I learned to watch for the telltale expression on his face and twice managed to whisk him onto the potty in time to get the job done. Stickers and sessions of Angry Birds were the reward.

Monday morning when I took Nate to daycare with tales of potty success to share, the woman who looks after him was excited. She had been telling me that he was ready for potty training for a little while. “Between the two of us, we’ll get it done!” she told me, with enthusiasm. I realized that morning that I wasn’t butting up against her or piling onto her responsibilities with this business of potty training; instead, I had an ally. She cheers Nate on with the same eagerness that we do. There’s a whole team of us encouraging him, making the experience of potty training nothing for me to dread, after all.

My three tips for potty training a child who goes to daycare include:

1. Keep your reward system consistent. We decided that stickers would be rewarded for using the potty, so Nate’s daycare provider tells him the same thing.

2. Dress your child in comfortable pants that are easy for your child and for your daycare provider to take up and down, too, multiple times a day, when necessary during training.

3. Share the joys and successes of the training experience with one another, and in front of your child. He or she will be excited to share the good news!

What advice can you provide when potty training a child who goes to daycare?

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