Work-life balance and COVID-19: How women make it work
For many women, balancing career and family priorities is a constant challenge. But a global pandemic has pushed us all to become more creative about how we approach work-life balance. We asked seven women in leadership at TD to each share a glimpse into how they are juggling priorities during this unprecedented time.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed us into all kinds of challenges — mental, physical and logistical — as we try to maintain normal lives in an extremely abnormal time period. Women in particular may be suffering the most from the reverberations of the lockdown as moms often bare the brunt of household responsibilities and societal expectations. It’s forced many women onto an even more precarious tightwire as they balance professional careers and family commitments of all kinds. Suddenly there is no physical distinction between office life and home life — unless you make rules that work for you. And if a woman needs a minute for her own health and happiness lest everything that depends on her unravel … who has a minute?
While no one’s situation is the same, everyone can appreciate how others grapple with 2020 and bring new order to their lives. Here, we asked six women in leadership at TD to talk about their situations and share at least one thing they’re doing that’s helping them power through this time period.
Vice President and Senior Portfolio Manager, Private Investment Counsel, TD Wealth
I am married and have two daughters, one 14 years old and the other almost six years old. I have been working from home since March. My workday is spent in front of my laptop and in remote meetings with my clients. I am grateful that I’m able to work remotely and that my family and friends are healthy and safe. And because my use of technology has increased monumentally, I feel very cool around my kids now.
My life hacks
It took some growing pains to find an ideal "work from home" environment. In the early days, I set up shop at my kitchen table and my hubby took the den. The result? Constant interruptions, me yelling at everyone, and I couldn't socially-distance from the fridge! So, I relocated to our basement suite. Now, it's like I'm really "going to work." I pack my lunch, make a much shorter "commute" downstairs and, with kids in school, everything's more manageable. When I see my family at the end of the day, we're all happier. Plus, with more family time, we are catching up on all the good movies and shows!
Vice President, Colleague Experience & Customer Advice, Canadian Personal Banking, TD Bank
I live in Burlington, Ont., where I'm married to Aaron and mum to Lily, a very energetic three-year-old. Both of us are working full-time from home which is challenging to balance. My husband ended up taking five months off to look after Lily full-time until she went back to school in September. There have been some positives from this situation: With no commute, we have more Lily time and a slower and simpler home life.
My life hacks
It's OK to not be OK some days. Some things that have helped: No meetings before 8:30 am (Lily time!), lunch breaks with my hubby, and planning and cooking fresh meals with music every night with Lily. We're also binge-watching lots of great TV over the weekend.
Kim ParleeVice President, TD Wealth, Host of MoneyTalk on BNN Bloomberg
I live in Toronto. I'm a single mom of a busy 10-year-old boy, and I am broadcasting from home on my phone — every day! — and producing more digital content than I ever have before: I feel like I am "at one" with my phone. We are healthy, my extended family is healthy, and I am grateful for that.
My life hacks
My parents have been tutoring my son with math and reading online. It's been a great way for them to stay in touch and it's some of the best teaching he has ever had. I do 10 push-ups or sit-ups on the hour to keep things moving. I keep a lit aromatherapy candle by my desk — but my cat got too close and his tail got singed last week. My "black out time" is 2:45-3:30 pm each day when I take no meetings or calls so I can get my son from school. Yes, I have been known to send emails at midnight, but I make it clear no one is required to respond at that time.
Vice President, TD Asset Management and Executive Sponsor TD Women and Wealth, TD Wealth
I live in Toronto and I am married with four adult children ranging in ages from 21 to 33 plus our dog, a very mature Westie named Molly. In March I moved up to our family cottage in Haliburton where I feel I am living in a different world. While work has only accelerated, water, woods and a daily walk are helping to offset the sadness and concern for my family and my teams.
My life hacks
I have found the power of language is helping me trick my brain into a more positive mindset. I have renamed household chores to sparkles, recognizing that if I focus on the outcome versus the task, even washing floors can be joyful. I have renamed working out to walking away as it makes exercise a gift of leisure vs. a chore. I distinguish between isolation and isolated: While we may all be isolated from one another, if we make the effort, there are so many ways to actively connect. Finally, I keep wee Molly at my feet all day long while I work, and every day feels just a little bit more balanced.
Vice President, Operations, TD Wealth
I live in Toronto, with my husband and two teenagers, ages 16 and 18. I'm working part-time at the office and part-time at home (in my PJs). My family relies on me to plan and prepare meals but my husband, who recently returned to office, gets the "fun chores," driving my kids around, watching Netflix, eating and hanging out together. They had free time over the summer: I did not and I feel guilty having to choose between work and family. My parents, ages 78 and 80, are in Montreal and I worry about them. I have seen them once since the pandemic began but they are healthy and staying busy. I hate being unable to bring them groceries or blow them kisses from the bottom of the stairs.
My life hacks
I compartmentalize meal prep for easy "create your own" bowls, salads and sandwiches for my family with separate containers for vegetables, grains and proteins. One thing that is non-negotiable for me is my 45 minutes of daily exercise. Family and friends can join the session and sometimes I use the time to call and check in on my family, as long as my legs are moving and my head gets cleared. My selfish self-care involves a manicure every Sunday and I prioritize colouring my grey roots regularly. That makes me feel happy.
Associate Vice President, Client & Colleague Experience, TD Wealth
I live in the Beaches area of Toronto and have been working from my home office, a.k.a. the bedroom, since March. I am married with two young kids, ages 10 and eight, and a senior dog. Since the start of the pandemic, I've relied on my partner who has taken the lead role in managing the kids, household and schooling. Every once in a while, he surprises me and brings me a coffee, snack or even lunch. I miss my parents and sharing time together over meals, especially my mom's Korean home cooking. Our last time around a table was March 5 when we went out to dinner to celebrate my mother's 74th birthday.
My life hacks
I make sure to laugh out loud once a day and see other people, even if it's my neighbours as we stand on the street, six feet apart. For me, separating work and home has been a challenge. About three weeks ago, I started to "commute" each day as part of my routine. It's just a short 5 to 15-minute walk in the neighbourhood to help me mentally prepare for my day, get some fresh air and exercise. To help parents on the team, I have blocked myself from booking meetings during drop-off and pick-up hours and I maintain an "open office door" for my broader team anytime they want to talk.
Vice President, Product, Personal Savings and Investing, TD Wealth
I'm a wife and a busy mother to four children, with an amazing mom who parachutes in to help us whenever we are stuck. Although I am at home, I feel like my day has become much longer with more domestic responsibilities. We have to constantly rebalance everyone's day each morning depending on whether kids are online or at school. But I am grateful to have everyone happy and healthy. The good part is I now see my kids in the morning and earlier at night.
My life hacks
I have blocked off time in my calendar for my kids — no meetings before 9 a.m. and none between 3:30 and 4:00 pm. I am still working on getting more exercise in my day while on calls. My kids had to give up all after-school activities so my sister comes in now to teach the kids guitar once a week and that gives me an hour of hot-tub time.