Charla Huber: Balancing mom-guilt with a career

Charla Huber is the director of communications and Indigenous relations for M’akola Housing Society.

We all have personal and professional obligations and relationships that we are trying to maintain. Life is a constant juggling act of trying to balance everything out.

When dealing with a parent’s relationship with a child, it gets tricky, and there’s a sense of guilt that many of us feel when we need to sacrifice family time for education and career.

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I was booking my travel for an upcoming work trip, and I called an old friend to see if we could schedule a visit during my trip. Between our two busy schedules, we just couldn’t co-ordinate a visit.

My friend is in nursing school, which we all know has a gruelling selection process and is an intense program to be in. My friend is taking several courses, being a mom to a preschooler and a newborn. Not an easy feat, and I admire her for it.

We talked about juggling parenting, school, career and life.

“Do you ever feel guilty?” she said to me.

“Of course,” I replied.

The first time I travelled for work, my daughter was four and she’d never spent a night away from me. It was hard for me and her. Now I’ve travelled for work many times, and every time there’s still a piece of me that feels guilty. I don’t think that will ever change.

Even when I am at home, I am busy writing papers for my masters, reading board packages, writing columns or catching up on work. Don’t get me wrong — we spend a ton of time together, but I know that my daughter makes sacrifices of time with me. My goal is to teach her the value in working hard, being dedicated and being proud of what you do.

I have the goal of one day being a homeowner, and I know I need to work twice as hard to be able to do this as a single mother.

As I told my friend that her attending nursing school is something that will positively affect her children by demonstrating to them the importance of getting an education, I started thinking back to my childhood.

All of my early memories are of my mother in school. She completed high school as an adult, then enrolled in university to become a teacher. When I finished third grade, my mother earned her degree, and I remember going to her graduation.

My friend seemed surprised that I remembered my mother in school. When I went to college for journalism, I remember thinking back to my mother being in school with two little kids. I was 24 with no kids and realized that I had it easy.

There was another benefit that came from my mother being in university, often too busy to play with me.

I have always been a very talkative person, and as a child I loved talking. I always had a story to tell and my mother was busy trying to write papers on the electric typewriter in her bedroom.

“I can’t listen to you right now. If you write it down, I will read it later,” she would say. Honestly, I got told this all the time. And every time, I would go and write down whatever I wanted to tell her.

I remember writing stories for my mother my entire childhood. Even as a teen, every now and then I would sit down and write a story for the sole purpose of giving it to my mother so she could read it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a love for writing. The more you write, the better you get. I am certain that the many hours I spent writing things for my mother played a role in establishing my craft.

In my career, I have worked as a freelance journalist for magazines, a newspaper reporter, a columnist and my full-time job in communications.

I am sure there are times when my mother felt guilty telling me to go away. I feel the same way when I am sitting at home trying to get everything done.

As parents, it’s OK for us to follow our dreams and to work hard for our goals. I believe children will benefit far more by watching their parents push the limits of what is possible than by watching their parents give up because they feel guilty.

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