Career & Education

Hotel exec tells how she balances work and kids

Sunday, May 14, 2017

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Suzanne is a young mother of girls. Happy as she is to have them, she says she agonises every day over whether she is giving them her best. Part of her wishes she could stay home and cater to their every need. The other part of her however, is very much still interested in her career, and she wants to continue climbing the corporate ladder.In an interview with the Jamaica Observer late last week, she explained what she described as her dilemma.

“I struggle with rationalising the two roles, that of mother and that of career woman. Sometimes when I have to work late or work from home I feel like I'm short-changing the girls or depriving them of their mother. On the other hand, when I leave work early or when I have to miss work because one of them is ill for example, I feel like I'm somehow short-changing my employer.

“I don't know where the balance is,” the young woman confessed.

A few days earlier, between sips of Sangsters flavoured rum cream at @Twentythree, where J Wray & Nephew hosted a candid conversation among mothers just ahead of Mothers' Day, some working mothers expressed similar feelings of struggling to strike a balance between the two roles.

One woman, who described herself as a stay-at-home mom, related that she sought employment at one point because she wondered if she was sending the wrong message to her two girls. But the demands of the job soon took its toll, she said, as she was no longer able to attend as many of her daughter's school events and extra-curricular activities.

“The struggle is very real,” Fiona Burke told Career & Education about her juggling of the roles. She is the mother of two-year-old Kharié. “It's literally a tug of war.”

But Shernette Crichton appears to have found a formula that works — at least for her. There was a time in her life when Crichton, now director of resort operations at Half Moon, had doubts about having children. Like many women focused on building a successful career, she felt she had to choose between motherhood and her corporate ambitions. These days, however, she wins at the tug of war: she incorporates principles learned from her job into mothering, and likewise infuses techniques learned from motherhood into her job.

“I grew tired of separating the two roles and thought, “Why can't I be both at all times? So sometimes I have to be like a mother at work when dealing with my employees and sometimes I need to be the director of operations at home,” she said.

Crichton, who is mother to Josef (21), Jordan (19) and Joshua (six), puts new meaning to the expression taking work home. In fact, she professes that, “Work has made me a better mother”. Asked how, she listed the following:

• Half Moon operates on the RICH principle — Respect, Integrity, Certainty and Honesty. When I first learnt of the acronym I thought, “Well, this is something I need to use personally”. These values have set the tone for my own family values; I listen to my children and recognise their individuality when communicating, especially when I have to discipline them. I have seen a change where my children are more willing to come to me with an issue instead of hiding it in fear of my response. Additionally, I have trained my children to become men of integrity and honesty.

• Forecasting and budgeting is possibly the most useful skill I've brought home. Now, my husband has put me in charge of managing the expenses of the house. If the boys want something, my husband's response is “ask your mother”, but they understand that sometimes we have to delay some of the fun activities in order to meet important financial obligations, such as educational expenses.

• The food preparation skills I picked up have come in handy. Being the mother of three active boys means I need to get very creative in the kitchen, especially since Jordan and Joshua are picky eaters. Much like a professional chef, I will do menu planning and research — Pinterest is a great place to start. Best of all, it has gotten my boys interested in cooking. Josef recently made the most delicious appetiser — tacos with pic de gallo topping. I can safely say my boys won't grow up to be “wutliss”.

• Social responsibility has been another meaningful lesson. Half Moon has several homes, charities and other philanthropic activities that we support. In my earlier years as a mom, I found that I may not have emphasised as much as I could about the need to give back — it's easy to raise your kids in a 'bubble'. These days, however, once we are going out t o serve the community, I take the boys with me. I can recall for our 2013 Labour Day project at Cornwall Regional hospital, Josef and Jordan were competing to see who could do a better job. I think they are more cognisant of the less fortunate and are more willing to help.

Crichton is a 27-year veteran of the hospitality industry.





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