Balancing it all in City Hall

single-meta-cal May 23, 2017

There is a constant challenge in the workplace to juggle the responsibilities between work and home.

In the first part of this series, we met the six women who are department heads and the City Council president as they discussed their role models and motivation. They are:

— Michelle Jordan, Planning Director

— Kathy Martin, Director of Engineering

— Joy McKee, Landscape Management Director

— Dr. Jennie Robinson, president, Huntsville City Council

— Peggy Sargent, Director of Finance

— Kelly Schrimsher, Communication Director

— Karen Sheppard, Animal Services Director

Today, with full recognition of the irony that the same question might not be asked of a male counterpart, Digital Media Specialist Jessica Carlton and Senior Writer Mark McCarter asked each:

How important is the balance between home life and work, and how do you achieve it?

Michelle Jordan: Some days better than others. I don’t think any working mom can make it happen without a great support system. My husband is a tremendous reason why I can go to work, and my parents helped so much with my daughter early on. I don’t want to miss out on anything in my daughter’s life or in work. So I wake up at 4:40 so that I can do everything that needs to be done. If I get home late I’ll check homework in the morning, fix lunch in the morning, try to get ready for dinner. It’s a full day.

Kelly Schrimsher: As Michelle said, some days better than others. I think women are innately more tuned into the needs and feelings of everybody around them. The hardest thing for many of us to learn is that you can care and be compassionate, but you can also learn how to compartmentalize so that you can be focused and professional in managing your day.

Peggy Sargent: To recharge and stay on top, I really try to make sure I’m exercising. I’m up at 5 in the morning and working out, and my husband and I try to walk. I try to make sure when I leave work I do leave work, and I’m focusing on my husband, focusing on my mother, putting my priorities where they belong and when they belong in each place.

Early in my career, I thought I had to work constantly to prove I was good enough. As I’ve gotten older, I know I’ll always have room for improvement, but I know I’m good enough. I make sure, to the younger women on our team, I’m constantly going, “Your kids are only going to be this age once. Go home.” It’s been rediscovering work-life balance for me and making sure they don’t lose theirs.

Joy McKee: I did my work-life balance in a different way. I had a career but I backed off that career when my children were small. As they got older and I wasn’t changing diapers all day, I worked my way back up (at Randstad) and I did what I wanted to do.

I’d just want to say to all the women, just do it. Don’t belabor over it. If you’re thinking about something in your career, just step off that bridge and do it. You’ll get support.

Karen Sheppard: It’s very important to keep that balance. Some of the issues I have personally is compassion fatigue, just being overwhelmed by the needs of the animals. I’ve learned I need friends, rest, exercise, healthy eating, time with my family, time with my horses on weekend. I have to get away from my job and get away from my phone to make sure I fill back up for the next day and the next big issue.

I didn’t realize that until I understood what compassion fatigue is all about. I became an instructor, and I can teach an eight-hour seminar how to recognize it in yourself and how to recognize it in your organization and how to go about fixing it.

Kathy Martin: Humor. Patience with each other. Communication is very important. That keeps everything under control. Just staying organized. There are a lot of spreads sheets at home and work. We have a whole room full of Post-its to stay organized, with who had to be somewhere, a deadline, or an activity.

Jennie Robinson: Achieving balance is something I do intentionally. It’s not something that happens otherwise. I make very intentional choices every day. I make sleep a priority. I make exercise a priority. I make time in scripture and prayer a priority. That’s how I start my day. That puts everything else in perspective.

That’s so fascinating that (men aren’t asked this same question). I think part of that is because men by nature focus on the job and women by the nature focus on the kids and the husband and aging parents and volunteer responsibilities. But it’s interesting nobody goes to Mark (Russell, fellow council member) and says, “How do you maintain balance?”

But now that I think about it, for millennials, work-life balance for men and women is an issue. It is a changing role model. And that’s good.