When you vacation during busy season

I just got back from Sweden yesterday. For those of you who follow the world of CAIS, you might think that it is odd that I was in Sweden until Monday when our annual Heads and Chairs Conference begins this Wednesday. Odd indeed. So why on earth did I take almost a week off right before the busiest – and arguably the most important – week of my job?

I have a dear friend who has been a mentor to me since I was 18 years old. Back when I was a student at Queen’s University, I got a call from my aunt who asked me to babysit for her friend Susan. I said ‘No, I was too old to babysit’. But she convinced me that both Susan and her 18 month old daughter Sonya were worth it. And thus began my lifelong friendship with them. Susan gave the toast to the bride at my wedding; I spoke at Sonya’s Bat Mitzvah; Sonya became our babysitter; and my daughter cannot wait to become Sonya’s babysitter.

Susan Phillips, who is a doctor and professor at Queen’s, was given an honorary doctorate degree by the University of Umea on Saturday, and she invited me and Kathleen to be two of her three family member guests. So what do you do when you are faced with this decision? On the one hand – this is a trip of a lifetime. But on the other hand – it is crazy to leave right before an event of such magnitude.

My board chair made the decision easy. He listened to my dilemma and didn’t even pause. He just said, “You have to go.”

This made me really think about two things:

  1. Priorities

I am fortunate to have a Board Chair who values family, and I do consider Susan and Sonya family. It was also important for me to take a huge trip with my daughter – the opportunity to spend dedicated time and experience Europe with her was amazing. I think a lot about work-life balance, and I am increasingly interested in recent research that basically says to rethink it (Read more here and here.) This trip created a bit of chaos – especially since flights both ways were delayed! – but it made me feel incredibly happy. Setting priorities is more important than balance.

  1. The CAIS Team

There is no way I could have made the trip without my incredibly competent and dedicated colleagues. I knew that they could deal with the extra stress caused by my absence. I am sure they were cursing me all week (and that’s okay!) but I am also sure they know how grateful I am for their competence. And if they don’t, they do now!

Without getting too sentimental, I want to say this: A heartfelt thanks to Rob who gave me the go-ahead to go, to my colleagues who worked extra hard to make it happen, and to Susan for inviting me. And, of course, congratulations to Susan on her award!


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