Bandwagon Grey Cup Fan

grey cup

I love sports and have a particular interest in baseball. I do enjoy watching other professional sports, especially with my son, such as hockey, basketball and soccer. But I will admit that I don’t know much about football. Whether it is the CFL or NFL, with their different rules and nuances, I just don’t get it. I don’t watch football games. But I do watch the championship game each year. I guess that makes me a bandwagon Grey Cup fan.

Over the years, numerous people have tried their best to explain football to me. In particular, I want to give credit to the amazing group of people I worked with at Rogers Sportsnet almost 15 years ago. They tried their best to explain downs to me. I learned about fumbles, touchdowns, field goals and so much more. I will admit that I did not internalize much of it. Maybe I just didn’t understand football.

But you don’t have to know anything about football or even be a big fan of the game to enjoy the Grey Cup, the annual Canadian Football League championship game. Watching a bunch of grown men run back and forth on a frozen field, in minus ten temperatures and snow falling sideways, is entertaining. I don’t think I have ever actually watched a Grey Cup game in its entirety. I always watch the team introductions, coin toss and national anthem. Usually I  watch the first half on and off, and I do enjoy the half-time show. But my attention usually drops off after that. The game just keeps going, and the clock keeps stopping.

This year my interest was piqued a bit more than usual as I joined the bandwagon in Toronto and cheered on the mighty Argonauts. I’m not always a homer (Go Canes Go!), but for the most part I support Toronto teams. And how could you not love the underdog Argos?

Yes, I only watched the first half. It was a busy Sunday night in our house and there was no way I could continue to watch the whole game. I wasn’t in the group of people who gave up on the Argos early on and walked away. I believed in them and their abilities but just didn’t have a chance to watch. But I’m glad they won the Grey Cup!

From what I saw of the game, my favourite part, which was so Canadian, was the singing of our national anthem. It was so creative. You just have to watch it.

Another great part, you have to figure, was when the Argos kicked the field goal and won the game 27-24. They were behind the whole time and came through in the final minutes to win it all. Thanks to the internet I learned about the new Grey Cup champions via an alert while I put the baby to bed.

So the CFL season is over. The NFL season is in full swing, and I really have no idea who’s been winning and who has been tanking. But like the Grey Cup, I will turn on my TV and watch the Superbowl on February 4th. Or at least I will watch some of it. And I will cheer on the winning team. That’s what a good bandwagon football fan should do.



The 2017 Holiday season has arrived. Halloween is over and the kids consumed more sugar in one night than they do in a typical month. Our American friends ate their turkey with all the fixings on Thursday and Thanksgiving has passed.  Black Friday triggered the official start of the season of buying, consuming and capitalism at its best. Cyber Monday, yesterday, brought out the best in technology and yes, more buying and consuming. Which brings us to today, Giving Tuesday, or more commonly spelled, #GivingTuesday.

We all own too much, we buy too much and we always feel we just need too much. From the ten-pound diaper bag full of supplies for the baby to the children’s playroom overflowing with toys to my own closet stuffed with clothing I barely wear, we have too much. We consume too much.

For me, #GivingTuesday is a breath of fresh air. After days of over-consumption (food and shopping!), I welcome a day to give. Founded in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y in New York City and the United Nations Foundation, this annual international day of giving has raised and moved hundreds of millions of dollars.

In the age of technology, this movement gained momentum almost overnight. And yes, like so many other things, it has its own hashtag. The internet and social media has given #GivingTuesday a tremendous platform to just do good. And I love that.

Okay, I will admit that my email inbox was overwhelmed this morning by requests from many organizations asking me to give them a donation. They are all worthy causes, and I do want to support them. I also got a ton of emails from the same retailers who bombarded me with Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales to now join them in giving back today.

Charitable organizations and businesses are asking me to “celebrate” with them, to use this as an “opportunity” to give and to be “part of something big.” They are all correct, that in the craziness of the Holiday season we should take a moment to pause, to stop buying and just give.

Giving does not necessarily mean handing over money. It could also mean that you can give of yourself and your time. My life is busy, and as I have written recently, often overwhelming. All those emails and social media posts are reminding me to slow down and maybe think of someone else who is more overwhelmed than I am. It reminds me that no matter how much I am balancing in my life and all the stresses I am facing, I can still help someone else.

I am not able today to give money or time to every charity that solicits a donation from me. But I will definitely give to some of them and through this blog I hope I can pay it forward and encourage all of you, my loyal readers, to participate in #GivingTuesday today. Make a donation to a charity that is close to your heart. Volunteer your time. Help a friend. Be kind to a stranger. That’s what today is all about. Let’s do something good. We will all be better off.



Have you ever had a day, days or a week when many stresses or challenges all came together? Any one of them on their own can cause anxiety, but when it all happens at once you feel like your world is crashing in. You feel overwhelmed. Different kinds of emotions are all fighting each other – fear, sadness and also anger. Can you handle it? What should you do?

That was me this past weekend. I am not going to go through the actual events and stresses that came together over a period of time to make me realize on Sunday afternoon that I was overwhelmed. Too many things that I simply couldn’t control were all happening too fast and I felt like I was starting to crumble.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am typically a strong person who has it together. I am quite capable of balancing many things at once every day in my life. And I have written extensively about all the puzzle pieces in my life that I work hard to manage every day.

It’s not easy to pursue a career, raise children and run a household, all at the same time. I work every day, both mentally and physically, to keep it together. But this past weekend it was just too much. My regular puzzle pieces weren’t fitting in at all, and yes, I will admit, I fell apart.

It’s a scary feeling to lose control. I felt helpless. I was overwhelmed.

It was just when I was feeling very down that my aunt showed up at my house. This is my Auntie Jo, the very same wonderful lady who inspired me to keep going and keep focusing to have a third child. She is one of the main reasons we are lucky to have our Tiny Miracle, Nessa, in our lives.

Besides giving me the hug I needed, she calmed me down and brought me back from my confused, stressed-out state. She offered helpful advice and reminded me that being overwhelmed is okay and that I would be fine.

My sister, Darcie, showed up soon after. Even though at this point there were seven children running, jumping and of course bum-walking, around my house, the zoo didn’t affect me too much. My sister was also a welcome visitor, bringing me encouragement and helping me stay centred.

By early Sunday evening my house was a mess, the laundry was not clean yet and I barely strung dinner together for everyone. I will admit that I was still overwhelmed as I tidied the toys put the final load of laundry into the machine at 11:00 pm and had a late-night snack and hot shower.

I’m still a bit on edge today, and my issues and challenges are not resolved. I am trying to take the time to sort them out and take each on one by one. That’s much less overwhelming. Life can hand you unwelcome anxieties every day, and I am confident that I will get through mine. Thank you to everyone who has offered advice and support. I am here for you too anytime you are overwhelmed, as a niece, sister, daughter, random relative or friend.

Put on Your Shoes. It’s Time to Leave!

put on your shoes

Put on your shoes. Get your coat on. Stop bugging your sister. Where is your hat? No, you are not playing iPad now. You left your homework where?  I said, put on your shoes. Now. I’m not waiting any longer. I’m leaving. Get your hands off your brother. It’s time to leave.

These are the typical words out of my mouth each morning as I herd my husband and children out the front door, to the car and off to school. Getting the people I live with to listen to me in the morning could be my biggest challenge in life. It is stressful and often painful. Why don’t they listen to me? Why don’t they move?

I will admit that we do not have a great morning routine in our house. I am usually the first person to wake up and get myself ready. When I wake up I find a different person in my bed each day (okay not quite, it is always one of the four other people I live with!). That person, whether it’s my husband or the baby, does not want to wake up.

Getting my children to wake up, get dressed (forget brushing their hair, I gave up on that a while ago) and eat breakfast is a struggle. But we always get through it. I brace myself when it’s time to get ready to leave the house. Put on your shoes. I must say that a dozen times each morning.

Why does it take upwards of ten minutes to leave the house in the morning? Is it really so hard to put on your shoes? There is definitely a mix of distraction and intentional ignoring going on. Sometimes I feel like I am talking to a wall. I think the wall listens better than my husband and children.

I know that today’s post sounds a bit absurd and even rather shallow as there are far more important issues in my direct life and greater world where I should focus my attention.  But this is driving me crazy. As I write this, with my children sleeping and my house quiet, I feel compelled to yell, “put on your shoes!” Maybe if I start the process the night before we will get out of the house on time the next day?

As we head into the winter, my morning stress levels will no doubt increase. Put on your shoes will turn into put on your boots. There will be heavy coats, hats and mittens to put on (first to be found under a chair or deep in a school bag). There’s often a sidewalk to be shoveled and car to warm up. Tuesday is garbage day, which adds a whole extra layer of delay to my morning.

I am happy to listen to any suggestions about how to get my gang moving better in the morning, in particular how to get them out the door on time. Do you have slow moving people in your house? I look forward to reading your comments, posted here, on Facebook or on Twitter @AliciaRichler.

Dads in the Corner Office AND Making Dinner


Over the past six months I have written a number of posts about how to balance the many demands of being a mother to three children and my personal career ambitions. I have come to the conclusion that women in 2017 can’t have it all. We try hard to have a work-family balance, and I personally have settled to just do my best. But what about Dads? Can the modern father have it all? Can he rise through the ranks of a corporation or spend long days and even nights working, yet still be there at home to bathe the children and read them a bedtime story?

I have not given Dads enough credit. It is not easy to be a father in 2017. Men who choose to get married, in their twenties and thirties in particular, and have children in their twenties, thirties and into their forties, are also looking for the ultimate work-family balance. These men are not the CEO of the house (sorry guys, that’s the woman!) and often don’t even think about all the small details that go into the well-oiled machine that is raising children.

But today’s father plays an active role in not only how his children are raised – the corporate world calls this the strategy – but also is actively involved in raising those children – the tactics. Dads today don’t just wake up in the morning, get ready for work and kiss the wife and children good bye as he heads out the door. He may give the children breakfast, put their lunch together for school and often is the person who brings them to school each morning.

Dads today go grocery shopping, drive the kids to karate and wash the dishes after dinner. They book play dates for their kids and change diapers. And many of them also hold down a full-time job. I believe that at work they are expected to devote all their energy and put aside the demands of their home life. While many of these great men try, they too may never achieve a much-desired true work-family balance.

My husband, David, is one of those Dads. As his colleagues will tell you, David is one of the most dedicated and skilled people to work with. He works with tremendous integrity and passion and throws himself in to every task he tackles. He is thorough and considers every minute detail.

David’s biggest challenge is time management. As a professional, he is loyal and works hard. As a Dad, he is caring and will do anything for his children. Balancing the needs and demands of work and children is often very difficult.

I believe David’s challenge is not unique. Many Dads in 2017 want the same success in their career that men have always wanted. And they are expected to give their full attention and energy to their job. But they want to also play an active role in raising their children. Many of their wives have a career, and these men are compelled to spend quality time with the children and support the duties of the household.

It’s not easy. I commend the efforts of the Dad who tries his best to reach the corner office and cook dinner for his family. Thank you to all the men out there who work hard every day and who also do their best to support their wives as they strive to reach the corner office too.

Getting the office work done then feeding the kids

House Hunters Couch Potato

house hunters

People who don’t have the expertise to operate a vehicle but like to call the shots in the car are referred to as back seat drivers. Then there are the individuals who don’t have a passport but read about international destinations, and we call them armchair travelers. And there is a new group of people who watch an endless selection of real estate shows on television and feel they are inches away from possessing a realtor’s license – I call them House Hunters couch potatoes. I think I’m one of them.

I love HGTVHome and Garden Television. It’s a cornucopia of television shows about real estate, renovation and gardening. Couch potatoes, who may be flipping through the channels on TV, consider themselves experts on bathroom plumbing and deck building. From the comfort of the living room people mull over the choice of a property by the beach or something more convenient in town.

I don’t watch all the shows on HGTV. My personal favourites are anything and everything to do with real estate. Maybe I should have been a real estate agent. Though as I think about that, I really just enjoy looking at houses for sale. I’m not too interested in the long negotiation process or contracts and legal considerations that go with the process.

Which is why I love House Hunters and the many spin-offs of this very addictive show. House Hunters basic premise is that a person or couple or family is looking for a place to live, and through the 30-minute show the person (or people) is presented with three properties to visit and consider. By the end of each episode a property is chosen and the person (or people) move in.

During each episode, the viewers learn about the house hunters – their names, ages, where they live, what they do for a living and their hobbies too. In a few short minutes this show manages to convey a person’s a whole life story! And then we get to the good stuff – we go inside houses and apartments with these people.

While I love House Hunters (and others like it such as Caribbean Life or Property Virgins), it is quite shallow and simple. For example, whenever a couple sets out on their house hunt, they usually strongly differ about where to live – in the suburbs or the city – or what kind of house to buy: she wants a two-storey colonial while he is adamant that they must live in a ranch. She won’t even consider a house that doesn’t have a fireplace. He must have a man-cave in the basement.

Few people are actually that demanding or narrow-minded when searching for a property, or at least not publicly. The show is a bit of a scripted act. The husband who said a house in the suburbs was a deal-breaker is all smiles when he tells his loving wife that he adored the sprawling home on the cul-de sac as soon as he saw it. Really? And did the real estate agent only show the couple three homes? I highly doubt it.

Then there’s the various spinoffs of this addictive show. There’s House Hunters International, Off the Grid, Renovation, Island Hunters Tiny House and now Family too. I think there’s even more that I don’t know about. House Hunters International has inspired me to be not only a couch potato but an armchair traveler too. It makes me think that I too can move my family to a beach town in Australia, find the perfect home and settle in comfortably to a new community. Oh, and of course I only have to view three homes to easily make my decision.

I’m actually amazed how clueless the house hunters are on the International edition. If you are moving to a new, often far-off country, wouldn’t you do a bit more research on the place, the culture and local real estate trends and prices before you arrive?

For example, I recently watched an episode about a family who moved to a town north of Sydney, Australia from the United States. With only the husband working they set a rental budget of $2,000 per month and wanted a house with at least 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Within the first few minutes of the episode the local real estate agent told them it was impossible in that community to spend only that amount of money for what they wanted. How do you move halfway around the world and not do some research in advance about the cost of living? So was this couple really that ignorant, or was it scripted to make them look that way? And yes, of course they raised their budget to get the house of their dreams…

My criticisms aside, I am obsessed with House Hunters, especially the International edition. Do you ever walk down the street in your local neighbourhood or wander around a foreign city and say to yourself, I wonder what these homes look like inside? House Hunters lets you do that. No matter what home is chosen, we, as viewers, went along for the ride with them and vicariously had the opportunity to see inside the houses and apartments and make our own virtual decisions.

And now I need to feed my addiction. Off to my couch for some House Hunters.

My Team MUST Win

team must win

I want my team to win. I always want my team to win. Why is it MY team? Am I part owner? No. Do I work for my team? No. Did my spouse, father, brother, cousin, friend or next door neighbour ever play for my team? Definitely not. But as I watch my team play, I sit on the edge of my seat and have that feeling deep within that my team must win.

It’s an interesting phenomenon. The love a person has for a sports franchise. Usually (not always) it’s because a person is a homer, meaning the person is a fan of the local sports club. What is a fan? Well, the word originates from the term fanatic. I did a search using my good friend Google and chuckled when I read the definition of the word fanatic. It is a “person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause” or a “person with an obsessive interest in and enthusiasm for something, especially an activity.”

For many people sports is a religion. For some people their passion for a sport crosses political boundaries. Their love of not only a particular game but of their team is true fanaticism.

Go to any live sporting event between two teams, and the fans for each team are quite clear. Some people wear a cap or jersey, while other people paint their bodies and dress head to toe in the team’s colours. Popular or legendary sports franchises like the New York Yankees, Toronto Maple Leafs, Manchester United, Dallas Cowboys or LA Lakers probably make more money off the sale of merchandise than they do from ticket sales.

I will admit that for the most part I am a homer. Carolina Hurricanes aside (yes they are clearly my team), I am a fan of the hometown team. I love my Blue Jays and Raptors. I have a Toronto FC shirt and you can bet I’m cheering on the Argonauts during this year’s playoff run. Okay, I even tolerate the Maple Leafs. Maybe it’s pride for my city or a warm feeling I have that I am part of a community when I cheer on the local sports franchise.

I cheer on my team whether it’s the best team in the league or one of the basement dwellers. I stick with my team through thick and thin. Each game, if my team is down by 7 runs or 23 points, in my head I say to myself, my team must win.

A true sports fan isn’t always straight in the head. As long as there are only two outs in the inning or a few seconds left in the period, the dream stays alive that my team can win.

And sometimes it happens. If you are a Blue Jays fan, you will remember Sunday, July 30th, 2017. The Jays were down 10-4 going into the bottom of the 9th. They quickly scored a few runs then Steve Pearce came to the plate with the bases loaded and his team down 10-7. And he hit a grand slam. The Jays beat the Angels 11-10, and that win became the biggest 9th inning comeback in the team’s history. For a fan like me, who watched it all unfold, the words running through my head, my team must win, came true.

My son, Matthew, was the inspiration for today’s post while he squealed with delight after his beloved Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins this past weekend in overtime. JVR scored the tying goal with one minute left in the third period. Then Marleau scored the winning goal for the Leafs in overtime. Matthew focused all his energy on ensuring his team would win. And they did.

A sports fan will never change. If you love your team, you love that team with all your heart. I think that’s great. Sports fans, please never change.

The Most Delicious Afternoon Nap

afternoon nap

I love to take an afternoon nap. Babies and toddlers ensure this is a part of every day of their lives. By the time we reach preschool or kindergarten most children have dropped what I believe is one of the most important parts of the day: the afternoon nap. This most glorious activity does not get the respect it deserves, and I want to start a movement to bring back the afternoon nap.

Many cultures and societies around the world understand the importance of the afternoon nap. Have you ever heard the word siesta? It is the Spanish term for a snooze.  There are places around the world, such as throughout Europe or the Middle East, where siesta is taken seriously and is scheduled into the day. In many places, businesses even close for up to two hours and streets are empty while children and adults alike lie down and take a rest. I’m jealous.

My desire to take an afternoon nap can happen in the middle of a busy workday on a Wednesday afternoon or a lazy Saturday at home. Have you ever been in a meeting, listening to a lecture or sat in science class when suddenly your eyes start to droop and your head tilts sideways? It takes everything in you to stay awake and focus. You don’t want to be the person who falls over in a chair and starts to snore. In your semi-comatose state, all you can think about is an afternoon nap. Even a ten-minute power nap would be perfect.

afternoon nap
My mother had a bit of jet lag when we arrived in London in December 2005. I captured the moment.
afternoon nap
Oh to see the world! This is David napping on a canal boat tour in Amsterdam in 2006
afternoon nap
I love this photo. This is Wrigley Field in 2007 – at a Cubs game. Don’t you love it, Leigh?

Some businesses understand the importance of an afternoon nap. They understand that employee productivity, in particular during a long afternoon, will increase, if people are given the opportunity to have a snooze. Some companies, like Uber and Google, have “nap rooms” in their offices. Brilliant.

But the most delicious afternoon nap happens on a weekend afternoon at home. Your boss isn’t there to tap you on the shoulder as you are slumped on your chair or unconscious and snoring under your desk. Here is my idea of a dreamy weekend snooze:

You are in the comfort of your own home and you plop down on the living room couch. You have a good book ready to read, an unfinished Scrabble game on your smartphone or this week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy recorded on the PVR. The house is quiet and you settle in. After a few pages of your book, a couple of moves in the Scrabble game or a few minutes of the show on TV your eyes close and you fall into a deep and dreamy sleep.

The kids (or spouse or friends’ kids) could start swirling and screaming around you, but it doesn’t matter. You are perfectly comfortable and happy that the walls could come crashing down around you and it won’t matter. You have reached that ultimate state of Zen.

afternoon nap
Baby Matthew enjoying a nap at his Uncle Billy’s place in Ottawa
afternoon nap
My niece Emma and little Matthew used to love to cuddle together for their afternoon nap – this one in Florida
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Baby Julia and big brother Matthew enjoying a nap together
afternoon nap
Car seat naps are great. Little Julia and Matthew.
afternoon nap
Matthew getting sucked up by our couch
afternoon nap
It’s Sponge Bob, but it’s a couch. Nessa likes it.

A couple of hours later you wake up slowly, usually with a bit of drool coming out of your mouth. You are unsure of exactly where you are or what time it is. But it doesn’t matter. You are relaxed and cozy on the couch and you feel great. Indeed you just had a delicious afternoon nap.

afternoon nap
David is always at his best with his computer and a couch
afternoon nap
David is working efficiently on this country house couch

To make my afternoon nap truly delicious it has to be on the right couch in the right place. The couch in the family room at my own house is perfect. Second on the list would be any couch at my family cottage near Collingwood or David’s family country home in St. Donat. David’s cousin Pema, who lives in Friday Harbor has a nap-worthy couch in her home too.

afternoon nap
A line-up of nappers: Dogs Herzl and Oscar, my sister Darcie and baby Matthew
afternoon nap
Nessa didn’t waste any time napping with my mother
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My turn for a nap on a St. Donat couch
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Annie has tested out all the couches in St. Donat
afternoon nap
Mu She helps Annie take a nap on another comfy and old St. Donat couch
afternoon nap
David’s brother, Josh, always enjoys a nap on a St. Donat couch
afternoon nap
David’s Uncle Billy probably couldn’t find an empty couch in St. Donat. So he napped in a chair.

Do you have a nap-worthy couch or a favourite place to take an afternoon nap? Do you want to join my movement to bring back the afternoon nap? Here is what I need you to do:

  • Post a photo of your favourite nap spot. Or post a photo of you or someone you know taking a nap in one of your favourite spots. Post the picture on Facebook, tag me on Instagram @AliciaRichler or Tweet me @AliciaRichler
  • Let’s use the hashtag #BringBackTheNap and let’s start napping!

Maternity Leave is not all that it’s Cracked up to be

maternity leave

I have three wonderful children who are the loves of my life. Like many women, I dreamed of being a mother for many years and consider myself lucky every day that I was blessed with such an incredible family. My third child, Nessa, my little miracle, did not come so easily, and I am thankful every day for her being in my life. I chose to take maternity leave with each of my three children, which I feel is a privilege given to Canadian women. However, while many people see maternity leave as a great benefit, it can also have damaging consequences to a woman’s job and career aspirations.

I also firmly believe that the new expanded parental leave, announced yesterday by the Federal government, will potentially cause further damage to a woman’s career.

Under the current system, a person (or couple) can take a leave from work for a total of 12 months following the birth of a baby (or start that leave up to 8 weeks before the child is born). During that period, a new parent (or parents) qualify to receive up to 50 weeks of employment insurance from the Government of Canada. I believe that comes out to up to $543 per week. Some employers top up pay for some or all of that time as well. Under the expanded leave, a total of 18 months can be taken off, but the financial benefits are not increased (just spread out thinner over a longer period of time).

I want to put the financial benefits of maternity leave aside. What I want to focus on is the job one “leaves” and what happens the next day after a woman has left the workplace to focus on her new baby. This has happened to me three times.

Each time I had a new baby I chose to go on maternity leave from a full-time job. I was at one place of employment when my first two children were born and another organization when my third child was born. As a communications professional, I worked in fast-paced demanding jobs with a lot on my plate. And I loved it. I knew that with the massive workload I had that someone else had to either take over my job or a group of people had to fill in for me while I was away. Life went on and work had to be done whether I was there or not. That’s the case for all women who go on maternity leave.

So, what happens when a woman is away from the office for just a few weeks, a few months, 12 months or now as many as 18 months? As I said, life goes on at work, people fill in and the organization creates a new normal. When my son was born in 2007, I was away for 8 months. When my daughter was born in 2010 I was away for 11 months. And the organization where I was employed went on and my colleagues worked hard and filled in for me.

After my first maternity leave I returned to my same job and went on with my day-to-day responsibilities. In fact, a few months later I even got a promotion. I worked hard and did my best to balance the demands of my job with the needs of my baby. I assumed the same thing would happen in 2011 when I returned to the same job after my second maternity leave.

But I was wrong. The organization where I worked was planning massive changes and a rebranding while I was away, and those changes were implemented weeks after I returned. I was told my job was eliminated.

I had just come off 11 months of maternity leave and had received almost 50 weeks of employment insurance benefits. I did not qualify to receive any more and thought that in Canada there was a system in place to protect young mothers who chose to take a leave from work to care for their young children. Our jobs, we were told, were protected, so that we could go away for a year and return to work. I understood that my exact job did not have to be given back to me but that a job equal to mine had to at least be available to me. It was, for a few weeks, then it was gone. Why? Because if an organization, for or not-for-profit, does a massive reorganization, it is not required to retain women on maternity leave. It is allowed to eliminate those jobs.

I was lucky that I quickly secured another job in 2011, one I loved very much. I received a number of promotions over the next few years, and by 2016, when Nessa was born, I managed a team of people and oversaw many files and projects at the company. While I did not make a final decision on how long I would be away from my job, I knew I wanted to take at least 4-5 months of maternity leave to spend time with my new baby.

When the baby was not quite 3 months old I was informed that my job had been eliminated. This time there was no company reorganization that I knew of. Various people had filled in for me, there was a new normal and they didn’t need me anymore. It didn’t matter that I was respected by my colleagues and made contributions to the organization over the previous five years. Out of sight, out of mind. So what if the Government of Canada had a maternity leave program? My employer didn’t care. My job was gone.

According to some research I found from Statistics Canada, which looked at the increasing maternity leave benefits from 1971 onwards, I read that “one aim of the 2000 amendment was to enable working parents to care for their infant longer and still allow them secure re-entry into employment” It added that “after the extension of parental benefits, all provinces and territories revised their labour codes to give full job protection of 52 weeks or more to employees taking paid or unpaid maternity or parental leave.”

Financial benefits aside, maternity leave was created, in-part, so that women could feel confident that they could walk away from a job to care for a baby knowing their job was secure and protected. But that is not the case. And the longer a woman is away from her job, potentially up to 18 months with the new expanded leave, the less security and protection she has.

If the Government of Canada is going to expand its parental leave program then it also needs to put in place strict rules that protect those parents’ jobs when they choose to take a leave to care for young children. As long as employers can eliminate a job during or soon after a maternity leave then it is not a true benefit. Canadian women need to know their careers can grow and their jobs are secure when they become new mothers and attempt the very difficult task of a balance between work and home. Until that happens, there is no such thing as a true maternity leave.

Down in the Dugout at Safeco Field

Safeco Field

My son Matthew loves baseball. I would consider myself to be a baseball fan, but Matthew has taken it to a new level. He doesn’t just love the Toronto Blue Jays, he loves baseball in general. He talks about the sport all the time, air pitches all over our house and watches live games or highlights every chance he gets. His dream is to visit every Major League ballpark, all 30 of them, during his childhood. This week he checked one off his list with a tour of Safeco Field, the home of the Seattle Mariners.

Safeco Field
The excitement builds before we enter the stadium

Have you ever visited a Major League Baseball park during the off season? It’s a very different experience. First of all, it’s really clean. And it’s quiet. So quiet that it’s almost eerie. It almost feels like you are a celebrity or you are in a movie where you are that main character who appears on screen in the empty ballpark. And it’s really cool!

Our guide greeted us in the Safeco Field Mariners’ store (of course, that way we could make souvenir purchases, like our new hats, before the tour even began!). He was dressed head to toe in team gear and knew everything about the local baseball club and the building in which they played.

Safeco Field
Matthew chats with our tour guide

As we traveled through the various levels of the stadium, from the concourse on the 100 level to the cheap seats on the 300 level, our guide shared with us his tremendous knowledge of everything Safeco Field. It’s fan friendly and its roof really is a “retractable umbrella.” The incredible rolling mechanism, which is actually in three parts, is quite the engineering feat and I believe weighs, in total, over 20 million pounds. But it’s not a roof, as it’s above the lights and allows fresh air to flow through the stadium. Amazing.

Safeco Field
Selfie from the cheap seats

Once we had a taste of the stands, our guide took us indoors to the restricted zones of the building. First we visited the private suites, then we headed up to the press box. It’s a place I knew well from my early days in sports media. Well, I spent time in the press box at the Rogers Centre, so it was my first time in the press box at Safeco Field. Wow, it’s a big one, with a perfect line ahead to home plate and the pitcher’s mound. The protective netting behind plate at this ballpark is also quite low, so a journalist who is not paying attention could get a line drive in the head if he or she is not careful. Oh the walls could talk there!

Safeco Field
Matthew imagines himself calling the game from the comfort of the press box
Safeco Field
He could get comfortable here
Safeco Field
Example of wall damage from a foul ball

We then traveled down to the bowels of Safeco Field, to the most restricted part of the stadium. We saw the exclusive Diamond Club for people (or corporations) who pay big bucks for the fancy seats first then headed down the hall to the visitor’s clubhouse. Matthew loved this part of the tour.

Safeco Field
Happy 40th birthday Seattle Mariners

Since it’s the off season the locker room of course was not in use. So the Mariners’ tour team had the space set up with its team jerseys to give us an idea of what the locker room would look like if some uniforms were set up. The 5,000 square foot space includes a kitchen and dining area, showers, toilets and the main lounge and locker area for the players. We didn’t see the Mariners’ 15,000 square foot clubhouse, which I am sure is quite the space.

Safeco Field
Matthew looks in awe as he enters the clubhouse

The final stop on our tour was the dugout. It was so exciting for our little group as we walked along the same tunnel that all our favourite players pass through on their way to the field. One guy started to do his own play-by-play, imagining it was game 7 of the World Series, and he was the star player, about to enter the stadium to cheering fans.

There’s something magical about walking into the 47,000 seat stadium via the dugout. You can almost taste the game that is played in this sacred place. Matthew and I together imagined the exact spot where the manager sits and the chatter among the players along the bench. We loved it.

Safeco Field

Matthew and I have visited three ballparks together so far – Rogers Centre in Toronto, Wrigley Field in Chicago and now Safeco Field in Seattle. I look forward to more games and more tours. I will help make sure my son’s childhood dream comes true.