Claire Johnson was yearning for something more after the birth of her twins, but the piano lessons alone just weren’t cutting it.

Three months after delivering sons Brock and Byron, the new mother was seeking something to help ease the feelings of claustrophobia at home, but it seemed nothing truly did the job.

Along with feeling “a little caged up” at home, Johnson was also dealing with the transition from life as an independent career woman to motherhood.


“My girlfriend has a good term for it — love shackled,” Johnson said. “You end up with these wonderful children, but you can’t get away from them at times.”

Now she’s a mother of four — the five-year-old twins have been joined by two-year-old Natalie and eight-month-old Evan. And Johnson said she realized the answer for her was balancing time at home with part-time work at CIBC Mellon, where she serves as vice-president of product management and client integration solutions.

She was among the panellists of career moms sharing insights and strategies for success during Making It Work.

The panel was part of a pilot project half-day conference of the same name aimed at providing expectant moms, women on maternity leave and those heading back to the workplace with information on parenting while also addressing issues of integrating work and home life.

Johnson spoke of her decision to go to her boss to discuss restructuring her work schedule, drawing laughs when sharing she initially asked to work one day a week.

She now works Mondays through Wednesdays, but said there is flexibility to go to the office two days a week and to field conference calls if needed on her off days from home.

Johnson said one of the challenges faced by women wanting to work part-time is that employers aren’t used to it and often don’t know how to accommodate — factors she said shouldn’t be a barrier for working moms seeking to pursue it as an option.

“I think women need to understand they are hugely valuable, and to make sure that what they’re asking for is reasonable, but at the same time asserting themselves to say ‘This is good for you and it’s good for me,’” she said.

“I think a lot (of women) apologize, they kind of skulk out of the office when they leave right at five sort of hoping nobody is too offended. The reality is, somebody has to raise children, and these women have a lot of knowledge to contribute to the workforce, so why not support both?”

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