Moms Make it Work: Andrea from Canada

Today for the Moms Make it Work series, we have Andrea posting about how she makes it work as a part-time college instructor and full-time mommy to two boys. Andrea emailed me about contributing to the series as a blog reader and I'm glad I took her up on the offer. I loved reading about the famous 'one year of maternity leave' that our Canadian mamas experience up there. Amazing!! Such an interesting, level-headed post, Andrea. Enjoy!


Hello All! I am Andrea...I am Canadian and I don't blog. I just felt so connected to this series that I asked Julia if I could contribute. I am an avid blog reader, but don't blog because I am a college instructor, and I just wouldn't feel comfortable if a student found my blog that shared all of the goings on of my family. I teach business part-time on a course by course contract basis. My husband Chris and I were married in 2008, in 2010 John was born, and in 2012 Will was born. No babies are planned for 2014, so I wonder what big event our bi-annual schedule will bring. Chris is a dairy farmer, and we live just outside of a town of about 35,000 in south western Ontario, for a frame of reference 150km (100mi) west of Toronto. In addition to being a mom of two and a college instructor, I do some business consulting, and volunteer as the treasurer for our church. I also enjoy decorating and being a "homemaker" in our well over 100 year old farm house that house Chris grew up in. I hope you enjoy my story. You can find me on instagram as andreanjansen.


What is your background story? What was your career/schooling before you became a mom? And now where are you?

I have always had a mind for business, learning and communication. A few years into my post secondary education I looked at the professors that made learning educational and entertaining and was inspired. I realized one day maybe I could do the same thing, and be the difference in someone's education.

I have a Bachelor of Business Administration and an MBA. I finished my MBA the month before I got pregnant with John. I am so glad I was not pregnant while working on my masters, as it was not an easy pregnancy. Oh the joys of the first trimester, and then I was hospitalized at 35 due to preeclampsia. Looking back, it made sense why I was absolutely exhausted at the end of the work day during my pregnancy, as I think my preeclampsia had been coming on for quite awhile.

I was working full time while completing my MBA, and I commuted to Niagara Falls, NY every weekend for over two years to complete my MBA. This was about a 2-hour commute. During this time I was working for my father at our family's recreational vehicle dealership. My parents sold their share of the dealership in January 2010, and John was born in March 2010. I had decided that I didn't want to take over the dealership as my dad often worked seven days a week, and I didn't see this as being compatible with having a young family. So I decided that I would not return after my maternity leave...

Now here is where my story is a little different from most that you will read in this series. In Canada we are blessed to have Government run Employment Insurance that provides women with income for a year when they go on maternity leave. In fact you can even split the leave with your baby's father if you are so inclined. You receive maternity benefits for 15 weeks, these are for the mother only and are given to any woman contributing to EI that has given birth. Parental benefits are available for 35 weeks and can be split among parents contributing to EI, including adoptive parents. You receive 55% of your income up to a maximum of almost $27,000. Some employers even top this up. I took the full year off with both boys.

After I finished my maternity leave with John, I continued to consult part-time with the RV dealership, and I still do to this day. I then got a job as a part-time Business Instructor at a private career college. It wasn't a perfect job, as the college was new and struggling. I worked 5 days a week mornings only. While working there I got an email asking me to teach a night course at the college where I teach at now. What I would call a "real" college. It was a door opening that I didn't expect to see open for many years to come. I jumped at the chance and started teaching there in May 2011 two nights a week while still working at the private career college. In June I was let go from the private career college as it struggled with enrollment. At the time it was hard to take, but it was a blessing in disguise. Unfortunately, I believe that I was let go because I was a woman and mother. A man who was hired at the same time as me, and had less education and similar experience was kept on. I was also honest with the college about the other course I was teaching, and maybe they just thought they would lose me eventually anyways.

That summer after I was let go I started counting up the hours I had worked. You have to work 600 hours to qualify for another maternity leave, and I realized if I got a few courses each semester at the college I would qualify for mat leave with my hours from the private career college. So my husband and I got right to "work", and late August we found out another baby was on its way. I knew I would have lots of hours, but likely would not max out my income on EI. That winter semester I took every course I could get, four day courses and two night to boost my income. Will was born exactly one week after the semester ended. May the fourth be with you Will!


Again I took my year long maternity leave. My husband doesn't contribute to EI because he is self employed, and really it wouldn't be an option for him to take extended time off from the farm. I wanted to go back to work at the end of the year, but administration had changed in the School of Business at the college, and I had a difficult time connecting with the new Chair to get contracts. Eventually someone from Continuing Education (night courses) connected me to a new Chair, and when an instructor took medical leave last minute I was given two courses in the fall of 2013. This semester I am teaching five courses, and I building great relationships with two of the new chairs. I probably average 25-30 hours work per week including 15 hours in class. I am so thankful to have had the flexibility with my husband's job to wait until more courses were offered to me. So, this semester I work Monday through Thursday. I have full days on Mondays and Thursdays, and Tuesday and Wednesdays I teach one class each morning. I teach Interpersonal Communications, Organizational Behaviour, Word Processing and Office Administration Procedures.

What are the best parts of your situation? What are the biggest challenges?

The best part of my situation is that I get to do something that challenges me and I enjoy on a part time basis. It doesn't hurt that I get paid decently as well. I also choose my availability in regard to when I teach, so I was able to choose to have Fridays off. This also helps when arranging child care. However, I do have a great child care arrangement. My mother-in-law takes the boys on Mondays, and Thursday afternoons. On Tuesdays and Thursday mornings they go to an amazing Christian pre-school. I have flexibility with the preschool, and can take them there other mornings if need be, and the head-teacher takes them home some afternoons when I need extra time to get work done. My dad takes the boys on Wednesday mornings, and then I meet him to take Will, while he takes John for a skating lesson. All Canadian boys must play hockey!

The biggest challenges are related to the uncertainty of not knowing how many courses I will get the next semester, and arranging different child care situations each semester. Additionally, if one of the boys are sick it is very difficult for me to cancel class, and I usually have to leave them with a family member.

I am also trying to build strong relationships with the administration before going on another maternity leave, so there is a big question mark as to when we would go for baby number 3?

Probably the biggest challenge I face is that I bring my work home with me. I have to do a lot of work outside of class hours with prepping, marking and student communication. This often means it cuts into my time with Chris to relax at the end of the day, but there will always be a compromise.

Cottage time on Mat leave 044 (2)

Is this how you expected it to be pre-kids?

No. It's better! I really didn't think I would be teaching at this point in my life, and figured I would be working in a business full-time. I am so thankful for the time I get at home with my boys. I got to nurse both of them as long as I could. John for a year, and Will until nine months. My little stinker, aka Will, abruptly stopped nursing and would not go back, but because I was on maternity leave it wasn't insanely hard to pump to get him fed with breast milk to almost a year. Major props to the working mamas out there that pump.

These days, I get at least one full weekday home with them each week. I am so thankful to have balance.


Is this your ideal situation? If not, what is?

My ideal situation would be a permanent full time teaching position. Usually these positions involve full-time hours in the fall and winter semester, but with time off for the summer semester. Some of this work can be done from home. My understanding is the hours required to be at the college are 20-30 hours a week. This includes 12-15 teaching hours, meetings and office hours. The rest of your work including curriculum development can be done from home. This would definitely be ideal once all of our children are in school. John starts Junior Kindergarten this fall. However, I was told by another part-time instructor last week, that now they are starting to want Phd's…


Do you see yourself making a career change in the next 5-10 years, or is this current set up staying put for the long haul?

...well I guess now I need to think about getting a Phd. Which definitely won't happen until all of our kids are in school. At that point I will have to question if the time I need to put into it will be worth what I get out of it? I love teaching, but I don't think part-time will be enough for my entire career. We want to able to travel, buy our own cottage, and this means me working more than part-time. We try to keep as much money in the farm to grow it as much as possible. I could supplement my teaching income with more consulting, or by starting my own business. The longer I teach the more difficult I think it will be to do something else in the business world. I also think I won't want to give up the flexibility.

Working 2 Working 3

Tips on how you make this work for you?

Well first off I have someone come and clean my house bi-weekly. This takes a load off of my plate. Chris works a lot on the farm, and I can't expect him to never rest, so this is where we give ourselves a break. He is off to work by 5:30 every morning, and works most very long days, but has some shorter days on occasion. We have hired help for every evening milking, however, he is on call a couple nights a week and every other weekend. On his on call weekends he also works in the morning, six hours on Saturdays and five on Sundays. The cleaning lady comes before the weekends when he works as I have less help to get it all done that weekend. It can be hard to make it all work. Chris comes home for breakfast every morning around 8:00am, and during this time I will finish my make up or hair before I leave at 8:30, except on Mondays when I have early classes.

A lot of the time I skip breakfast or eat it during my half hour commute. Rarely do I take my own lunch. I find by the time I have taken care of everyone else I don't have much time to take care of myself. I could probably get more done if I woke up earlier, but I am a girl who needs her sleep. Generally, if the boys wake up, I get up in the night since Chris gets less sleep overall. On that note, I think healthy sleep habits really help. We actually have followed a book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Our boys go to bed between 7:00 and 7:30pm and sleep until between 7:00 and 7:30am, of course with the occasional waking.

I try to be really organized. In our house. Having meals planned. Having bags ready for the next day. Not procrastinating on prep work, and the list goes on. When I am home and trying to get organized or work done, I often put the boys in the playroom with a gate closed so I don't have to worry about what they are getting into. Or the next thing I know I find Will upstairs hiding in a closet. I just need to know they are safe. Otherwise I wouldn't get to start working on anything until 8:00pm.


How do you handle mommy guilt that comes with each role?

Each semester is a new adjustment for the boys, and any guilt I feel is usually related to changing their routine. It has been harder on Will than on John. I just try to make sure he gets extra mommy/daddy snuggle time, because he is a little suck.

I guess I am lucky that I don't feel this applies to me much right now. I am so blessed to work part-time doing something I love. Of course I miss my boys on my long days, but I know the next day is usually shorter. It really is the best of both worlds. The worst is when I get stuck in traffic, which happened last week when my half hour commute took three hours!  (Thanks to the Canadian winter) So that night we kept them up a little later.

Untitled Winter time fun mat leave Working with Daddy

Advice for new moms struggling with returning to work outside of the home? Or struggling to decide if staying home is the right choice?

Move to Canada, and you'll get a year off! I kid, but really I do realize how lucky we are. Part-time works really well for me, but it's not an option in all careers. I am a very practical person, and I think first and foremost you need to look at your finances, and determine what your goals are for your family financially, but also personally and career wise. Long term are there implications to staying home? Will it have an effect on your career that will mean less opportunities for your kids as they get older? Do you need to be intellectually challenged? Maybe for you it is important to save for their education, but if you don't work you won't be able to do it. Do your children have special needs that they need you home for? Will has respiratory issues, and when I was having trouble getting a contract after my mat leave I didn't try too hard to get back in that semester, because I knew I had a lot of work to do to get him healthy.

There is so much to consider. I honestly think it's best to look at it practically, rather than emotionally. Easier said than done I know, but it works on both sides of the table. My thoughts above probably looked like they favour working, but what is the point in working if your income barely covers child care? Will you come home tired and cranky if you are working full-time, and have nothing left for your kids because you really don't like your job?

I think acceptance is key. No matter what, when you have children there are going to be compromises. What are you most willing to compromise? Ask yourself what will make you happy? A happy mom that works for example is better than an unhappy mom at home.


Thanks Julia...this was very cathartic, I can see why you enjoy blogging.
IMG_9315 IMG_9206

* might look like I made some spelling errors but we spell a few word differently up here...behavior = behaviour, favorite = favourite :)

(Ha, thanks, Andrea. Find the rest of the MMIW series here)


  1. So jealous of that year maternity leave. The U.S. really needs to step it up. There would be so many more happy mamas out there.

  2. Loved hearing from another Canadian Momma! Great post!

  3. I, too, can attest that the Canadian maternity leave is awesome :)! Andrea, so nice to read how you are managing work and kids. You seem to be doing a great job!

    Thank you, Julia, for allowing Andrea to talk about her life. Very nice post!

    Alina (

  4. I'm so jealous of the Canadian maternity leave. I only got 6 weeks maternity leave which was far too short especially after a Csection but I work for a really small company so it's hard for anyone to be gone for too long and they did pay me my full salary during the time which was nice.


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