I think a lot of successful women have a hard time being kind to themselves. There’s a saying I like, which is that we should try to be as kind to ourselves as a good mother would be, always.
It’s a great thing if you have a great mother, and I did. But if you don’t, go out and find them – find the friends you need, the mothering you need. An odd discovery in my 40s was that if you go to yoga, the yoga instructor kind of mothers you a little bit at the beginning and end of each class.
I had one of those wonderful childhoods. A competitive, big family – in a good way. My mother [Carol Shields] became a quite successful writer when I was growing up. My father was the dean of engineering in a university. It was an idyllic childhood, and it gave me confidence. It taught me nothing, however, about business because I didn’t hang around with business people. In fact, when I started my articling job as a young lawyer, I don’t think I’d ever been in an office before. It just wasn’t in my world.
I learned early on that if you’re curious about things and open to learning, there’s nothing that isn’t interesting. Even the right to reject non-conforming goods under the international sale of goods act; I ended up writing the most boring master’s thesis in the history of master’s theses. But it was interesting to me.
We grow up going to stores and I was always interested in what happened behind the doors. What was making this run? That gave me a deep interest in business as it happens. Whenever I see a closed door, I want to know what’s behind it.
I always thought I would write books. Isn’t that odd, because I didn’t exactly set out on that path. I’ve published two novels; I’ve written four. I think if I didn’t have a book brewing, it would remove some of my happiness. It makes me very happy to have a project like that on the go.
Law, by chance, is stories. I found when I read cases, it was like reading short story after short story. I’ve never had a dull day in the legal profession.
For me, balance is busyness. I like to be out there in the world as much as possible, as much as I can, all the time.
There’s this concept called allomother, and it’s the idea that if you run your life well, your kid doesn’t just have one mother, they have a community of mothers. I remember landing in New York a few years ago for a large, multibillion-dollar transaction, and getting a call from home that one of my children was really in serious distress, to the point where my first thought was that I have to go home. I phoned one of the allomothers and she got right on it. I still get a little weepy when I think about it because I feel that it was a crisis that I didn’t handle directly. But in fact I did handle it and it worked out fine. It was one of those moments when I felt there’s something rich here, something to be learned about creative problem solving, and being present in different ways.
My grandmother had a wonderful saying. It was, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Join us to celebrate this year’s honourees at the 2018 Influential Women in Business Awards on International Women’s Day on March 8, 2018, hosted at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel. For tickets and event info, visit www.biv.com/iwib.