Sharks never sleep
When Cheryl Belanger isn’t inspecting houses, studying for her 6:30 a.m. algebra class or looking after her three kids and two golden labs, you can find the 45-year-old SCUBA diving.
Belanger is part of a growing class of super moms: successful in the workplace, able to balance family life and still find time to pursue their hobbies.
Seven years ago, Belanger left her nine-to-five job behind, because she was spending too much time away from her family on business trips. Although she admits she misses the six-figure salary and 401K matches, the mother of three started a business to be in control of her own schedule, closer to her family.
Now, Belanger’s home inspection company is enjoying one of its busiest years. What’s more, she’s gone back to school to finish her degree.
“I was in college when I got a job offer and after a while I was making money and I didn’t really see a need in finishing it,” says Belanger.
“But, after awhile I was like, I really do need to finish it because what kind of example does that give my kids?”
Taking on a full course load, Belanger, also president of the Entrepreneurial Mothers Association, is up and at ‘em from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m., Monday to Friday.
“Every day is different. I have a 6:45 class in the morning — algebra, which is probably the reason it’s kicking my butt — but, I go to school in the morning, I’m usually done at 10 a.m., then I actually start my workday,” she says.
“I work until probably 6 or 7 p.m., sometimes as late as 8 p.m., and then family time, which isn’t a whole lot of free time, and then homework and then collapse in the bed and do it again the next day.”
It’s sometimes hard to stay motivated, especially driving to math class at 6 a.m., says Belanger, but points to her supportive family as a source of strength.
“You can’t quit when your kids are watching you, you know,” says Belanger, laughing.
“You can’t even get a bad grade when your kids are watching you.”
Belanger admits there’s not a lot of free time left over. However, the SCUBA diver has been able to incorporate her clan into her hobbies; all three of her kids are SCUBA-certified.
Both Belanger and her husband are ardent photographers, and a large part of their family vacations are spent doing underwater photography, a passion that even landed a photo on the cover of Scuba Diving magazine.
Free as a bird
Julie Watson’s friends call her a daredevil.
The mother of three works as a real estate broker, and despite the daily rise in foreclosures, Watson’s Arizona business is booming — it’s the busiest she’s ever seen it.
But it’s not just her job that has friends question her sanity – Watson is an avid skydiver. How avid? When pregnant with her third child, she waited to tell anyone as long as she could – she was hoping to get in just one more exhilarating dive.
“More than the thrill I think is that, every care, every issue is gone,” says Watson.
“For those several hours I’m not worried about anything. If you can…completely block out the rest of the world and not be caught up with anything bothering you or worrying you – then that’s good recreation.”
Watson left her job soon after she had kids, and is now reaping the benefits of her hard work. The broker warns, however, that it’s easy to get carried away, and stresses the importance of taking time off. She has started to put family commitments and her own “fun time” on the calendar and works around these personal commitments.
“What keeps me motivated is liking what I do for living and loving my time off, loving to go skydiving,” says Watson.
“I work to have more time to do the fun things I really love to do.”
Around the world in 80 days – or less
Norma Bastidas, a single mom from Calgary, Alberta, may see her hobby turn into a career.
Bastidas started running to cope with stress after her son has diagnosed with Cone-Rod Dystrophy, a rare kind of progressive blindness.
After numerous trips to eye doctors, specialists and school counselors, the mother of two realized it was impacting her job, where she had been working towards a management position. She was forced to step down.
“I just wanted to turn something negative around and make sure that never happened to me again, people looking at me and saying ‘she has a son with a disability, it’s a liability’,” says Bastidas.
“These things happen and we need to embrace them and try our best. I wanted to teach my kids that this isn’t something we should be embarrassed it about, it happens and we can succeed.”
So Bastidas did what any busy mom would do, she started running ultramarathons: races longer than 50 kilometers (31 miles).
Bastidas is attempting the 777 Run for Sight, a journey of more than 1,400 km (870 miles). To raise $100,000 for Operation Eyesight Universal, The Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Bastidas is aiming to run seven ultramarathons, on seven continents, in seven months.
“There was nothing I could do to stop it from happening, so I decided to use it as my greatest strength,” she says.
The Calgarian’s shortest race on the tour is 100 km — in Antarctica. The longest is a 350 km trek through the Swiss Alps. In between she’ll hit China, the Arctic Circle, Namibia, Brazil, and Australia.
Now the 41-year-old is watching her hobby blossom into a career. She is working as an athletic ambassador for Impossible 2 Possible, a non-profit organization that aims to empower youth to tackle environmental sustainability. She has been offered inspirational speaking jobs across the globe.
More than anything, however, Bastidas, Watson and Belanger stress that by pursuing her hobbies, it not only allows some time of their own, but sets a great example for those they care most about.
“At least my son can look at me and say, you haven’t given up,” says Bastidas.
“We’re both in this together and we’re giving it our best.”