Our Bell Financial AGM was different this year. Let's be honest, everything has been different this years. Some things have been harder, and other things against all odds, just worked. We spread the full-day-in-person session over a week of mornings and had everyone login remotely. My husband Jon and I decided to login on the same computer in our basement gym/storage/spare room/office. So, I was sitting right beside him as he encouraged and inspired the whole team. I was there to witness his workplace triumph, as he lead the meeting in this unconventional way, because we work together in the family business.
I know lot of people who work with their family, but most people don’t work with so much of it. My dad, my mom, my husband and even my brother-in-law Nick are Bell Financial lifers. My sister does my editing and two of my aunts come in periodically to help with mailing and filing projects. On top of that, having so much family around somehow makes the rest of the staff feel like family as well. I have known some of them for more than 20 years and our team is tight knit in the best kind of way.
When the pandemic hit there were no questions asked, I took the time I needed during the workday to participate in online school, supervise outdoor shenanigans, and set up in home adventures for my two boys. With them being so little they couldn’t just be left to their own devices and I was extremely lucky to work for people who could trust me to get what I needed to get done outside of 9-5. I had to triage projects and abandon some for when the kids finally returned to school. But it was all okay. “This is why you work with us”, my husband said one night as I complained about how little I accomplished outside of keeping my kids alive. I thought to myself, is it?
There were lots of reasons why I came to work at Bell Financial. But if I I’m being honest with myself, the main reason was that I wanted to work for someone who knew the weight of my role at home. If the school calls, I have to drop everything and go. On top of that, an early pickup is usually followed by a few days absence while I attend a Doctors visit, stir the bubbles out of ginger ale, and administer children's Motrin at all hours of the night. It's not because I'm the mom and Jon is the dad that I am the person who goes to get our sick child. We share parental responsibilities in a unique and positive way that works great for us. It's because we decided that I would be the one to do these types of tasks. And that while I worked for someone else I felt that their expectations of me and the demands of my family were stretching me thinner and thinner between career and home and it felt like I was going to literally snap into two pieces flung to either side. Working for family closer to home has been a miracle cure for my mental health.
For a lot of people, they have a work persona and a home persona. I don’t get that luxury. I can’t hide my emotions and struggles behind a smile like I could without my parents and partner in the room. I don’t have a mysterious professional side full of pencil skirts and tight buns. But I do my job and I’d like to think I surprise and delight the family I work with. Not just because I am their hardworking co-worker but also because they are my family and they get to share and witness in my career wins.
I heard Jon say once, to my old boss, "Leah and I don’t really like to do things apart. We like to spend all our time together". This is true. Mutual friend group, similar interests, co-dependant really. Now that we work together and are in social isolation together, I mean I know every step the man makes. I read so many meme’s that joked there would be a spike in divorces when this is all over. I hope this isn’t true. We certainly won’t be adding to that statistic. We have been able to lean into one another and it has just worked. I am so lucky to have this person who is supportive and fun literally everywhere I turn.
The best part of working with my family has been the way it has enhanced and enriched the relationships I have with them. I was there for Jon’s AGM and I got to see how great he is with the team and be inspired by him myself. The boundaries are unclear, but the joy brought by being so involved with the people you love and witnessing their triumphant moments is great.