How a CPA approaches work-life balance: Leona Harari

CPA Leona Harari shares her perspective on achieving work-life balance.

  • Title: Senior Reviewer
  • Organization: BDO Dunwoody, Montreal
  • Year joined firm: 1997
  • University grad year: 1997
  • Designation year: 2000

It's that famous chameleonic trait of being able to change colours that gives Leona Harari the spunk she needs to manage her diverse lifestyle: tax manager, Mom, Scout volunteer. That's not counting getting her MBA, being married and keeping things afloat at the office when complications sprung up during both of her pregnancies.

"When I finished my schooling, I figured I would have so much more time," says the senior tax manager at BDO Dunwoody in Montreal. "But I'm still busy and still prioritizing on a daily basis."

When she got her designation, she chose tax over other specialties with work-life balance in mind. "It interested me," she says, "and I believed it could provide more flexibility in the future if needed." She was right.

In 2003 and 2006, Harari was forced to flex her maternity-leave time due to health problems but was still able to take care of her clients. She checked emails, took calls, and provided information as needed.

After the official time off ended, she worked part time for several months. The parental adjustment came with some back up from Dad, who was also able to take a few months off when both of their girls were born.

"With my first child, the biggest challenge about staying home was isolation," says the 34-year-old Concordia University grad. "With the second, I got more into a routine." She cautions mothers heading back to the office on three fronts: guilt about not being there for milestones, less time for play and the heart-wrenching "I miss you, Mommy" from older ones.

On the other hand, the office offers a profound sense of satisfaction and enjoyment with tangible proof that you are accomplishing something. "The results of motherhood will not be seen for 15 to 20 years!"

She admits she doesn't know if her life will ever be truly balanced as priorities can change from day to day. But, organization is a major factor in finding success and it looks like the Harari household is a well-oiled machine: up at 6:15, school carpool, hit the office by 9:00 — 10:00 on Wednesdays after daughter duties — pack it in at 7:00.

This, however, is punctuated every day by carpool variances, volunteer meetings for both parents, gymnastic classes and work demands.

Fridays are special. Harari picks up the girls at 2:00 p.m. and the three of them prepare a meal to be ready for Dad's 6:30 arrival. One weekend day is family day. The couple keep their schedule in Microsoft Outlook and update each other about appointments.

There's one golden rule: no BlackBerry checking at home. "In fact, my five-year-old will tell me off if I try to peek after hours," she laughs.

Harari says there will times when new parents feel life is spinning out of control. "You just need to go back to the drawing board, review what needs to be done and reprioritize. You will never create more time, but you can manage the time you have. You must constantly choose who you want to be."

— Lorie Murdoch