Sara Nichols, Executive Director, Strategic Management at the Ministry of Environment, is doing her best to balance her passion for public service with her role as mom of twins. She joined us with her own mom for our networking lunch this week to talk about twinning your career with the birth of two babies.
We found Sara to be an engaging, enthusiastic, people-oriented person who cares more about the why than the why not. She has a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Victoria and a BA (honours) from the University of Saskatchewan.
Here’s what we talked about.
Q: What was it like finding out about the twins?
Sara: It was shocking that day - there were two circles on the ultrasound screen. We cried and laughed through the rest of it. I think we were hysterical. Then as time went on we got more excited about the idea. We wanted two kids, so it was perfect. Our kids go through all the stages at the same time. When other friends started having their second (or third), I found I couldn't imagine having a toddler and a newborn.
Q: How do you and your husband share the duties of raising twins?
Sara: Luke and I have always been a team. With twins, it was “I have a baby and you have a baby.” We were both equal parents from the beginning.
Q: How did you manage going back to work?
Sara: I returned to work after 9 months and Luke went on paternity leave. Our employers both provided some top up for parental leave, which made this a good option for us. In the end, it was 14 months total because we had a hard time finding two infant spots in one daycare. Those last two months we had no benefits and only one income. Our previous top-up really helped us save to manage for those 2 months (3 really as you don't get paid right when you go back).
Q: Was it more expensive having twins?
Sara: It’s true that in some ways it costs more money, because you need two of some things. And benefits are based on the pregnancy, not the number of babies. That could definitely be improved. But in other ways, there is an efficiency factor with twins. One maternity leave for example.
Q: Did having twins impact your earning potential?
Sara: Having only one maternity leave definitely helped reduce the effect on my earning potential and my career. My kids are three and I've recently received a promotion (if I'd had them separately, I might be on maternity leave right now). But there were still challenges going back. Someone else has been doing your job, differently than you did. Even with a supportive work environment, self-doubt can creep in and you question your competence. It takes a bit of time to regain your confidence. I've grown a lot from that experience and I think it makes me a better leader and more understanding.
Q: Do you have any advice for new moms?
Sara: The best thing about having twins is that you are quicker to stop buying into ‘the shoulds.’ When you have two, you give yourself permission to let go of things that are less critical. You just focus on the hierarchy of needs, love them and give them life. But my point is, you shouldn’t have to have twins to give yourself that permission. We all need to be kind to ourselves and our friends.