Meet our March profile in our continuing series 13 Women, 13 Definitions of Success, the amazing Heather Greenwood Davis!
Many of you might know Heather Greenwood Davis as “globetrotting mama”, or enjoy her fabulous chronicles as a travel columnist for the Toronto Star. Her award winning articles also appear regularly in magazines such as Canadian Family, Parents Canada and on sites like Urbanmoms.ca and Playhouse Disney.ca Her style is fun, easy to read and full of insightful information. But, these are not the reasons Blooming Betty chose Heatheras a Profile of Success. We chose Heather because she truly gushes when talking about her journey of success. She exudes motivation and inspiration for others facing life choices as we know all women do. Heather has made conscious choices about her professional life (from lawyer to writer), included her partner and children in these choices, and although, not without questions or occasional self-doubt, genuinely feels that they have been the right ones for her. That is why we chose her.
Not only did Heather know she always wanted to be a writer, but she actually knew she always wanted to work for The Star, a daily Toronto newspaper. She is now lucky enough to have achieved that goal but not without detours along the way! For example, Heather went to law school, basically because she decided one day at work to help a friend study for the LSAT, the entrance exam. She applied on a whim and got in! Being the first in her family to attain a law degree, she felt that she needed to pursue this prestigious career and started working at a large downtown law firm in their medical malpractice litigation area. After the birth of her first child, she returned to the Big Law Firm and soon moved to a different practice area that afforded her more hours at home. Fast forward to the birth of her second child, after the mat leave she returned again. But she quickly realized that this was not the place for her. At the time and at this particular firm, most women did not even take their full maternity leave and she saw firsthand the common challenges of women at large law firms returning to work with families. After some soul searching, Heather came to terms with the fact that she never really wanted to be a lawyer … she kind of backed into it after taking the exams and getting into a good school but it was never her dream. There was no passion for it. She knew she needed to make some changes. Sound familiar?
Heather, luckily, and as a great lesson for many, had always kept her hand in her true passion: Writing. She found that she was unique in that she was a lawyer, who could also write well; not legal briefs, but articles and stories. She turned to the “low hanging fruit” and started blending her legal background and her writing for publications like Lexpert and the CanadianBar Association. Funny story is that is how we were introduced to her: A great story she did on The Top 40 under 40 Women for Lexpert. Only, she didn’t write about their professional accolades, she wrote about their success. What it took, how it was different for each woman and most interesting to us, how someone’s success in Law School does not guarantee or predict their success in law. It was honest and candid approach that first one our hearts.
However, even with the writing as a creative outlet for her law job, and blending her passion with what paid the bills, there came a distinct point when she had to ask herself, “Do I stay or Do I go?”
These are some of the questions we asked Heather to get a sense of her "path to success" and what advice she would give other women asking some of these same questions.
How did she make the choice to leave the law? What were some of the questions she asked herself? Factors in making her decisions?
Heather openly admits that it was really hard! Took lots of soul searching and talking with her parter. She hated being at her job but was the major breadwinner in her family. That, coupled with external pressure of a “traditional career” meant she wasn’t sure she could walk away. However, in her heart of hearts, writing and travel were where her passions lay. She was already doing it part-time and felt that if she devoted herself to it full time, there were even more possibilities and opportunities to make it work.
What are some of the assets or success factors that you have in place that make this job possible for you? How important are they?
Heather emphasizes how lucky she is to have not only a supportive spouse, but one with flexible hours that make sharing household responsibilities possible. Add doting and retired grandparents and she feels even luckier. It allows her to put in a full workday at home (sometimes even cooking dinner), travel for her writing which is about 25% of the time, and also be there for her kids with a healthy mind and spirit.
This all sounds great and pretty perfect …. but we still want to know: What keeps her up at night? What are some of her personal challenges even with a career she loves and the appearance of success? Does she have doubts?
First of all, Heather’s day can start as early as 4:30 a.m. and she can often be found at the gym by 5, so perhaps there really are things that keep her up at night! She admits that she still wonders if she is giving enough, to her writing, to her kids, to her spouse. Heather also has incredible self-induced pressure to perform, produce and to earn. Often she has to keep this internal chatter at bay and realize that she is doing the best she can.
How have you come to definesuccess after completing this path?
For Heather, it is a combination of envisioning what she wants to do and then figuring out how to achieve it. She bases it on knowing her passions, her values and having had to work hard to get over the idea that it is selfish to actually want to be happy!
What advice do you have for other women trying to define their own success?
1. Each woman needs to figure out her own support network. Financial, familial, partner, they will differ for everyone and are crucial factors in making choices.
2. Move away from the traditional question of “what are you going to be” or what is your exact role? Break the roles down further, what you like, what you don’t, what you are good at and what you are not. Think about your expectations (self induced, societal, familial) and figure out what holds you back and most importantly, identify your passion because that is where the real success begins.
3. Work hard.
Nothing comes easy.See why we love her? We could not have said it better ourselves. These days in addition to her writing she’s planning what is sure to be her biggest adventure to date: a year long round the world trip with hubby and both sons in tow and inviting readers to come along at www.globetrottingmama.com. Exciting, scary, liberating, crazy, maybe all of the above but most importantly her choice.