Meet Fanny Bustillo: Perfecting the supermom schedule


Fanny Bustillo joins us to chat about her busy life. An Industrial Engineer with an MBA, she is the mother of a 3 year old boy, stepmother of a 17 year old girl and godmother of a 7 year old girl, working as a Senior IT Business Analyst at McGill University. Over the years, she has taken the career challenges that have come her way, working in different industries, fields and countries, managing teams as well as performing specialist roles.

Describe a typical weekday in your life.

On a regular weekday, I'll usually start my day anywhere between 6 and 7:30 am (depending on how tired I am or how loaded my day is). This can either give me a lot of "me" time or the minimal 30 minutes of sanity to get myself ready before I start with everyone else. I consider this time at the start of the day to be very valuable, albeit highly volatile! I usually fit into it the following activities (to a lesser or fuller extent depending on whether it's 1.5 hours or just 30 minutes): read international news, read local news, review my agenda for the day (which is a consolidated view of my work meetings and personal meetings for the day), I read article(s) of interest and check for any important communications from family, work or friends on any of my communication channels (emails, social media sites, texts, voicemail), exercise (anywhere from a simple stretch to 30 minutes on the treadmill while I catch an accumulated episode of Grey's Anatomy, Suits, Modern Family, or other), eat breakfast and get dressed. I might even throw in a load of laundry and make lunch/dinner.

At 8:00 am, I'll wake up my son. He starts his day with warm milk, which he drinks while I read him a story and go over HIS agenda for the day (I got him one of those Melissa and Doug magnetic calendars with day of the week/month/season/weather and activity magnets). I find it really helps him get into gear and cooperate in getting ready, while also allowing us a moment of both education and "stop and smell the roses". Personally, this precious time with my son is part of that work/life balance that allows me to feel okay with myself about being a working mom. Occasionally, I have early work meetings starting between 8 and 9 am for which I'll leave before my son wakes up and I relinquish this time with my son to my husband who then takes over the morning preparations and drop off.  My stepdaughter is now in CEGEP and rather independent, some days she's out of the house by 6:45 am and gets herself to school, other days, she might catch a lift with me and so I'll wake her up too and ensure she's packing a lunch/snacks, properly dressed for the weather and joins us for breakfast ;)

Around 8:30 am, I'm dressing my son, giving him breakfast and any last minute snack preparation or bag packing: clean water bottles with fresh water, my lunchbox, his after school snacks, coats/sweaters/rain boots/winter boots/pool sandals, gym bags, violin, hats, access cards, wallets, laptops, iPads, toys, school requests, etc. (success criteria: I usually prepare our bags the night before or it can be too much to handle in the morning!), 15 minutes later we are out the door. At this time of day the drive to daycare is around half an hour. The days when my step daughter joins us are fun and usually a different dynamic with more sibling interaction happening in the backseat of the car and singing along to radio pop music rather than children's narrated stories or nursery rhymes, lol! Also, this is usually the time at which we end up going over my stepdaughter's day, "Who's going to be your lab partner today?", "Have you seen Alice lately? How’s she doing?", "Are you staying for volleyball practice, today?", "What time will you be home? Text me if you want a ride", and chit chat about the never-ending, unfolding drama that is teenage life. I drop her off outside her school, then I drop off my son and then speed walk the short distance to my office, in at 9:30 am. (Success criteria: guaranteed parking and proximity of locations. We used to be at a daycare near the house, but that resulted in less time together.)

I'll usually head out of the office between 5-5:45 pm, depending on whether I went to the gym at lunchtime or not, which I've synchronized with the days in which my son takes violin classes. On those gym/music class days, grandma will pick up my son from daycare to take him to music class and hangout afterwards, until I come pick them up usually around 6pm to head home. On the days when none of this is happening, I'll pick up my son and hang around in the classroom or playground for another 30 min-1 hour, on account of my son wanting to play longer with friends in his class and in other class groups. I take advantage of that time to talk to his teachers, and talk to the other parents. This not only gives me socializing time and time with my son but also allows traffic to die down so that we only spend 30-40 minutes heading back home instead of 60 -75 minutes. I might also pick up my step daughter if our schedules align or she'll make her own way home. Either way we all converge at home at around 6:30-7 pm, for a crockpot made dinner, or a quick, light dinner that I can usually spring together in 20 minutes. (Success criteria: remember to bring down any needed frozen items the night before!). We make a point of all having dinner at the table together.

From that point on, relaxation and preparation for the next day are the focus up until bedtime, so everyone is doing their thing all around the house. Fortunately or unfortunately, we are all night owls and the bedtime routine of pjs, teeth brushing and bedtime stories often run all the way into 10 pm. If we are lucky, by then we all hit the sack and call it a day!

How did having children affect your career?

Before my son came along I had a more demanding job with long hours and business travel. I spent a few years working the ranks, “Leaning In” and leading corporate clubs and though I advanced, I soon realized further progression would require starting at 7 am and never really ending the day. Taking your laptop home to work on that presentation/report was the expectation and somehow it started to feel meaningless. That said, for me it was always clear that I wanted to go back to work and be a working mom. I grew up surrounded by strong, intelligent working mom role models in my family, starting with my own mother, my aunts, my grandmothers. But it’s not just that they were working moms, they made meaningful careers, they were very involved in their communities and they were ever present in their family lives. They each have 3-5 kids. These are my Wonder Women. They balanced it all. My role models have no time to sit and cry over it, or whine about the glass ceiling (though they experienced plenty of that and more) and how powerless they are. They simply do. So I looked for another job, one that engages me everyday and has a culture of work life balance, and encourages self-development and community. The company’s work week is 33.75 hours and offers plenty of staff fitness options and self-development in a lunch and learn format and features a CPE for staff. More importantly, a job that gives me the flexibility to maximize my time with my son, stepdaughter and husband and my multiple cultural and intellectual interests.

What has surprised you the most about balancing your career and motherhood?

How feasible it is and how rewarding it’s been. There are always constraints to tackle and it’s always in flux, which means you have to constantly keep shifting things around to maintain the balance. (Success criteria: remaining flexible and optimistic, there’s some truth to the old adage: "where there’s a will there’s a way"). I believe that so long as I am willing to think outside the box and go the extra mile, I’ll always find a way to maintain the balance.

What advice would you give to a new mother returning to work after maternity leave?

I find motherhood has a way of bringing into question the value of things and the way we spend our energy and time. This means something different to everyone. I think it’s important to reflect on what this means for you and if it requires a change in the way you’ve managed your life to date, then find a way of making it happen for you. Be willing to remain realistic and make compromises but you should come out feeling content with the new arrangement. This will give you peace and it will permeate to your work and family life.

I recently came across an interesting video from a guy named Gary Vanerchuk, and I found he made some real points (

What tips do you have on maintaining a social life once you have kids?

It is both possible and beneficial. It certainly requires making an effort, but you might find it’s well worth it. Remaining social helps relieve stress and helps bring perspective. I might find myself stressing about my son’s sudden lack of interest in vegetables or meats, feeling like a terrible mother for allowing anything other than a well-balanced meal, and then I’ll mention it in passing to some of my other mother friends or other parents at the daycare only to discover they’ve dealt with the same thing and they’ll share successful tips. It helps me discern the banal from the critical. There are opportunities to be social around every corner, it doesn’t mean making elaborate plans and going out of your way. Rather, I would say, be ready to be flexible with your availability and open to welcoming opportunities that come knocking. I set myself up to receive updates from venues I enjoy, like museums, festivals and libraries and keep my feelers out for interesting activities. Then, I think of friends that might enjoy the event I’m interested in and launch some invites. Say yes.

What about the things I haven't already planned and made time for? I remember one particular occasion when I had had a stressful day at the office and knowing I still had to get home in winter traffic to deal with a long list of "to do's". Meanwhile, upon arriving at my son's daycare, he was up to his usual prance around, "I don't want to leave yet” routine. I started talking to another one of the moms while trying to rush my son into his coat and she said, "you know, we are heading out back to spend sometime in the playground, would you like to join us?". I hesitated, recognizing my fatigue and remaining workload, cognizant of the time, yet to my surprise, I blurted out "okay, maybe for a little bit". What followed was one of the most relaxing 1.5 hours I'd had that week, watching the kids play, taking in the frisk winter air, flowing from topic to topic with that mom and two others that joined us. It was insignificant and magical all in one. So, say yes.

What’s the most important thing that you do to maintain your sense of well-being?

I engage in a myriad of activities to cater to my different interests. I join group workouts at lunchtime 1 or 2 times a week, where I get to socialize with friends while enjoying a diversity of workout styles (this keeps it interesting for me), currently I’m doing hatha yoga and Zumba Strong. I also have a personal need to feel that I’m constantly learning, so I make room to attend conferences, workshops, expos, on-line and in person courses and webinars, on a wide variety of topics related to professional development, child development, technology, nature and sustainability, etc., this keeps me inspired. Success criteria: my husband and I take turns staying with the kids while the other attends the individual interest events while ensuring most of our weekend socializing and outings are together (as a family or couple time). Lastly, I maintain close communication with my parents and siblings on a daily to weekly basis, to keep abreast of all the happenings in their lives, they are my rock.

What else would you like to share with our readers?

About a year ago, I came across the quote below which has stayed with me and influences a lot of what I do, it says:

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"We should put a sign on every child that reads: Handle with care, contains dreams."