Melissa Grelo on the relationship between motherhood and career

By Kate Winn on February 16, 2016

The co-host of CTV’s hit show The Social opens up to ParentsCanada about her fertility struggles, parenting, fitness and the relationship between motherhood and career.

Some people are very private about their fertility struggles. Why did you decide to speak so openly about yours?

Going through my own experience, particularly with the various visits I had to make to clinics for tests and the cycle monitoring, I was struck by the numbers of women that were going through the same thing as I was, and that everybody was much younger than I expected. So you have a group of women all going through the same thing, nobody’s talking about it, and I realized even going through my own journey that there was a certain amount of shame and secrecy. I consider myself educated and very open about everything, but I was keeping it quiet too, and by not sharing my story I was contributing to that notion that it’s something to be quiet about and not share, that it’s almost something to be shameful or secretive about. My journey became so much easier when I decided to let go of all of that and start to tell people what I was going through, which I think gave other people permission to talk about it as well. Once I realized I was keeping it quiet too, and asked myself how that was hurting me, or feeding into the problem, I decided quickly: let’s blow this wide open and not keep it a secret.

Now you have your beautiful daughter Marquesa {who turns two in March}. Do you find you and Ryan have taken on certain parenting roles?

It’s definitely not a surprise that her dad is really physical with her when he plays, much more than I am. I am a physical person and yet for Ryan, maybe because he was raised in a house with three boys, the natural thing for him to do is really be the playful one. That’s not to say that he’s not a disciplinarian, he is, and so am I, but he’s definitely the one who’s the jokester. They play hide-and-seek on me all the time and play pranks on me, really funny things. I feel I am more the cerebral one and I watch and study her and let her take the lead in a lot of things and I react and modify as necessary, and Ryan’s the other way, he likes to be leading the charge and that comes across in that physical play as well. That’s where we’re really different. We decided even before we had kids to be a united front, our messages of discipline have to be the same, you can’t sabotage me, I can’t sabotage you, so we’re really good at that, but I am definitely more consistent so that’s been an interesting thing.

Your teaching background may play a role in that.

Yes! And the fact that I’m the firstborn and my husband’s a lastborn, but I can’t understate how the teacher thing has affected me as a parent for sure.

I know date nights and girls’ nights are very important to you. Can you share a bit about that?

One day in the later stages of my pregnancy, I broke out in tears and couldn’t figure out why. I realized that as excited as I was to become a parent, I also had to allow myself to mourn the loss of our time as a couple. We have a great marriage, I love my husband but I really like him too. I enjoy spending time with him, and I was going to miss it being just the two of us. It was then I realized we were going to have to work on maintaining our relationship above and beyond being parents. Having a child fundamentally changes things, and the only way to be really good parents is to continue to invest in your relationship with one another. Not only do we understand the importance of that as role models for our daughter in trying to provide her an example of what a healthy, strong marriage looks like, but your sustainability as a couple depends on you investing in that alone time with each other.

That’s the same mentality I have with my girlfriends as well. You can get swept up being a mom and forget the other parts of yourself which I think is dangerous. We have to continue to honour all of those parts of us to be a whole person. I am not just a mother, I am not just a wife, I am a vital women with girlfriends and an active social life too. You just have to manage your time differently when you have more roles, and investing in that time comes back and pays you back tenfold. There’s a great saying that you can’t pour from an empty cup and I think if you’re not constantly feeding all the parts of yourself you’re going to get tapped out. You have all these other relationships to nurture and if you starve them it starts affecting the other roles. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and to me it’s not about balance, it’s about taking a look and making sure I’m feeding all those parts of myself.

Let’s talk about the role of fitness in your life. I’ve seen pictures of Marquesa hanging out in the home gym with you!

I’ve always been very active. I was born and raised on a horse farm and was very physical by nature and by necessity, because on a very busy farm there’s a lot of physical work to do. Fitness for me was and is a way of life. It’s never a chore to go to the gym or to work out; it’s my peace, it gives me solace. My head works better, everything works better for me. My daughter is, just kind of by osmosis, being exposed to it. She’s in the stable a lot and she copies everything I do. A few weeks ago I picked up a broom and started sweeping and I was very pleased when she found a broom and she started to do her own thing sweeping – it was hysterical because it was so tough for her! I like that she’s being exposed to this notion that fitness isn’t a battle, it isn’t this dreaded word, it’s this is the way it should be. She’s a really lucky kid to have this exposure to chores and a busy farm life, and to parents who also value the importance of fitness. I do it as many times as a week as I possibly can. When I travel it’s still a part of my daily routine and she just sees it and I like that she thinks it’s normal and I want her to grow up thinking that it’s not a chore or something she has to hate or has to have a fight with her body about.  It’s a real therapy, physical and mental, so if there’s anything I hope to pass on to her it’s that, to have a really healthy relationship with fitness and thereby a healthy relationship with her body. Especially because I’m raising a girl.

Your daughter is still pretty young, but do you feel you've made any career decisions differently since becoming a mom, or do you foresee a different career path than you did pre-baby?

It hasn’t changed anything with my personal career, partly because of the example I had with my mother. I only knew a mom who was working, which was partly out of necessity, but I don’t think I’m doing my job as a mother, as a role model to my daughter, by not choosing to do what I love. And I LOVE what I do. It’s not a job for me, it’s a passion, and I think there is a difference and I want to pass that on to her as well, you need to find a job you love. While I love what I do, it’s very demanding work. It’s also a precarious industry, especially in light of pressures on television and so it’s not easy, but I could not see myself doing anything else right now in my life.

I’m actually launching my own business very soon, so I’m not shying away from work, I am in fact throwing myself towards more of my passions, which seems nuts when I have a toddler but it’s the only way I know how to be. I couldn’t do all this without an amazingly supportive husband who also has the flexibility because he’s an entrepreneur to support me. I’ve become more hungry since I’ve become a mom, not only to provide for my family but really to provide that example for her by throwing myself more into my career and living my passions and living life with no regrets, because there’s going to be a day when you wake up and realize you don’t have the time left in your life to do all the things you said you wanted to do. That’s the kind of life I want her to live.

The only way my career has affected my life as a mother is that in all brutal honesty, I probably would have considered a second child but with my industry and my career and how hungry I am and how ambitious I am and how many things I still want to do, it’s not feasible. So that’s where my career has directly intersected with my role as mom, because had I been in an industry that wasn’t as demanding of my time, I probably would have considered a second child but if I want to take over the world there are some things that have to flex. It goes back to the discussion about how important my relationships are with my husband and my girlfriends and how important my career is to me; you have to just look at the greater picture and ask, can you do it all? I thought, I’m not willing to sacrifice all these other amazing things happening in my life and I don’t think I can do it. I’m a firstborn and a type A. I don’t do anything unless I think I can hit it out of the park, so I’m certainly not going to have another child if I don’t think I can give that child everything. I have so many other amazing things happening, so I don’t feel sad about that, it’s just a realization. I only have so much time, and there’s only me, unless I clone myself!

 

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, February/March 2016.


By Kate Winn| February 16, 2016

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