Jen Sagar and her family

For candidates, balancing campaign and home life a family affair

The constant ringing of the telephone pierces the background sound of voices in conversation at Jen Sagar’s home.

Another request for an interview has come in and there’s a debate tonight. The kids leave for school and now her attention turns to a meeting she has to run to.

It’s not even 9 a.m.

And yet somehow everything seems under control.

“Flexibility in scheduling is very important,” says Sagar, a wife and mother of three, and a candidate in the Toronto District School Board Ward 16 trustee race. “I’m used to balancing things in a way that ensures that I’m available at different times to accommodate different tasks.”

This is her first time running in an election and the demands of the campaign trail can and do interfere with family life, she says. But, she adds, her family has found ways to make things work in the run-up to the Oct. 27 municipal vote.

“My 15-year-old [Ben] has been sharing the cooking duties more,” Sagar says. “If I’m running late to get dinner started, or if I have an evening meeting, he’ll gladly jump in and get dinner started.”

Ben Sagar’s speciality is barbecued chicken — often paired with salad — and he makes lots of it, which leaves leftovers for other days when mealtime is tight.

“One day’s barbecued chicken can become the next day’s burrito by putting leftover chicken in a tortilla with salsa, refried beans, lettuce and tomatoes,” Ben says.

Like Sagar, East Yorker Brenda MacDonald is also left with little time for family meals with her husband and two children.

“Just remembering to eat, that’s the most important part,” the Ward 31 city council candidate says. “It’s a lot of Boost [meal replacement drinks] because you just don’t have time and you’re running from one meeting to another.”

It’s not easy juggling the demands of her campaign with finding time to spend with her kids, MacDonald says.

“I’ve tried to balance, I’m trying to make time,” the second-time candidate says. “I make them understand that this is the half an hour I have, or this is two hours that I have for you, lets pack it all in then.”

In the Sagar home, the campaign has become something of a family affair. Sagar’s children help spread her message to neighbours and friends by delivering flyers, and they give her ideas for campaign events, she says.

They also set aside some time to give mom a hand with media releases and social media.

“My kids help me with monitoring Facebook and Twitter posts by reminding me to hashtag and proofread things when I need an extra set of eyes,” Sagar says.

That kind of help is welcome when candidates like Sagar and MacDonald are kept out late by campaign events that run throughout the day and into the evening.It’s a matter of perspective, but keeping late hours is a bittersweet thing for MacDonald and her children, who do get what could be seen as a benefit.

“My kids go to bed later,” she says. “You don’t get them to go to bed quite like you used too.”