The quest for balance that took a Toronto PR pro to California’s wine country

grapes1Being a great mom and working hard at my job is a balancing act that shifts every day; not only mentally but physically and emotionally. Two years ago I made a decision to dramatically alter what this balance would look like. I had been working at a 130-person PR firm in Toronto, when I decided to pack up my life and my work and move to a small city in Southern California to join a family-run winery. My new job, Communications Manager, meant I would now be part of a team of…one.

When my husband and I decided to make the move, our daughter was just over a year old, and we had gone through some transitions personally and professionally that left us both itching for a fresh start. After a trip to Temecula, a small city in Southern California where relatives of mine own and operate Lorimar Winery, we couldn’t stop thinking about what our life there would look like.


I didn’t know what to expect when we packed up our small family and left life in Toronto behind, but that was a big part of the excitement and pull to California. Plus, this was the opportunity for my husband and I to work together—carpool gold mine!

grapes2What work-life balance looks like in wine country

Temecula is a small, lesser-known wine region one hour north of San Diego, and it’s nothing like the big bustling world of Napa/Sonoma. It’s a close-knit community with about 40+ wineries which often work together and support one another. The overall mentality is that if Temecula is successful, so is the growing wine industry here.

In my previous professional roles, I had been used to working with at least three or four other people on an account at any given time, and being surrounded by people who were in similar situations. At Lorimar, I was on my own for the first time. It has been a challenge, but luckily my network in Toronto is strong and supportive and I often seek guidance from friends and former colleagues, including my friends and colleagues at Felicity. I joined Felicity just before moving to California as a way to keep one foot in the Toronto communications community. I wasn’t totally ready to give up my ties to home, and I love the projects I get to work on with our team.

Working in wine country, driving through nature, surrounded by gorgeous mountains, is incredible and sure beats the TTC during rush hour! But prioritizing my days and setting myself up for success is a challenge when working: a) for/with family and b) as part of a small business.



A ‘typical’ work day goes something like this:

  1. All consumed by my ‘three-nager’ from the hours of 6:30 am until 8:30 am when she is finally dropped off at daycare
  2. Arrive at work at 9:00 am and make a list of everything I need to do that day with every intention of following it
  3. By 3:00 pm, I glance at my untouched list and think about how much I am going to have to do the next day. So I make a mental promise to come in early—definitely by 8 am—so I can be productive (which won’t happen. Three-nager, remember?)

Prioritizing for productivity

Life and work in California is completely different than it was in Toronto in some ways, but exactly the same in others. It’s all about shifting the balance every day, making check lists, prioritizing and starting from the top. I used to believe that tackling the small projects every day was the best way to accomplish the most. Being at the winery, and working as a Communications team of one has made me realize that doesn’t apply here. I have found that it’s most important to manage the large issues or projects as they come, and always leave room in my day for surprises. I don’t necessarily do as much PR work as I would like. Since it’s a small business, everyone has to wear a lot of hats and in my case that means I do marketing, PR, donations, social media, web management, payroll and more. Everyone works together for the betterment of the business which is only four years old and is rapidly growing.

Every day I have to analyze what is most important to the growth of the business and manage my day accordingly. Although I don’t work long hours—pretty much 9 to 5—I work hard to accomplish as much as possible during the time I am at the winery. Because when I leave, I do my best to check out mentally so I can go home and focus on my family and myself.

So, sure, life in California sounds idyllic and sometimes it is. After all, nothing can beat the weather. But there certainly are challenges as well. I’ve come to realize that nothing is permanent. I was terrified to move to California having never really lived away from Toronto before. But now I know that opening this door doesn’t mean the previous one is closed. I can always go back and take with me what I have learned and experienced here.

Have you ever made a big move like this, or wanted to? What did you find was the biggest challenge? What’s holding you back from making the move? Share your stories below, we’d love to hear from you!  

Posted on: April 25th, 2016 by

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