By Carol Crenna
Despite the demands of anyone in her position, especially before the election, BC Premier Christy Clark likes to stay as grounded as possible.
Burnaby-born Clark likes to spend time in the Vancouver community where she now lives, from championing farmers’ markets to chumming with other hockey moms. Here she talks about life when she is not at work.
CAROL: How does your day begin?
CHRISTY CLARK: It’s 9:15 a.m. and I’ve already done a scrum (a relatively short stand-up team meeting for feedback and check-in with each member) and conducted a speech in Surrey. I was out the door by 7:00 a.m.
CAROL: How much sleep do you get?
CHRISTY CLARK: I try to get to be bed between 10:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. every night. My goal is to get eight hours. Sleep is important to me to be able to do a good job.
My bed is my favourite piece of furniture! It is a super comfortable foam Tempur-Pedic mattress and I love it.
For me, sleeping in my own bed in my own room in my own home is cherished because I travel a lot so I’m often not in my own bed. The moment I get into bed and lay my head on the pillow, it is often one of the best moments of my day because it’s so relaxing.
CAROL: Do you take work to bed?
CHRISTY CLARK: I never take work to bed; research shows that working on your laptop in bed interferes with sleep signals. So I’m downstairs in my home office when I’m working, but in my bedroom, I sleep.
Well, the only other thing I do in bed at night is when my son crawls in with me and we read a book together. Reading with kids is important, but this time is also an important wind-down for him at night.
Occasionally, I will fall asleep right beside him because I wind down, too. I really treasure those moments because I know they won’t last forever.
CAROL: Why did you choose the home where you live?
CHRISTY CLARK: I chose my house because it’s in a great neighbourhood. There are a lot of families nearby that I now know and like. On the same street, there are those who have kids that go to my son’s school so we have been able to carpool over the years.
We have become a community; my neighbours across the lane, for example, have a huge garden and are always supplying us with fresh vegetables and figs.
CAROL: Where is it and how long have you lived there?
CHRISTY CLARK: I have been in Vancouver’s City Hall area since 2005.
CAROL: What does your home look like?
CHRISTY CLARK: My home’s style is casual. It’s a place where I don’t fuss too much about details or having everything really neat and tidy. This is because it’s just not possible in my life with my 11-year-old son. Ours is a kid-friendly house; we always have Hamish’s friends over.
I can’t have a home where I need to worry about spills on furniture, or the occasional mini hockey puck going astray and flying across a room. There are a lot of other details that are more important that I need to worry about.
CAROL: How would you describe your clothing style?
CHRISTY CLARK: I have become less casual in my clothing style since becoming Premier. When having your picture taken all of the time, you are confronted by the experience of looking at a photo of yourself and saying, “Oh dear.” For me that happens a lot.
I have had to learn to be a lot more fastidious about outward appearance.
CAROL: Do you miss the freedom that “the other side” gave you?
CHRISTY CLARK: To some extent. While (working as a journalist) in radio, I could go to work right after throwing on a pair of jeans because it really didn’t matter. It does take more time and planning to dress now.
I have to consider, “What am I doing today? Am I going to be walking around a farm so I’ll need to wear my boots, and then going to an anniversary party for the founding of The People’s Republic of China that requires a dress?”
CAROL: What was home like while growing up?
CHRISTY CLARK: I’m from a family of four kids. And our home, we always had six around the dinner table and it was quite a boisterous atmosphere. My father was a teacher so it was a casual house, too. But that doesn’t mean there were no rules.
CAROL: Who decorated your home?
CHRISTY CLARK: I decorated my home. But since the house was new when I moved in 2005, I have not really done anything major to it. I simply painted a few walls and decorated with the same furniture that I had in my last home, which goes quite well there.
The kitchen design is a very modern open concept, joining the family room, which I really like.
CAROL: What is your favourite room?
CHRISTY CLARK: The family room is my favourite place because that is where my son and I spend the most time together. It is where we sit on the floor and play Scrabble, it’s where he and other kids play mini hockey. And, since it is attached to kitchen, we spend time there eating meals.
CAROL: Do you cook?
CHRISTY CLARK: Yes. When you have children, it is really important to cook at home, so I do as much as I can. Otherwise they end up eating out all of the time, which is not healthy, and it’s a bad lesson for them for alter in their life.
Because it’s just the two of us, I often cook a meal for four and then freeze the rest for another time. I do that type of plan-ahead meal preparation on weekends.
CAROL: Do you cook healthy meals?
CHRISTY CLARK: Eating meals is an area in which I’m not casual about. It’s not just about the food eaten; I really believe that kids need to eat healthy meals around a family dinner table, where you can share and talk about your day.
Sharing about the day is really important for kids. They feel and do better when they have that connection, especially around the table where there is no distraction from TV and computers, and you focus on each other while there.
CAROL: What are two things that you love to use in your kitchen?
CHRISTY CLARK: 1. My high-tech Nespresso Coffee Maker. 2. My Salt & Pepper cookbook by Vancouver’s Caren McSherry; I use it all of the time.
CAROL: What in your home would you never ever part with?
It is a beautiful, modern piece done on wood with Plaster of Paris. It’s also about four feet long by four feet high and is heavy. My mother was a very talented artist; every time I look at it, I think of her and how much joy she got from being on the Gulf Islands — in nature and at the beach.
CAROL: Do you have other display pieces that you like?
CHRISTY: For my 40th birthday, my mother gave me an absolutely spectacular 18-inch decorative ceramic bowl made by Galiano Island artist Bill Boyd.
The sparkling blue glaze’s hue changes depending on the light and where you are standing in the room. I have it on display in my family room — high on a shelf away from the mini-hockey.
Also, I have a very large, fairly old atlas that my mother gave me that I love.
CAROL: Do you get much exercise?
CHRISTY CLARK: I run; I have a treadmill at home and I also like to run outside. I also make it to a 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning boot camp every once in a while. It’s a way to stay in shape, but it’s also about fellowship.
All of my friends from book club – which I no longer have time to go to – and a lot of the hockey moms I know go, so it’s my chance to reconnect with them.
CAROL: Your son plays hockey?
CHRISTY CLARK: My only “hobby” right now is watching my son play hockey. He has two 6 a.m. practices each week so we’re up at 4:45 a.m. to get there for 5:30 a.m. I love it because I get to see him perform at something that he is passionate about.
The fellowship with my hockey family – meaning parents and neighbours – is really important to me; they have become some of my best friends. We’re all at the same place in our lives, raising our kids.
They are very supportive, and since we all roll into the practices before even brushing our teeth and showering in the morning, they take you as you are.
CAROL: What is the best thing about coming home after a day at the Premier’s office?
CHRISTY CLARK: Seeing my son. The hardest thing about this job is how much I miss my son and how much he misses me. We spend as much time together as we can, and we both work hard to make sure that it’s quality time, but it still isn’t as much time as we used to get.
As soon as I get home from work or an event, he gives me a full-body hug, and then I get him upstairs and tuck him into bed, or if home in time, I cook dinner, or pull leftovers out of the freezer.