For some working mothers, finding the right balance between work and family can be daunting. Endya Perry, a manager at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, knows this all too well.
In addition to her career and family, Endya Perry is active in her community and travels as a speaker, coaching other women on the importance of taking a balanced approach to work, self-care and family. Last year, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina named her its Working Mother of the Year. And if that’s not enough, she’s studying to earn her Ph.D.
As the year 2020 begins, we asked busy moms in Charlotte to submit their questions to Mrs. Perry. In her Q&A below, she describes her dizzying schedule and how she keeps it all in harmony.
Q. What does your daily schedule look like?
I have a long commute, so I get up about 5:15 and try to head out of the door by 6. I use my drive as my connection time with my family. Both my daughter and my sister work in education so they are up early too. I generally use my morning commute to connect with them. My daughter is very inspirational, so she and I get each other fired up for the day. My sister and I set goals for the day of what we want to focus on improving that day.
I connect with my husband throughout the day, generally through texts or quick calls, just checking in and letting him know how my day is going, and vice versa. On the way home, I connect with my parents and with my brothers, and I pick up my son from school.
I love to cook. So, when I come home, I make dinner. While I’m cooking, my son will join me in the kitchen. I listen while he unpacks his day — what he’s seeing in his day and what he’s gotten out of his day. My son is hilarious, so that’s always an entertaining time for me. By the time I finish that, my husband comes home, and we all eat dinner. After dinner, we have family learning time. During this time, my son will be working on homework. My husband will be researching something or working on something, and I’m generally working on my dissertation.
After our family learning time, we get back together and say, “Ok, what did we learn, and how are we going to apply it?” That’s something we do each night. Then we generally watch tv or play games. We are quite a competitive bunch. So, if we’re watching TV, we’re generally watching some type of sport. Even if we’re playing games, it can be Uno, but it’s highly competitive.
After that, my son and I have started a routine where we exercise each night together. I have a reminder on my phone that goes off at 8 o’clock each night. After we exercise, we have a period of reflection and meditation. My younger brother introduced us to this practice. We decide what we want to let go as we exhale and what we want to receive as we inhale.
Once my son goes to bed, then it’s time for my husband and me. We generally spend that one-on-one time watching a movie or a show, or many nights we spend that time just talking for hours — laughing and enjoying each other.
Q. When do you find time for self?
This is something I’ve struggled with for a long time, because I’ve always felt guilty about taking time for myself. Taking moments of reflection has been very good. Sometimes I try to walk around to clear my head. At lunchtime, sometimes I go somewhere and just sit in my car for a minute, spending time making sure I’m okay. Being a working mother, you spend so much time caring for everyone else, making sure that everyone else is okay. But at some point you have to check yourself and say, “Okay, am I good? What is it that I need? Where am I emotionally right now?”
Q. We often hear the phrase “work-life balance.” Do you think it’s achievable?
I do think it’s achievable. But it’s important to keep work in perspective. Work, to me, is a means to an end. But it’s not the end itself. Understanding where life and family exist, is the key to ensuring you are fulfilled at the end of the day. Work life balance may not be a 50-50 split all the time; and that’s ok. At Blue Cross, they truly value and reward activities and responsibilities that occur outside the four walls of the organization. Working for an organization with those values really helps you get the balance you need.
Q. Where did you learn your work ethic?
My father has been a tremendous inspiration for me. His life journey is incredible. He’s one of 14 children. He progressed from picking cotton at age six to going to college right out of 10th grade because he progressed so quickly academically. He successfully climbed the corporate ladder; and worked in leadership at IBM for over 40 years. His work ethic is relentless. My mother is also a strong inspiration. She has Multiple Sclerosis, which is a degenerative disease that impacts the central nervous system. In the last few years, the episodes that she’s had have become more severe. At one point, she was unable to speak or walk. Physicians thought she would not regain those abilities. They didn’t know who she was and what was within her! She defied all odds and today is able to walk and talk. Now, hearing my mother say to me, “Endya, I love you” is an amazing experience. I heard those words every day throughout my childhood, but they have a different meaning when you understand the labor, persistence and work that goes into her even having the ability to formulate and speak those words.
Q. Did role models or mentors play a key role in your development?
I’ve had many mentors along my journey — some formally, some informally. Blue Cross Blue Shield North Carolina has an amazing mentoring program called Blue Exchange. This mentoring program connects employees to others in the organization to help them develop professional skills and knowledge they can apply to help them achieve their goals. A key role in my development was also becoming a mentor myself. Being able to partner with and reach out to others and help them along their journey of growth and development helps me to contextualize my own journey and my own story.
Q. Is there a book, speech or event that has had a major impact on your life?
I love quotations. One that has been most impactful for me is one from (political activist) Angela Davis. She once said, “No longer will I accept the things I cannot change, but I choose to change the things I cannot accept.” When I first heard this quotation, it completely changed my perspective and my outlook on life. It really drives a lot of what I do, particularly with the work I do in the community. Instead of sitting back and complaining, I choose to leverage my time, my energy and my skills, the experiences I’ve had, to do whatever I can to change the things I cannot accept.
Q. What advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
I would tell myself that every experience has a purpose. Everything you go through, every valley, every storm, every problem that you face is building something within you. I would tell myself to embrace those experiences, because they will be your fuel in the years and decades to come.
Q. You say work-life balance is achievable, but you also say family outweighs work. Talk more about that.
A lot of time people say work-life balance and assume it’s 50-50, but each person must decide what that percentage looks like for them. And based on the current need, the percentage may need to change. Having the freedom and flexibility to adapt to changes as needed helps to maintain a balance.
Q. What have you taken off your plate to maintain balance?
I’ve gotten to a point in life where I recognize the difference between being capable and being called. I am capable of doing many things. But just because I’m capable of doing it doesn’t mean I’m called to do it at this time. So, I have learned to be more purposeful of the actions and the initiatives that I choose to take on. Also, doing this allows other people to step in and to take on responsibilities that they may be called to do. It provides an opportunity for others to grow. I don’t have to always strap on my cape and fly in to save the day. It’s better sometimes to take on the role of cheerleader or coach.
Q. What’s the hardest or best lesson you’ve learned about work-life balance?
I would say it’s giving myself permission to put myself first. It’s been the hardest lesson but also the best lesson. It’s important to not neglect your own needs and your own well-being. I have to show up for myself just as I show up for others.
Q. What do you think your coworkers see in you that caused them to nominate you to be Working Mother of the Year?
In looking at the nominations, they highlight the work I’ve done, not only here at Blue Cross but also the work I’ve done at home and in the community. For example, “Endya takes time on the weekend to engage in public speaking and community workshops that help inspire women, children, families, teachers and communities.” It means a lot to be recognized not only for what you do within an organization but also for all you do beyond the walls of the organization.
Q. How do you spend your free time?
I love movies. But I also love to work in the community. I do a lot of seminars, workshops, conferences. I speak at different events. I also volunteer with some nonprofits in the area. I love to chip in and give back. Generally, when working within the community, someone from my family is with me at every event. This is where you can find intersections, when it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing my family time in order to work in the community. We can experience the joy of service together.
Q. It’s easy for children to become the focal point for some women. How can partners in a relationship/marriage stay connected?
There are certainly things my husband and I have done to ensure we prioritize our relationship. One thing we do is to create annual goals for our marriage. Every year we identify an area we want to work on and we hold each other accountable. Another thing we do is to ensure our quality time is of high quality. Our one-on-one time has to be held sacred. We can’t pollute that time. This is what enables us to truly operate as one.
Q. Does spirituality play a role in your life as you seek to prioritize competing responsibilities?
My relationship with God is at the core of who I am. It determines what I do and how I do it. Before my feet hit the ground in the morning, I ensure I am connected to the source of purpose, strength, and joy.
Q. How do you use technology—healthtech in particular—to help you prioritize your family’s health and wellness?
I definitely use technology for scheduling. But I also use technology to track things such as daily steps. Again, my family is very competitive, so this helps us to push each other to develop healthy habits.
Q. You’ve got a B.S. from North Carolina State University, an MBA from Campbell University and now you’re working on a Ph.D. from Northcentral University out of California? How does the future Dr. Perry intend to use her PhD?
I want to teach others how to lead. There are so many facets to leadership — personal leadership, organizational leadership, community leadership. I want to teach others to capitalize on the power of leading.
Q. When your children or others talk about you years from now, what would you like them to say?
I want them to say that I redefine what others think is possible. I want people to note that I approach life with the mentality that excellence is the bare minimum. I am seeking to amaze. It’s all about transformation and impact.
Name: Endya Perry:
Occupation: Manager of Cost and Budget Management, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina
Husband: Joe L
Children: Jaylyn and Jax
Undergraduate: Accounting, North Carolina State University
Graduate: MBA, Campbell University
Current Studies: Ph.D. in Organizational leadership.
• Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC’s 2019 Working Mother of the Year.
• 2018 Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC TrailBlazeHer