Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about work-life balance. I’ve always been curious about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us all feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”
By the way, looking for THE BALANCE PROJECT novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.
No. 166: Andrea Hollander & Solange Schipani, Wonderhood Toys
Age: Andrea: 39; Solange: 40
Where We live: New York, NY
Job: Co-founders of Wonderhood Toys
Kids: Andrea: 4-year-old girl, 2-year-old boy, 4-month-old girl; Solange: two daughters ages 7 and 5
Have you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
Andrea: Yes—a big part of my motivation for founding Wonderhood was the desire to be my own boss, which allows for a lot more flexibility and work/life balance. The amount of work certainly doesn’t change, if anything it’s greater, but you can do it on your own schedule and in your own time.
Solange: Absolutely—I left a corporate job when I had my first daughter. I didn’t intend to stop working forever, but I couldn’t see how both my husband and I would be able to sustain the hours we were working and have the kind of family life we both wanted. So I took some time to figure out a new, more entrepreneurial path.
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or impossible and why?
Andrea: I think so, but it comes with compromises. I’m glad I have both a career and a family. There are definitely plenty of times when I feel like I’m not giving enough to one or the other, but overall, I feel like my life is really full and complete. So I think you can “have it all” as long as you keep things in perspective and have a positive outlook.
Solange: I believe that the key is not expecting to have “it all” all the time. Every hour of every day I make conscious choices about how and with whom I spend my time. Sometimes work takes priority, and sometimes it’s all about my kids. It’s not always pretty. But if I can look back on the last year and feel fulfilled and proud of what I have achieved overall, then I’m happy.
Do you prefer the phrase “work-life balance” or “work-life integration”? Or do you think they’re both terrible?
Andrea: I prefer integration. I feel like I’d be disappointed if I was striving for balance, whereas integration just is. Now if there was a qualifier before integration, like “seamless” then I’d probably change my mind! But I integrate the two all the time—maybe not always well or evenly, but I do it.
Solange: I think they’re both kind of terrible, but I’ll go with integration in concept. For me, work and life are not these two separate realms. I am often doing both, like checking my email while my daughter is in gymnastics class.
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Andrea: I think it’s hard during the week to engage with my kids as much as I’d like. I always feel badly that I don’t have more energy or time at the end of the day to really engage: to take them to the park, or do a project, or something more involved than just hanging around the house.
Solange: I am tired all the time! My kids are young, so we are still in the phase of getting nighttime visits sometimes, but no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get enough sleep.
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Andrea: Turning off work when I do have family time. I’ve made a concerted effort to keep my phone away and not be as tied to checking emails and doing work during times that I have with my family.
Solange: I am making a concerted effort to not only be around, but to really be more “present” with my kids than ever before. This means putting off or outsourcing some stuff around the house so the hours I spend at home with them is more about quality time.
Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance that you would recommend to others?
Andrea: I send myself text messages and set reminders on my phone for everything.
Solange: On Sunday nights, I look at the calendar for the week ahead and schedule in exercise, dinner out, and other personal commitments. I space them out to be as realistic as possible and I make a point not to miss unless absolutely necessary.
What’s the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker? There is no such thing as balance, so let that go.
From your mother? You do the best you can.
From your spouse/partner? Don’t think about what you didn’t get to do before or wish you did more previously, but just focus on enjoying the time you have now.
From your kids? My kids are too little. For them, balance means walking on the curb without falling off!
From a mentor/co-worker? Embrace the 80/20 rule.
From your mother? There’s always tomorrow.
From your spouse/partner? Just let it go and move on.
From your kids? Same as Andrea!
If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
Andrea: I’d go for a run.
Solange: I would meet a friend for a glass of wine
What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
Andrea: How much career choices can impact your ability to have both family and career. I never paid much attention to the fact that it’s really hard with some jobs to juggle both.
Solange: Take risks, try different kinds of jobs, and travel as much as you can before you begin to set down roots.
What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
Andrea: By then my kids will all hopefully have finished college. I hope to know that my husband and I did a good job raising them and that they’re good people.
Solange: I hope to feel like I made a positive impact somehow—whether it be through my work, in my community, or by raising kind, brave daughters.
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Solange: Cleaning the kitchen.
Whose job do you wish you had?
Andrea: Steffi Graf.
Solange: Giada De Laurentiis.
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Andrea: President of the United States.
Biggest activity vice?
Biggest food vice?
Andrea: Ice cream.
Solange: Any dessert.
Biggest website vice?
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
What do you read every morning?
Andrea: The New York Times.
Solange: CNN.com and Weather.com.
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am a good mom.
I wish I: could have more time with my kids.
My kids: make me smile and grateful everyday.
I think I: am doing my best.
I wish I: slept more while I had the chance.
My kids: drive me crazy sometimes but I love them like crazy.
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
Andrea: Not really.
Solange: Everything in moderation.
I grew up in a small suburban town in Massachusetts, went to college at Yale, and then moved to NYC. I worked for a couple years then went to business school. I started a nonprofit after business school that built 180 playgrounds in school across New York City and then I went on to work at an education organization that runs schools and after-school programs. I started Wonderhood in 2016 with Solange because we wanted better toys for our girls. I got married in 2011 and now have 3 kids, the oldest of whom is 4.
I grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, went to college at Georgetown University and then Columbia Business School, where Andrea and I met. I worked in consulting, got married, traveled, and then worked in brand management until I had kids. I started doing marketing consulting on my own until Andrea and I founded Wonderhood. My husband and I live on the Upper West Side in New York City with our two daughters.
WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? CHECK OUT MY AWARD-WINNING NOVEL THE BALANCE PROJECT!
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