THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 101: Elyssa Friedland, Writer

Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about 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. 101: Elyssa Friedland, Writer

Age: 33
Where I live:
 New York City
Job: Writer
Kids: Two sons, ages 2 and 7, and a daughter, 5

Elyssa.Friedland.HeadshotHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
Yes. I was a corporate attorney at a big firm in New York City. After having my second child, I quit and decided to pursue a career as a writer.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I think it is realistic and not overrated, at least for me. Everyone is different. My mother always tells me not to put so much pressure on myself with my career. She says, “You have a great husband and kids. The rest is less important.” And of course she’s right in the big picture sense. But for my personality, I’m not fully happy unless I have a successful career as well. That said, I have some brilliant friends that are totally satisfied and fulfilled being mothers. As far as having it all, I do believe I have it all—the family and the career and friends. But that doesn’t mean I’m happy all the time. I’m exhausted, I’m cranky, I’m stressed, I feel guilty. You name it.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Doing away with the guilt. If I truly had balance, I wouldn’t feel so guilty missing a pick-up or drop-off. But I still do. And I work from home which isn’t realistic. I hear my kids cry or laugh, and I immediately run to see what’s happening, even though I have a highly capable nanny at home.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Time management. I used to not be able to write unless I had hours of free time. But now I force myself to get into the right head space even if I only have fifteen minutes.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance?
I hired an assistant. It seemed like a luxury for a writer but it was the best decision I ever made. I don’t have time to buy birthday gifts, return shoes, make reservations, etc. if I want to use the time away from my family for work.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From your mother?
 “Marry your best friend.”
From your spouse? “Put down your phone.”
From your kids? “Put down your phone.”

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?
I would watch TV. Does that make me sound like an idiot? I hope not. But I have a huge list of TV shows that I want to binge watch, and I’m apoplectic about not having the time.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
Nothing. I’m glad I was blissfully unaware of how complicated life is.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
How to cook. I mean, I can cook now, but it’s like a major production, and I don’t understand what most of my kitchen tools are for. I want to make amazing meals one day.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Getting the kids ready in the morning for school.

Whose job do you wish you had?
Elizabeth Meriwether’s. She’s a huge producer, screenwriter, playwright, showrunner, girlboss, etc. And she’s my age! You can thank her for New Girl.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Savannah Guthrie’s. Seems amazing but I could never wake up at 3 AM.

Favorite books?
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, The Space Between Us by Thrity Umrigar, and Franny and Zooey by J. D. Salinger.

What are you reading right now?
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Next up—my friend Cristina Alger’s ARC This Was Not The Plan which comes out in February, 2016.

Biggest vices…
Activity? Puttering. I putter around my apartment, “organizing,” but not really doing anything at all. I’ll attempt to clean my closet and then move on to paying bills and then make lists of things I need to do. It’s a great way to spend two hours accomplishing absolutely nothing.
Food? Ice cream. I feel so disgusting after I do it, but sometimes when I’m watching TV at night I will pull out a pint of ice cream and have been known to eat almost the entire thing. I have perfect discipline during the day, but at night all bets are off.
Website? Facebook. It used to be Net-a-Porter but I’m kind of over that. Now I scroll through Facebook, looking at pictures and reading the articles people post, but not having the attention span to even finish them.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
A lot! I’m embarrassed to admit because it’s so much more than most people. But I sleep about nine hours a night. By ten pm I am dead to the world and then I’m up at seven to get my kids ready for school. Luckily my husband is a morning person so he’s with the kids from six to seven.

What do you read every morning?
My email and theSkimm.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am very funny.
I wish I: could travel more.
My kids: are so freaking cute.

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LoveandMissCommunicationCOVERAbout Elyssa:
Elyssa Friedland is the author of the novel Love and Miss Communication, published May 12, 2015 by William Morrow. Elyssa is a graduate of Yale University, where she served as Managing Editor of the Yale Daily News, and Columbia Law School. She worked as a corporate attorney at a major law firm before becoming a full-time writer. Elyssa has written for Real Simple, New York Magazine, CBS MarketWatch, ModernBride, POPSUGAR, Bustle and Columbia Journalism Review. Raised in New Jersey, she now lives in New York City with her husband and three young children.

Find out more about Elyssa:
www.elyssafriedland.com
Twitter: @elyssafriedland
Facebook: AuthorElyssaFriedland
Instagram: @elyssafriedland
Pinterest: elyssafriedland

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WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? CHECK OUT MY NEW NOVEL THE BALANCE PROJECT!

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