THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 151: Allison Gilbert, Author

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. 151: Allison Gilbert, Author

Age: 46
Where I live:
 Westchester County, NY
Job: Author
Kids: A son, 16, and a daughter, nearly 14

AllisonGilbert-ImageHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
Years ago when I was a producer at WNBC-TV New York, I created a job share with another producer in the investigative unit. The station embraced the idea and the arrangement was a huge success. Sharing the position gave me more time with my family and provided NBC with two brains and double the creative ideas. Our team won multiple Emmys.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
Having it all is impossible. Life requires constant recalibration.  On this commonplace juggle, my mother is a role model for me.

My mother was a top executive recruiter and was often interviewed for magazines and books. She was actually an expert in Dr. Joyce Brothers’ book, The Successful Woman: How You Can Have a Career, a Husband and a Family—and Not Feel Guilty About It. The book wasn’t relevant to me when it was published (it came out when I was in high school), but now that she’s gone, I cherish the perspective she offers on “having it all” because it’s a window into her worldview we never got to discuss in great detail. On how my brother and I felt with a working mom growing up she was quoted as saying, “They might feel a little cheated that I was not there a hundred percent of the time….but I don’t see anything negative. I have independent children, children who admire the work ethic, children with strong motivations and goals.” This is how I think about my work and my children.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I tend to be very passionate and run at 100 miles per hour. I struggle with dialing back and giving myself a breath. I realize life is a marathon and not a sprint, but I rarely leave sprint mode.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
When I’m feeling depleted, I know I need to carve out more time for myself—go to a spin class, take a walk. It’s a struggle for me taking these moments, but I’m slowly getting better at it.

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?
I get up early, no later than 5:30am. This time is the calm before the storm, when I don’t check emails, no calls are coming in, and nobody in my family is awake. It’s during these early morning hours that I do deep-dive thinking and write without distractions.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance from your mother?
As I mentioned earlier, my mom left a paper trail of advice through her interviews. Perhaps the best nugget comes on Page 113 of Dr. Brothers’ book, The Successful Woman. In this passage, my mother was asked how she finds time to take care of herself, even go clothes shopping.  Here’s what she said:

“The only time I spend any time going shopping is when I’m traveling on business. If I’m in Dallas and I have an appointment at nine and the next one isn’t until three, there is nothing I can do in between. I can’t talk with my daughter. I can’t write a business proposal. So I go shopping. It’s the only time I can shop without guilt.”

This reads a little dated, of course. My mother offered her point of view before laptops and cell phones. But her thinking still rings very true for me. And if I’m being truly honest, my Passed and Present book tour provides just this kind of guilt-free shopping opportunity. I can’t wait to get on the road—meet readers—and buy some new clothes. You can bet I’ll be happily celebrating Mom’s memory with every dress I find.

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’d be outside soaking up nature. There’s a pond near my house where I love to go walking alone or with friends. I would do anything, basically, that got me away from my computer.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
I wish I knew that not everyone older than me is smarter than me.

What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
I hope I know that everyone younger than me likely has something to teach me.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?:
I have more than one: cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping.

Favorite books?
There are far too many to choose. Some of my favorites are: Motherless Daughters by Hope Edelman, After This: When Life Is Over Where Do We Go? By Claire Bidwell Smith, and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. If we’re going to the classics, I’ve always loved Graham Greene’s The Power and The Glory.

What are you reading right now?
The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley and Two If By Sea by Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Biggest vices…
Activity?
 Spinning.
Food? Chocolate. Or most any carb.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
6 to 6.5.

What do you read every morning?
The New York Times and The Huffington Post.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am really going to miss my kids when they leave for college.
I wish: my parents could have known my children. They are awesome human beings and my parents would have been proud of them.
My kids: are passionate, and I can’t wait to see where all their talents take them.

Passed-and-Present-Cover-12-1About Allison:
Allison Gilbert is the author of Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive, the first how-to book of creative, innovative ideas for celebrating and remembering the family and friends you never want to forget. She’s also author of Parentless Parents: How the Loss of Our Mothers and Fathers Impacts the Way We Raise Our Children and Always Too Soon: Voices of Support for Those Who Have Lost Both Parents. An Emmy award-winning journalist, Gilbert is also co-editor
of Covering Catastrophe: Broadcast Journalists Report September 11, the definitive historical record of how broadcast journalists covered that tragic day. The groundbreaking book was turned into a documentary by the U.S. State Department and distributed to embassies and consulates around the world.

Find out more about Allison:
www.allisongilbert.com
Facebook: agilbertwriter
Twitter: @agilbertwriter
Instagram: agilbertwriter
Pinterest: agilbertwriter
YouTube: AllisonGilbertNY

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

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