THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 69: Dana Pollan, 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—and maybe a little obsessed—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, the novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.
  • The Balance Project interview series recently celebrated its first birthday!
  • Fortune ran a feature about The Balance Project.
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No. 69: Dana Pollan, Writer

Age: 52
Where I live:
 New York City
Job: Writer of The Pollan Family Table
Kids: Two boys ages 9 and 21 and a 17-year-old daughter

Home and Family 3039 Final Photo AssetsIs the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
I opened the Pollan-Austen Fitness Center before my kids were born. We were in business for about 10 years. My son Macklin was born about two years before we closed the center. We closed for two reasons—our rent increased so much that we couldn’t stay open any longer and we (my partners and I) were exhausted—we all had young kids and I wanted to spend more time with my son. I ended up as a stay-at-home mom for about 18 years! While at home, I loved cooking for my family and out of that came many of the recipes for The Pollan Family Table.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
It is not overrated at all. As far as I know you only go around once. Each person has to decide for herself what having “it all” means. For me it means something different now than it did when I was in my twenties. Now it means having children I adore, a spouse that I want to grow old with, and health.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Because I work at home now it’s hard for me to juggle spending time with my youngest child (the 9-year-old) and working. When emails are coming in that need responses quickly it’s hard to turn “on” and “off” and stay present when I’m with him.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Knowing that I don’t need to get certain things done right away—some things can wait and that’s okay. I think I have more patience now than I used to.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? 
Take things one day at a time. When I was writing the cookbook with my sisters and mother and deadlines were looming, we would tell each other to take things one day at a time and it will all get done.
From your mother? 
“Do your best and then let it go.”
From your spouse? 
He tells me to focus on the important things. Not to sweat the small stuff!
From your kids? “Don’t worry!”—something that I say to them is now what they say to me!

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?
Reading for pleasure.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
That everything will work out and enjoy the “here” and “now.” And that you need to look inward, not outward, for validation.

What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
I’ve already learned that life is a process and you’re never too old to keep learning. I don’t expect 60 to be any different.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Laundry, hands down.

Whose job do you wish you had?
I really can’t think of someone else’s job I would like to have right now. I loved writing the The Pollan Family Table and hope to write another cookbook.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
I wouldn’t say I’m “glad” that I’m not a teacher but I do see how hard they work and yet are extremely under-appreciated.

Favorite books?
It’s so difficult to pick favorites but two that I loved are: Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.

What are you reading right now?
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill.

Biggest vices…
Activity? 
Exercise. I do that a bit obsessively, so I’d call that a good vice, if there is such a thing.
Food?
 Red licorice and chocolate almonds.
Website? Looking up medical information on the computer.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
About 7 hours a night; however, I’m thrilled when I can get 8!

What do you read every morning?
My New York Times app on my phone.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am very fortunate.
I wish I: had more time to travel, to relax, and “shut off” and  have more quiet time with family and friends.
My kids: and who they are as individuals makes me so happy.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Stay in the present.”

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Anything else you’d like to add?
I enjoyed answering your questions; achieving a balance in life is where it’s at.

pollanAbout Dana:
Dana Pollan carries on the family writing tradition with her first book—The Pollan Family Table. Dana’s coauthors are her mother, Corky Pollan, and sisters Tracy and Lori Pollan—and the forward is penned by Dana’s brother, bestselling author Michael Pollan. Dana has spent a lifetime focusing on health, fitness, and nutrition. She started her career in the industry 25 years ago as a cofounder of the Pollan-Austen Fitness Center, which became one of New York City’s top-rated exercise studios. While she was at Pollan-Austen, Dana and her co-owners created, produced, and appeared in a series of six exercise videos promoting aerobic exercise, flexibility, body toning, and strength training. Dana then moved on to her second career as a full-time mother. Today, Dana lives in New York City with her husband and their three children. Having her own family has allowed Dana to reconnect with her true lifetime passion—cooking and food.

Find more about Dana here:
www.pollanfamilytable.com
Facebook: PollanFamilyTable
Twitter: @PollanFamily
I
nstagram: PollanFamilyTable
Pinterest: PollanFamily

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