THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 86: Cindy Chupack, TV Writer/Producer and 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—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.”

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No. 86: Cindy Chupack, TV Writer/Producer and Author

Age: 49
Where I live:
 Marina del Rey, CA
Job:  TV Writer/Producer and Author
Kids: A 4-year-old daughter

Cindy_C_143_Retouched copyIs the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
I’m trying to be less in charge professionally, more of a good vice president or just a great member of the team since becoming a mom, although I keep forgetting that and taking on more and ending up in charge.

Have you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
Well, first off, I finally got a husband, dog, and kid so I would have more to balance out the work part. Then I got a small studio apartment to write in so I could separate my work life and home life since I’ve been writing “at home” and am not on staff or in an office right now. It’s been helpful to have a space that is dedicated to work. That said, I am typing this from home because I didn’t feel like going to the “office” today.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I think you can have it all, just not all at once. I wish I could have it all when it comes to dessert plates, you know, where they give you little samples of a lot of things. But even there, in order to “have it all” you can only have a little bite of everything.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I can’t seem to say no to anything! Why am I writing this now? My daughter is home sick (husband taking care of her), I have an essay I need to write for an anthology, I’m trying to get a movie going that I would direct, I am supposed to be writing a pilot that might film in Paris, I need to watch more episodes of The Goldbergs because I’m meeting about staffing there, there is another show I might staff on that I need to interview for—I have 80 emails to get through (this was one of them), I am feeling I need to get on Facebook and wish my friend a happy birthday because everybody else, even people who are lesser friends, already have, what the hell am I doing writing about balance?!

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Venting apparently.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker? I can’t think of anything anyone ever told me that was useful! Why is that? Oh, wait, okay, once a female showrunner told me that there are lots of different ways to run things. Even though I worked on a show with a man I respect with all my heart, I think he’s a genius, he likes to be on the set all the time, there for every take, and this female showrunner said that’s not the only way to do it. You can also just visit and trust the people you hire to do what they do, and there might be a few times you wish you’d been there, but it buys you a lot. So I guess I need to remember that even though I like to be involved in every aspect, I don’t HAVE to be if I hire people I trust. But again, I don’t HAVE to be in charge!
From your mother? About balance… I’ve learned what not to do… from watching my mother NEVER prioritize herself I’ve learned that I need to prioritize myself among the many things I try to do, and value the things that make me happy as much as I value trying to make everyone else happy.  My mom, for whatever reason, always puts herself last, has a lot of trouble asserting her own needs, and it makes me sad, but it also made me realize, at a pretty young age, I think, that I wanted/needed to do the opposite. She was a great mother and had all the time in the world for us, and looking at it now that I’m a mother, I admire that she was that kind of mother. But I also forgive myself for being a more selfish mother who still wants to work and travel and make a mark creatively, and have more of “my life” in my life—but I still hope, when I am with my daughter, to be a great mother like my mom was. Just not at the expense of my own happiness and dreams and needs.
From your spouse? 
From my husband I’ve learned that I HAVE to remember that family is part of the equation, and that fun is part of the equation. Sometimes everything else is more pressing and less forgiving—so you let work priorities take precedence over home. I’ve learned that home is more important, even if the people there are forgiving and understanding, that you have to make home the same kind of priority and deadline even if it feels like a looser one.
From your daughter? 
Slow down. I’ve learned that I need to be PRESENT: when at home be at home, when at work be at work. Meanwhile she’s downstairs sick and I’m typing this, so… I’m still learning. (My husband is with her!)

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?
Watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
That I was young.

What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
That I’m still young.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
The outsourcing—the hiring and scheduling and following up on and keeping track of all I’ve outsourced.

Whose job do you wish you had?
Mine. I really love everything I get to do. I feel so lucky.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
The President’s. I already feel enough stress and anxiety when it comes to work.

Favorite books?
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (good approach to writing and life).

What are you reading right now?
My last few answers—I want to edit them but I’m feeling I should move on.

Biggest vices…
Activity? 
Rewriting over and over instead of moving on… and reality TV or Facebook or Words with Friends when I should be doing other things.
Food? Good bread (like pretzel bread) and good dark chocolate with sea salt—although I don’t consider those vices. It seems worse to eat milk chocolate which I don’t even like or see the point of, and bad bread that’s too hard or too bland. I mean if you’re going to eat it, make it the good stuff!
Website? Facebook and sometimes I just go down a wormhole and end up watching things like an audition for Scotland’s Got Talent when some Shy Girl Surprises Judges and Brings Them to Tears. I always end up there, no matter where I start. At some talent audition of someone who brought the judges to tears. I don’t even watch those shows on television.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
6-8.

What do you read every morning?
My emails, theSkimm, New York Times headlines.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: just wasted almost an hour writing this.
I wish I: was reading that long New Yorker piece I need to read for work.
My daughter: could use a hug and I’m going to give it to her when I finish this and before I read that long New Yorker piece.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“When at work be at work, when at home be at home.”  And “Great spirits always encounter violent opposition from mediocre minds.” —Albert Einstein

Anything else you’d like to add?
I’m worried this should have been funnier.

TheLongestDatePB_FB_CvrAbout Cindy:
Cindy Chupack is best known as an Emmy-winning TV writer/producer whose credits include Modern Family, Sex and the City, and Everybody Loves Raymond. She is currently working on Divorce, a new HBO show starring Sarah Jessica Parker and Thomas Haden Church. Author of New York Times bestseller The Between Boyfriends Book, her new comic memoir about marriage, The Longest Date: Life as a Wife, was released by Viking  in January 2014 and was released in paperback in December 2014.

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Find out more about Cindy:
www.cindychupack.com
Facebook: CindyChupack

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

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