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 feel a little better. Every Friday I’ll feature a new interview. Here’s what J0-Laine Duke-Collins had to say…

No. 25: Jo-Laine Duke-Collins, Dessert Stylist

Where I live: Brooklyn, NY
Job: Dessert Stylist/Co-Owner of I.M. Pastry Studio; and Choice Advisor, New York City Department of Education
Ages/genders of kids: Two girls ages 6 and 7

Jo-LaineIs the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
Prior to working for the New York City Department of Education, I was a graduate school student advisor. Somewhere in between having two daughters in one year, planning birthday parties, and being the “go to” person for friends and family for my great décor and planning for special occasions, I embraced my love for pastries and event design and merged with my partner, Tiffany Washington, to design for I.M. Pastry Studio. I haven’t looked back since. Passion meets Purpose.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I believe it to be overrated. So you have it all, then what? What’s next? Somewhere in that process of having “it all” you condition yourself for perfection and then there is always a hunger and yearning for more. It’s never really enough….

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I still find it difficult to realize that I neither can do it all on my own nor should I have to because I have a really great support system in my family and friends. Gradually, I am learning that I am lucky enough to rely on those who love my girls and me. For example, last year I took a trip to Paris and then flew to the French Riviera with a few friends. I felt guilty about the trip at first because I felt that I didn’t deserve it and I had the “guilty mommy” syndrome. I started over-explaining myself to everyone as to why I should not go. My mother is the one who finally convinced me to pack and leave. She told me that I deserved it, that she will handle everything while I was away, and to not explain my reason for going to anyone else–it was my decision and I had to stick with it. Paris changed my life once I decided to “let go.”

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Saying no and meaning it. Not having to explain myself every time as well or feeling guilty. I listen to the audio of Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? 
“Know your worth and strive for more.”
From your mother?
 “Anything, and I mean anything you put your mind to is possible…so be encouraged.” “No weapon formed against you shall prosper.” 
From your kids? 
“You can’t be everywhere Mama…so just stay here.”

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
Money wasn’t everything. I should have followed my heart and accepted that unpaid internship with that company that made my heart smile.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
I did the best I could with what I had… Now it’s time to live for myself.

What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Absolutely laundry. I have two little girls, ages 6 and 7, who, by the way, both wear uniforms to school yet seem to acquire piles of laundry every week. They are into playing dress-up and putting on performances for house guests so there are constant wardrobe changes in my house.

Whose job do you wish you had?
An interior designer. There is therapy in styling. I feel like your home should always reflect your personality. I have always had a hidden desire for home design, and I am secretly obsessed with and admire designers.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
An analyst. I have accepted that I am just not an analytical person. I am a creative and passionate human being. Anything that does not involve creative thinking, art, or human interaction stifles me.

Favorite books?
The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz and Peace From Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through, by Iyanla Vanzant.

What are you reading right now?
The Thing You Think You Cannot Do: Thirty Truths About Fear and Courage, by Gordon Livingston M.D.

Biggest vices…
Activity? Dancing. Although the older I get, I don’t think my moves are as great as they were in my twenties. I am starting to dance like my mom. However, I think she is an awesome dancer.
Food? Curried shrimp and roti with tamarind sauce.
Website? Gilt, the Decorista blog by Ashlina Kaposta, and Houzz.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
Five. I miss sleeping in… I haven’t slept in in years.

What do you read every morning?
Psalms 91.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: like who I am becoming.
I wish: my daughters would stay 6 and 7 for a few more years.
My kids: are the truest and purest definition of love.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“You must learn a new way to think, before you can master a new way to be”   

IM_logo2014-loAbout Jo-Laine:
Mother of two beautiful daughters, Nia and Chloe, education administrator, and entrepreneur, Jo-Laine Duke-Collins is a self-proclaimed super mom. She is also is a choice advisor with the NYC Department of Education and works with a team managing the pre-K, gifted & talented, and kindergarten admissions process for New York City. Jo-Laine is also the co-founder and dessert table stylist of I.M. Pastry Studio a custom dessert company and she looks forward to opening a retail location in Brooklyn this October.

Find more about Jo-Laine here:
Twitter: @IMPastryStudio
Facebook: Ilene Miriam
Instagram: @impastrystudio

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Please share your own tips on balance and check back every Friday for another interview from THE BALANCE PROJECT.

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