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 Whitney English had to say…
No. 26: Whitney English, Entrepreneur
Where I live: Oklahoma City
Job: Encourager, Entrepreneur, Writer
Ages/genders of kids: One girl (2) and two boys (3 & 4)
Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
My job is completely different now that I have kids. When I started having kids, I had no idea how much they would change things. In hindsight, I realize how much time out of my day kids take, and that it’s not possible for me to do as much career-wise as I did before. Having kids has made me value myself more, simply because it puts a premium on my time. A couple of years ago, I did go through a major career change. I can’t say it was because of kids. In hindsight, it was because of market crash, industry shift, technology interruption, and the domino effect of other bankruptcies hitting us. But in looking back, I can honestly say it’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to my kids. It’s made me more present and available to them, which is crucially important, in my opinion.
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
Overrated. To whom much is given, much is required. “Having it all” requires a lot of responsibility. Not that I’m afraid of responsibility, but I just don’t want that much. A caveat to this rule: I’m always looking for good people. If I can find good people who want a career with me, I can delegate some of this responsibility to them. However, they then become my responsibility. So it’s all a balance. And ultimately, right now, my kids come first. So, too much is more than enough. And enough is a nice balance, and being happy right where you are, and being content, and there is so much joy in that.
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
The guilt part. Balance requires saying no to seemingly important things, right? And then comes guilt. Or fear of missing out. I can deal with missing out, but when I feel like saying no has disappointed someone, it’s hard for me to live with the guilt. I’m working on developing a mindset that helps me see why the decision to say no was better than a decision to say yes, but it’s hard
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Not caring. That may sound harsh, and I don’t mean for it to, but I haven’t found a better phrase yet. Maybe it’s letting go? Realizing that I cannot control other people’s feelings and actions? Taking comfort in the fact that I made the decision with the best tools and information I had at the time, that God is directing my steps, and knows the plans He has for me, and that all things work together for good, and simply not caring what other people think.
What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? “What’s your true north? And you can’t say ‘making money’. ‘Making money’ is not a true north.”
From your mother? “Sometimes, you find yourself more committed to a relationship than the other party.” That’s when it starts to hurt–when it’s not an even exchange of heart.
From your kids? (Yesterday)
“Mama? We are going to a new house?”
“With a new bed?”
“Yes. Bunk beds. And we are taking all of our old beds, and all of our toys, and all of our clothes.”
“And a new car?”
I like the way you think, kid. I like the way you think.
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?
Oh, wow. I think that’d be empty canvas time. Literally. Whitespace for creating. Right now I’m fascinated with the concept that God created the heavens and the earth from literally nothing, a void. Total emptiness. It reminds me that in order to create, to get ideas, to connect loose dots, we have to have some white space. And we are so good at filling up that white space in life, aren’t we?
What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
This whole letting go thing. The opposite of letting go is hoarding. I hoarded so much: companies, inventory, furniture, and at one point, property, houses. But too much is too much. I couldn’t handle it all. There is freedom in letting go.
What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
How to love people better. How to be the extraordinary person I know God created me to be. How to love like Jesus loved: really good, actionable, world-changing, inspiring love.
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
The de-cluttering process. Americans are so blessed. The accumulation is just mind-boggling sometimes. I really believe we can live with so much less than what we’ve been given, and the energy it takes to go through and clean it all out would be much better used trying to figure out how to build clean wells in Haiti, or feed orphans in Africa. My mind is my most valuable commodity, and when I use it to clean out a closet, I don’t feel like my time is well spent. But, unfortunately, it’s hard to delegate cleaning out closets.
Whose job do you wish you had?
Gwyneth Paltrow? And can I have her waistline while we’re at it?
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Obama. Dude. Talk about responsibility.
A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey; Passion and Purity, by Elisabeth Elliot; Visioneering, by Andy Stanley; and The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson.
Activity? The Internet.
Food? Sugar cookies with cute yummy icing.
Website? Because we’re getting ready to redo a house, Pinterest. And Craigslist.
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
I average about 7 hours a night.
What do you read every morning?
My email. Sad, but true. But thanks for the wake up call.
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: would like to live in the south of France for a year.
I wish: could read one book a day.
My kids: are pretty cool people.
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Worry about being better. Bigger will take care of itself.”