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 Jennifer Gooch Hummer had to say…
No. 27: Jennifer Gooch Hummer, Author
Where I live: Southern California and Maine
Job: Author, Wife, Mother, Domestic
Ages/genders of kids: Three girls ages 12, 15, 18
Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
Used to be: Opera Singer. Waitress. Script Reader.
Now: Expert On All Things – But Only The Things You Wish You Weren’t (aka: Being a Parent) + an author.
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I don’t think you can have it all—at the same time. You can’t be at the office and raising your children at home at the same time. One is not better than the other. But it’s hurtful for one side to claim you can have it all simultaneously. Even “leaning in slowly” or whatever the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world claim you can do is not true. These career women rely on nannies or family members or fathers to raise their children. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But I find it belittling to those of us who stay home without nannies or full-time or sometimes even part-time help to claim that one can work and raise kids equally well. A woman without help who raises her kids knows you cannot do both. We live in a world of choice and that is the greatest gift the feminist movement gave us. But don’t pit us against each other by telling these lies to relieve the other side’s guilt. It’s really hard to be a stay-at-home mom. It’s really hard to be a career mom. It’s really hard to be both of those as dads, too. So really, it’s just hard to be a parent. And that’s where we should all meet.
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I wish I could take my own advice: see above.
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
Spelling it? I used to spell it “balence.”
What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? “Lower your expectations in every category.”
From your mother? “Balance? Never heard of it.”
From your kids? “Because you’re a mom. That’s what moms do.”
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?
Taking a walk on our beach in Maine.
What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
Who my kids were going to turn out to be. Wouldn’t it change everything to see your kids—just a glimpse of them at age 20 or so—when you yourself were 20? That would be so cool! That would change everything! Maybe you see them driving a car that cuts you off and “God” tells you that’s your own kid in the future so you have to refrain from honking and cursing at him or her… That’s a book idea right here.
What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
What happens when you die? Is that too much to ask?
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Cooking. Particularly animals. I don’t eat anything that had parents. But I have to cook them for my family.
Whose job do you wish you had?
Fashion designer. Rachel Zoe.
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
A flight attendant’s. I often try to decide if I’d rather be a flight attendant or the people who work at Hair Fairies who pick lice out of kid’s hair all day. I’m undecided.
I read a lot of nonfiction and memoirs because I am super paranoid about lifting someone else’s storylines. So I stick with facts.
What are you reading right now?
Stress Test by Tim Geithner. I love the stock market. I come from a family of investment counselors, but only on the male side. They are fairly chauvinistic, so I’ve had to figure out much of the stock market on my own. At 13, I invested my babysitting money in Ben & Jerry’s. And that was just the beginning.
Activity? Shopping. Love it. Can’t help it. My girls are all on Varsity Shop with me. There’s only four of us on the team. My husband keeps trying to ban us. Thank goodness for Title IX.
Food? I’m very tight with rice cakes. Give me a rice cake, I’ll give you a meal.
Website? Flipboard. Not really a website, but an on-line newspaper. That flips. You can make your own magazine. Mine has Tech and Celebrity Style. That pretty much sums me up.
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
Seven. If I’m lucky. I get up at 5 am to swim on my Masters Swim team before I rush home to get the girls up for school. So I need to be asleep by 10pm. But anyone with teenagers knows that’s very, very hard to do, especially with teen girls who raid closets late at night.
What do you read every morning?
My emails and texts.
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am extremely vain.
I wish I: listened better.
My kids: are so much more talented than me. It’s awesome to see.
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“This too shall pass.”
Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes. I want to add how grateful I am to be able to be a stay-at-home mom. My husband is the one to thank for that. And thank you, Susie, for having me on your fantastic site!
Jennifer Gooch Hummer is the award-winning author and screenwriter of her debut novel, Girl Unmoored (SparkPress). Girl Unmoored has been optioned for film and was also published in German (Carlsen). She has worked as a script analyst for talent agencies and film studios. Jennifer has also been a mentor with WriteGirl, an organization for under-privileged young adult girls in Southern California. She lives in Los Angeles and Maine with her husband and their three daughters.
Please share your own tips on balance and check back every Friday for another interview from THE BALANCE PROJECT.
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 1: Jessica Mindich, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 2: Veronica Beard, Fashion Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 3: Emily Liebert, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 4: Lyss Stern, Mom-trepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 5: Lauren Slayton, Nutritionist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 6: Elizabeth Moyer, Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 7: Annabel Monaghan, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 8: Holly Gordon, Director
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 9: Jill Salzman, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 10: Jennifer Levinson, Jen’s List
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 11: Jenny Hutt, Media Personality
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 12: Angela Santomero, Kids’ Media Creator
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 13: Carola Donato, Yogi
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 14: Tiffany Washington, Pastry Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 15: Emily Giffin, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 16: Alana Sanko, Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 17: Cara Lemieux, Journalist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 18: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, Authors
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 19: Nikki Mark, Author & Foundation Director
Shonda Rhimes on Doing It All
Indra Nooyi on Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 21: Jill Bryan, Comedian
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 22: Cindy Callaghan, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 23: Stephanie Hirsch, Artist
My Times of India Interview on Work-Life Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 24: Whitney Dineen, Author/Baker
AmEx’s Sobbott on Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 25: J0-Laine Duke-Collins, Dessert Stylist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 26: Whitney English, Entrepreneur