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 Heather Sonnenberg had to say…
No. 32: Heather Sonnenberg, Entrepreneur
Age: 44 – Crazy that number is associated with my age!
Where I live: Colorado
Job: Mompreneur/Inventor, Founder: Lil’ Cub Hub
Ages/genders of kids: Two boys ages 2 & 5 (and a baby girl Grace who was born into heaven)
Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
Not at all! I built and established my career in the financial services industry for the previous 15+ years. I decided to remove the glass ceiling I was experiencing by going back to school. I earned a BSBA, with an emphasis in finance in 2007. I continued my education and completed my Personal Financial Planning designation when my first son was five months old. Based on necessity, I invented the Cub Co-Z Convertible Carrier shortly after and spent the next year or so fine tuning the product. After being fortunate enough to gain the title “Mommy” at an “advanced maternal age,” I started to dread those things that previously seemed exciting and motivating. I perceived my 1.5 hour commute each way to the financial district, listening to investment conference calls, meeting tight deadlines for print production of financial materials, etc., as time away from my son. My contribution as a mom was sacrificed for my career. I spent what time I had rushing to daycare to pick up my son, getting him dressed, bathing him, feeding him, and putting him to bed, rather than making the contributions I wanted, which were sharing important moments, educating him, and spending time with him. Nevertheless, I continued my career and added more to my plate by trying to develop my product and launch my business, Lil’ Cub Hub, at night and on the weekends. I viewed the additional sacrifice of time with my son as setting up the opportunity to work for myself. Most people thought I had lost my mind leaving a lucrative career to start my own business. Sometimes, I think they might have been right. Most of the time, I think it was the best decision I ever made! I can always go back to corporate America, but I can’t always go back to having “little” kids. This way I have the best of both worlds—a career and the flexibility to spend time with my children!
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
Having it all isn’t overrated. I think we would all love that and we continuously strive to accomplish that goal. But having it all “perfect” is not realistic. It’s all in perception, from that standpoint. I feel like I have it all! But not in the glamorous way it appears to the outside world. All of it isn’t going to be great at the same time—there are days the house looks like a bomb went off, or the kids are melting down all day, or I get absolutely nothing accomplished, or have a big setback in the business. Although, all these types of challenges are motivating for me to try to do better the next day.
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Taking time for me seems to be the biggest challenge. I haven’t colored my hair since…oh, I can’t remember when, but it must have been a long time ago because I have a ton of grey hair that I never knew existed! When I prioritize it’s usually around the kids and work, and the rest ends up on the bottom of the list. I have a very hard time “turning it off.” If I have a minute, I feel compelled to “accomplish” something—whether with my kids, work, cleaning, etc. and feel guilty or as if I need to justify time spent doing anything for me. I think that is a problem a lot of moms struggle with—we are supposed to “sacrifice” and have often learned to put ourselves last. I need to work on this!
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I am getting better at defining “balance” and being satisfied with what I accomplish each day. When I am home, I feel compelled to multitask work and cleaning. So I try to leave the house with my children every day to do something, whether it is a 30-minute bike ride or an entire day excursion so that I feel like I spent focused time with my children. If I spent the day with my kids, I give myself a break when I walk into a disaster in the house. If I accomplished a lot with work, I give myself a break in other areas. I am much better at prioritizing what needs to get done in a day rather than trying to accomplish everything (and try to focus on what I did well for the day).
What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? I have been told by several bosses that my biggest challenge is saying “no.” It is true! A lot of times we get overwhelmed because we feel like we need to be “yes” people all the time.
From your mother? “It’ll be there tomorrow.” And “Don’t sweat it.”
From your kids? Whenever I hear, “Mommy, I need a hug!” I stop what I’m doing, give them a hug, and spend time with them. It is always a good reminder to keep my priorities balanced.
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?
I would love to take yoga classes. It would allow—or hopefully train—me to focus on the moment and relax and not worry about all the “to dos” I’m not accomplishing.
What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
“Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.” Knowing it and implementing it are two different things.
What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
Hopefully, by then, I’ll have managed to fully embrace “Don’t sweat the small stuff and it’s all small stuff.”
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Cleaning the kitchen! I feel like it stays clean for five minutes and then it looks the exact same as when I started. Ugh! I wish I could outsource ALL of the cleaning.
Whose job do you wish you had?
Honestly, I LOVE my job! If you had asked me this same question five years ago I would have probably had a different answer. I feel so amazingly lucky to have a job I am passionate about, where I can “call the shots,” and that allows me the flexibility to spend time with my children. Hopefully, I can add more philanthropy to the mix and then it will be perfect.
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
Oh gosh, those poor porta potty transporters/cleaners. Now THAT is a bad job! And, I thought dirty diapers were bad.
I don’t have a favorite. I have a lot of books that I pick up all the time to read and re-read. I love self-help/improvement books and business books. I’m a geek!
What are you reading right now?
Launch: An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online, Build A Business You Love, And Live The Life Of Your Dreams by Jeff Walker, The Mom Inventors Handbook by Tamara Monosoff, Until Today by Iyanla Vanzant, and Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo. Yes, I even multitask when I’m reading—silliness! Most of them you can read, put down, and then switch gears with another.
Activity? I don’t do it often but I like to give myself a pedicure and dye my hair once in a while. It makes me feel more like me again and human! A lot of times I feel like I should be on the makeover shows—just because you work from home, doesn’t mean you have to look like “you just rolled out of bed” all day!
Food? Does it have to be one? I love ice cream and gummy bears! I also love no-bake cookies but try to avoid making them because I literally stand there and eat them while they are cooling until I feel sick to my stomach. I have a bad sweet tooth.
Website? My mom insisted for months and months that I try Pinterest and she would send me pins constantly. I tried to stay away. I really tried! But, of course, I clicked on one too many of the pins she sent me and I got hooked. What a time suck! But definitely a guilty pleasure filled with ideas and visual stimulation.
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
Sleep?!? Who needs sleep when caffeine is readily available?!? My motto used to be “I can sleep when I’m dead,” but I realize that motto is going to put me in a coffin earlier than necessary. My goal has been to get more sleep. I’m doing better, but typically I get anywhere from 4.5 to 7.5 hours. I try to get closer to the 7.5 hour mark much more now.
What do you read every morning?
Email, Swayy, articles from different news publications online (WSJ, Gazette, CNN, etc.) and usually a positive quote of inspiration to think about for the day.
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: can do it. If other people can, why can’t I?!? This has been one of my mottoes for quite a while.
I wish I: could outsource more, but I’m getting closer to being able to do that.
My kids: are amazing, loving, snuggly, and adventurous little boys who fill my heart with joy and remind me of how lucky and blessed I am every single day.
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift.” “No Big Deal.” And my kids and I say “I love you as big as the sky,” which is my favorite thing to hear and say!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I really appreciate the opportunity you’ve given me to be part of The Balance Project. Thank you!
Heather Sonnenberg is the Founder/Owner of Lil’ Cub Hub, a company that offers unique and luxurious baby and toddler products. Heather’s passion for being a mom led her to change career paths when she invented the Cub Co-Z Convertible Carrier—a compact diaper bag that easily converts into a sling-style baby carrier in just one zip. Shortly after the launch of the Cub Co-Z, she expanded her line to include premium-quality apparel with original Lil’ Cub characters and coordinating ultra-soft minky blankets, bibs, and burp cloths. Prior to opening Lil’ Cub Hub, the majority of Heather’s career was in the investment industry. She holds a professional Designation in Personal Financial Planning from UCLA and a BSBA with an emphasis in finance from CSUN. She has two young, energetic boys and recently moved from California to Colorado to enjoy the (daily) change in weather.
Please share your own tips on balance and check back every Friday for another interview from THE BALANCE PROJECT.
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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
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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
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THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 25: J0-Laine Duke-Collins, Dessert Stylist
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THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 27: Jennifer Gooch Hummer, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 28: Melissa Amster, Book Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 29: Nigel Marsh, Author and Entrepreneur
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